Metzeler’s New Hoops

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With updated Karoo 4 and Tourance Next 2 tyres, we sent Boris out to play in the dirt and on the Putty Road.

There are three things crucial to a motorcyclist’s ongoing happiness – lawyers, oil, and tyres. A man should never skimp on any of them. Always hire the best lawyer, always use the best oil, and always buy the best tyres – and price should never be a consideration.

Especially with tyres. Those two palm-sized patches of uber-rubber are all that stand between you and...well, an unpleasant outcome. Do not compromise on tyres, because you’ll end up paying for it in other ways.

It was with this hard-wired programming I presented myself at the press launch for Metzeler’s new Karoo 4 and Tourance Next2 tyres. 

 

Kiwi+Rider+June+2022+Vol

 

Just between you and me, I’m a bit of a Metzeler fan, and have been for a while. No amount of free food and nice hotel rooms was going to influence my position there. 

And the moment the industry works out I’d sleep under a tree wrapped in newspapers to sample its wares, the worse off I’ll be in terms of comfort. But I’d still go to the launch, for I am an accursed creature.

Anyway, I had ridden Karoo 3s a fair bit, and while my dirt-riding abilities pose no threat to Toby Price, I struggled to fault them. 

A harsh critic might say they don’t last as long as they should, to which I reply: “Shut up, Scrooge McPovo! They last as long as they last. Then you buy another set.” 

A still harsher critic might opine the Karoo 3s offer a nervy transition from dirt to tar, to which I would reply: “Maybe put some more air in them, you putz.”

 

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The Karoo 4 was meant to address several so-called issues, which then meant I was to put it through its paces on 250km of dirt roads – which had been helpfully lashed by 200 days of rain.

On the other hand, the Tourances and I have had a “thing” for a few years. It’s a hell of a tyre. It’s road-biased, but quite good on easy dirt; think fire trails not hard enduro. And when you fit it to a BMW GS, a Multistrada, or a KTM 1290 Super Adventure, you’ll find yourself giggling at the insane amount of grip it offers.

I struggled to see how the new Tourance Next 2 was not going to be as good if not certainly better than its predecessor. Up and down the Mother Putty for a total of 350-odd-km would undoubtedly put it to the question.

 

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TYRE SORCERY
Metzeler was certainly up to answering lots of questions with these two new hoops. And I was amazed at how much sorcery – Metzeler calls it science, but I know better – goes into the development of its tyres. 

And it has to, because the bike market is changing. For example, the Adventure bike segment is booming, increasing 13 per cent worldwide in the last year. Adventure bikes make up 50 per cent of the whole bike market in Europe. 

Also, the bikes are getting heavier, they are producing more torque and power, and are on an electronic Rider Aid evolutionary trajectory, which can only end in the bike saying to you one day: “Just stop, stupid. Let go of the ’bars. I got this.” With that level of electronic sophistication in mind, it’s not easy to make huge leaps forward in terms of tyre technology. So while there’s some revolution, much of it is evolution.

 

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Metzeler has a paid lot of attention to slowing the drop-off in tyre performance as the hoop ages and wears. This was once a huge issue, but the sorcery has advanced and such drop-offs are less noticeable on the latest tyres. The aim is to have the tyre behave the same way at the end of its life as it does at the start.

Stiffer carcasses, multi-radius profiles, knew knob-layout, self-cleaning treads, dual compound construction, shorter braking distances (wet and dry), higher corner speeds – all of these qualities are manifest in the new Karoos and Tourances.

All that remained was an objective confirmation. Or not. So, how does this whole new tyre evaluation thing work? 

There are a bunch of different bikes. A few iconic BMW GSs, a few of KTM’s Orange Ogres, a Pan America, a pair of Husky Norden’s, and a brace of insane Ducati Multistradas (because hell to the yes the world needs dirt-tyred Panigales).

On Day One, they are all fitted with brand new Karoo 4s. A bunch of us ride them for a few hundred kays (mainly on dirt, but some tar as well), swap bikes now and then, and try very hard not to ride off a cliff... no, wait, that’s just me.

 

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On Day Two, spanking new Tourance Next 2s are fitted, and we spend the day praying the Highway Patrol is elsewhere, while we examine the bitumen-biased credentials of these tyres.

Our dirt riding was in and around St Albans, Wisemans Ferry, and the Wheelbarrow Ridge Road. Our bitumen bash was up and down the Putty Road, because that one road will test all your tyres, all your suspension, and all your manhood, quite well. 

The weather was cool. The roads were mainly damp – most of the dirt was very wet, but we did get lovely dry tarmac for the Putty, which enabled pushing like a bastard.

It’s hard to think of a nicer way to spend two days...

KAROO 4
What it’s supposed to do? 

The Karoo 4 is the radial tyre you’d fit if you were planning far more dirt than road, but still needed something that would let you ride the 200km of tar you’d need to ride to get to your dirt. It’s certainly a dirt-biased tyre, with great tear and abrasion resistance, and it’s meant 

to offer the same level of performance when worn as it does when new. I can’t speak to that aspect, but it clearly looks and feels the full Adventure business.

How has it been improved?

The knobs have ben redesigned. They’re more aggressive and have been engineered to self-clean. Yeah, I know. I wondered how that happens. Seems it’s in the way the knobs are designed, and they have a steeper forward face, and a gentler-sloped back face – and will eject mud and clay like a stoker shovelling coal.

 

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They are also much quieter on the tar, and the transition from off-road to on-road is seamless. I was amazed. And I did not touch the tyre pressure.

If you’ve ridden on knobbies, you know they can be quite... um, exciting on wet bitumen. Much of that excitement is gone from the Karoo 4. In its place is a confidence I did not expect to have. The new dual-compound rears are very impressive.

They also seemed more amenable to tipping into corners. And some of the corners I tipped into were greasy with rain, but the ship sailed on without a murmur.

On the dirt and on the gas, there was noticeably more drive rather than wheelspin – though I kept that crazy Dakar shit to a minimum because I ride dirt filled with equal amounts of both terror and joy. But the new knob-profile does seem to work.

How’d it go?

For me, an occasional dirt rider, it was all about confidence. There were a few sections I encountered on the dirt where I prepared to meet my new surgeon, then when I was through it with a minimum of fuss, I was telling myself I could have gone in much faster than I did. There was a certainty there, especially on the front, and avowedly on the back.

Any tyre that gives a numpty like me slightly bigger balls, and a more steely glint with which to assail terrifying dirt-based challenges, is a winner.

 

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TOURANCE NEXT 2 
What it’s supposed to do? 

This is the snake-squasher you stick on your Adventure bike if you’re doing lots of bitumen, with lots of twisties, and might occasionally hurl yourself down the nearest fire trail because your boyfriend or girlfriend feels romantic.

The Tourance has always been one of the best road-tyres you can fit – and not just to an adventure bike. Our roads are diabolical goat-tracks in too many places NOT to fit such a robust, long-lasting, and very grippy tyre. 

I just thought it was brilliant. I left Windsor on brand new rubber, and was cags-deep in mischief when the first bends arrived 25km later. I have always trusted Tourances, and that faith has only increased.

How has it been improved?

The new Tourance Next 2, is just that little bit better than its predecessor, with solid improvements in wet-weather scenarios and the resultant stopping distances. Metzeler’s testing showed the Next 2 will pull up one-point-five-metres better than the Next. I had no way of testing this without scaring people I barely knew, but I’m pretty sure Metzeler is not making things up. It does a lot of testing, and it does provide evidence of its claims.

How’d it go?

It banged. What can I tell you? It held the lines I chose, it let me change them without an issue when I realised I was being silly, and it felt planted the length of the Putty – which is no small thing, if you know the road. Superb is a good word, which applies perfectly here.

 

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SOME METZELER TECHNOLOGY TO PONDER
Metzeler likes to use sassy techspeak for the tech-sorcery it puts into its tyres. Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s in these two hoops, and what it means...

INTERACT – this is multizone tensioning of the steel strings that stiffen the compound and allow it to do its thing.

CAP&BASE – this is a three-dimensional multi-compound tread layout, a base if you will, that starts in the centre of the tyre and extends out to the sides, and sits underneath the actual side-tread compound. It offers optimal rigidity for the length of the tyre’s life, while also offering a quick warm-up and thermal stability. So it’s like great underpants.

DYMATEC – this is a tread design which is meant to maintain performance for the whole life of the tyre. So variable wall angles on the grooves at different lean angles.

CMT – It’s short for Contour Modelling Technology. The matching of the front and rear tyre profiles, which is meant to optimise whatever lean angle you’re brave enough to attempt.

HYPERBASE – This is another version of the underwear analogy. It’s a base of rubber matched to the actual tread layers. It’s all about stability. 

MRC – Short for Multiple Radius Contour. The contour between the crown of the tyre and its shoulder offers a differentiation, that’s meant to provide more effective handling and grip characteristics. Both areas feature a sharper radius, so you’ll feel where the limit of the tyre shoulder is when you get there, while still giving you the maximum possible contact patch.  

 

Article kindly brought to you by Kiwirider
www.kiwirider.co.nz

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