Gear: Dunlop Sportmax Q3 Tires

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Category: Gear

Equipped with a new carbon fiber compound in the sidewalls, Dunlop claims its new Q3 sport tire features improved sidewall rigidity. And, with a tread pattern based on that of the D211 GP-A race tire, improved wet weather performance over the outgoing Q2 as well. All that without a price increase?

Photos: Kevin Wing

The Q3 is a direct replacement for Dunlop's popular Q2. A high-end, aftermarket performance improver, it's targeted at sport riders who're looking for improved performance both on the street and track. Designed, developed and manufactured completely in the US, the Q3 should be uniquely capable of suiting the needs of fast Americans.

Much deal is made of Dunlop's new "Carbon Fiber Technology" and, using it in the tire's construction is a novel technique. Rather than forming part of the belt or body of the tire, the carbon instead appears in the sidewall, immediately outboard of the Q3's bead. It's not fiber either, but rather a band of carbon particles that simply provides some extra sidewall stiffness without a meaningful increase in unsprung weight.

That newfound rigidity should help prevent the Q3's sidewall from squirming around under high g-forces, such as during very fast cornering. Less movement equals more stability. More stability at high lean angles and high speeds means more rider confidence.

Testing the tire around its own 1.3-mile handling course in in Huntsville, Alabama, Dunlop has seen an average of a half-second advantage per lap over the Q2. That's in the dry. In the wet, the difference is full second.

That's because the Q3's new tread pattern is proving extraordinarily capable of clearing water. Where dragging knee in the wet is commonplace on full race wets or even intermediates, it's largely unheard of in a road tire. But, Dunlop's test rider reports that it's not just possible on the Q3's, but rather than being a feat of extreme riding, feels totally natural.

That tread pattern is based on that of the D211, but with elongated grooves designed to keep some water clearance in the contact patch at all times. Combined with heavy use of silica in the tire's compound, Dunlop claims this makes it an excellent choice for wet weather.

I had the opportunity to try the Q3s fitted to a 2013 Honda CBR1000RR on a day-long ride through the Santa Monica Mountains. This is a bike I've got a ton of miles on and roads I have much experience with. So, without the opportunity to compare the Q3s back-to-back with other tires, on the same bike, in the same conditions, this was still a relatively insightful look at their performance.

The Dunlop's use a neutral profile that leads to predictable steering and good stability. In the dry, they inspired confidence with excellent grip and communicative steering. Stability and confidence were as good under heavy braking as they were accelerating out of corners.

A rare event for Los Angeles, I was also able to experience the Q3's on cold, wet, slippery, bumpy roads as clouds poured inland from the Pacific Ocean, creating positively treacherous conditions. With visibility cut to less than 10 yards and bumpy roads like Decker Canyon coated in a layer of water, the blind hairpins and rippled pavement were as good a test of a tire's wet weather performance as you could hope for. In those conditions, the Q3s proved sure footed and again, confidence inspiring. Speed was limited by vision, but one very bumpy, downhill hairpin snuck up on me. Just as I realized how tight it was and how bad the bumps were, I was convinced I'd entered too fast and would dump the bike, but the tires didn't so much as squiggle as I trail braked heavily through it. This was on a non-ABS bike.

I've ridden on the stock Bridgestone S20s in similar conditions and actually experienced a low-side as a result of those tires' poor wet weather performance. That the Dunlops provide better performance in both wet and dry than the Bridgestone's is a strong testament to the Q3's broad capability.

Equipped with "Multi-Compound Technology" which sees the center portion of the tire wear a firmer compound than the soft edges, the Q3s should return respectable mileage, too.

The Dunlop Q3s would be the perfect tire for the rider who uses his sport bike for commuting as well as enthusiastic riding on twisty roads and even does the occasional track day. In canyons, they'll grip as well as anything, while maximizing your bike's own steering and stability. While commuting, they'll provide excellent wet weather grip and decent longevity. On the track, according to former AMA racer and current instructor Jason Pridmore, they'll provide enough grip for "90 percent of riders." Not bad considering the Q3, which is beginning to be available now, carries no price premium over the Q2.

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