The most important aspect of choosing a tire is knowing your ride application. In other words, how will you be using your bike? With a top speed of 160 MPH, the CBR600RR is classified as a sports bike, and when you’re at the track, you’ll need a W-rated tire with little to no tread and softer rubber for grip on the edges during lean-ins. But when you find yourself winding down the Pyrenees Loop in Spain or the AK-1 outside of Anchorage in light rain, the last thing you’ll care about is fast tires. You’ll want good tread and siping flexible sidewalls, and a durable middle. If you can’t afford trading out tires every 3000 miles, you’ll care about longevity too. So let’s break down the CBR600RR ride application into two categories to figure out the best tire for your specific needs.
When your priority is simply becoming a colorful blur down the straightaway of the test track or even competing with your CBR600RR, you are in rarified air. Most aren’t risking life and limb for the adrenaline high that comes with scraping pegs on a steep lean around the track. If you are, the Dunlop Q3+ and the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa TD-SC3 are at the top of many 2022 lists because of their ability to grip, flex, resist heat, and communicate well with the rider. For the vast majority of CBR600RR owners, however, it will be about longevity, handling, and performance in wet and dry conditions on any given street. So rather than track tires, this hybrid sport/street or sport/touring is where we will spend our time in search of the perfect tire.
Hybrid Sport/Street Sport/Touring Bike
While the CBR600RR has been classified as a sports bike, practically speaking, it is a sport/street bike hybrid, and some would even argue a sport/touring bike. Because of this, tires have now been identified in these categories as well. Unfortunately, it’s not clear-cut, and you will find these categories used interchangeably. Sport/street is defined as a fast bike that will be used to commute on the street primarily, and sport/touring is defined as a fast bike that will be used for long-distance travel and sightseeing.
The CBR600RR is not built for the comfort of a large touring bike, but the tire category lines get blurred, so you will find sport/touring tires made for this bike. I see it as a sports/street ride which will need to be effective both on the track and commuting relatively short to medium distances on city streets, country roads, and mountain passes. For the ride application of most CBR600RRs the Michelin Road 6 is your best tire.
Michelin Road 6
The multiple types of rubber in the Michelin Road 6 called 2Ct+ allow for heat expansion, softer but durable sidewalls for cornering, and harder components used for quick acceleration and strong emergency braking. Many high-performance bike tires have multiple types of rubber instead of just one because single-element tires will compromise the hardness to softness ratio that is needed in different parts of the tire during cornering, braking, accelerating, and speed on the straightaways. To reduce resistance and increase road grip, softer compounds are used on the edge of the tires, and in the center, a harder rubber is used for durability and longevity. At high speeds, the rubber heats up and expands, making the harder components lose grip.
This makes the Michelin Road 6 more expensive, but anyone riding a CBR600RR will want to pay for the upgrade when moving up the speedometer and facing the twists and turns of the road. This dual-type construction of the 2Ct+ (the “+” stands for a reinforced sidewall) has been standard on Michelin sport bike rear tires, but with generation Road 6, they are now on the front tires as well. One of the weaknesses of previous versions was front tire stability when accelerating, and this improvement answers that complaint well.
Continental Road Attack 3
TractionSkin™ sets apart the Continental Road Attack 3 from the competition with a one-of-a-kind sandpaper-type tread that is manufactured right in the mold. This eliminates the need to scrub (break in) the new tires for the first hundred miles or so. With no waxy residue to burn off, you’re free to ride with incredible performance right out of the gate.
Another unique element is that this tire is created from a single compound instead of multiple ones. The softness and hardness issues are controlled by heating the middle of the tire for a durable finish while temperature-gauging the edges for softness and a better grip. They claim this next generation has a ten percent better grip and fifteen percent longevity than its predecessor, the Road Attack 2. The idea is to get an even feel without feeling grip changes during different lean angles. Some reviewers say that it holds your lean angle better as well. The wear should be distributed more evenly throughout the tire as well.
The synthetic rubber combines Carbon Black, which gives a durable dry grip to the road, and Silica, which grips well during wet conditions. The balance is important to make this a perfect all-weather tire for a CBR600RR that is both track smart and street smart.
Pirelli Diablo Rossa iii
With multiple compound rear wheels and a single compound front wheel, the Pirelli Diablo Rossa iii has two different dynamics for grip and longevity. While many of the components are the same, manufacturers keep their formulas a secret. The generation Rossa iiis have 7% larger shoulders and 5% more height giving you a slightly larger contact patch for better grip, but the height will slow your drop into the lean angles. Some professional reviewers have this tire adequate for the street but sub-par for the track with a lack of feel and not as much grip on corners at high speed as they would like.
When making a tire for durability, a harder rubber is used, but the grip is then compromised, and when a softer rubber is used for grip, the tire wears out very quickly. However, this dilemma was solved around the year 2000 when silica was introduced, replacing carbon black to bond the molecules in the rubber, making it both durable and sticky. Silica (silicon dioxide) is the second most common substance on earth next to oxygen and is found in soil and rocks. When the tire is deformed by the road or increased tension from cornering, silica allows it to return to the original shape more quickly than carbon black with no heat loss. In the journal Rubber World, it’s proven that the silica results in rolling resistance by 20% and improves anti-skid by 15%. In winter and colder conditions, it keeps the rubber compounds flexible and elastic. Al three tires we are comparing have similarities of silica enhanced rubber.
This revolutionary introduction of silica is a game-changer that the Michelin Road 6 uses to enhance safety with what they call “100% Silica Technology.” The Road 6 tire has the same dry grip technology as the Road 5, but having more silica means an increased hold on the road by 15%, making it one of the safest tires on the market for sports bikes.
Both the Continental Road Attack 3 and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii have silica in different proportions, but there is no provable scientific formula for tire efficiency in silica ratios. Both boast an upgrade in their previous-generation tire with more silica and better silica design proportions throughout the tire. With no true outstanding differences in silica use, this category is a wash between these competing brands.
Siping and Tire Tread
Michelin Road 6
The tread on sports bikes is limited so that the contact patch of rubber to the road is not grip-compromised. The sides of the tires have little to no tread so that the lean angle has the most grip on the road possible. Manufacturers assume that in wet conditions the rider knows better than to use harsh lean angles. However, the CBR600RR is designed for more than the track and speed, so the tire tread design becomes more important as it takes to the street. The new tread design of the Michelin Road 6 is built to move water away quickly.
One of the most outstanding features of this tire is grip performance which is enhanced by a void ratio of 14 percent (ratio of grooves to rubber). The ratio stays consistent during cornering, keeping this tire a safety-optimized choice.
Tire sipes, named after John Sipe, who in 1923 put slits in his boots to keep from slipping, were not invented to create traction but instead to allow the tire to flex. The Michelin Road 6 no longer grooves the sipes into the main tread but keeps them separate.
They have also introduced X-Sipe Technology,™, which now has 3-D siping technology in the tear-drop design maintaining a high road grip even in the cold or rain. Normally, with wear, the sipe grows shallower and wider, but these specially designed 3-D metal-printed molds combine angles in the tread grooves, helping keep a constant water evacuation despite the lean angles while cornering.
Continental Attack 3
The Attack 3 engineers decided to deepen the tread depth to 2mm, which helped to absorb water better and increased the life of the tire as well. The deep groove depth also allows for more surface area which leads to faster warm-up time and better grip earlier on the road. This TractionSkin™ has no release agent when released from the mold, which also has advantages to early ride efficiency. Rather than “breaking in” these tires for several hundred miles to get the maximum grip, they are ready to go out the door of your tire dealership.
The rear tire has a slick section in the middle like a pure sports tire that enhances both mileage and comfort. The alternating sizes of the sipes are known to help with drainage of the tire even while leaning around steep road corners in the rain.
Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii
This tire’s tread pattern comes from the Diablo Supercosa DOT but adds some additional siping and grooves for wet road conditions. With almost 10% fewer grooves in the front tire tread and 7.5% in the rear than the previous generation, this tire is built for grip and speed. The design leans more toward the track than the street, so there is noticeable degradation of the tread earlier than the other two brands.
Michelin Road 6
The Amplified Density Technology of the Michelin Road 6 describes the dense-rich, rigid carcass of the tire that helps the tire communicate to the rider and allows the rider to respond. This responsiveness is critical when making time-critical decisions on the road. Whether it’s the track or the winding back roads, your road feel is dependent on the tires you’ve chosen. This new tire is built light and responsive for enhanced sensitivity giving excellent feedback to the rider.
Aramid tread plies also keep the tire from over-expanding at high speeds which reduces the gravitational weight and provides a smooth, stable ride.
When leaning into turns, the rider becomes the most vulnerable and needs the dependability and nimbleness the Michelin Road 6 provides. Its profile is less pointed and more rounded which makes the turns linear and smooth. Predictability in transitions is paramount when turns get tricky. The Michelin Road 6 boosts confidence due to this stability. The CBR600RR’s handling is optimized in every aspect by this tire choice.
One area of performance that often gets overlooked is the communication between tire and rider. Road 6 is built with this in mind. The radials combine steel belts under a synthetic rubber formula that has a more resilient silica-laden side wall that rebounds faster over road anomalies and centrifugal stress of cornering that helps the rider feel the tire with more sensitivity than their competition.
Continental Road Attack 3
The Continental Road Attack 3 is also known for its sensitive feedback to the rider and overall stability under load because of its highly dense molecular German construction. The patented “Endless Zero Degree” belt carcass adds durability under hard acceleration or braking and ease of tip-in when cornering. The make-up of the tire reduces kickback when loading the tire with stress from cornering or accelerating. The feel of this tire gives confidence in all road conditions.
And while it compares well to the Michelin Road 6 in dry conditions and surpasses it during the “break-in” phase, it doesn’t hold up to the high standards of the Road 6 in wet conditions. Overall, most find the Continental has inferior handling compared to Road 6.
Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii
The Pirelli tire comes from a great heritage of winners on the racing tour, and this tire has exceptional anchoring during acceleration and cornering, holding its line well; however, when compared to the Michelin Road 6, it falls short. Some riders complain about not getting as much feedback from the contact patch and some grip issues in the rear wheel under stress. It also has notably less tread life than the Road 6, which makes it more expensive as well.
The irony is that the Pirelli tire is much more of a sports tire than a touring or street tire, but reviewers like it more for the street than the track. When it comes to pure track speed, the handling is suspect. This can translate to performance issues on the road as well, but when you want to test your CBR600RR bike, especially when flying down the straightaway of a track, you want to trust your tires. The high degree of safety expectations becomes an issue at high speeds. In fact, renowned motorcycle tire reviewer, Ari Henning, can grade it no higher than a C+. Overall, the road performance in all weather conditions was stable, with high marks for wet conditions, but some reviewers weren’t as happy on the track.
Comfortability will never be the highlight of any sports bike tire. That is left to the larger touring motorcycles that are built for long distances. However, there are several components that all three tire brands have in common that help keep the ride smooth. Tubeless tires, durable and well-built radial construction, synthetic rubber with silica, and especially the bike grip in wet conditions contribute to not only physical comfort but also mental comfort. Knowing that your two tires, which have a contact patch the size of a credit card, are trustworthy in durability and grip brings a mental comfortability that is necessary especially when cornering mountain loops in a cold drizzle.
Both the Michelin Road 6 and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii tires have moderate ratings when it comes to comfort and compare pretty evenly. The Road 6 has a GT upgrade tire with an extra ply-in-the-wheel construction for touring if that’s your priority, but most riding the CBR600RR are looking for speed over comfort.
The Continental Road Attack 3 tire may have a slight edge over the other two in the comfort department because of the rear wheel middle tire design that eliminates tread in favor of a smooth and comfortable ride. Because the Attack 3s are made of one rubber compound instead of multiple, the lean transitions are supposed to be smoother without the feel of harsh line gradations.
Michelin Road 6
This category will be heavily influenced by personal preference, but I just like the lines and color of the Michelin Road 6 over the competition. According to ultimatemotorcycling.com, it’s an upgrade from the Michelin Road 5. Michelin calls their new tire aesthetic the MPTT (Michelin Premium Touch Technology,) which is used in the sidewalls to reflect a high-performance sports car. They claim that this technology creates texture by using “micro-geometry” on the sides of the tire, allowing it to create different shades of black to gray and enhancing the tire’s markings. When moving, you have an eye-catching flash of black-gray contrast.
Continental Road Attack 3
The modern, angular tire treads of the Continental Road Attack 3 are an improvement to the Road Attack 2 EVO aesthetic that it replaces. Borrowing from the Sport Attack 3, it has the same style but more grooves for the street. The groove patterns of this tire are meant to evacuate water quickly but are also meant to be aesthetically appealing. It’s not. The random angle lines look busy and confusing. Several size ratios of the grooves have no commonality or pattern that attracts the eye. Some call it understated, but I find it basic, confusing, and boring. It’s the weakest of the three brands we’re comparing. I do like how they put the name of the tire right in the tread.
Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii
The lightning bolt groove of the Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii is a nice design concept but is easily lost in the Carbon Black dark color. While the exciting design of the grooves could really pop, the dull color scheme mutes the brilliant flash that demands the respect of the onlooker. Some will love the dark look that can highlight the actual color of the motorcycle and make a great background to the centerpiece, but I prefer a lighter tire with better groove contrast.
Durability & Price
While tread life can be subjective based on road conditions and style of riding, in this category, the Michelin Road 6 stands above any other sports bike tire. Besides the silica-enhanced multi-compound aspects of the steel-banded radial makeup of this tire, the Road 6 has what Michelin calls ACT+ (Adaptive Casing Technology) which gives both stability and softness. The casing cords are wrapped around the tire bead and then back into itself for double the durability. This is possible since they are not exactly 90 degrees to the tire’s rotation.
When the Michelin Road 5 was introduced, it was shown that even after 3000 miles of wear, it still performed better than the Pilot Road 4, the previous generation of tires that it replaced. Not only does the Michelin Road 6 continue this tradition, but it improves on it by boasting a 10% longer tread life compared with the previous generation with an average lifespan of 10,000 miles (depending on road use application.)
The Continental Road Attack 3 has less life expectancy than the Road 6 at somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 miles based on customer reviews. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii rates even lower, and its tread life is one of its most notorious weaknesses with some suggesting that you only get between 3000 and 4000 miles.
The Michelin Road 6 front and rear tires are together about $100 more than the other two brands I am comparing, running between $450 - $500 for a set. But because the tread life is greater than the other two and the safety is not compromised, they work out to be about the same in price. Combining other factors like performance, grip, and safety, I think you are getting a better deal than the cheaper Continentals and Pirellis.
Revzilla called it “worth the price of admission.” The Michelin Road 6 made significant improvements to the Road 5 while keeping the cost increase to a minimum. It’s foolish to compromise safety for price, so even if this is more expensive than you are used to spending, this tire is a great investment for your CBR600RR.
Michelin Road 6
Top tire review sites like Forbes and HiConsumption, all agree that the Michelin Road 5 is the 2022 best tire in the CBR600RR’s category, and Two Tyres recommends it specifically for the CBR600RR. The next-generation tire, Michelin Road 6, with its improvements in grip and tread longevity rates even higher with Demon Tweeks calling it the tire of the year. RevZilla also claims the Michelin Road 6 to be the best wet-weather tire in the world which can’t be beaten for performance and grip.
Experts put the Michelin Road 6 in other categories besides sport, and for bikerrated.com, it is the best touring tire. While the CBR600RR is not a touring bike, it’s good to know this tire is durable enough for both the track and long-distance. Most other reviewers see this tire as a sports/street, but in any case, it is meant for the track as well as the road. In my opinion, because of its safety rating in wet weather, its performance both on and off the track, and its superior durability, this is the best tire for this bike.
Continental Road Attack 3
In this subjective field, others disagree that the Michelin Road 6 is the top tire for the CBR600RR, and motorbikesecure.com has the Continental Road Attack 3 as their best overall tire. Customer reviews also highly rank this tire, making it one of the most popular specifically for the CBR600RR; however, this was before the Road 6 made its appearance in early 2022. Another top review site has the Continental at #4 and the Road 5 at #7. So, it’s important to understand the subjectivity of rating guides that can’t agree if the tire is a sport/touring or a sport/street. In fact, Revzilla made the Continental Road Attack 3 their best tire in the sport/touring and the Michelin Road 5 in the sport/street categories.
Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii
Once again, some disagree with my conclusion, and in 2021, motoaffliction.com rated the Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii as their best sports bike tire. Disagreements abound as to what kind of tire this is, but fanguider.com has the Pirelli Diablo Rosso iii as their number two overall tire, besting the Continental Road Attack 3 and the Michelin Road 6. They do note its weak tread life but are impressed with everything else about this tire. Others have it at #4 in the sport/street category. It’s always difficult to objectively rank leading brands, but any of these three tires will leave the CBR600RR owner with an exhilarating ride experience.
About THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Rathbun has been hooked on motorcycles since 1987 when he bought his first bike, a 1973 Honda CBR450 for $300. Since then he has been through countless bikes and continued his two-wheeled hobby passing it down to his 21-year-old son who rides with him on the weekends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Benjamin believes that nothing clears the mind faster than flying 26 inches above the asphalt on his Harley-Davison.Read More About Benjamin Rathbun