4WD Mechanix Magazine Tests the Michelin Dual-Sport
In this two-part HD video series, we mount and test Michelin's T63 and the
Cross AC10 dual-sport motorcycle tires. These tires and
matching tubes are DOT approved for use on public highways. The T63 is a 50/50 highway and off-pavement
design. The Cross AC10 has a rugged enduro-type tread design for 90% off-pavement use. Our testbed
for the tires is the magazine's popular Honda XR650R dual-sport motorcycle. This bike is used
as both a platform for filming HD video in the field and as a technical how-to
At left, 4WD Mechanix Magazine's Honda XR650R motorcycle is ready to roll with
fresh Michelin T63 tires and matching tubes! This motorcycle follows the "100 miles from nowhere
rule!": Used for video filming at remote desert and mountain venues, tires must be reliable, trail
and road worthy—and durable. At the heart of the bike is a freshly built, uncorked powerplant. With
Hot Cams 'Stage 1' camshaft and L.A. Sleeve head and cylinder work, this powerplant pumps out an estimated 55 horsepower and 50
lbs. ft. torque. At approximately 300 pounds wet weight (without rider and gear), the dual-sport
converted motorcycle requires secure rim bead locks and quality, dependable
Mounting Up the Michelin Dual-Sport
Within the Part 1 video, learn
more about the popular Michelin DOT approved tire designs. The magazine's Honda XR650R enduro
motorcycle, converted for highway-legal dual sport use, will put these tires to the test. For
DOT requirements, Michelin offers two dual-purpose traction solutions: the T63 and the Cross AC10 tire
Michelin considers the T63 a 50/50 on- and off-highway tire. The multi-purpose tire design offers
reinforced knobs that resist tearing and chunking on asphalt. Off-road traction is also important for our Honda
XR650R. Covering both desert racing events and destination travel means lot of sand and gravel! A DOT-legal,
reasonable highway ride is also desirable. The T63's knob pattern evolves from the Dakar-winning MICHELIN®
Desert™ tires. This tire design targets a wide range of demands!
The Michelin Cross AC10 tires
are for 90% off-pavement use. Offering the features of a bona fide desert enduro or motocross tire plus a
longer lasting tread material, the Cross AC10 meets DOT-legal, paved road standards. Michelin considers
this design optimal for traction on varied terrain and hard-packed trails. These tires
resist tearing and chunking under hard use.
For continuous single track use and desert riding, this is highly
Michelin specifies the tube type
and size for each tire in its catalog. Michelin Air Stop is the recommended tube type for the T63 tires
used in this project and tests. For the Cross AC10 tires, Michelin recommends the Ultra Heavy Duty Inner Tube
design. At right, the tire iron of choice is a very traditional type popular in the steel wheel rim
era. These tools have served well for over forty years and still excel for mounting heavier motorcycle tires.
When used properly, the tool's contours and tips are less likely to pinch a
Many motorcycle tires are "directional"
mounting type. The engineering requires installation in a specific direction on the rim. These T63
tires have a directional arrow on only one side of the tire. Do not overlook the directional arrow. Read
each sidewall carefully before mounting the tires! Directional tires should not be "flipped" to
extend wear. There is always a reason for the tire's directional mounting.
Note: Balancing is
always a consideration for highway motorcycle tires. Depending on the dual-sport motorcycle's usage
and your ride quality expectations, Michelin tires like the T63 can benefit from balancing.
The Cross AC10 tread and an aggressive knobby profile is less likely to benefit from balancing. Balancing
more aggressive knobby tires can often be futile. The wear pattern and layout of the tread blocks
creates unusual and uneven wear. Balancing an aggressive knobby tire can be short
Dirt and Road Testing The Michelin
Northwestern Nevada provided an optimal test ground for the Michelin T63 dual-sport tires. We put
this 50/50 dirt and highway, DOT-approved tire set to the test! In this HD video, our Honda XR650R, a potent
desert enduro bike in original trim, is now equipped for dual-sport use, a highway legal platform for
on-pavement travel and off-road video filming. The bike provides the right power and agility to get the most
from these Michelin tires. Ride with us on and off-road, and see what these tires can do!
Mounted Michelin T63 tires are about to run on the dirt. The tread design is for 50/50 dirt
and asphalt use. In this test, we have the tires aired at 20 PSI front, 18.5 PSI rear. This is the same setting
we will use in our transition to the highway. The road leads into northern Nevada's wild horse
When the road narrows to single track, the traction challenge increases. The Michelin T63 tires
grip well on loose traction. Not a "knobby" tire and less aggressive than the Michelin Cross AC10 DOT-approved
tires, the T63 is the compromise we need for true dual-sport use. Atop the steep climb in this primitive desert
country, a wild horse stands tall, looking at the Honda XR650R from the ridgetop.
The build on this motorcycle began with an essentially stock Honda XR650R motorcycle converted to a
dual-sport with Baja Designs equipment and a fresh
top-engine build. Now highway legal and plated, the bike serves as the magazine's field access for
HD video filming at motorsports events, 4WD and OHV runs and other off-road venues. The sturdy, well-engineered
bag racks and engine skid plate with guards are from TCI Products. Saddle bags and the tail bag are quality
Nelson-Rigg equipment. At right, we test the Michelin T63 tires with the full complement of gear and equipment
on board. As shown,the bike weighs approximately 375 pounds—plus the weight of the rider.
Summary of Our Michelin T63 Dirt and Road
dual-sport, DOT-approved tire design is intended to be safe on pavement. When used on dirt, many of
the safety features that the T63 offers for highway use carry over to loose traction riding. The
primary application for these tires would be a dual-sport or adventure-touring motorcycle, cycles
ranging from a Kawasaki KLR to the KTM Adventure or a BMW GS model. A KTM 500 EXC and our Honda
XR650R, each a purpose built desert enduro motorcycle, can give the T63 tires an extreme
test on dirt!
We pressed these
tires, with on-road air pressure in their tubes, to climb a relatively steep gradient and descend under
compression braking, the ultimate test for any dual-sport tire. The Michelin T63 offers good
traction and stable side-slope gripping. We easily got through!
If you plan
to corner on dirt like a Hare-and-Hound scramble or travel a desert playa
at 'Best in the Desert' speeds, the knobby tire pattern of the Michelin Cross AC10 is your choice...If,
however, you want a tire that can get you through packed dirt, light mud and sand, then quickly back
onto the asphalt, the Michelin T63 is our number one pick for a dual-sport
is where the Michelin T63 tires deliver what we have come to expect from the brand—superior traction,
cornering with surety, and a durable rubber compound that delivers more miles than ever expected from a
dual-sport, DOT approved motorcycle tire. When
a motorcycle must transition quickly from asphalt to dirt and back again, the Michelin T63 offers
the tread design, construction and durability we want.
Our dual-sport converted Honda XR650R, with a
full complement of racks, bags and video gear on board, tips the scale around 375 pounds—plus rider.
This provides an optimal test platform for these tires, as the bike has a very high power-to-weight ratio
and can accelerate quickly. The control, sureness of grip and smooth ride of these tires reflects the design,
materials and quality control that go into Michelin tires.
The Honda XR650R's high torque engine and
lighter weight chassis easily spun the rear tire under throttle snap on dirt. Yet the asphalt
grip and handling respond much like a premium highway motorcycle tire! Despite the necessary design
concessions required for a dual-sport tire, the Michelin T63 provides the highway stability and traction you
expect from a quality road tire.
Conclusions: A dual-sport tire does not have the advantage of a
purpose built dirt or highway tire design. The Michelin T63 bridges between these two worlds to the best
degree possible. For longer stretches of highway, the T63 provides the smooth ride that an
adventure-touring rider demands. Leaving the pavement, these tires offer good traction and predictable
As with any dual-sport tire, be aware of
the tread and handling differences between these tires and a true knobby. Cornering and
acceleration on dirt will not be the same with a dual-sport tire. Adjust the throttle
accordingly. If higher speed cornering on dirt is a must, or your riding is primarily
off-pavement, consider the Michelin Cross AC10. The Cross AC10 is a true 90% dirt riding tire
with staggered side tread blocks for maximum cornering ability on dirt.
Our riding venues for the Honda XR650R often
include lengthy miles over remote highways with gear and equipment on board. Here, a true knobby tread tire
will deliver a rougher, pounding ride.
For this reason, the Michelin T63 tires
will be our primary use tires. Off-pavement, our adjustments for the T63 tires
include avoidance of hard charging into corners and, especially with the lighter chassis and high on-tap torque
of the Honda XR650R engine, more gradual throttle and gear transitions on loose
traction...For us, the convenience of seamlessly crossing
onto pavement, without sacrificing ride quality, makes these trade-offs worthwhile!
Note: As witnessed in the road test video, all out performance testing pressed the
throttle and upshift points. On dirt, the rear tire spin is largely attributable to riding technique. To
benefit from the notably longer lifespan offered with Michelin T63 tires, our speed and throttle
application need to settle down!
Our rugged backcountry event coverage, venues like Moab, Utah, involve riding
off-pavement most of the time. The Michelin Cross AC10 tires would be an option for these
locations. Both the T63 and Cross AC10 tire designs offer ample weight carrying capacity, providing a
safety margin for the fully loaded bike with rider.
The quality and reputation of Michelin
brand tires prevails in these two tire designs, and Michelin tubes were our only choice for these tires.
Using the recommended tubes provides the load carrying capacity and safety we require both on and off
pavement. For a motorcycle that can find itself a hundred miles from nowhere on asphalt or
dirt, our choice is Michelin tires and tubes!