MO Tested: Dunlop Q5 and Q5S Trackday Tire Review

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Not one, but two(!) new tires for canyon carvers and trackday enthusiasts.

The invention of the trackday tire is the single greatest thing to happen to trackday riders since, well, trackdays. Being able to leave the tire warmers at home (or not own any at all!) has a trickle-down effect for those lazy riders among us – myself included. No warmers means the stands can stay home, and so can the generator. Better still, leaving all those things behind doesn’t compromise anything out on track; modern trackday tires provide plenty of grip and more longevity than your average race slick. (But let’s make one thing clear: if you’re actually racing, a slick is still the way to go.)

Dunlop Q5/Q5S Tires

Dunlop set out to improve upon the Q4 and the Q3+ for its most capable set of street/trackday tires to date. The results are mostly impressive.

+ Highs

  • Fast warm up times w/o tire warmers
  • The Q5 front is unreal
  • The Q5S rear keeps its composure better than the Q5 when worn

– Sighs

  • Rears still tend to wear quickly, at least on big bikes
  • Certain sizes are more prone to shelving (this applies to all tires, I suppose)
  • Still need to try them on the street

Dunlop was one of the first to introduce a trackday tire with the launch of the Q3 family as far back as 2013. It was soon followed by the Q3+. I was a fan of both tires when I tried them for the first time, impressed by the quick warm-up times and confident handling they provided. Dunlop followed that up with the Q4 – which, on paper, was supposed to be an even better trackday tire. In my opinion, however, it really wasn’t that great. To its credit, the Q4 came to working temperature very quickly, and the revised profile of the tire gave it nice handling characteristics with elbow-dragging lean angles very much within reach. What I wasn’t so impressed with was its outright grip on open-class sportbikes (it worked fine on smaller bikes). Worse yet, those big bikes would wear the Q4 quickly – one day of A-pace track riding was enough to wear the tire down to the wear bars, which was very surprising.

The Q4 was capable of some serious lean angle, but it lacked edge grip.

Anecdotally, it seems as though people I’ve talked to were mixed about big bike grip, but the wear issue was universal. “I got that feedback a lot,” says John Robinson, Dunlop’s Senior Tire Design Engineer (who was a junior engineer back in the Q3 and Q4 days). “At trackdays, I had to explain to the tech inspection folks that, even though a Q4 might be down to the wear bar on one or both sides, there was still at least 4mm of rubber left underneath. New York Safety Track, my local track, knows by now, but it’s something I deal with constantly.” The lesson? Out of the many technical innovations a tire design team constantly think about, they can’t forget the human element. Better placement of wear bars, for example, will more accurately tell an owner when it’s time to start considering new tires. And get tech inspectors off John’s back. Clearly, there was room for improvement with the Q4.

Something More

Obviously, simply moving the position of the wear bars isn’t a reason to develop a new tire. Every tire company is constantly striving to one-up the last thing they made, and Dunlop is no different. The march of time means new technologies emerge, and Dunlop’s involvement as the sole tire supplier to the MotoAmerica series means lessons learned when tires are pushed to the limits are able to trickle down to the tires you and I can buy at the local shop. We witnessed the fruits of that labor with the Q3, the Q4, and we’re about to experience it again.

Dunlop’s solution was to create two new tires simultaneously: the Q5 and the Q5S. The first time Dunlop has launched two tires at the same time, the Q5 is squarely aimed at improving upon the Q4, while the Q5S is the long-awaited replacement for the Q3+. It’s a more street-oriented tire, but Dunlop says it really closes the gap between the Q4 and the Q5. However you want to view it, it’s still able to perform nearly everything the non-S version can do, while also having the advantage of longer tire life. In reality, the Q5S was actually the tire I preferred more, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we get into the riding impressions, first let’s break down the two tires.


Development of the Q5 started right after the Q4 was introduced. Taylor Knapp, MotoAmerica Superbike rider turned Dunlop test and development rider, joined the company when the Q4 was being introduced, giving him a clean slate when it came to improving upon it for the Q5. The two areas Knapp and the engineering team worked on were developing the 200/60 profile rear tire – the same profile used in MotoAmerica (at the time), and tweaking both the profile and the compound of the front tire. Interestingly, this very quote comes straight from the Dunlop press material:

With the amount of electronic riding aids on modern motorcycles influencing and controlling rear tire performance, Dunlop decided to put an increased emphasis on improving front tire performance. There is very little control over a front tire’s performance from electronic riding aids, so Dunlop realized there could be some big gains to be had if they increased their focus on front tire performance.

Click the image for an exploded view, but basically, the yellow line shows the profile of the 120/70-17 Q5 over the Q4 (dotted line). Look close and you’ll notice the Q5 is a little taller at its peak and slightly narrower at the edges.

In this case, improving the Q5 front tire over the Q4 starts with changing its profile and construction to make the Q5 2mm taller and 2mm narrower than its predecessor. This extra height, Dunlop says, acts as leverage between the tire and the ground, making it more compliant. The narrower profile improves the turn-in rate, and once leaned over, provides a bigger contact patch than before.

Amongst performance track and race tires, Dunlop has built a reputation for having an extremely stiff tire, particularly the carcass and sidewall. While some prefer it for the direct feedback it provides, others loathe it because it doesn’t give much warning before it loses traction. Whether or not this feedback was used in the development of the Q5 is unknown to me, but for the Q5 front compound, Dunlop’s chemists used their black magic to change the polymers that make up the tire to decrease the shore hardness by five points, resulting in a softer tire.

What’s interesting in this slide is the footprint pressure comparison on the right, especially from mid to full lean angles. It’s a subtle difference, but the slightly larger contact patch of the Q5 is noticeable.

Adding to the wizardry is the increased density of carbon black. It used to be that a chemical makeup of only carbon black was the territory of race tires on tire warmers. Carbon black required more heat to work properly, but the tradeoff was superior grip. For anything other than a race slick, adding some percentage of silica would allow the rubber to stick at non-race speeds. Dunlop’s chemists have found a way to use all carbon black with a mixture of revised traction resins and fine-tuned curatives, without any silica. Dunlop’s proprietary Carbon R technology creates longer molecule chains and smaller particle size, so more carbon black can be stuffed into a given chain. This helps the tire come to temp quickly and provide optimum grip sooner and more consistently.

Despite the paragraph above, Dunlop obviously didn’t ignore the rear tire. Available in nine different sizes (see below for full size chart), special attention was given to the 140/70, 180/60, 200/55, and 200/60 sizes to utilize the exact same profile as the race tires Dunlop uses in MotoAmerica. Similar to the front, the rear profile focuses on being tall and narrow, for better turn-in and to lay down a huge contact patch at full lean.

For an apples to apples comparison, look at the profile differences between the 190/55 Q4 (dotted line) versus the same size Q5 (yellow line). Similar to the front tire, the top is taller while the edges are narrower. Now, look at the next slide.
For an apples to oranges comparison, the yellow line is the 200/60 Q5 profile and the dotted line is the 200/55 Q4. You’ll see the extreme difference in how tall the profile is, while the sides follow the same contour as each other. The end result is a much bigger contact patch for the 200/60 Q5 at full lean.

From there, the tire was made slightly softer by reducing shore hardness by one point, increasing the carbon black content via Carbon R technology, and increasing the oil content as well. Dunlop says this puts the Q5 rear compound closer to its race tire compound than it’s ever been.

Another race procedure used on the rear Q5 is the JLT, or Jointless Tread Technology. Similar to 3D printing, constructing a tire using JLT winds individual strips of tread compound over the carcass of the tire. This continuous winding allows Dunlop to place the compound very precisely and exactly where they want it to achieve whatever combination of stability, flex, and grip they’re looking for. As an added bonus, rear tires using JLT construction are up to one pound lighter than a non-JLT tire – and we all know how important it is to have as little rotating mass as possible.

This image gives you an idea of how the Jointless Tread Technology works, as strips of compound are wound around the carcass in a continuous extrusion.


The Q5S design brief was a little different. It’s still a trackday tire, but it’s supposed to skew more towards street riding as a replacement for the Q3+. Developed alongside the Q5, you’ll find many of the same technologies employed in both tires, and even the same, or very similar, compounds used in both. Visually, the Q5S differs from the Q5 in its tread design. The S wears some mini sipes along the edge of the tread to better evacuate water at lean. The non-S is slick all along the edge.

Since this is supposed to be a Q3+ successor, comparisons between the Q5S will be made to it. Straight away, the major difference between old and new front tires is that the Q5S is 7mm shorter than the Q3+ (meaning overall diameter is smaller). Even to the naked eye the difference in front profile between the Q5 and Q5S is noticeable, with the S being “flatter” than the non-S. Dunlop says this shorter profile helps the bike be more responsive and lighter feeling. *As an aside, if you’re confused about what is meant by responsive, take a small and large bicycle wheel and spin it in your hands. Then try and change direction. You’ll notice the smaller wheel is quicker to respond – some might call it twitchy. The same general principle applies here.

Unlike the Q5, which is taller and narrower than the Q4, the Q5S is noticeably shorter than the Q3+ that it replaces.

From a molecular standpoint, the Q5S is very similar to the Q5. Compared to the Q3+ the shore hardness went down by four points, while the oil and carbon black content went up. Dunlop also employed Carbon Fiber Technology into the Q3+, wherein carbon fiber filaments were embedded within the sidewall of the tire to help achieve sidewall stiffness. That’s no more with the Q5S (and the Q5), as Dunlop’s engineers and chemists have found new polymers and resins that achieve their stiffness goals without carbon fiber.

The rear Q5S sees some significant changes compared to the Q3+ and also holds a distinction none of the other Q5 tires can claim. As for the compound, the polymers have been changed for better grip in all conditions, while the Q5S also has an 8% softer shoulder compound than the Q3+. As seen with the other Q5 tires, there’s now more carbon black and oil content, too. There’s also a new tire size – 200/55-17 – to accommodate the bigger sizes seen on modern bikes that the Q3+ couldn’t.

This slide is a bit misleading, as it compares the 200/55 Q5S with the 190/55 Q3+, so of course the Q5S is going to be taller. However, the 200/55 is the largest size available for the Q5S.

The big difference between the Q5S rear tire and any of the other Q5 tires is it’s the only one of the four with dual compound construction. Since a greater emphasis is placed on mileage since the Q5S is a road tire, the rear tire has a harder center compound. The compound for the shoulders and sides are the same as the rest of the Q5 family.

Riding Impressions

To see if the Q5 and Q5S live up to their hype, Dunlop invited us out to Buttonwillow Raceway in the middle of November to give each tire a whirl. I mention the month of November because Buttonwillow can see overnight lows hovering around freezing this time of year with highs in the low 60s (that’s Farenheit, of course, for our readers outside the US). The morning can be treacherous for a race slick because any warmth built up from the tire blanket gets immediately sapped away by the cold asphalt. These are, in fact, the perfect conditions for a trackday tire. The test mule for this evaluation was our 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP, fitted with the OE 120/70-17 front and 190/55-17 rear tire sizes.

Easy does it on the first few corners. Build up heat on acceleration and on the brakes, and after a lap or two you’re ready to rock.

Though the skies were blue, clear, and sunny, it was still uncomfortably cold once the track opened at 9am. An hour later ambient temperatures reached about 50 degrees, and people started making their way onto the track, myself included on the Q5. Having spent most of the past two seasons racing with slicks and tire warmers, it was such a blast to just hop on the bike and go. However, with the thought of cold blacktop in the back of my mind, I will admit a small part of me was wishing for the tire warmers.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. After an easy reconnaissance lap to remember which way the track went and a secondary lap to warm myself up, the tires felt like they were ready to go. So, I went. Just as with the Q4s, both Q5 variants get up to working temperature really quickly without the need for warmers. Before heading out on track Taylor Knapp, Dunlop test rider, was asked what his biggest highlight of the tire was. Without much hesitation, his response was just how hard you can push the front Q5. In fact, so enamored were Knapp and the engineering team, that some of the development work on the Q5 actually trickled up to the racing department and their MotoAmerica tires. When was the last time you’ve heard that happen?

It’s not everyday you see street tire developments trickle *up*.

As a rider who very much depends on the front tire (steering with the rear, Kenny Roberts style, was never something I learned how to do), I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. Buttonwillow’s sweeper corner is entered at a very rapid pace and the fast guys are trailing the brakes deep into the corner with their knees on the ground. This and the final corner, a 90º left, make for prime passing areas but also areas where you’re putting a lot of trust into the front tire. Each time I went in there harder and harder with Knapp’s words echoing in the back of my brain.

True to his word though, I reached the limits of my bravery on the brakes long before the tire reached its limits of traction. Lap after lap, on both the Q5 and Q5S. To be honest, despite riding the two tires back-to-back several times, I was hard pressed to tell the difference between the two front profiles. Instead, what I felt was the softer makeup of the tires providing more compliance and feel for the road beneath me. It’s nowhere close to how soft a Pirelli’s carcass is, but even though it’s been ages since I’ve ridden with the Q3+, its stiff sidewall occupied space in my brain.

In an odd twist of fate, I think the cooler weather conditions actually played into the Q5’s strengths, as the tire could get up to working temps without overheating. I’ve raced at Buttonwillow in the summer, when ambient temps tickled 110ºF. Though this kind of weather is extreme, I have a hunch the Q5 would start to get greasy quickly on a hot summer day (to be fair, so would most tires).

To see just how far the fronts (and rears) could go, Dunlop also had a few of its MotoAmerica teams on hand to test the Q5 as a possible intermediate tire for half dry/half wet conditions. Two-time and defending Superbike champ Jake Gagne lapped Buttonwillow at 1 minute, 45 seconds – only five seconds slower than the new outright lap record he would set the next day on qualifying slicks. All the while Jake commented that he pushed a little more each lap but never found the limits of the front tire. Impressive.

Speaking of Jake Gagne, I really made him work to get around me on the outside of this corner. Ok, not really.

As for the rears, the power of a 1000cc R1 engine quickly got them up to temperature. No surprise there. What was a little surprising was how quickly the tires started working when I hopped on a Kawasaki Ninja 400 for a few laps. John Robinson, the Dunlop engineer and wear bar specialist, revealed to me that there is no difference between the chemical makeups of the different tire sizes, making it more impressive that a meager Ninja 400 can get the tires working just as well as a proper superbike.

Compared to the Q4, I felt the edge grip of both Q5 tires was noticeably better. Handling was neutral, too, though the overall profile of the 190/55 is a little flatter than the bigger sizes on hand. Over the course of the day this resulted in the tire “shelving,” where the upper shoulder starts to wear considerably more than the edge, creating a shelf of rubber you need to lean past in order to experience the fresh edge rubber. Robinson noted these shelves are partially created because of the flat-ish profile of this particular tire size, which was one of the reasons for the taller and larger profiles added to the range. The larger profile means more rubber touches the ground at lean, reducing the chance at shelving.

Surprisingly, the compounds are the same throughout the tire sizes, meaning a little Kawasaki Ninja 400 is able to get the Q5 up to temperature just as easily as bigger, more powerful bikes.

Obviously, the more we rode with the shelving, the more that section of the tire would wear. Eventually getting down to the wear bars. While inconvenient, and a little surprising considering how quickly myself and others wore through a Q4 rear, this was one of those rare occasions when I could see how a worn tire behaves.

Unsurprisingly, the Q5 starts to move around and dance more, especially under acceleration. In neutral or fast corners I experienced some small sliding at neutral or positive throttle, almost as if the tire wanted to finish the corner off for me. As the wear continued to progress, the movements got progressively bigger, while still being predictable. It wasn’t to the point of being alarming, but instead it was a definite signal to the rider to cool it and pay more attention to being smooth with their inputs.

When new, the Q5 edge grip obviously doesn’t match the stickiness of a slick, but it’s comparable for the class. Which is to say, grippy.

The defining moment for me came when riding worn Q5 tires back-to-back with the worn Q5S. Despite being the “road” tire, when the tread started to go, the Q5S remained much more composed than the Q5. The movements and slides the Q5 were giving me were merely squiggles with the Q5S. Even Robinson couldn’t fully explain it, but all of our best guesses were that the harder center compound only found on the rear Q5S acts as a backbone for the whole tire, helping it keep its shape better under power even when worn. So impressed was I with it that, I think I’d actually pick the front Q5 and the rear Q5S as my ideal combo. You can do that, too – Dunlop says it’s absolutely fine to mix and match the two tires.

Once the Q5 starts to wear, you can feel it get loose and slide, especially when being worked by a bike with power.

The Verdict

With a full day of track riding on both the Q5 and Q5S tires, I come away with mixed emotions. Unlike my time on the Q4 though, my emotions are generally positive this time around. I’m impressed with the warm up times for both tires, and Taylor Knapp was right – the Q5 front tire really is incredible.

Here’s the front Q5 after a full day of track riding. Buttonwillow is predominantly right turns, and as you can see by the huge chicken strips, it could have taken far more than I was giving it. I wouldn’t hesitate using it for a few more trackdays.

The Q5 rear tire still has me a bit perplexed, as it’s basically the same compound as the Q4, meaning it wears quickly. Then it starts to get exciting when you do. The tradeoff is ultra fast warm up times and being able to hit some extreme lean angles (depending on tire size). The thing is, despite the wear bars being moved to lessen the chance of tech inspection officials mistaking your tire as being too worn when it isn’t, I could easily see a fast track rider on a powerful bike going through a rear tire in a day. If there’s a saving grace, the Q5S stays better composed as the rubber wears away.

After a full day of riding, the rear Q5 looks a little worse for wear. At least underneath the MT-10. If you follow the tread groove towards the edge of the tire, you’ll see the remnants of the wear bar. Still, despite the wear, the performance was better than I remember of the Q4 in a similar state.

Overall, I’d say the Q5 and Q5S are a big step up. These are tires I’d put on my bike the next time I head to the track, which is something I never did with the Q4 before it. The warm up time, different profiles, and overall performance instilled confidence in me – and I didn’t even get to try the 200/60 Q5 rear. The bigger profile should allow it to last longer and/or offer more neutral handling over a whole day.

Still the best way to preserve front tire life.

No matter what you ride, eventually you’ll need to get new tires, and thankfully, I feel ready to add the Q5 family to the list of trackday tires I’d recommend to someone looking at the category. Better still, the Q5 family will be available wherever Dunlop tires are sold – not just with your local race tire distributor. Or you can make things easy on yourself and order either tire from the links below. For sizing and pricing refer to the chart below.

Shop for the Dunlop Q5 here

Shop for the Dunlop Q5S here


Where are Dunlop motorcycle tires made?
For the US (and Japanese) market, Dunlop tires are made in Buffalo, New York. Dunlop tires sold in Europe are made at a separate factory as Dunlop Europe has a different parent company (Goodyear) than Dunlop USA (Sumitomo).

Are wider tires better?
It depends. To put it in extremely simple terms, a wider tire puts more rubber on the ground. But a motorcycle tire also has to take into account the profile of the tire. If drag racing is all you’re doing, then a wide car-like tire is fine. But if you plan on taking a turn, then you’ll need a rounded profile. Here, the width of the tire and its profile work can affect a motorcycle’s handling. Wider is not necessarily better.

What is the best brand of motorcycle tire?
Generally speaking, the major tire companies all make a quality product. What it comes down to is personal preference (and price).

Additional Resources

Dunlop Q3 Tire Review
Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ Tire Review
Dunlop Sportmax Q4 Review
MO Tested: Pirelli Supercorsa TD Review
Riding The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa Tire Range
Riding The New Bridgestone Battlax R11 DOT Race Tire
MO Tested: Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 Review
Michelin Power RS Review
MO (Track) Tested: Michelin Power Cup 2 Tires
Metzeler Tires: Everything You Need To Know

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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2 of 21 comments
  • Aron A. Aron A. on Apr 21, 2023

    Thanks for both the above follow ups Troy, great review btw! I have tried both the Q5 F&R and a Q5 F, Q5s R and do prefer the latter as you've noted, the Q5 front is very impressive.

  • Steve Natt Steve Natt on Apr 24, 2023

    Hey Troy: Excellent piece and follow up commentary. Did I miss the part where you explained why Dunlop isn't offering the newfangled 125 front tire option as Pirelli does?