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GEAR REVIEW–Continental Road Attack Long term test

June 17, 2013

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After a disastrous introduction to Continental tires via the Trail Attack (review here), longtime readers may be scratching their heads wondering “why did this fool even consider Continental tires ever again?”

I guess I’m a sucker for marketing or a glutton for punishment.  I’m happy to report that the tires have been absolutely fantastic.

Lots of folks who ride Adventure style motorcycles are faced with the dilemma of choosing the right tire.  Although most riders will spend 99.99% of their time on the road, most feel that their street credibility will be enhanced by having the most gnarly looking off-road rubber on their machine.  That somehow your personal aura will be enhanced by having a beast of a machine.  Children will run screaming and women will swoon by the cut of your BMW Rallye jacket and knobby tires.  After all, you will be riding a veritable Swiss Army Knife of a motorcycle that, at a moment’s notice, transport you through all manner of gnarly situations in virtually any part of the world.

Hey, it worked for Ewan and Charlie…

With the right tires and a gnarly adventure motorcycle, the globe is your oyster!  Rocky and narrow cliff trails, the wide open spaces of Death Valley, the Road of Bones, assorted routes along the Paris to Dakar Rally stages, etc.  Here’s the rub, you need some pretty advanced off-road motorcycle skills and the strength of a Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker.

Also, you need the willingness to repeatedly fire your heavily modified and pricy (insert the king of all high dollar ADV bikes here) BMW 1200 GS Adventure into the ground.  You will crash.  You will drop it, and things will be broken, scratched and mangled.  I can’t see too many GSA riders who are willing to repeatedly whip the crap out their perfectly accessorized motorcycles again and again and again.

So, with that said, let’s look at a handful of ADV style tires. 

Most Adventure motorcycle tires follow a few basic formulas:

The 60/40 tire: 

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Sixty percent of the time on the road and forty percent off-road. Tires in this class include:

Michelin Anakee (we have tested and love this tire)

Continental Trail Attack (we tested and hated this tire)

Bridgestone Battle Wing (we tested and loved this tire as a lower cost alternative)

Metzeler Tourance (not tested)

and plenty of other brands.

The 100% Off-Road Tire:

Just like it says, a hunnert’ percent off-road, bubba.  All dirt, all the time.  You can ride a knobby off-road tire on the highway, but it will wear faster than Frosty The Snowman out for a stroll in Death Valley.  On the upside, pure off-road tires significantly improve your chances of actually getting across the golf course sand traps and putting greens to that Sunday Tag Sale.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

Out here in the real world, where ADV riding usually involves trips to the local bike night, a ride with friends and frequent visits to Starbucks – what tire makes the most sense?  How about another choice entirely?

The Sport Touring Tire:

This is a tire dedicated to long distance riding and offers excellent traction both dry and wet.  Usually tires in this category can be found with a dual compound (meaning the center rubber is harder than the side rubber). 

Tires in this category include:

Michelin Pilot Road 2:

Michelin Pilot Road 3:

Continental Road Attack:

and many others by an assortment of manufacturers.

Long time readers know I started off with a set of Battle Wings, then disastrously switched to a pair of Continental Trail Attack tires.  I tossed them after 1000 miles of vibration and suffering.  After that I replaced them with Anakee 2’s and rode those tires for approximately 12,000 miles.  The only issue I had was with a weird tire wear “bump” pattern on the front tire.

After a lot of thinking, I decided that what I really liked about sport touring tires was the GRIP.  That confident feeling you get going around on-ramps, and in California canyons.  I decided to completely drop 60/40 tires and go 100% on-road.

The tires I chose were Continental Road Attack’s.  It took a ton of guts to go back to a brand that caused me nothing but problems.  I called Jake Wilson’s customer service people and essentially explained my concerns and they (as they had before) indicated that if I had problems, they would replace the tires and cover mounting charges.

Lemme say that again – “replace the tires and cover mounting charges”  That’ has to be the best customer service in the industry!  So the decision was made and I ordered a set of Road Attack tires.

So far, I’ve put about 8000 trouble free miles on and had nothing but huge grins and enjoyment.  The front tires look almost new and the back, well, it’s starting to show all those interstate miles.  They don’t vibrate – none, zero, they have tremendous grip, are excellent in the rain and give excellent rider feedback.

Picture: Front tire looking good.

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Picture: Close up of front tire.

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Picture: The rears are flattening.  This is consistent with the majority of long distance interstate riding I’ve been doing lately.  Can’t fault that.  Most of my trips are two up, loaded with gear.

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SUMMARY:

I’m happy that I chose to abandon the 60/40 Adventure style tire.  While they are cool and offer that extra ability should you choose to hit a gravel trail or fire road, the reality of most people’s riding is that they will never see any more off-roading than the State Park campground or KOA parking lot. 

What I do see a lot of is on and off-ramps, wet weather and long high speed interstates.   So under those conditions, the Road Attack’s are almost perfect.  When they do wear out I have the same choice to make again.  60/40 or pure on-road.

That’s going to be a difficult choice as Michelin has again changed the game with the new Anakee 3 tire.  It’s a much more street oriented profile.  There is tremendous chatter on various forums about “the tire being able to deliver the goods off-road”

It’s a great looking tire, and just look at that profile!  That says excellent on-road performance to me.   The tread pattern is what all the hoo ha is about.  It’s completely non-traditional when you look at previous 60/40 tires. 

Looks aside, I can’t imagine a company the size of Michelin, who has a huge R&D department would put out a tire that can’t deliver on it’s promises.  The forums went nuts when another revolutionary sport touring tire came on the market – the Michelin Pilot Road 3.

It had extensive siping and conventional wisdom said it would overheat and start tossing off tire blocks.  Which of course, was complete and utter nonsense.

I’m looking forward to that decision in another several thousand miles.  At this rate it looks like it won’t be until the fall – but one can hope for a sudden need to ride off on a long trip somewhere.  I’m expecting to do about 3000 in September and finally get my Iron Butt Association membership. 

So, in summary.  The Continental Road Attack offers excellent tread life, excellent value, excellent wet weather performance and is virtually vibration free.  We give the tire an A+ rating and recommend it highly!

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