It's been a few years since Michelin has kicked butt in the off-road and motocross scene. That's about to change with the all new StarCross 5 series of Hard, Medium, Soft and Sand tires.
Three years in the making and it is finally here, Michelin is set to release the new StarCross 5 series this October. The new quartet represents Michelin’s renewed commitment to the Off-Road/Motocross segment and is meant to speak to every type of multi-terrain rider with a top-notch experience. There are four types of StarCross 5 tires: hard, medium, soft and sand. Each promises to be better than its predecessor with greater shock absorption, better handling performance and a lighter design. Motorcycle Superstore had a chance to preview the lineup and get a taste for it during an introductory ride at Mt. View MX Park in the Northwest.
Rider of all levels and from all over the world collaborated with developers as part of the extensive three-year testing process. Then riders from the consumer market also got a chance to see just what this new tire has to offer and the conditions it works well in. Motorcycle Superstore was one of a select group to sample the StarCross 5 at a very tricky motocross circuit located in Sandy, Oregon. Mt. View is not far from the famous Washougal track, a place with notoriously deceitful traction. Soil conditions are very similar at Mt. View and offered a great opportunity to challenge the increased versatility of the Michelins. The dirt is much greasier than it looks when wet, but dries out to form hard-packed conditions in the main racing lines. Our test day had limited bikes on hand and the track crew worked constantly which kept the soil as consistent as we’ve seen it, but the jump-laden track has multiple elevation changes that put acceleration and braking to the test.
"We had the medium compound and they hooked up great in the fresh loamy track. But where they shined was the transition after the lines developed and the track was still fresh. Super tacky, excellent feel and traction,” said Superstore Merchant, Curtis Woolard. “They weren’t harsh on the steering and felt stable. Even after the track got hard-packed I felt like I had decent traction and control. Great product in my opinion."
Patrick Ward, a 6’3”, 240-pound bruiser who tortures his little RM-Z450, opted for the Soft version and was similarly impressed.
"The Michelin StarCross 5 Soft front tire fixed all of the problems I had with the older MS3. The MS3 was good at almost everything but not great, I seemed to lose its grip when diving into corners. The new StarCross 5 Soft front fixed this problem. It was confidence inspiring,” he said. “The front tire would let you come into a corner at almost any speed and at almost any lean angle and keep its grip. I highly recommend this tire for soft to intermediate terrain. I know I will continue to run these on all my bikes from now on!"
That confidence, in part, comes from Michelin's new Comfort Casing Technology. Michelin incorporates two polyester plies compared to a trio of nylon on the previous version. This allows for a stronger, lighter and more supple tire. Reducing a bike’s rotating mass and unsprung weight are huge goals for any bike manufacturer. Tires are one of the best ways to accomplish that. Michelin was able to shed 10-15 percent of the weight, offering quicker handling along with improved grip and shock absorption when hitting uneven terrain.
A lighter feeling bike and less jolting ride equates to decreased rider fatigue. That means you can spin more laps around the track and be in control of your bike for longer. "It gives great feedback but it also helps reduce fatigue because the tire is doing a lot of that shock absorption rather than your forearms and your hands,” says Ross Shields, VP Marketing and Sales, Michelin North American Two-Wheeled Group. “It reduces arm pump."
The tread patterns are also more aggressive, increasing the grip on each of the four tire designs.
"Tread compounds have been adapted from our award-winning enduro tires that are existing in Europe. We've adapted them for the US," adds Shields.
It gives the rider greater steering control and traction when braking and cornering. The height of the blocks is taller than before and placement was carefully considered for each type of terrain.
Tread blocks or rows are staggered to reduce gap areas. For harder terrain, the goal was to make the contact patch equal at whatever angle a tire is leaning. In softer terrain, the central tread blocks are split to ease penetration into the soil. For the sand design, massive scoops were added to allow the rider to carve through sand much like a paddle tire but with added stability.
Cleaning capabilities and maintaining traction are also major functions for the StarCross 5. Fine, horizontal tread patterns were added to each design, helping to release mud and dirt on its own.
Michelin offers a large range of sizes for the StarCross 5. Michelin said there are also “some key new sizes to cater to all Off-Road/Motocross riders.” Tires on the far ends of the spectrum (Hard/Sand) are only available for 19-inch motocross wheels, but the Medium and Soft treads can be fitted to 18- or 19-inch rims.
"technological leader in the Off-Road/Motocross segment." It may be up to you to deicide. Make sure to get a pair and check them out for yourself at Motorcycle-Superstore.com starting October first.