Visordown on Avon Storm 3D X-M
Although Avon launched its new Storm 3D X-M last summer, the hypersport touring tyre has now been released by the British firm in a wealth of new sizes to fit anything from big trail bikes and sportsbikes, to hypersports and commuters.
The 3D X-M, which stands for ‘extra mileage’, is a revision of Avon’s own Storm and Storm 2 with an emphasis on both increased tyre life and higher levels of grip compared to the previous generation rubber.
Avon say typical fitments for the tyre include the Suzuki Hayabusa, Honda Blackbird and Kawasaki GTR1400, so there was little surprise at the UK launch this week when the line-up of test bikes were mostly high-powered sportsbikes and hypertourers.
With rain already spitting and dark rainclouds looming, I opted for one of the most sensible bikes of the bunch – Triumph’s Speed Triple R. It has immaculate fuelling, neutral handling, and ABS, meaning you can push both the front and rear tyres to the edge of grip in about as much safety as is possible without the addition of traction control.
Leaving the Avon factory in Melksham we headed towards the Cheddar Gorge, blitzing through twisty country roads for around 10 miles before hitting some of the worst conditions I’ve ever had the misfortune of riding in, but more of that later.
Those first 10 miles in the dry reminded me of my time on Michelin’s Pilot Road 4s, and that’s high praise indeed. There’s plenty of grip from the get-go and the X-Ms deliver a ton of feedback – it really gives you the confidence to throw the bike into corners, even after only minutes of riding.
Avon will say that the quick warm-up time is thanks to grooves in the X-M which allow the tyre to flex and siphon out water. Tyre-flex equates to heat – which is good, but too much and the tyre will overheat. To combat this Avon has fitted ‘3D sipes’ with small interlocking teeth which they say limit flex and prevent the tyre from getting too hot.
The X-M is dual-compound and uses technology straight from Avon’s ‘Ultra’ sport tyre range. It has a medium compound in the centre with softer rubber on the edges of the tyre for extra grip. The Triumph is a very quick-steering bike and the X-Ms weren’t holding it back in the slightest, gone are the days of sport touring tyres being slow to tip in. It’s worth noting that the Avons felt relatively soft and were prone to moving around somewhat when you upped the pace, even on the relatively lightweight Speed Triple R. It in no way felt as though it was affecting grip levels but some riders will no doubt prefer a stiffer tyre, it’s all down to preference.
Having enjoyed 10 or so miles of dry weather we headed into the heart of the storm. The roads became slippery and unpredictable with pot holes, cow turd and the occasional diesel-spill usually located in the middle of a decreasing-radius blind turn, in other words – typically British conditions. Coming out of corners I would wait until the bike was upright and pop the clutch to see if the rear tyre was making enough grip to pull a wheelie. On almost every occasion the rear tyre lost grip and spun. I tested the Pilot Road 4s a couple of months ago in similar conditions and the Michelins hooked up every time, sending the front wheel airborne on the KTM 660 SMC test bike.
However, when not provoked the X-Ms perform impressively in the wet, giving the rider ample feedback and instilling far more confidence than you would ever get from an out-and-out sports tyre. At one point on the launch the rain was lashing down so heavily I couldn’t see a thing out of my helmet. As we hurtled down greasy soaking wet roads at high speed, I resorted to peering through a small slit in the opening of my visor just to be able to see where I was going. Approaching an oncoming bend at a rate considerably faster than I would have liked, the last thing I was worrying about was whether the tyres were going to stick, I had plenty of trust in them by that point.
Surprisingly, the only time that the tyre lost grip all day through normal riding was when travelling in a straight line. Shifting up from second gear into third, I approached 6,000rpm with the throttle pinned wide open. As I tucked beneath the flyscreen, the rev needle jumped up and bounced against the redline, blue lights flashed aggressively in my face as the rear tyre spun loose at 95mph searching for traction. Speaking to other journalists on the launch I found those riding sportbikes had similar experiences, whilst those riding heavier hypertourers had seemingly less of an issue with outright grip.
Looking at tread depth, it would seem one of the Storm’s trump cards is likely to be tyre life, or at least rear tyre life. Whilst Michelin’s Pilot Road 4 has 6.7mm of tread at the rear, the new X-Ms have a whopping 8mm, 1.2mm more than its own older Storm 2. An Avon spokesperson noted he had heard several stories of riders using the 3D X-M whose front tyre had worn out before the rear was due to be changed.
The Storm 3D-XM is a really impressive tyre and is perfect for those who rack up large miles but don’t want to spend their life in a tyre shop. At roughly £210 a set they’re around £30 cheaper than the Pilot Road 4s and Bridgestone T30s, and £20 less than Metzeler’s Z8 interact. It may be hard for Avon to persuade die-hard Michelin and Bridgestone fans to move away from their trusted tyres, but if they manage, there’s good chance those riders won’t be disappointed. They may not be as highly-regarded as other offerings on the market, but the Storms offer grip, performance and longevity, and at a very competitive price too.