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CRUISE CONTROL – METZELER CRUISETEC | Tested

Want more grip in your cruisey day? Metzeler has an option

For years power cruiser, custom and tourer riders have had few tyre options to dive into, and to be fair, probably haven’t stressed about that too much. Longevity and stability rank higher than side grip and drive traction for these riders – or do they? Metzeler has spotted a hole in the market and gone for a niche within a niche and it’s so sure it’s a top angle, it set us free on road and track to find out for ourselves. Showers of sparks ensued – and a thorough test of a tyre across a range of situations.

For a start, it was freezing. When this launch was planned from Queensland, the heady heights of New South Wales’ Southern Highlands seemed a good option: and that it is for the variety of excellent biking roads on offer around Robertson, Kangaroo Valley and sunny Goulburn. Unfortunately it also collided with the onset of winter 2019, and it was freezing. Hand numbing, nose running, excessive piss-stop-inducing freezing. In other words, a top test for tyres – and Metzeler wasn’t afraid to give us every opportunity to run them through their paces.

The variety of machinery on hand was breathtaking. The fleet consisted of the target market for the new rubber: two Harley-Davidson FXDRs, a Honda Goldwing, Yamaha’s wicked little Bolt, a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail and everything else that might wear the cruiser-focussed rubber.

The plan was to brave the wind and cold of the Southern Highlands, before hitting the Pheasant Wood circuit in Marulan to test the grip and tyre feel in tyre tearing weather. There was the promise of a watered down track, too, as wet-weather performance is an important angle for Metzeler. Cruiser riders are, after all, likely to encounter all weather in the big rides they are inclined to take – particularly the likes of Softail Heritage and Honda Goldwing riders who roam far and wide across this country.

I found myself Goldwing mounted for the first freeway run, and the fresh Cruisetec rubber beneath me was quiet, and felt solid and very user friendly. The first roundabout suggested the tyre was also up for more spritely riding than the ’Wing’s standard rubber. The bike rolls from side to side easier, thanks to the peakier profile, and on the run up the Macquarie Pass to the Robertson Pie Shop, I was full of confidence steaming into corners, mostly because I could feel what was happening up the front and rear, but also because the profile of the tyre gives a solid feel as you throw the big bike from side to side.

The Goldwing goes harder than some people give it credit for, so having dual-compound rubber under it, together with a profile to suit its sporting prowess even further, makes sense, and gives a bike like that some extra grip and ability in that area.

But for me the real interest is the power-cruiser segment. Tyres aren’t thought of with cruisers like they are in other areas of motorcycling. The limits of the bike are generally defined by the lean angle – or lack of – so tyres may not be every owner’s priority.

But as many of us know, good tyres make a bike feel new – and Metzeler knows this, so the Cruisetec is designed to give that feeling. I hopped on a Harley-Davidson FXDR 114. It did feel different, with slightly more ground clearance, thanks to a marginally taller tyre, and the steering was direct and solid.

The Cruisetec didn’t deliver magical lean angles or fresh approaches to riding these bikes, but the solidity, and feeling of grip and steering is top notch, even in the cold weather.

It all came together in the run up Barrengarry Mountain out of Kangaroo Valley. I was Softail-Heritage mounted, with a conga line of bike journos in tow. The fast way around a corner on the big Harleys is to turn first, then brake all the way into the corner, turn as quickly as you can, then drive out again. There’s little footboard room to play with, so trusting the front end into a public road corner is all about good vision and good rubber.

With the new Metzelers, I felt solid all the way into even the tightest corners. I wasn’t asking everything of the tyre, that was for the next day at the track, but the Cruisetec offered a lot of margin, and certainly more active feel than the standard tyres on the Heritage, a bike I’ve done many kilometres on.

As we re-gathered at the top of the hill, sweaty and grinning and looking with admiration at our loudly ticking bikes, we knew we were on a good thing. The original rubber would not have been any ‘worse’, but the feel the Cruisetecs give is definitely high end, user-friendly and predictable. No one had put a foot wrong on cold tarmac. There was always tomorrow of course.

The next day was at Marulan’s Pheasant Wood, a fun circuit made up of a series of tight corners and a long left-hand sweeper, with some mild undulation thrown in for good measure.

Here, again on the GoldWing, I could push it hard on the brakes, long periods on the side of the tyre and brake as hard as I could, the hazard lights flashing and with me trying to keep the ABS from chiming in too early by keeping the braking level just on the point of activation. It got to a point where the rubber protecting me from a tip over was getting touched up on ripple strips and the rubber wasn’t even blinking. There is more than enough grip from the tyres on this bike.

Interestingly, the fastest bike on track was the Yamaha Bolt, mainly because it has more ground clearance and you can hang off it easier. The Cruisetec tolerated the throttle being mashed to the stop as early as possible and, while the Bolt doesn’t exactly crank out mind-numbing power, in the cold conditions and with the grip on hand, even as I braked into the left hander before sweeping up the hill to the trio of right handers, the performance was impressive.

The only time the tyres got all squirmy was hard on the brakes into the slow corners before the run onto the straight. It’s here I was reminded these aren’t a sports tyre, such as the same brand’s Sportec, on which much of this tyre is based (see breakouts), however it’s unlikely this tyre will get pushed as hard as a racetrack allows. In the cold conditions, it is clear the Cruisetec is a quality act.

The FXDR, too, was fun to push around Pheasant Wood, with the braking into the middle of the corner technique the best way around. Again, it was only on long runs into the corner hard on the brakes that the bike moved around, however the feel was enough to never push beyond the movement and into fright territory – and again, this was well beyond the design brief of the bike itself.

In the afternoon, Metzeler called in the Pheasant Wood water truck, and soaked Turn One with the wet stuff, and planted some witches hats. There was no way I was going to end the day upside down on someone else’s bike, right where everyone was watching, but the tyre manners when the surface was wet was good. Granted, it was a racetrack surface, with more grip than the average road surface, but on the short laps with the wet surface, the Cruisetec was as relatively solid as in the dry.

Metzeler’s Cruisetec is a brave move, taking a grippier, higher-performing, dual-compound tyre to a market to whom tyre performance likely slots in behind the loudness of the exhaust.

If you ride a power cruiser, tourer or custom and want to try another level of tyre – there really isn’t a competitor on the Australian market boasting this sort of technology in this segment – Metzeler’s Cruisetec is a great option.     

  WORDS SAM MACLACHLAN

  PHOTOGRAPHY HALF LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY