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Just a quick word on tires for the Triumph Bonneville and Thruxton. My 2010 Thruxton was about two years old and had 1500 miles on her when I got it. It had the stock Metzler Lasertec tires, and I replaced the tires with Avon Roadriders (AM23 on the rear, AM26 on the front), so that’s what I’m going to speak to.

The stock tires get a lot of guff from the Triumph bloggerati. They’re not great, no, but neither are they awful. They are long lasting rubber (if you don’t get dry rot — the front was suffering this at 1500 miles! and the rear was showing signs when I replaced the tires this past week) that has a tread pattern that I found didn’t grab the grooved concrete on the highway badly, were grippy enough to inspire confidence at highway speeds and in the twisties, but don’t add anything to the handling of the bike. With these, the bike is calm, steady, and reliably, if unexcitingly, maneuverable.

But that’s not what a lot of the riders want, especially from the Thruxton. They want a vintage-looking bike that handles like a modern sportbike. One way to do this is put some better tires on the bike. There’s a lot of kudos for the Pirelli Sport Demons and Michelin Pilot Activs, both of which I considered, but I’m a cheap bastard…so I went with my local guy’s “off the back of a truck” level deal on the Avons (with tubes and install, under $300.)

The Avons were a bit disconcerting after the staid Metzlers. The curve of the tire is more rounded — I think — and the bike throws itself into turns. I thought maybe the tires were still slippery from the compounding, that’s how sharp the cornering was; I thought I was falling. They handle well at speed and are quieter than the Lasertecs. They grip well at moderate to high speed in twisties (here Im talking 55-75mph.) I haven’t tried them up on the challenging turns of Sandia Crest yet — it was below freezing this weekend with gale force winds. They don’t follow the pavement cracks and “snakes” — the little tar road fill — which the Lasertecs did. They didn’t feel slick or unsteady in light dirt and gravel, either. The one issue I’ve found — they hate the grooved pavement on the highway. The Thruxton wasn’t following or searching for pavement like you usually get this morning, rather the bike felt like is was…”wobbly.”

Whereas the usual issue is the bike wants to meander around the lane looking for a good bit of road contact, this felt like the bike’s front end was being buffered. (It was, to be fair, also quite windy…) I think this is due to the rain gutter on the front tire…instead of having a straight center groove, the Roadriders have a snaky stuttered rain groove. I think it sets up an oscillation on the tire and give you the wobbly feeling. It wasn’t bad up to about 65mph, but over that, the bike starts to get sphincter-tighteningly active. (If anyone reading has had similar or diametrically opposed experiences, please comment and let me know — let me know if you’ve had suspension upgrades, too — and I can tweak the review.)

They look great and have a retro look that fits the Bonneville/Thruxton, and if you live in an area that doesn’t do the grooved concrete, these are a fantastic and economical choice. If you have the concrete crap — I’d look into a different set-up.

UPDATE: The Avon may actually have saved my life and/or a ton of money as the speed wobble mentioned in this post was due to a loose steering head. the tires let me feel it. My mechanic, who sees me riding on the Crest road…spiritedly, said, “Why are you still alive?” when I brought it in. A quick bit of wrenching and the wobble is gone, save on the grooved concrete, and even then it’s subtle. The Avons still grip great at 5000 miles on them, and my plan is to stick with the Roadriders.