German motorcycle tires make Metzeler was established in 1892 and gained a solid reputation in the domain of extended mileage, touring tires, particularly in years of collaboration with BMW Motorrad. In 1986 Metzeler was incorporated in the Pirelli Group, where it further evolved its traditional line of very reliable, very durable motorcycle tires, thru the access to the most advanced technologies in the field. In 2002 Metzeler unveiled the ME880, a family of cross ply tires specifically conceived to respond to the reliability, extended mileage, all around safety and comfort needs of the grand touring motorcyclists who, at both sides of the Atlantic, select the huge, heavy, ultra-comfortable “armchair” style touring bikes for their mounts.

A couple of years ago, the ME880 evolved into the ME888 Marathon Ultra, a broader line of road tires, in both cross ply and radial structural layout, that represents a big evolutionary step over the previous (still in production) ME880 line. The evolutionary factor are the logic consequence of the infusion of the most advanced technologies into the Metzeler experience in the specific ultra-touring tires domain. The ME888 Marathon Ultra uses new compounds based on a new generation of polymers featuring superior abrasion capabilities. In addition, the new polymers are mixed using radically evolved processes that ensure a much finer and more intimate dispersion of silica for a big improvement in terms of grip on wet surface. Rayon and Kevlar fibers, for the construction of carcass plies and belts respectively, are formed using refined stranding processes, while the most advanced software are utilized in computerized mathematical modeling, structural analysis and dynamic simulations.

Primary target of the project ME888 was a further improvement of the quality of the handling on dry and on wet, while further increasing the mileage at the same time. The key factor in the superior performances of the ME888 Marathon Ultra is represented by the evolved geometrical relationship between the inner profile of the carcass and the profile of the outer tread. Given any size, the new ME888 Marathon Ultra is slightly wider and flatter in order to modify the contact patch which here is 5 per cent shorter and 15 per cent wider, compared to that of the original ME888. A shorter and wider profile better distributes the load generated by the engine torque that the tire converts into traction, thus reducing the overheating of the tread caused by its deflection.

Equally important is the fact that the carcass follows more accurately the profile of the tread to radically reduce the relative micro-sliding that occur between the carcass and the tread and that generate additional heat. The final touch to the ME888 Marathon Ultra evolution is represented by its tread pattern design, accurately optimized to drain water at its possible best without inducing excessive wear at the edges of the grooves. Originally ME888 Marathon Ultra was first introduced in 2013 on the US market, the primary market for this kind of tires, and it kept being optimized for each model of bike. Even the handling and stocking of these tires was the subject of specific Metzeler Tyres instruction bulletins to the dealers around the world. Salvo Pennisi, Director of Metzeler Motorcycle Tires Test and Validation Department, kindly invited me to a full test of the latest evolution of the Metzeler ME888 Marathon Ultra, in various sizes fitted to three different bikes: 2016 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim on MT90B16 front and MU85B16 rear, cross ply;

2016 H-D ElectraGlide  Ultraclassic Limited on 130/80B17 front and 180/65B16 rear, cross ply,

2003 Honda Golwing GL1800 on 130/70R18 front and 180/60R16 rear, radials.

The not too fresh Goldwing was there to underline that the Metzeler ME888 is an ideal choice for replacements and upgrading. The test was run at the Tires Test Track in Vizzola Ticino, you might recognize the background in the pictures, there are only a couple of spots good for pictures, sorry about that but. First the Harley Softail Slim.

With that fat and high aspect ratio tire up front I expected a rubbery steering response and I was honestly amazed by the neat dynamic reactions that the bike showed from the very start of the test. Fast bend and tight corners were aggressed with great elan, with the only regret caused by a ground clearance that definitely appeared inadequate in relation to the grip and cornering ability generated by the very competent chassis in combination with the ME888.

On fast bends the ME888 shod H-D Softail Slim was absolutely great and inviting to probe higher speed at every lap. This very sharp steering response is the result of the combination of the accurately defined new profile and of the high geometrical stability of the carcass and belts structure. The feeling was so solid that I felt like I was riding on radials. Then came the real radials, the 130/70R18M/ME888F and the 180/60R16M/ME888R the Honda Goldwing rolls on.

The Honda Goldwing is blessed by imperial dynamic qualities in itself and the only regret came from the fact that shod with the ME888 Marathon Ultra radials it gave the impression that if it had a handful of degrees of additional lean angle, it would be capable of taking on a number of sports bikes.

The steering felt perfectly neutral, solid, extremely linear and inviting, slow corners, fast bends, braking, anything: this bike deserves a big hand for its dynamic qualities anywhere. And the ME888 added an extra touch of refinement. At 860 ponds dry, and with a good share of it up around the steering axis, the mighty H-D ElectraGlide Ultraclassic Limited shod with the ME888 must be forced into line around tight corners for a couple of laps, like if the tires needed a sort of a run-in to get to a perfect interface condition with the mighty iron.

From then on, this was another floorboards grinding session with the Electra showing surprising agility and the composure of a neutral steering response, which remains very firm and precise even under hard braking. No rubbery feeling, no vagueness of any sort, just very smooth, surefooted and rewarding. The last test concerned the braking performance on wet tarmac.

This test was included in the round to prove that the ME888 is capable of both extended mileage and strong grip on wet surface. I run the test on the H-D Softail Slim. Standard test speed was around 48 mph and average measured braking distance was 104 feet, almost 7 feet shorter than the Metzeler testers recorded with the ME880. Again, the feeling was very surefooted. The front tire never lost grip, no tendency to lock, only at the rear the ABS briefly kicked in, a very reassuring feeling to close a very positive and informative test day on the real potential of the outstanding Metzeler ME888 tires, be it cross ply or radial.

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