Fun fact: Metzeler, the company we now know for its motorcycle tires, used to be in the business of making sausage casings. Yeah, sausages. Like the things we stick between buns and eat at baseball games. This was just one of the many different business ventures under the Metzeler umbrella during its 158-year history.
For a clearer context, let’s go back to the beginning. Robert Friedrich Metzeler founded the eponymous company in 1863 in Munich, Germany, producing rubber goods ranging from surgical equipment to children’s toys. The company’s early claim to fame, however, came in 1878, as it developed and produced an air-tight fabric made from rubber (among other things) to form the world’s largest tethered balloon for that year’s Paris World Exhibition. Spanning 36 meters (118 feet) in diameter, attendees of the fair could get a view of Paris from as high as 500 meters (1,640 feet) in the sky.
Like other rubber companies from this time period, Metzeler expanded its attention towards tires with the advent of the automobile, and by 1892, it had received a Swiss patent for what would effectively be known as the tire (specifically a bicycle tire, in this case). By 1933, Metzeler had produced a tire from synthetic rubber, which would prove to be an important development considering the course of German history over the next decade or so…
By the end of the second World War, much of the Metzeler factory was destroyed. In the rebuilding process, and in the decades to come, Metzeler continued with tire production for motorcycles, automobiles, and commercial vehicles. This is also the period in which Metzeler expanded to leisure products (inflatable boats, diving equipment, skis…), and yes, sausage casings.
Starting in the 1970s, the next two decades was an interesting period for Metzeler, as, in 1972 Bayer AG – yes, the Aspirin folks – acquired a minority stake in the company. The power grab reached its height only two years later, in 1974, as Bayer flexed its muscle and started taking increasing control over the Metzeler Group of companies, angering the other stakeholders. By 1978, a major restructuring of the company created the Metzeler Automotive Profile Systems, Lindau. This was the start of Metzeler’s sole focus on motorcycle tires. Then, in 1986, Metzeler Kautschuk GmbH was taken over by the Pirelli Group – an arrangement that continues to this day.
Today, Metzeler offers tires for every category of motorcycling. Whether it’s sportbikes, cruisers, tourers or scooters, Metzeler has rubber for all of them. And while we tend to focus on street motorcycles, Metzeler offers tires for dirtbikes, too. Let’s take a look at tires from all of Metzeler’s road-based categories.
An aggressive street tire developed with lessons learned from the ultimate street race of them all – the Isle of Man TT – the Sportec M9 RR is the worthy successor to the M7 RR. Developed to handle the ever-changing conditions of hardcore canyon riding, the M9 RR is Metzeler’s first supersport tire developed with a 100% silica compound. This is important because silica is a major component in a tire coming up to working temperature quickly and being effective, even when it’s wet or cold outside. In the past, the key shortcoming of high silica compounds was that they didn’t hold up well to high temperatures – like those generated at the track. This update is the result of Metzeler’s Compound Continuous Mixing, which blends the resins used with the silica so thoroughly that the final mixture is stable enough to withstand a significantly wider range of heat.
The M9 RR was developed specifically with the advanced electronics today’s motorcycles come equipped with. Both the front and rear M9 RRs receive dual-compound construction, with the center section being a harder, more wear-resistant one and the outer edges softer and grippier – though both are still full silica. Where the front soft compound goes all the way through to the tire’s carcass, the rear utilizes what Metzeler calls a “cap and base” construction, with the soft edge compound laid over the harder compound used for the center. This construction assists the rear tire’s side compounds in maintaining their thermal stability under loads caused by acceleration.
The tread design is an evolution of the M7’s, with the Pi design enhanced with the claw grooves that Metzeler says help the tire get up to temperature faster and also help with water evacuation. These are claims born straight from testing at the Isle of Man. The grooves remain until about 30º of lean angle, after which the tire is essentially a slick, giving maximum dry grip at high lean angles.
Building off the Roadtec 01, Metzeler’s top touring tire, the SE version has a bit of a performance edge, for sportier riders who predominantly tour in dry environments. Nonetheless, the Roadtec 01 SE has a higher land/sea ratio along the shoulder, giving you better grip at higher lean angles while still doing a good job moving water out of the way if needed. The sidewall construction is the same between both the standard and SE versions, so you get better communication with the road and more compliance on lighter motorcycles.
There’s a lot of emphasis on making the Roadtec 01 stable and confidence inspiring in low grip situations and under braking. We’ll spare the tech talk that has gone into the tires, but from its construction to its tread design and layout, Metzeler focused on long-lasting touring performance with impressive grip to match. In fact, Metzeler claims up to 10% more mileage compared to its Roadtec Z8 – itself a worthy and respected sport-touring tire. The best part is, the Roadtec 01 SE’s performance was designed to remain consistent longer, so you can trust them even as the miles (and the wear) build up.
The latest cruiser tire from Metzeler, the Cruisetec leans more toward the performance cruiser side of the equation than most, with a pointier profile for quick handling and more rubber on the road when heeled over. Compared to traditional cruiser tires, the Cruisetec is more about grip than long wear (look at the ME88 if you care more about mileage). The rear is a dual-compound, though – harder rubber down the center for longevity and softer, chewy sides for great traction when blasting out of corners.
Greater performance is born from an all-new carcass design, so you have predictable handling, feedback, and cornering stability, even on today’s high-performance cruisers. The Cruisetecs come in a bunch of sizes, from 16- to 21 inches, to fit many members of the genus Cruiser.
Leaning heavily towards the pavement side of the adventure-touring segment, the Tourance tires are “developed and tuned for the big, modern, street-oriented Enduro motorcycles,” says Metzeler. Designed for 85% road use, these radial tires feature Metzeler’s 0º Steel Radial belt technology to help the tire deform at speed as little as possible. A thick groove depth combined with balanced carbon black and silica compounds have been used to guarantee a high level of mileage and durability together with great grip in both wet and dry conditions.
Thanks to its highly efficient mixing technology, Metzeler is able to combine silica, carbon black and the latest generation of resins and reinforcement agents to make a tire that comes to temp quickly in all conditions and provides great grip with minimal overheating issues. The large tread blocks are still able to lay down the power on the pavement, but when you do want to venture a little off-road, deep grooves between the blocks help the Tourance dig into light dirt adventures. Granted he was riding a BMW G310GS at the time, but MO’s resident dirt guy Ryan Adams was impressed with the Tourance’s ability to find traction even in muddy fire roads.
Scooters need good tires, too, and Metzeler has them covered with a wide range of rubber. The FeelFree scooter tire seen here is available in a wide range, including radial and bias ply. Overall, the FeelFree leans towards the sport-touring side of the scooter tire spectrum. The land/sea ratio draws a balance between wet and dry performance, but with a nod towards confidence when the road conditions go south. If you follow along with the Metzeler line, you might recognize the tread pattern as closely resembling that of the Z6 sport-touring tire. This isn’t a coincidence, as its well-rounded tread pattern is well suited for scooter duties.
Are Metzeler tires good?
Unlike most other tire manufacturers, all Metzeler does is motorcycle tires. Not cars. Not trucks. Not farm equipment. Just motorcycle tires. Metzeler knows tires. Being under the Pirelli umbrella, and being able to share knowledge and data, further strengthens Metzeler’s position as a tire company you can have faith in.
Which is better, Pirelli or Metzeler?
When it comes to high-profile brands like Pirelli, Michelin, Metzeler and others, one isn’t necessarily better than another. It really is true that these well-known brands all produce great products. But each company may have specific characteristics they impart into their tires that may or may not work well with your riding style.
How long do Metzeler tires last?
The lifespan of any tire depends on a number of factors – type of tire, type of riding, riding conditions, type of motorcycle, etc. Tires meant for competition will clearly have a shorter lifespan than touring tires, but the competition tires will have more outright grip. Within their specific categories, Metzeler tires are known to last a similar amount of miles as others in the category. But again, it’s nearly impossible to get into specifics about how long a tire will last.
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