Tires – An incredible road trip in the Alps with Metzeler! –

An incredible road trip in the Alps with Metzeler !

Tires - An incredible road trip in the Alps with Metzeler! -

Wishing to strengthen proximity to its customers, Metzeler invited bikers from all walks of life to (re) discover three of the brand’s products. The opportunity to put different tires and motorcycles to the test of the laces… and the lambda biker.

Invited by Metzeler to an unprecedented motorcycle trip through Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany, Site was able to closely observe the unfolding of the second edition ofExperts on the Road : a long journey through the mountains, during which the German manufacturer puts its typical tires in a real driving situation. Touring like the Roadtec Z6 Interact (read our), the Tourance EXP and the Tourance.

Over 1400 km through the mountains !

The excursion started from Turin with 20 people, then a second group of 21 people linked Lucerne (Switzerland) to Munich (Germany). And as soon as the first group arrived from Italy, the event initiated by Metzeler went off the beaten track: in addition to journalists from around the world and resellers of the Pirelli Metzeler group, the Germanic brand simply decided to invite a dozen lambda bikers to come and share this life-size road-test !

After the success of the competition Interact with Me in partnership with Site, thanks to which a happy reader was able to participate in the launch of the new Z6 Interact on the Isle of Man (read), the leaders of the brand have decided to go further.

"Metzeler continues his adventures with real bikers, who have been blogged about so they can exchange ideas and opinions ", underlines the manufacturer: "bikers become the real protagonists by testing the tires, offering their visions, sharing their needs and in a way finding in Metzeler a new traveling companion".

So after the first edition ofExperts on the Road 2007 from Barcelona to Turin via the Pyrenees and the Alps (read), Metzeler has developed the concept towards a spirit of community: this second journey aims to allow users to really take into account the opinions of users on a daily basis, while representative "the ideal trip that a group of friends could organize, with thousands of turns and dozens of passes to cross on the road from Turin to Lucerne and then Munich", explains the brand founded in 1892.

12 motorcycles and three different tires: one winning package ?

Based on this premise, Metzeler decided to make three products available to satisfy heavy riders on a range of machines at ease on mountainous roads. The advantages of Tourance (an 80% road and 20% road tire) can be seen on motorcycles like the Honda Transalp 700 (read our), the Aprilia 650 Pegaso or the recent Yamaha XT660Z Tenere (read our).

Its Tourance EXP evolution (90% road) will be judged on BMW 1200 GS (read our), Suzuki 650 V-Strom (read our) and Kawasaki Versys (read our), while the Z6 Interact (100% road) will be appreciated among others on Honda 800 VFR V-Tec (read our), Yamaha 1300 FJR AS (read our), Suzuki 1250 Bandit S, Aprilia 850 Mana (read our), Kawasaki ER-6, Moto Guzzi 1200 Norge or even the impressive BMW K1200 Sport !

A rather complete choice which immediately makes the Site’s editorial staff want to kill three birds with one stone: to dissect the behavior of Metzeler tires in sustained driving conditions (425 km of mountain on the first day and 360 km on the second, see the map opposite) and trapping climatic hazards (sun, rain, fog, wind, cold …), take advantage of this crossing of four European countries to put our European motorcycle travel guide to the test (read our guide), and finally challenge the driving skills of models tested on superb roads – but sometimes oh so delicate! – Alpes…

From Lucerne to Prato dello Stelvio

This journey begins on a DL 650 V-Strom equipped with Tourance EXP: pulling straight towards Interlaken, the group made up of happy German elected officials and Italian, Spanish, Greek, German, Polish and French journalists take advantage of the weather. dry and ambient 23 ° C to take its marks during the first 60 km of open countryside towards the mountains.

The opportunity to appreciate the scenery of a calm and orderly Switzerland, where traffic is fluid and without risky behavior. Educated, the Swiss motorist respects the speed limits in built-up areas to the letter and only allows himself a few km / h more on the roads with impeccable surfaces and clearer signage than in France (note that the highways are indicated by green signs and national ones in blue).

However, if like their first neighbors, the drivers allow pedestrians who are not on the road to pass, very few line up to the right to facilitate overtaking by two-wheelers! A good pretext to request the 67 hp of the Suz ‘and heat the Sport-Touring definition envelopes from Metzeler !

After passing Brunig, then Residen, the motley procession tackles the first real hairpin bends in the direction of Grimsel: the asphalt turns out to be quite simply perfect and with acceleration – inevitable! – rhythm, very few were able to enjoy the magnificent panoramas! The good visibility encourages fantasies and the easily exploitable twin of the DL makes a valuable ally to curb excess optimism !

Quick and light at low speed, the Suzuki has a nice engine which suffers, however, from the overweight to take (20 kg) compared to the 650 SV from which it comes. If he accepts to resume without knocking from 2,500 revolutions, his speed of expression is between 5,000 and 9,000 revolutions / min. However, its saddle height measured for a trail (820 mm), its good ergonomics and the precision of its controls make the DL 650 V-Strom a weapon of choice for riding in the mountains, while allowing itself the possibility of get a little nervous between each pass !

Heavier to take on angle changes at high speed (the link to Furkapass offers some long and enjoyable rows!), The Suzuki goes rather well with the Tourance EXP of the German manufacturer. This tire, which appeared in 2007, is the first to use the original zero degree spiral steel belt, both at the rear and at the front. !

Tourance EXP: the apprehension of crampons !

Thanks to a blend of latest generation polymers, the EXP would offer "lower stiffness than its predecessor when it is cold and higher – while improving its stability – when it has reached running temperature", assures the manufacturer. If these precise points will be difficult to verify given the few motorcycles available in" normal "Tourance, it is however certain that its successor displays a very satisfactory level of performance on roads with changing surfaces.

The stability is particularly impressive in large curves, as in the entry of pins on the brakes: the "round" profile of the front tire – typical of Metzeler – and the mixes with variable rigidity of the tread – called technology Cap & Base – are surely no strangers.

The climb to Glestsch, Belvedère and Tiefenbach is an opportunity to overcome the apprehension due to the presence of crampons on the Tourance EXP: even if the people in charge of Metzeler research and development want to be enthusiastic about the capabilities of their products, the water crossings right in the middle of the pins and the quality coating pulling down are not reassuring with a mixed tire !

However, the grip in the wet is ultimately no problem and is even rather impressive. The Tourance EXP, however, seems less at ease in the phase of heavy braking on bumpy surfaces. The rear retains its reassuring behavior whatever the conditions, but the front is more stingy in feedback when it is subjected to great constraints: a feeling confirmed on other motorcycles..

Roadtec Z6 Interact: hard to fault

Passing from the DL 650 V-Strom to the Kawaski ER-6N (whose design is evolving for 2009, read), the ascent continues via Sedrun. The climbs are more pronounced and the hairpins more frequent, while the view at over 2,000 m altitude is simply sublime. !

Too bad that the local "DDE" decided to take advantage of the late season to carry out substantial work every 15 km, even if this is undoubtedly the price to pay to benefit from safe and particularly adapted infrastructures. two wheels ! Thanks to the supermoto-style driving position of the Japanese twin-cylinder roadster, the few bumps and traces of moisture are easily swallowed by the ER-6N + Z6 Interact assembly..

The friendly best seller of the Greens picks up well from 3,000 laps and consequently lengthens up to 11,000: practical for overtaking the numerous tourist coaches between two turns! Too bad the bi-parallel is more comfortable in the second part of the tachometer, which is a bit annoying in the mountains where driving is more demanding and the recovery at the end of a hairpin is appreciated !

The front end of the bike fits perfectly improvisations at the entry of curves, while the rear admits its limits more quickly when heckling the whole. In the long run, the fairly high footrests end up wearing down the pilot, while the front brake is certainly sufficiently powerful but lacks attack at the start of the lever..

If the ER-6 therefore appears a little tiring on long tortuous journeys, the fact remains that this bike is placed below 6,000 € and that its heading at high speeds is simply bluffing! Its eloquent sales figures since its release prove the merits and versatility of the concept..

For its part, the Z6 Interact tire fitting validates all the qualities seen at its launch on the Isle of Man (read!): Worthy successor to the powerful Z6, this tire uses the CMT (contour modeling technique) present on its elder, but inaugurates a new method of winding the 0 ° steel belt, the tension of which decreases from the tread to the shoulders. Technical terms rehashed by the team on site, but ultimately more easily appreciated in action !

As on the legendary TT track, the Z6 Interact is very easy to tame and its reactions, like its progressiveness, quickly build confidence. The shadows and wet surfaces are swallowed with ease, even when the guide’s rhythm turns to arson between Disentis and the roads towards Saint-Moritz! The front is particularly successful and if its round profile somewhat hinders the agility of the ER-6N, its feedback and its behavior under heavy constraints would make certain 100% sporty tires pale. !

The rear follows without a hitch and the increase in silica content (65% against 30% previously) gives it a significant grip when out of pins in the wet. Metzeler ensures that longevity – one of the strong points of the old Z6 – is preserved, thanks to the use of specific resin: a point on which our readers will surely not fail to enlighten us !

Passage in Italy: the rain plays the justices of the peace !

A well-deserved break will be the opportunity to recover the imposing Yamaha FJR 1300 AS (with sequential gearbox and ABS): equipped with Z6 Interact, the Sport-GT of 144 hp and its 248 kg dry plays on a different register than the "’gazelles" put to the test so far !

The start of the route towards Saint-Moritz giving pride of place to small virolos on a pavement made fat by the exaggerated number of works, the heavy Japanese four-cylinder of 1298 cc and its consequent breath are not the dream allies to push the Interact in its entrenchments! Slightly shortening the route, the guides set sail for Livigno, where the group will cross the Italian border.

The opportunity to put the FJR to the test on small wet and narrow roads, stuffed with blind turns and accelerations on the first gear: the ideal to find – quickly – the limits of grip of the rear tire! These are easily seen coming and if it is excluded to speak of total confidence during a run-away in first with nearly 300 kg to manage, the Interact has the merit of stalling gradually and not of stopping abruptly..

For its part, the automatic switching device of the Yamaha does everything to put its pilot at ease: with appreciable smoothness and impressive speed of action, the system simply suffers from perfectible handling, since its trigger system is modeled on that of bikes, but … upside down (lever up to increase gears and vice versa) !

A fault that can be compensated for by the grouping of controls via the index and the top lever: unnatural at the start, the movement returns quickly after a few tens of kilometers. Too bad, moreover, that it is impossible to "enter" two reports at once, as on the Aprilia Mana whose automated gearbox is very appreciable. !

However, the flagship of the brand with three tuning forks unveils a rigid chassis – if not lively -, a full and torquey engine whatever the revs and senatorial comfort in solo as in duo! Unfortunately, the throttle and brake controls are conspicuous by their dryness, which forces you to pass tight turns while keeping a trickle of gas while the mass transfers are too pronounced when braking in cornering. The weight of the assembly and the stiffening of the fork then force to move aside, which is not reassuring on small wet roads !

If the Yamaha Sport-Touring has aged somewhat in the face of the competition, it is nonetheless a formidable eater of daily terminals who prefers large spaces to small corners to express its admirable mechanical potential: the passage – in the rain ! – in Italy via Livigno will open a landscape made of large curves, where the stability of the motorcycle and the potential of Metzeler in the wet work wonders !

Shortly afterwards, it is almost 40 kilometers of small roads descending the mountains that are offered to the group to reach the stopover in Prato dello Stelvio: a route made difficult by the rain, punctuated by many bumps and blind pins, where are blessed the easily manageable engine braking machines like the FJR, the 800 VFR, the V-Strom and – once again – the Mana and its special "rain" mapping.

More impressive for some, the behavior of single cylinders equipped with old model Tourance balm the heart of the fervent defender of an architecture somewhat fallen into disuse, both the liveliness of these high-legged motorcycles and the traction offered by studded tires. yet very apparent are up to the task! A small foray on a grassy and very steep declination shows, however, that despite its profile as an all-terrain adventurer, the Tourance is much more comfortable on the road! To be reserved for rolling paths !

Prato allo Stelvio in Munich: three countries in 360 km !

Located not far from a huge national park, the starting point of this second day reveals majestic high altitude landscapes, unfortunately marred by a stubborn fog! Crossing several Italian towns in the direction of Nauders is an opportunity to check the very "Latin" driving behavior of our neighbors of La Botte and their very personal appreciation of priorities, traffic lights and legal speeds. !

A finding that leaves one wondering in view of the early hour of our visit and the few tourists still present at that time! Fortunately, the start of the day is facilitated by the striking homogeneity of the BMW R 1200 GS which accompanies these first – and chilly! – wheel turns.

Intimidating at first glance, the BMW also displays a high weight (nearly 230 kg with the full tank) which quickly calls to order when unbalancing on a slope! Equipped with ABS and ASC (BMW anti-skating), the 1200 GS already appears more pleasant to tackle particularly winding and wet roads leading to the Austrian peaks..

But what immediately strikes you with the German is her incredible agility – well supported by the substantial leverage of the wide handlebars! – and its general balance: its wheelbase of 1507 mm ensures flawless stability, especially as the front end is remarkably controlled by the famous Telever dear to the brand! Result: the bike never freezes on the brakes on a curve and making corrections on the small switchbacks leading to Timmelsjoch is a breeze, despite the persistent fog and the ambient 9.5 ° C !

The ASC cuts the cylinders alternately as soon as an overly optimistic acceleration leading to a slip is detected, which allows you to take advantage of the grip of the Tourance EXP and the health of the "Flat" Teuton. Bonhomme, this one resumes from the lowest revs and distills its 105 hp throughout the tachometer! Too bad a few vibrations and unflattering noise tarnish the picture, as does the overturning torque felt – but not dangerous – when upshifting at high revs..

In short, the BMW surprises the uninitiated in a good way and as soon as the sun returns to Austria, the German shows her inclinations for a fight: the long rows of Tyrol – near Imst – are swallowed up with beating drum and it is with a pleasure that our guide and some "nervous" leave to tax the locals in sports! The GS equipped with the ESA – electrically adjustable suspensions – seems to have no limit of angle, even in large curves approached at unspeakable speeds !

The descent on the German border is done at a more leisurely pace, via a small wet road in the valley of Oztal where the speed limit of 60 km / h (very respected in Austria) inspires the envy of an English colleague to do rub his sliders and the center stand of his Honda CBF in complete relaxation, thereby convincing the wet skills of the Roadtec Z6 Interact !

Finally, the group climbs back into the saddle for the last time in the direction of Munich, but time constraints force the organizers to reach the German airport by the motorway … Finishing on the formidable K 1200 R and its 163 hp (!) , the journey is only 30 km of winding roads, then only the highway to challenge this intimidating roadster.

A test run a bit short to gauge the dynamic capabilities of the German, even if we find this front axle with separate actions (parallelogram fork and central mono-shock absorber) which allows to enter into a standing turn on the brakes! A precious help to curb the assaults of a cavalry less demonstrative than expected, but devilishly effective !

The optional ESA and ASC did not have to prove their benefits on these well-paved roads but obviously, even in "Konfort" mode, the K 1200 R remains firm and in one piece! Queen of stretches and long turns approached full throttle, the "K 12 R" is however not very intuitive in laces or tight bends on slopes, where the delicate dosage of the throttle grip requires a certain circumspection, had due to the high power of the four-cylinder !

In conclusion of this epic trip, the BMW R 1200 GS stands out as the ultimate weapon to face the diversity offered by mountain roads, its satisfactory protection and the many – but expensive – options available to perfect its justified reputation as a motorcycle. ultra-versatile. Too bad its particular look keeps septic tanks away, as does its saddle height and its consequent weight fully felt when stationary.

For its part, the Metzeler team is showing its satisfaction: the bet seems successful and the positive exchanges between the members of the different groups demonstrate the quality of the products offered. As for the happy guests "lambda bikers", the experience is of course welcomed with enthusiasm and it is not difficult to imagine which tire manufacturer they will praise in the future … Nice coup !

Alexandre BARDIN – Photos DR

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