While today's sport tires are fantastic performers on both the street and the racetrack, there's still a limit to the compromises you can make with a tire. Not only does a sport tire need to provide decent grip at all lean angles, but it also has to be durable enough to offer a good life expectancy under normal use, withstand tread growth and high heat buildup in the center during extended high-speed usage and provide stability yet offer a fairly smooth ride over bumps, plus it requires a minimum amount of tread siping (grooves) to evacuate standing surface water in wet conditions. The proliferation of some refugee DOT race tires masquerading as "track-day/high-performance sport" tires is a sign of how difficult it is to build a streetable tire that will handle the rigors of racetrack use if asked.
Michelin used its extensive racing experience to build dual-compound construction-using a softer compound on the outer edges of the tread for more grip-into its latest Power Race DOT racing tires. Now the company is giving the same dual-compound treatment to its Pilot Power sport tire, creating the new Pilot Power 2CT. Aimed primarily at "the most demanding sportbike riders, who use their bikes mainly on the road, but also for track days," the Power 2CT (2 Compound Technology) is intended to bridge the performance gap between sport tires and track-day tires that are mostly based on DOT racing rubber (Michelin reps emphasized that the 2CT is not a replacement for the standard Pilot Power, which will continue to be offered).
Utilizing the Pilot Power tire casing and overall carcass construction, the 2CT-like the Power Race tire-divides the tread into three different sections. On the front tire, the center 80 percent of the tread is the normal Pilot Power compound, while the outer 10 percent on each side is comprised of a 20 percent softer compound for optimal grip while cornering. In the rear, the center 78 percent of the tread is the normal Pilot Power rear tire compound, while the outer 11 percent on each side features the 20 percent softer compound.
A unique aspect of the dual-compound construction with the 2CT is that the layers are designed so that as the tread wears, the proportion of the soft cornering compound actually increases, which helps maintain the performance potential of the tire much longer during its life span. The compound separation is slanted (instead of a straight divide down toward the center of the tire), which was developed from the company's MotoGP tires. Apparently, slanting the separation also allows more control of the tire casing during manufacturing, which helps avoid any possibility of tread separation. Belt plies are the standard three-way cross-ply in front (two at 75-degree angles, one 0-degree circumferential), with a 90/0-degree, two-ply construction for the rear tire. Tire profiles, both front and rear, are identical to the Pilot Power's.
Michelin chose to introduce the Pilot Power 2CT to the press at the newly constructed Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Besides the challenging and safe layout of the Miller circuit, a full array of middleweight sportbikes from Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Triumph shod with the new Michelins allowed us to try the tire under different motorcycles and varying suspension setups.
Interestingly enough, I'd just come away from three full days of running around Miller's west circuit on the standard Pilot Power tires (and even on a Honda CBR) as part of a riding-school story for a future issue. Thus I had plenty of experience to compare the performance of the new 2CT with its standard sibling.
As expected, the majority of the 2CT's handling and traction characteristics are basically identical to those of the standard Pilot Power-that is to say, excellent, especially for a street-oriented tire. Where the 2CT makes its difference known-again, as expected-is while cranked over at full lean. The standard Pilot Power grips well for about three laps under hard usage at Miller, then traction at full lean starts to degrade, getting worse as the tire wears. While not drastic enough that it becomes dangerous, it's enough that you have to be careful while getting on the throttle at max-lean angles.
The 2CT, however, not only offers improved grip at full lean, but that traction is maintained for much longer before it begins to fall off; it took about eight or nine laps before I noticed any significant loss of grip, and then the degradation was much less drastic than the standard Pilot Power's. To top it all off, rear-tire wear rates were much better than in the standard version, although we did notice some moderate wear on the front that was about the same as the standard Michelin.
The Pilot Power 2CT will be available in 120/70ZR-17 front and 180/55- and 190/50ZR-17 rear sizes; a taller profile 190/55ZR-17 rear will be available in October.