Motorcycle tyres, like the bikes they are fitted to, are designed for a specific purpose. That purpose is to provide enough grip in the conditions for which they are designed, and to last long enough to keep customers feeling they have received adequate value for money.
The “Holy Grail” of Tyres
The relationship between grip and tyre life is inversely proportional; as grip levels increase with softer compounds, so does tyre wear. A hard wearing compound lasts much longer than a softer compound, but provides far less grip. The “holy grail” of tyres is a compound which lasts a long time but also provides excellent levels of grip. In the quest for this formula, manufacturers have adopted multi-compound designs which use a harder wearing compound for the centre section, where the bike spends most of its time, and softer – and therefore stickier – compounds on the tyre shoulders for improved grip when cornering.
The greatest benefit of multi-compound is that the tyre’s profile remains more serviceable for longer. The centre section remains in better shape longer, and doesn’t square off as quickly, but equally the stickier the shoulders the more the bike is likely to be leaned over into corners which also helps to keep the profile from squaring off.
Each year the ability of motorcycle tyres moves forward. The most discerning buyers of motorcycle tyres are the sport touring segment. They put in the miles, typically ride all year round in all weathers and temperatures. They also don’t tend to ride small capacity, light bikes, so the sport touring tyres need to be able to deal with high loadings as well as high power outputs.
Sport touring riders want a tyre with decent longevity, and a compound which works in both summer and winter, in both the dry and in the wet. If ever there was a jack of all trades tyre, the modern sport touring tyre is surely it, and manufacturers dedicate a significant budget regularly refreshing the sport touring segment, and the price of these tyres reflects the investment put in to develop them.
Sport Touring Segment
There are plenty of tyres to choose from from all major manufacturers. Currently on the market we have the following Sport touring tyres from all major manufacturers (click on the following links for more information, sizing etc)
- Dunlop Roadsmart 2
- Avon Storm 2 Ultra
- Michelin Pilot Road 4
- Continental Road Attack 2 Evo
- Bridgestone T30 Evo
- Metzeler Roadtec Z8 interact
- Pirelli Angel GT
Modern sport touring tyres are really a revelation. If you ride on the road, there’s not much that a modern sport touring tyre can’t do for you. They excel in both wet and dry, cold and hot, and solo or two up with luggage. The real shock is how well they last. The tyres on my bike have lasted well over 10,000 miles. While it’s true I’ve mostly used the bike for commuting on motorways, I don’t hang around, and I’ve done a bit of scratching too in Wales.
The tyres are fitted to my 1999 VFR800, which isn’t the most powerful bike in the world, but it has enough grunt to put a tyre like this to the test, and they have provided plenty of grip. I wouldn’t hesitate to fit them to a 1000cc sportsbike, especially if I was using it through the winter months for commuting or sport touring, or general road riding duties.
I ran a number of different tyres on my GSX-R1000; Michelin Pilot Sport, Pirelli Diablo, Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa, and finally Dunlop Roadsmart. Of all tyres I fitted to the GSX-R, strangely preferred the Dunlops. They had a smooth progressive profile for easy turn in on the road, absorbed bumps well, and they gripped right until the steel banding was showing through. I’m not saying they would work as well at elevated temperatures found on track, but for the road, these kind of tyres are perfect.
How Many Miles?
The VFR’s odometer now reads 57,524miles and I fitted the Angel GT’s at 45,500, that means 12,000 miles and the rear still has 2.5mm of tread in the centre, which has to be a record in my tyre history book.
What is interesting is that both tyres are ready to be replaced. The front has some significant scalloping to the side of the main tread, typical for a front tyre, although I’m surprised at how fast it has worn compared to other bikes I’ve owned. I suspect the additional bulk of the VFR means increased front tyre wear. The scalloping does affect handling when lean angles are gradual, but the bike is still rock solid when fully cranked over, however. If they last another 1,000 miles, which I can well see happening, that would be a significant achievement.
I have experienced a couple of early morning rear end slides on damp, greasy winter roads, but this is more down to my level of confidence with the grip available in crappy conditions, and my confident use of the throttle, than it is any shortfall of the tyre’s performance.
So what’s next for the VFR? Well, I weighed up the options, Michelin PR4, and Dunlop Roadsmart 2 were two potentials, but in the end I decided that another set of Pirelli Angel GT’s was just the ticket. They work well summer or winter, rain or shine, and they last incredibly well. They even hold their pressures week to week, rarely needing a top up. I cannot fault them, and heartily recommend them to anyone looking for a solid all round tyre.