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Metzeler Sportec M-1
Frozen helmets and hot tires.
Torrance, California, October 29, 2001 Introduced in Europe a few months ago, Metzeler's all-new Sportec M-1 zero-degree, steel-belted radials have been generating their fair share of media attention. Replacing the MEZ3, the new Sportec is being positioned between the sport-touring MEZ4 and the race-ready Rennsports that have become a staff favorite here at MO.
Metzeler has seen fit to use this new M-1 as a showcase for their Metzeler Advanced Winding (MAW) concept that winds the tire's steel belts onto the carcass with "spacing which differs according to the demands to be placed on the tire." Technically, this means the belts are spaced farthest apart in the center of the tire, moving closer together towards the outside of the tire. Metzeler's engineers insist this allows for a smooth ride on the superslab while still offering the sort of rigidity needed at high lean angles on the racetrack, "where cornering precision is a must."In addition to the varying winds of the steel belts, the tires also feature two different radii on the front and three in the rear. The smaller radius in the center is aimed at providing easy steering with minimal effort while the larger radius in the shoulder area provides a large contact area and, thus, high levels of grip. Underneath it all, Metzeler uses Polyethylene Naphtalate (PEN) which they insist are "extremely rigid and light, high-tech" fibers suited perfectly to the construction of this sort of tire carcass.
The tire's compound is designed to heat up quickly while providing a high degree of grip even at very high operating temperatures. The tread is designed to allow excellent water dispersion with the "negative tread area" lessening towards the tire's shoulder, putting more rubber on the tarmac at extreme lean angles never achieved in the wet.
To strut their stuff for the assembled journalists, Metzeler charted a twisty course from our hotel in Ojai, California to the deserts of Rosamond where we'd end the day with a few hours of track time on the Streets of Willow Springs. Though morning found Minime's Arai in the hotel's freezer, everything quickly settled back to normal as technicians on hand set the pressures at 32 psi front, 36 psi in the rear for the street portion of our ride.Right from the off, we were in the twisties and it was fortunate we knew the roads that comprised the majority of our route. This enabled us to focus on the M-1's feel and feedback instead of Armco placement and having to guess our way through the corners.
Within a few miles, we already liked what we felt. As promised the night before, the tires exhibited a light turn-in, even on the heavily steering damped GSX-R750. They warmed up quickly and allowed us to keep up a nicely sporting pace over everything from fresh pavement to dirty, one-off local roads. For a tire that we'd later find to work so well on the track, the Metzelers did a nice job of providing a smooth yet stable ride in every situation we encountered en route to Willow.
Once at the track, Metzeler's technicians insisted we venture out on the same tire pressures we had arrived with. And so we did, and we were impressed. While we were getting ourselves up to track speed quickly, the tires followed suit by rapidly warming up, allowing cornering speed and confidence to increase as braking markers were pushed deeper and lap times dropped. Two hours into the track time, the front tire was the most impressive, providing very high levels of feedback, especially under hard braking. Even trail-braking into a corner, the bike never threatened to stand up, and mid-corner feedback from both ends was very good.
Only later in the day, as track temperature was at its highest and lap times were at their lowest did the tires start to move around. The back end would start to move out a little bit under hard braking and turn-in before settling in for the run up to and through the apex. Similarly, we could get the rear tire moving out a bit under hard acceleration from some of the corners even though it was always very predictable. Being as Willow is a right-hand track, it was no surprise that this mostly occurred in the tighter right-hand corners which abuse that side of the tire almost non-stop. Metzeler's tire technicians tried to remedy this by dropping two pounds from the rear tire after both checking its wear and confirming tire temperatures that came in right around 138 degrees in front and 139 in the rear.
Back out on the track, the tire pressure didn't change things a whole lot, though by that time it was hot enough and the lap times low enough that we had to remind ourselves that this isn't a race tire like the track-bred Rennsport. Instead, it's a tire for highly sporting street rides with the occasional track day thrown in - not the other way around as is the case for the Rennsport. Given that, it really is hard to fault the new Sportec.
Set to take on everything from Bridgestone's BT-010 to Dunlop's D207ZR and Michelin's Pilot Sport, the Metzelers have got the goods to succeed and should be a serious consideration when you're in the market for new rubber. This is especially true when you consider their price: Fronts range from $141.95 to $145.95 and Rears are from $173.95 to $233.95.
For a dealer near you, check out Metzeler's web site at http://www.us.metzelermoto.com/.