Thursday, October 31, 2013


Below you can read our on-going evaluation of Avon Distanzia tyres, or you can go straight to the Avon tyres website by clicking on the Avon logo on the left.

Every day we put our faith in these tyres. They are after all the only contact between us and the planet we travel on. A good tyre with grip under all conditions can be the difference between enjoying the ride or limping around in plaster... or worse! I've written before that I don't understand why people buy expensive helmets and riding gear, fork out a couple of grand for ABS and then fit any old tyre... We've got good helmets and riding gear too, but rather don't test the abrasion resistance. With Avon tyres we can still use the brakes when it's wet, we also don't loose the front anymore when it's cold. Yes I've had Heidenau in the past too but I prefer Avon. As I wrote above, we have had all sorts of weather and conditions on the Scandinavian part of our trip. Ranging from cold, wet miserable to pretty warm and also quite a bit of gravel and slippery mud. Having tried several other brands in the past, we kept coming back to Avon as we love them! They give so much more grip and feel and work well in a wide range of conditions, like we have on this extended trip. Despite the grip and feedback, we also get a good mileage out of them. Roughly 15,000 - 20,000 out of the rear and 20,000-25,000 out of the fronts on the tyre eating surfaces of Scandinavia. The Distanzias work well on muddy surfaces, of which we've had quite a few during our Scandinavian part of the trip. We already knew that cold and wet weather was no problem, they are in fact the best wet weather tyres we've ever had. Mike noticed much more grip than with his previously fitted Metzeler Tourance tyres. They are much more comfortable than the Michelin Anakee 3 I have tried and get better mileage. Avon has been making tyres for over 100 years and it shows!

Update June 2014 Avon Tyres

It's about time we did an update on our Avon Tyres. They have taken us halfway around the world by now and have performed well. Don't get me wrong; even though Avon Tyres support us, we wouldn't have fitted them if we don't like them! Tyres are the only thing between the bikes and the road. No grip means accident. We have to trust our tyres through a variety of conditions, often not exactly favourable ones too. We've already written about how much we like the Avon Distanzias (and the RoadRiders we had before them too). Now it is perhaps time to have a look at how long they lasted.

Normally good grip comes with short service life. After all softer rubber gives better grip but wears quicker. That is about as much as I know of rubber. Luckily the guys and gals in Melksham know quite a bit more about it. Tyres are black art, if not black magic, to get it right. I think it has something to do with silica and rubber compounds. We have a visit planned to the Avon factory in the near future, I'm sure they can explain a lot more!

For now all we can give you are the dry numbers. We've had some pretty dreadful roads and abrasive surfaces and yet the mileage we got from them amazed me. On the Bonnevilles we get about 20.000 km out of the rear tyres and we estimate 25.000-30.000 km out of the fronts. We're not exactly sure how long the fronts will last as the ones we fitted at Corel Pink Sanddunes are still on them. They have now covered 16.000 km and still 3 mm thread left. The Yamaha is a different story. Singles are traditionally harder on chains, sprockets and tyres. Yet the Distanzia rear still gets about 18.000 km, but the front 'only' 16.000 km! 
To put it in perspective, a Metzeler Tourance lasted 11.000 km at the front… The Yamaha is just hard on front tyres. Suspension and alignment has been checked several times, the only thing that has helped is raise the tyre pressure by 3 psi (which strangely enough brings it up the same level as the Bonneville).

To keep it safe we never let our tyres wear further than the wear markers. Most of the time we replace them well before as 90% of tyre related problems occur during the last 10% of their life. Unlike some the figures given above are thus honest. 

First post: October 2013

Let me start by saying that you won't find any ridiculous claims on tyre wear in this section. We've all heard the amazing stories on rear tyres that last 30.000 km and yet have perfect grip in both wet and dry. We've met some of the people who make those claims, seen their tyres and the stories simply don't add up. Over the years I've had many different tyres on my motorcycles and quite simply put the ones that last a long time are downright dangerous in the wet (quite often also when it's cold). The way I see it; tyres are the only ink between you and the road and they have a lot of work to do to ensure it stays that way... A good tyre is one that offers me grip and thus safety. Not because I hoon around but because I want tyres I can trust, so that when I misjudge that corner or have to take remedial action if another car driver doesn't see me I can rely on my tyres to grip and keep me out of trouble. This section is therefore important to me. Too much bullshit has been published about tyres that last forever and grip incredible. I write it as I see it. You don't have to agree or disagree, it's simply as we've experienced it.

A Triumph Bonneville comes standard with Metzeler tyres. We have two Bonnevilles and both needed a new rear at 8.000 km, while the front lasted 12.000 km. Quite frankly I have no idea why Triumph fits them as they aren't particularly good at anything. In cold weather I find them downright dangerous as they have no grip at all. They need a fair bit of warming up to get some grip and then still it's average at best. The rear is far worse than the front. Despite a fair bit of weight the back tyre steps out well before the front does. The front is, for normal road use, not too bad, but the rear is terrible.

Avon RoadRider and Venom
We replaced them with Avon RoadRiders AM26 at the rear and Avon Venom AM 41 at the front in our Bonnevilles. Right from the start they offered better grip than the Metzelers, especially so in colder weather. For me that is more important than how long they last. A tyre is the only link between your bike and the road and having grip means you can steer away from trouble or brake hard to avoid disaster, having no grip equals plaster and grumpy nurses. I find it amazing that people pay extra for ABS and then fit rubbish tyres simply because they are cheaper or last longer.
Despite riding at legal limits I'm not going to claim fantastic tyre wear. The Avon RoadRiders lasted us between 12.000 to 15.000 km for the rears, the front Venom between 22.000 and 25.000 km.
The only problem we found with them is cupping on the rear. It never became a safety problem but in the end the tyres became noisy when cornering as the cupping was only on the sides. After 15.000 km and profound cupping I could still ride the foot pegs on the ground without any hint of loosing grip. Cupping can be reduced by slightly raising the pressure, 2-3 psi. We ran 33 psi front and 41 rear.

Metzeler Tourance
Mike's Yamaha came standard with Metzeler Tourances. They seemed ok, didn't have the cold weather problems that the same brand tyres on the Bonneville had but didn't inspire confidence either. He could ride them to the limit in dry conditions but in the wet the front became skittish. They lasted 13.000km at the rear and strangely enough slightly less for the front(!)

Avon Distanzia on Yamaha XT660R
Mike was the first to try them on his Yamaha XT660R. He liked them from the start, more grip, more comfort and very good in the wet. The real test came in Alaska... After thousands of kilometres from Vancouver to Alaska on generally bad roads and miserable weather conditions, which they took very well, they got their real test on the Denali highway. The Denali is not a bad road but some idiot had performed 'repairs' by dumping fist-size pebbles on it and covering them with fine sand.... The second test was the infamous Dalton Highway, the ice truckers road. Again the road isn't too bad, but the roadworks were hard on the tyres. Here the work is performed fine but the sharp stones make it a tyre shredder. The Distanzia's performed fine. They are also especially good in wet calcium chloride and mud, like we've had on plenty of roadworks and going up the Atigun Pass. Mike's rear lasted 16.000 km (or 10.000 miles), from Vancouver to Alaska, round Alaska, up the Top f the world Highway to Dawson City, down through Alberta, Jasper and Banff, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and finally Utah. Had we not had thousands of kilometres of straight roads in Canada, squaring them off, it might have been even better. Needles to say we fitted an Avon Distanzia again.

The front was another story. Again better grip than the Metzeler Tourance and especially in the wet, but weird cupping literally destroyed it. The Yamaha seems particularly hard on front tyres as both the Metzeler and Avon fronts were worn out before the rears. Had the Avon not suffered from cupping it might have been a different story as the part of the tyre not affected by it had plenty of life left.
Because of the good grip and handling we replaced the front with another Avon Distanzia but with a higher speed rating, V instead of T and raised the pressure to 33 psi. Hopefully that will help the cupping problem. We now run the Yamaha at 33 psi front and 36 rear.

1st update: 5.000 km on the new front tyre and no noticeable cupping yet! We've looked at other bikes and found plenty have the same issues, but worse than the Avons do.
2nd update: 10.000 km on the front, slight evidence of cupping but compared to similar bikes and tyres nowhere near as serious, seems just 3psi did the trick!

Michelin Anakee 2 and Anakee 3
On the Bonnevilles we fitted Michelin Anakee 2 at the front and on my bike an Anakee 3 at the rear, because we could not find Avons anywhere in Alaska. The Anakee 2s aren't too bad, a bit noisy but grip and tyre wear seem acceptable (we haven't replaced them yet so can't comment on wear yet). The Anakee 3 however is downright terrible. They should rename it Anarchy as it makes the same noise as a circular saw going through sheet metal at speeds of around 70 km an hour and it has no grip in the rain. On gravel roads it's no better than the RoadRider I had before, which was never designed to go off the asphalt. After just 5000 km I replaced the Michelin simply because I couldn't stand the noise anymore!

1st update: With only 8.000km on the front we started getting low speed wobbles. Checked the bikes over but all was fine, except strange tyre wear on both Anakee 2 tyres. With just 10.000km on them the shaking became on the edge of being dangerous and the tyres had cupped badly and were replaced.

Avon RoadRider
The RoadRider rear on Jeanette's bike still had 4 mm left at 13.000 km but had to be replaced because she had hit something sharp which cut through the tyre right through to the reinforcement layer. It didn't leak but safety means it had to go.

Avon Distanzia on Triumph Bonneville
Because Mike's Distanzias seemed to work so well, we replaced both rears on our Triumphs with Distanzias. What an improvement! It's a very comfortable tyre, cattle grids, grates and railroad crossings are now so much less demanding on our backs. The Anakee 3 was always tail wagging on gravel roads, the Distanzia on the same road is just stable.
Can't say anything about tyre wear yet, apart from what we've seen on Mike's Yamaha XT, which was good, but to ride it's a great tyre!

1st update: We've now covered over 2000 km on the Distanzias and the grip is amazing! Especially so in the wet that has hit us in Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. Of all the tyres we have had over the past 30 years these are by far the best under wet conditions!

2nd update: By far the best tyre we've ever seen in wet mud as well…!

Sreekanth from India replied to this post, below, with a question on how to remove the tyre from the rim. Breaking the bead can be a hard job. I've used the heels of my boots, mucked around with tyre levers etc but found the easiest way is to simply use the side stand from another bike. Wiggle the foot between the tyre and the rim and lean on the bike! Pop says the weasel… eeh tyre! On the right is a photo of breaking the bead using the side stand.
There are 'portable' bead breakers for sale too but I have never used them. Fitting a centre stand to the Bonnie will make wheel removal much easier but it's not impossible without it. Also have a look at the tools section here to see which tools we take.

To be continued...