A good set of tyres can radically change your experience on the saddle — not only increasing your bike’s capabilities but also safety. However, what is a ‘good tyre’? You certainly want one that grips when you accelerate or brake, no matter the conditions, but also one that provides confidence when you encounter a bend. To test out the offerings on the market, we’re taking the Royal Enfield Classic 350 — the de-facto bike for city commutes, highway jaunts and the odd Ladakh trip for many — and we’ll be scoring three sets of tyres —the CEAT Gripp XL, Michelin Sirac Street and City Pro and Ralco Speed Blaster for the Classic 350 through six tests.
The tyres we have are block pattern tyres which differ from the OE directional tyres by promising to offer better off-road performance thanks to their teeth-like treads, without compromising everyday on-road usability. The tests have been designed to find out which one offers the best balance, and they include acceleration on dry tarmac, braking on dry and wet tarmac, off-road acceleration, off-road braking and an off-road time trial course. We’ll use the average times of three runs on all the tyres. The tyres we have on test are the CEAT Gripp XL, Michelin Sirac Street and City Pro and Ralco Speed Blaster.
The tyres we took for this test are in fact, pretty much, all the block-pattern tyres that you can get for the OE size of the Royal Enfield Classic 350 – 90/90-19 at the front and 110/90-18 at the rear. The tyres were brand new when we fit them, post which we took them on a few rides to run them in before putting them to the test.
CEAT GRIPP XL
The CEAT Gripp XL is a block pattern tyre aimed at providing on-road and off-road grip in both dry and wet conditions. These aren’t full-blown all-terrain tyres, its blocks don’t protrude too much, but they will hold up well on loose surfaces while reducing vibrations on the road.
MICHELIN SIRAC STREET AND CITY PRO
The Michelins were a pairing of the City Pro up front and the block pattern Sirac Street at the rear which is quite a common choice among customers who opt for Michelins on their Enfields. Michelin also pitches the Sirac Street as a high-mileage tyre, over both on-road and off-road surfaces.
RALCO SPEED BLASTER
The Ralco Speed Blaster is one of the more off-road biased block patterns with deeper grooves to bite into sand and muck, although that doesn’t hurt its performance on the road, it does give you a relatively more bumpy ride on tarmac.
Test 1 Acceleration on tarmac
In this test, we found out which tyre generates most grip off the line by accelerating from a standstill to 60kmph – the lower the times, the better the grip. All of our tests were performed at nine-tenths of the bike’s and the rider’s capability to ensure consistency across the tests and for accuracy, the results were recorded using the Racelogic VBOX datalogger. The results were very close with all the tyres clocking sub 7.5-second times. The CEAT Grip XL posted the best acceleration times on dry tarmac, calculated using the average time of three best runs.
Test 2 Accerlertion on gravel
This test was the same 0-60kmph sprint that we did in the previous test, but here we put the block pattern to use over some loose gravel that you could find on trails and broken roads. Here, the tyre whose blocks bite into the gravel better, will have the least time. The results were close, but like we saw on tarmac, it was the CEAT Gripp XL clocking the fastest time of 7.57 seconds over three runs while the Ralco Speed Blaster came in last.
Test 3 Braking on gravel
This test was particularly tricky for both the rider and the bike. Constant emergency braking is tricky enough as is, but on gravel, it’s a whole different ball game — even with ABS. Of course, we were giving the brakes plenty of time to cool down between the 60-0kmph runs to maintain consistency. And consistency was king here because the combination of the Michelin City Pro at the front and the Sirac Street at the rear, delivered the shortest braking distance and time, over and over again, to clock an average 60-0kmph distance of 23.14 metres. The CEAT Gripp XL and the Ralco Speed Blaster managed to end up just a whisker behind with distances of 24.05 metres and 25.31 metres, respectively.
Test 4 and 5 Braking on dry and wet tarmac
It is under hard braking that true differences between tyres emerge. While the Classic 350 has ABS, on tyres that don’t generate enough bite the ABS system tends to cut in quicker and reduces braking efficiency. So essentially, the braking system operates at the limit of your tyres. Now, while block patterns promise off-road grip, they also need to help you stop on a dime when an emergency occurs on the road, no matter the conditions. So, for this test, we accelerated to 60kmph from standstill and then slammed on the brakes as hard as possible at a predetermined marker in both dry and wet conditions. Here too, the combination of the Michelin City Pro up front and the Sirac Street at the rear consistently delivered the shortest braking distance in the dry, although the CEAT Gripp XL clinched a point back in wet conditions.
Test 6 Time Trial
Now up until this test, it was the CEAT Gripp XL that was leading the group with three points. The Michelins weren’t out of contention though, with their strong performance in the braking tests handing them the two points. They might not be able to take the win overall, over the CEATs (since this is the final test), but if anything could shake things up, it was the Time Trial.
For this test, we charted out a small off-road hill climb course going from point A at the bottom of the hill to point B at the top. There’s nothing particularly challenging in between the two points but it was littered with plenty of twists and turns to gauge grip under braking, acceleration between turns and of course, cornering as well. And, drum roll please, the winner here was the CEAT Gripp XL — again with an average time of 27.4 seconds. It was shockingly close between the Michelins and the Ralcos at 28.76 seconds and 28.91 seconds, respectively. Even though the Ralcos weren’t the fastest, they did provide more confidence over the worst patches of the climb.
CEAT Gripp XL is the winner
Of course we knew that these tyres will work well off-road, that’s what block-pattern tyres are meant for! But these aren’t hardcore off-road tyres which is why they need to perform on the road too, and that’s where these tyres pleasantly surprised us. Your commute doesn’t need to cross a mountain for these tyres to make sense and yet, they have that breadth of ability to take on the annual pilgrimage to Ladakh. With ease.
Now, let’s get to the result. Among these tyres, it was the CEAT Gripp XL that provided good, consistent results. If we give each tyre a point for every test won, the CEAT Gripp XL bags 4 points out of a total of 6. The Michelins stand at 2 points and the Ralcos failed to take the crown in any of the tests. So the CEAT Gripp XLs take the win. But a tyre is more than just numbers on paper. The Michelins have the best braking performance on dry tarmac, but the CEATs feel more capable overall from the saddle. With the results at your disposal, you now know what to buy when it’s time for fresh shoes for the Royal Enfield Classic 350!