The lingering smell of exhaust smoke, the roar of hundreds of thousands of engines, the squeal of burnouts at a red light; it’s bike week. The Florida sun reflected off of multiple of pieces of chrome in Daytona Beach, and I’m reminded that I should probably reapply sunscreen to my face, even though I’m wearing a helmet. While I’d love to stay and gaze at the eye candy rolling down the street, my mission at Daytona Bike Week is different; I’m here for the tires.
Four years after the launch of the Commander II tire at Daytona Bike Week 2016, Michelin’s Two Wheel Division began with a blank slate for its Commander III concept. The research team narrowed the concept to three aspects that would direct the production of the new tire including increased mileage, safety and aesthetics.
The Michelin engineering team’s goal was to build off of their already successful Commander II tire and push the limits on what a tire can offer for the new Commander III.
Fast forward to Daytona Beach 2020, and the Commander III is the Official Motorcycle Tire of Bike Week.
The Commander III is divided by two different tires for two different types of V-twin motorcycles: cruiser and touring.
Michelin’s Commander III Cruiser tire is engineered to deliver outstanding wet grip without compromising longevity, in comparison to its predecessor.
Though the rain held off during my time testing the Commander III at Bike Week, Michelin put its new tire to the test in Frontange, France, studying the wet-stopping ability of three competing cruiser tires fitted to a 2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight by comparing lap times and stopping distances of all four. The Commander III stopped at an average of 16.6-ft. shorter than its competitors during the test.
“This is the difference between walking away and leaving in an ambulance,” said Shane Messner, Michelin Two Wheel sales and marketing director.
The Commander III Touring tire is designed for longevity for baggers with excellent wet grip similar to the Cruiser, and a lasting tread design that exceeds the Commander II, thanks to new tread compounds made of 100% silica.
Both tires are designed with Michelin’s Amplified Density Technology, specifically a 90-thread ply that is 25% more dense in comparison to a 71-ply, along with a more rigid tire casing. This helps deliver excellent feedback and handling through shifting and braking. Though more plies and more density identify the Commander III, the III weighs less than the II.
On the Cruiser, the front tire offers an optimized groove design with a higher void ratio when compared to the II to help maximize water dispersion. The III has a more rounded profile in comparison to the Commander II, optimizing the contact patch across the entire profile for a more planted feel, especially during cornering and heavy braking, even in rainy conditions, on the Cruiser.
The Touring offers more stability and comfort, along with better tread wear, specifically 25% over leading competitors based on a Michelin study. A Texas-tested rear tire on display at Bike Week with over 17,500 miles on it still featured deep tread grooves even after thousands of miles on the road.
Aesthetically, the sidewall of both tires feature Michelin’s Premium Touch Technology, a patented design that is visually pleasing and at the touch, really does feel like velvet. Although not necessarily a performance factor, the Premium Touch Technology enhances the overall look of the tires and makes them stand out, especially in Bike Week crowds.
Along with being named the official tire of Daytona Bike Week, the Commander III is also original equipment for the new BMW R 18 and was ranked first out of seven cruiser tires tested by MOTORRAD in its 2020 tire testing series and was given a “very good” rating.
“With the Commander III, Michelin continues the tradition of not letting anyone take the butter off their bread when it comes to wet weather performance. Let us summarize these impressive achievements in two words: test champion,” said author Jörg Lohse in regard to the Commander III test performed by MOTORRAD.
Riding from Main Street, along the beach-lined coast, through rural Florida, then back to Daytona Beach, the Michelin team had more at Bike Week than just the Commander III. Centrally located in the midst of the action at the Daytona International Speedway, Michelin showcased how its tires fit into anyone’s lifestyle, with fitments on trucks and classic cars, motocross bikes and side-by-sides, on-road and mountain bicycles. To top it off, the booth also featured a gelato station with flavors named after their newest tire releases, a barber on site to clean up helmet hair and live music throughout the week.
“Our goal is to showcase how Michelin has something for everyone,” Messner added. “If you have a motorcycle, statistics show that you probably have another vehicle, and that vehicle needs tires too. Bike Week is a way to bring everyone together, check out something new and learn about what Michelin has to offer.”