“Tire testing” is rapidly becoming my favorite thing to do here at MO. It always involves going on a great ride, sometimes even a race track, and no one can really accuse me of getting it wrong, can they? Especially when the main claim is greater tire longevity. I’d like to hang around Austin and eat more barbecue and put 6,000 miles on these new Dunlops, but oh dear, look at the time…
Dunlop says its current Sportmax Q3 is and has been the best-selling sport tire in America since its introduction four years ago (as well as of course the best! sport tire period), and now the boys from Buffalo have completely overhauled it, producing what they claim is not only a better sport tire – but also one that’ll give 20 to 30% more longevity than the current Q3. That would be the Sportmax Q3+.
On the outside, it looks a lot like the Q3. On the inside, it’s more than 80% new, says Dunlop tire designer and track day junkie Shawn Bell. The rear is still of multi-tread construction, but now uses a new silica-enriched center tread section. Much of the credit for the Q3+’s increased longevity goes to this new compound, which will add many miles to the tire without sacrificing grip, says Dunlop.
Changes in construction and compound contribute to increased tire stability while maintaining the current tire profile, giving the Q3+ a 3.5% to 6% bigger footprint and therefore more grip at max lean angles. According to Rich Conicelli, senior development test rider at the Dunlop Proving Grounds, “the Q3+ lets you brake later for a turn, carry more lean angle through the apex, and get on the throttle sooner at the exit” – all the things that produce a quicker lap time.
Powerpoint presenters pointed out proof in the form of a graph showing Rich’s progress around Roebling Road Raceway being over a second faster than on the Q3; and just about one second quicker also around Dunlop’s own shorter test track at their Huntsville, Alabama, proving grounds. All I can say is that Rich seemed to be going about 30 seconds faster per lap when he occasionally blew past me as I wobbled round trying to learn my way around Circuit of the Americas. Meanwhile, the longevity claim is backed up by extensive internal testing, including a 2015 BMW R1200RT running 120/70ZR17 and 180/55ZR17 Q3+ over varied roads that make up Dunlop’s street loop.
We got the invite to ride the new tire in Austin, conveniently/concurrently with the second MotoAmerica official tire test of the season. Dunlop, of course, has been providing the control tire for MotoAmerica for a couple of years now (and with the prior regime before that), and are justifiably proud of supporting American racing with tires that are manufactured in America. They’re also proud of the fact that the Q3+ is actually built on the same machines as their racing tires, and they like to point out that each iteration of its sport tires brings it closer to the race rubber. Or is it the other way around? There is convergence.
One big difference is that you should be able to get up to about eight full track days out of a set of Q3+, says lead tire engineer Shawn Bell, who does lots of them, and you really don’t need to fool with tire warmers: They’re designed to get up to operating temperature quickly (a good thing on the street in cool weather), and about half a lap on most tracks will have the Q3+ already up to a good operating temperature. Rich Conicelli agrees: If the race was three or four laps, he says, you could beat guys on race tires on the Q3+. Their compound is also a blend that’s good for many more hot/cold cycles than a true race tire – and in between track days, they’re also perfectly good for riding back and forth to work – and now 20 to 30% more times than before, he says. Twenty percent more, Dunlop likes to point out, could be the equivalent of adding a month to your riding year. Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway twice. Doing your favorite loop a few more times…
Bump compliance on our street ride actually felt a bit better compared to the Q3s on my personal R1, but that could be of course suspension differences. Bell says compliance and bump absorption are about the same between Q3 and Q3+, as well as weight and tread depth.
Dunlop also says the Q3+ is a big tent everybody can get under: Instead of offering a continuum of more specialized tires (whose names include such words as “Pilot” and “Corsa”), they claim the Q3+ will both outlast and out-stick any of their competitors’ offerings at the same time, all in one tire. Well, I don’t have either the time or the talent to investigate any of that this week, sorry.
At the end of the day, if it’s better than the Q3, the Q3+ will be a helluva tire, and especially if the 20-30% more mileage claim holds up. And I’m with Dunlop’s Mike Buckley, who points out nobody does more to support American racing and therefore the American motorcycle industry than Dunlop – not only MotoAmerica roadracing, but also flat track, Supercross and God knows where else people ride motorcycles. We’ll not drag Trump into this, but made in the U.S. by genuine Buffaloans is a claim only Dunlop can make: 340 days a year, three shifts, 24 hours a day, 6000 tires a day, 1200 hourly union employees and 200 salaried ones, under one big happy million-square-foot roof.
|Dunlop Sportmax Q3+ Sizes and Availability|
|Sportmax Q3+ Front||120/60ZR17||(55W)||TBD||August 2017|
|Sportmax Q3+ Rear||160/60ZR17||(69W)||TBD||August 2017|