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Browse Current IssueMotorcycles Why The Dunlop Mutant Tire Was the Best Choice For A Supermoto

As my decades-long love affair with the 1976 Honda CB750F waned after owning one for six months, I turned my affection in the polar opposite direction: a mint toothpaste-colored custom 2013 Suzuki DR-Z400SM. My logic? More riding pleasure for the mountain roads surrounding my Mountain View, California home.

The bike was for sale on Craigslist in Sebastopol, about 95 miles north over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sonoma County. It was pretty dialed with several custom touches, but geared more for parking lot hooligan riding. And the Dunlop Q3 Plus tires were pretty chewed up from said hooliganism. I quickly set about upgrading the bike to my needs.

This was April 2021. At the same time about 400 miles south in Rancho Cucamonga, former pro American Motorcyclist Association road racer Chris Siebenhaar was hired as Dunlop Motorcycle Tire’s new product manager. He immediately contacted me at my day job to learn more about the V-twin market, and I invited him to a work event at Lake Elsinore a few weeks later.

Knowledge and Experience is Key

Siebenhaar began riding off-road at 4, competing in motocross, flat track and road racing, reaching the top 10 in the country. He’s worked for several companies in the motorcycle industry, providing valuable feedback. I’m just an infatuated latecomer living in motorcycling paradise who owns several bikes for different applications. 

“To me, motorcycling was always a way to get away from all the drama,” he said. “I love that when putting on the helmet, it’s just you. While racing you’re connecting the dots, lap after lap and it’s all that matters. It’s very grounding for me, it’s what I relate to and generally makes me happy to my core.”

This is how and why Chris Siebenhaar came to my rescue at just the right moment.

Enter the Mutant

After I told Siebenhaar about my typical morning commute to Scotts Valley — as well as my frequent riding through the Santa Cruz mountains — he recommended the Dunlop Mutant with their high-silica compound and aggressive tread pattern for my DR-Z400SM. Siebenhaar is from the Bay Area and knows the roads are often damp from fog or misty ocean air, and the road surface can be dirty at times due to winding through the forest.

The Mutant was designed and developed by Siebenhaar’s European counterparts and is produced in France as well. With road surfaces in Europe varying from paved roads to cobblestones to gravel roads through some of the older towns and villages — as well as frequent rain throughout the year in some countries — the tire was designed to be a do-all tire for sport and sport touring motorcycles. And Supermotos.

“Additionally, the Multi-Tread rear tire has a harder center and softer sides that would give you great mileage for commuting yet still allow you to get after it on your weekend rides,” he explained. “It’s a great tire for coastal riders, early morning commuters, or riders that frequently ride on less than perfect surfaces between hitting the canyons, and sport touring riders that can encounter any number of conditions on their ride. We have also heard of people taking the Dunlop Mutant to track days with great results, even on a damp track!”

A high-silica compound and deep tread channels provide exceptional performance in wet conditions. MT Multi-Tread in the rear tire gives the Mutant high mileage for touring and commuting, and the high-grip lateral compounds give the Mutant full sport-tire capabilities. The Mutant was introduced in sizes to fit more than 250 different motorcycle models available in the U.S. in early 2021.

“Slicks are great for Supermoto, but more for racing and track days,” he added. “The problem with slicks and any type of street riding is tire temperature. Slicks have a high ‘optimal’ operating temperature, and when outside of that, performance drops off. For example, if you had tire warmers on your slicks and went out for a street ride, just riding down the street will start cooling your tires; stopping at a light will cool them. 

“Anything other than constantly pushing slicks hard  — which is not always easy or safe to do on the street — makes a Hypersport or track day tire better for street riding and canyon carving,  as the optimal operating temperature is typically lower and with a broader range. Additionally, they use compounds that are designed to have a quick warm up.”

With road surfaces in Europe varying from paved roads to cobblestones to gravel roads...the tire was designed to be a do-all tire for sport and sport touring motorcycles.

Grip and Traction

Tire grip is what keeps you sticking to the ground; it’s what gives you confidence to go through corners faster, brake later and accelerate harder. 

However, beyond that there is an importance of consistency in grip, meaning as you start nearing the limits of the amount of traction available (keep in mind that may not always be tire dependent, could be weather or surface conditions), how the tire performs. 

“Sometimes you can have a tire with exceptional levels of grip, but when you lose traction it’s very abrupt and significant, leading to loss of control,” Siebenhaar explained. “In my two-wheel experience, having a consistent tire that provides great feedback is extremely important. 

“You want a tire that’s going to ‘talk’ to you, tell you when you’re nearing those limits and give you a push or slide, and allow you time to make either throttle, brake or bike angle corrections. Tire pressure is equally important as it can affect the tires wear, contact patch, bump compliance and how the tire will build heat.” 

The Results

With the benefit of receiving expert tire advice, my experience on the Dunlop Mutant has aligned just as Siebenhaar described. There’s no shortage of roads to ride without having to get on a major highway or interstate, and with our Mediterranean climate there’s no excuse not to ride. Nearly 700 miles later, my updated DR-Z400SM makes me a better rider. Practice makes perfect, surely, but proper tire choice is where we should all begin before laying down rubber.

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