Lots of folk spend a fortune each winter changing out their car tyres from ‘summer’ to ‘winter’ rubber. The idea is that winter tyres are custom-made to suit colder, wetter conditions, and it’s apparently a compulsory change in countries like Germany and Switzerland.
Car winter tyres have caught on in the UK to a lesser extent. But there’s no such thing as a winter tyre for bikes. Okay, things like Michelin’s Pilot Road 3, and sport-touring rubber from Avon and Metzeler all work well in the wet. But they’re still not really designed solely for cold conditions the way car winter tyres are – rather, they’re able to do well in cold wet conditions, hot dry conditions, and all points in between.
Anyway. My winter hack for this year happens to be the best practical bike in the world – a Suzuki Burgman 650. I was so impressed with the Suzuki press bike I borrowed the other month, that I scoured eBay for one to suit my pocket. That means a 2002 base model, with no ABS, sold for a song as a non-runner on the Bay, rather than the 2016 spanker Executive version I had from Suzuki. But the old bus is a cracker now I have her running. An ignition switch, a speed sensor, and a little repair to a worn transmission shaft, and we’re off.
That lack of ABS has me a little paranoid though, so I wanted some top-notch rubber for her. Which takes us back to the winter tyres stuff. Metzeler offers its curiously-monikered ‘Feelfree’ tyres in a ‘Wintec’ winter form. They have more water-clearing and tread-heating sipe cuts in the pattern, a ‘cold and wet’ compound, and different tread pattern. They are, essentially, racing wets for scooters: perfect. I’ll be duffing up even more ‘proper’ bikes on the highways and byways of Surrey and London now, no doubt.
The Wintecs have only been on for 20-odd miles so far, so we’ve got some way to go. But initial signs are top: loads of feel from the front end, and nary a wobble from rear or front on the brakes. We’ll see how they cope with the miles, and see if the heavy, powerful (for a scoot) Burgman 650 gives them a hard time wear-wise…