To gather as much information about each tire and our test loop as possible, we strapped our Racepak G2X data acquisition system to the CBR to monitor progress, recording speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, altitude and other GPS-based data. Kent and Bradley stayed mostly together over the course of each loop, so the data is representative of both bikes (and tires).
Because the Source Interlink offices have moved to El Segundo from the posh mid-Wilshire district in Los Angeles since our last tire test, the loop used is significantly different from previous tests. Here we chose a 130-mile loop that includes freeway, city, canyon and mountain roads, taking approximately 3.5 hours in total to complete. The map and data graph show the fun part of the loop, which includes many of the roads in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu; these mountains jut up from the Pacific Ocean to a height of 2500 feet in places, with myriad routes from the Pacific Coast Highway at the bottom to various peaks. The data graph displays speed (in red) and altitude (in blue).
The first and last 25 miles of the test loop are city and freeway roads to get to — and from — the base of the first climb. While not a very glamorous part of the test, here Bradley and Kent have a good chance to note compliance and stability at speed for each tire, in addition to low-speed handling manners. The first run up the mountain is a 2000-foot climb in four miles (1) on the brand new tires — a good test of warm-up and break-in characteristics, and especially interesting as this road can often collect dirt from the surrounding steep hillsides.
The road back to sea level (2) clings along the side of the mountains; because it’s significantly downhill in places, braking and steering characteristics come to the fore. Our dynamic duo then heads back to the ocean (3) and along the Pacific Coast Highway (4) to the next uphill climb. This road (5) winds to its 2000-foot peak with dozens of low- and medium-speed turns along the way. This is the longest single road in the loop, and shows some interesting data. For the 15-minute ride from bottom to top, the spread between the fastest and slowest tire is just 40 seconds, or about five percent.
The next stretch along the peak of the mountain range (6) is a series of high speed sweepers that stress stability and confidence in the tires. Then it’s back down to the ocean along a seven-mile stretch of road that covers almost every type of corner in terms of speed, camber and elevation. Every aspect of tire performance is important on this stretch, and again it’s a tight grouping of times between the tires.
The remainder of the loop sees Kent and Bradley heading back up the mountains and along the peak returning along some of the same roads, and finally down to the ocean the same way they originally went up. Of particular note here is the last section over the peak of the mountain and down to the ocean (13 and 14). Both roads are quite technical and challenging, with the last road especially so as it is a steep descent. With our riders well familiar by this point with the tires’ characteristics, it’s a last opportunity to test any traction limits as well as braking, stability and confidence before the drone back to the office.
From the times recorded for each road, it’s the Dunlop that was consistently the quickest over the course of the loop, a reflection on Kent’s and Bradley’s confidence in the tire and its performance. That said, it’s worth noting how well all the tires performed. The total time for the twisty parts of the loop is approximately 70 minutes, and less than three minutes separates the fastest and slowest times. In other words, all of the tires tested here are capable of whatever speed you deem appropriate for street riding, and there are other factors that determine how fast you can — or should — ride on the street.
Prior to coming onboard at the magazine I worked in the parts department at a local motorcycle dealership, where I realized for the first time that customers are typically more interested in cost than performance when it comes to new tires. I couldn’t entirely blame them, because in the end I too am willing to give up a little feedback, grip or ride quality in a shameless attempt to save a few bucks. After spooning a set of Dunlop Q2s on this year’s test-bike duet, however, I realized that you don’t always have to make such sacrifices — the Dunlops are that well-rounded in my opinion, with superb feedback, high levels of grip and linear steering characteristics that don’t surprise you at the entrance of a corner; all this with an average retail price that’s better than all but one or two competitors.
Dunlop raving aside, I was also impressed by the BridgestoneS and Avons since they complimented the sporty feel of the GSX-R1000. The rest of the bunch gets the job done, but really affected overall ride quality and confidence. At the end of the day, I want to purchase a tire that’s going to enhance my ride, not hold it back, and that’s where the Dunlops excel.
I’m sure a lot of you are wondering about the tires that scored at the lower end of the scale in this comparison because of the significant difference in total numbers. Are they horrendous tires that are dangerous to ride on? No, of course not. As with most performance products such as tires these days, even those at the bottom rungs of the ladder aren’t bad at all. It’s just that with 30 category rankings, when the top performing ones are that good, the spread between them widens when even a few rankings are lower.
There’s no doubt that tires are a very expensive consumable item on bikes, and for those who ride often and hard, the rubber budget is often a very carefully considered figure that has to weigh all the options. For some, price is the overriding factor in the decision, and in this still-struggling economy, that’s totally understandable. But I will say this to those who always go for the cheapest option: you owe it to yourself to try the top-tier tires in this test at least once. You won’t be disappointed.