Founded in Germany in 1863, Metzeler was completely destroyed during World War II. Since then they have slowly rebuilt the company and continued to grow over the years. In 1979 they decided to focus solely on producing motorcycle tyres and then in the mid Eighties they were acquired by multi-national corporation Pirelli. So Pirelli and Metzeler are actually part of the same company - though both operate independently and forge their own identity manufacturing both leisure and competition motorcycle tyres. Metzeler’s 6-Days Extreme tyre holds 17 Enduro World Championships, and has been OE equipment on KTMs for a number of years.
But why choose Sicily as an R&D base? Why chose somewhere so far off the beaten track to spend countless hours developing tyres? Well, that's what I was here to find out!
Firstly, being one of the most southerly points in Europe the island enjoys year-long sunshine, only dropping to an average of 10°C during the deepest darkest winter months. With conditions like that to test in, Metzeler are able to spend more time ‘out in the field’ developing their products. Don't get me wrong though, I was told it can rain here too, and when it does it usually pours, allowing them to test out wet weather grip.
However, the most important reason for the location is the landscape. Mud, sand, stones, gravel and even lava rock are all at their disposal in one convenient location, while for road testing they have mile after mile of twisty mountain roads to contend with. In the space of a day you can trail ride from deep sandy beaches that intersperse the busy seaside towns to isolated, uninhabited mountain-top tracks, and back again. With terrain like this at your disposal, it seems a logical place to be.
Our journey would start from the small coastal port of Riposto. Riding down a short stretch of asphalt road before dipping under a bridge it leads us to a rocky river bed that we follow upstream for a couple of miles before heading out towards the mountains. Minutes later we are treated to the day’s first tricky hill climb - a dusty and slightly exposed rocky single-track that criss-crosses its way up the side of a vineyard.
As I sat and watched my guide disappear out of sight, I initially began to regret laying claim to the shiny new KTM 500EXC that had awaited us earlier that morning. But clicking second gear, the big beast made light work of the climb, without any hesitation too.