Loading... Please wait...

Dunlop Tyres INFO

Dunlop tyres

TLDR:

KR106 front slick, in either the #3 or #4 for 600s and the #4 for 1000s is the front of choice.

KR108 rear in the 195/65, use the #2 all year round, except for the very coldest winter months when the #3 is better. Phillip Island uses a #3 all year round. It's the same size as the 200/60 Pirelli rear.

KR108 rear in the 200/70 is nearly identical in size to the new bigger Pirelli 200/65 rear. The fronts are very similar sizes, and the rear Dunlop sizes match the equivalent Pirelli sizes.

Changing from Pirelli to Dunlop is straightforward, with no significant setup changes required. The Dunlops grip about the same, but last waaaaaay longer, and are cheaper too.

Disclaimer

Superbike Source Pty Ltd sells more Dunlop slicks in NSW than anyone else by a country mile. Our philosophy is to only sell products we use ourselves and wholeheartedly believe in. I (Nick Marsh) have personally been using them on and off for 20 years, along with sampling and extensively using other brands.

Background

Previously the top-of-the-line race tyres from Dunlop were made in a factory in the UK. However, seven or eight years ago, for cost and consolidation reasons, the UK factory was closed and production of these tyres (the KR106 fronts and KR108 rears) moved to the manufacturing facility in France. Key technicians from the UK factory went to France to show them how to make the good tyres properly ;)

Race tyres are also made in the USA (which we used to get a lot of, until very recently), and Japan, but we don’t get many of the Japanese tyres.

Compound codes etc

Prior to the move to manufacturing solely in France, the different compounds were only referenced by a 3 or 4 digit code. Somewhat confusing to those not in the know, but easy once you learnt the different compound codes. More recently, the tyres have a simple numbering system of MS0 (softest) to MS5 (hardest), often referred to as #0 or #5. We don’t get all the different compounds here in Oz (nor do we need them), and mostly use #2, #3 and #4. Another advantage of the new system is that they can change the underlying compound (ie a different compound code) but still retain the, say, #0 moniker as the softest compound in the range.

French Ntec KR tyres

The KR106 and KR108 race tyres have been the exact same tyres as Moto2 have used for many many years (Dunlop have been the control tyre supplier to Moto2 and Moto3 for many years). You might hear Simon Crafar talking about them (quite a lot) in the commentary, as they literally are the exact same tyres as we get, and that he uses all the time. Some of our current stock even has Moto2 on the sidewall :D

However, at Round 4 of the Moto2 class in 2019, Dunlop introduced a bigger tyre, ostensibly to better cope with the stresses of the new Triumph donk. They’ve been developing these new sized tyres for a while, so some real-world development was an added bonus. These new Moto2 tyres aren’t exactly the same as the new models we get, but they are from the same design philosophy family. More on those later.

KR106 front slicks:

The only available compounds in Australia have been the MS3 (the 343 compound for traditionalists) and the MS4 (the perennial favourite 302 compound). These have also been the two front tyre compounds supplied to Moto2 for many years, and both are simply excellent. They frankly allow you to get away with things you shouldn’t really be able to get away with. Plus they last forever! Honestly, unless your suspension is broken or your bike setup is truly dreadful, they basically never show much sign of wear at all. We recommend keeping a note of the number of days you’ve done on the front (you won’t be able to tell visually), and change it after a set number of heat cycles. I use a white paint pen, and put a mark on the sidewall for each heat cycle (using warmers all day means that it’s only one heat cycle for that day, regardless of whether you do one session or ten). Other people keep a record on a notepad or their phone.

As they age from heat cycles, they don’t actually feel any different, but it’s pretty common to come in from a session after pushing hard and be a second or two off the laptime you think you should’ve done. They just get a little slower, rather than noticeably sliding.

Everyone is a little different with how many heat cycles they feel is enough. Personally, I change my front after 4 days, perhaps 5 if it’s a training/trackday and I won’t be pushing too hard. Slower trackday riders might use them up to 10. Rule of thumb: the faster you’re lapping, the more often you need to change the front. And at $225, it’s cheap insurance! I happily run rear tyres with no tread and no grip (sliding the rear is awesome fun!), but you don’t usually get a second chance when the front lets go. My motto for front tyres: “When in doubt, change it out”.

Compounds:

MS4 (302) – the hardest front available, with a very firm sidewall, this compound has been around for many many years, and is universally loved and praised. I actually use the 302 at every track and in all temperatures, but I vary the hot pressures significantly. A cold Wakefield morning or a chilly Phillip Island day, and I use 30psi hot. At the Creek, or QR etc in very high temperatures, I’ll use 35 to 36 hot.

MS3 (343) – the next step softer, the difference between the 343 and the 302 isn’t as pronounced as it was when they were made in the UK. So generally it’s a ‘rider feel’ preference, with the 343 being a little more giving in the sidewall, so it compresses a little more under hard braking. This can add extra ‘feel’ for the rider, depending on preference. They are particularly well suited to a 600 all year round, and a 1000 in the colder months. In the middle of summer on a litrebike, they don’t hold up to heavy braking as well as the 302.

Dunlop Australia say they will be bringing in softer compounds in the coming months (the MS2 and MS1).

KR109 front slicks:

A new addition to the range, the KR109 is a tyre with a wider contact patch and a range of different compounds. I’ve only tried one for 3 sessions, and didn’t feel comfortable on it, so don’t have much to say about these yet. A few of the ASBK guys are loving them, but others are like me and don’t like them anywhere near as much as the KR106.  Available in the soft MS1 compound and the more durable MS3.

KR108 rear slicks:

For many years the KR108 was only available in the one size, a 195/65/17, which is used on both 600 and 1000 bikes (5.5 inch and 6 inch rims). It’s a great size, and has a nicely rounded profile (a little more rounded than the Pirelli). It works on both rim sizes, because once fitted it’s slightly wider and flatter on the bigger rim, perfect for maximum contact patch on a 1000, and it’s slightly more rounded on a 600 rim, perfect for quicker turning and agility. It’s not particularly tall either, and in fact is almost identical (like, within a mm in any dimension) to a 180/60 when fitted to a 5.5 inch rim. Swapping from a Pirelli to a Dunlop essentially won’t change your geometry at all. (There is also a new 200/70 KR108, based on the new, bigger Moto2 tyre, which is quite a tall tyre with different characteristics. These are described more below).

The KR108 is a low pressure tyre, with stiff sidewalls (the opposite of the Pirelli, which has very soft sidewalls and runs a higher pressure). On a 600, the starting pressure range is between 19 and 23 hot (lower when the ambient temperature is low, to allow the tyre to flex more, which generates heat). On a litrebike, the range is normally 21 to 23. Dunlops are designed and work best at very high operating temperatures, so getting the pressure right to generate the correct carcass temperature is important (and quite easy, in fact).

Compounds

KR108 195/65/17

Typically we only use two different compounds year round: the MS2 in the warmer weather, and the MS3 in winter and at Phillip Island.

MS1 (064) 195/65 – in the blistering heat of a Sydney summer, these tyres stick like the proverbial to a blanket, but don’t last all that long as a result. For most people (including me) where cost is a factor, the MS2 is virtually as good but lasts a lot, lot longer. We hardly use these tyres.

MS2 (998) 195/65 – the go-to rear tyre for 600s and litrebikes for most of the year, it’s the most commonly used tyre in the range, with excellent grip and wear. It has a wide temperature range, and is best suited to ambient temperature above 20 degrees. It works very well right up to the hottest of Sydney or Qld summer days, gripping and wearing very well in even extreme heat. It doesn’t perform as well in the very cold weather though, or at Phillip Island where the track is very hard on rear tyres. In these cases, the MS3 is the go.

MS3 (677) 195/65 – the winter/Phillip Island tyre of choice, these are used whenever the MS2 isn’t suitable. It’s slightly harder than the MS2, but in the cooler weather it feels quite similar. Using one on a hot day (which it isn’t suited to), it will slide and spin a bit, but doesn’t actually wear out much faster.

MS4 (886) 195/65 – these are really quite durable, but don’t have a lot of grip. They aren’t much used either.

MS5 (?) 195/65 – I’ve only seen one of these (used, from a race team in testing), and I don’t think they’ve been officially imported by Dunlop.

KR108 200/70/17

Confusingly given the same model designation, the new 200/70 rear is HUGE. It’s 15mm overall taller than the 195/65, meaning you need to drop 7.5mm out of the rear shock (or equivalent chassis adjustment) to compensate for the additional height of the tyre (axle to ground, not top of tyre to ground, so just the radius, or half the overall height). At tracks like Phillip Island, even the slight change of gearing is worth considering.

MS0 200/70 – The softest available compound, good for very hot temperatures and outright laptimes, at the expense of longevity. I haven’t tried this tyre yet. I suspect it’s a bit like the MS1 in the 195; if cost and longevity are at all a factor, then it’s probably not worth considering.

MS1 200/70 – Roughly the equivalent of a 195 MS2 (or perhaps somewhere between the MS2 and MS3), the MS1 in the 200 is a fantastic compound, usable in most conditions from very hot to really quite cold. The grip is fantastic, especially drive grip, and has helped reduce wheelspin on my bike. Initially I didn’t think the tyre was any better than the 195 MS2, and it’s probably not, but once I had set my bike up for the size, I actually really like the tyre now. With a brief shortage of MS2 stock a while back, I was forced to adjust for the 200 tyre, and I’m still using it. However, I still love the MS2, so if you’re set for the 195, or you’re coming from Pirelli, there’s no specific advantage in changing to the 200. They are also a little more expensive than the 195. I've also heard from some colleagues in Qld that they wear too fast at QR, and they are testing the MS2 version instead.

In the fullness of time (over the next two or three years, apparently), Dunlop will be developing more new compounds for the 200 tyre, and then a dedicated 180 tyre for 600s, based on this new Moto2 construction. Eventually we will adopt this tyre, but we have years to go on the current 195, so there's no rush to change over. Dunlop Australia will be bringing in more compounds of the 200 tyre in the next 12 months, so we should have more choice to suit more circuits and weather conditions.

USA-made Dunlop KR448 and KR451

Dunlop Australia aren’t bringing these in anymore, so once stock has been depleted, we won’t get more of them. They are cheaper than the European tyres, and not as good. Most rear compounds were too soft and just got chewed up immediately, even on 600s. The fronts are fine, but not as good as the KR106, and only a little cheaper.

Japanese-made Dunlop KR133 rears

There are still a few of these excess stock from the FX series control tyre hanging around, although they are all 2015 manufactured. The KR133 Soft was very soft; actually really great for a laptime, but didn’t last. The KR133 Medium is an endurance tyre, and will outlast religion. We still have a few of these left, at runout prices, and they are fantastic for Yellow group or slower Green group riders where longevity is more important than outright grip. When you push these hard, they slide controllably and predictably, like all Dunlops. I’ve done a 1:36.0 at the Creek on a KR133 Medium, so they can go fast, but I didn’t feel all that safe doing it!

Tyre temperature

Immediately on returning to the pits after a session, get in the habit of having a quick feel of the tyres, front and rear. Not hot enough and you need to drop some starting pressure (once they have equalised back on the warmers for a while!), whereas too hot and put a little more air into the tyre. With rear tyres in particular though, don’t go too high, trying to prevent excess heat – the tyre becomes to firm and wheelspins too easily, generating a huge amount of surface heat! Which, if you’re not careful can trick you into thinking you need to go up some more, which is the opposite of what the tyre actually needs. You’ll quickly learn what the tyre should feel like with a quick touch of the hand, and let this guide your pressure choice for the next session (yes, check and adjust your pressure just before each session – tyre pressure changes with changes in ambient temperature, plus you may want to make an adjustment, and very occasionally it’ll prevent you going out with a flat tyre or a cold tyre if the warmer wasn’t on. Thank me later).

Dunlop versus Pirelli

The fronts actually feel quite similar (eg the MS4 front feels quite similar to the SC2 front), but the Dunlop has more edge grip at maximum lean. In a blind test, I wouldn’t know which I had on until the middle of a turn, and then the Dunlop feels slightly better on the very edge of the tyre.

The rears are similar size and profile (in the 195, and to be honest also don’t feel massively different. However, there’s no doubt that the Pirelli has more outright grip for the first 4 or 5 laps, but then drops off a cliff. As soon as I’ve worked out how to adjust to the extra grip of a new Pirelli, that grip has gone and then some. They also wear out incredibly quickly compared to the Dunlop. I’m lucky to get 3 sessions out of a Pirelli (two sessions on one side, then flip for the third, then it’s completely worn out). Whereas the Dunlops last for literally days and days (flipping regularly, before they are too worn on the left). Dunlop have also spent decades designing tyres to have as much grip on the last lap as the first, and it’s absolutely true. Often my fastest lap on a rear tyre is the very last lap before it’s totally worn out. They simply don’t fall off; the grip is consistent from the start to the end of the tyre’s life. And that grip through its life is only a fraction off the first 4 laps of a Pirelli. If you’re paying for your own tyres (ie you’re not in a factory ASBK team), it’s just a no-brainer to run the Dunlop.

Along with the sidewall construction, the overall construction of the two brands differs in approach. The Pirellis have ‘grip rubber’ moulded onto a base rubber, and have very deep wear indicators (tread depth indicators; the little holes spaced around the tread surface). However, these are misleading because once you are about halfway down into the wear indicators, you get to the bottom of the grip rubber and hit base rubber, and the tyre is worn out.

The Dunlop wear indicators are, when new, shallower than a Pirelli when worn out. But the entire Dunlop tyre is constructed of grip rubber, so you can run them right down to no dot showing, and still have plenty of grip. Once there’s no visible dot at all, then they are done.

Update: The new taller Pirelli 200/65 rear is very similar in size to the 200/70 Dunlop.  The front 125/70 Pirelli is within a millimetre of the height and width of the Dunlop 106 front.

Tyre sizes/diameters/circumferences

 

Recently I did a lot more research on this stuff, and ended up more confused. Online info re sizes:
KR108 in 195/65 = 656mm Same as Pirelli 180/60 which is same as Pirelli 200/55.
However Pirelli 180/55 = 641mm
My measurements over the years:
Dunlop 109 - MS3 front - 1886
Dunlop 343 front- 1882
Dunlop 302 front- 1884
Dunlop 302 used - 1890
Dunlop KR133 rear- 2062
Dunlop KR108 195 rear - 2044
Bridgestone V02 rear- 2038
Dunlop 108 200 MS1 new - 2091/2
But based on the data sheet below, the 195 should be 2060, not 2044 I measured, and the 200 should be 2080, not 2092 like I measured it to be.
Looking at the fronts, the sheet says 1894, but I've got between 1882 and 1890 (on a used tyre) on my measurements. It's possible there some small variation better each tyre. A mm here or there would make a difference to the overall circumference. I presume the extra 6mm on a used front I measured is due to rubber buildup around the middle.
I don't really know which way to go on this conflicting information. Answers on a postcard. Data sheet (and Dunlop even give you the rolling radius at lean....):  Dunlop data sheet KR106/108

 

Other things to note:

  • Like Pirellis, but unlike Bridgestones, soft rear Dunlops are good in hot temperatures and hard rears are good in the cold. The fronts are the other way around, with hard compounds for the heat and soft for the cold. Yes, it’s counterintuitive. No, I don’t understand it either. AFAIK, nobody does. Just accept it and move on.
  • When the weather is very cold, let pressure out of the tyre to generate more heat. When the weather is hot, put more air in to reduce tyre heat. The flexing of the tyre (mostly the sidewall) is what generates tyre heat, and the tyre flexes more when it’s softer (ie less air).
  • Rear Dunlops are very happy to be flipped and run ‘backwards’ to even out wear. I often swap out a rear after half a day with another rear rim and tyre (so each tyre only gets half a day on one side), then take both home and flip them for the next outing. Doing this has an unbelievably positive effect on tyre life. The 195/65 have directional arrows (which can be ignored). The 200/70 don’t have directional markings at all!

 

These are my personal opinions, observations, experiences, and repetition of rumours and speculation that I’ve picked up in 20 years of racing motorcycles. Your mileage may vary.

View our range of Dunlop race tyres here:  Dunlop tyres

© Superbike Source Pty Ltd 2020