Sizing information for a tire can be found on a label similar to this standardized format which, oddly enough, mixes metric and imperial measurements.
OEM-specific tires will be noted with an additional letter following the model designation. This "K" variant of the Dunlop D218 is the stock tire from our CBR600RR.
Sidewall and tread construction are also noted on the side of a tire.
The last four digits of the tire's DOT code indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured.
If there is one single component that can make the biggest difference to the overall performance of your sportbike, it’s those rubber hoops spooned around the wheels. With the ever-increasing power and handling of today’s sportbikes, transferring that power to the ground and directing all that energy around corners becomes an extremely difficult task for a tire, yet as you’ll see here in these pages, all of the latest sporting rubber currently available is well up to the task.
It’s been quite a while since we last conducted a sport tire (tires intended for street use, with a possible track day thrown in here or there) comparison test — exactly seven years ago, in fact (“Street Sense”, December 2005). Since that time, the sportbike tire market has segmented itself into increasingly specific genres. Besides the sport and DOT race tire sectors, now the street/track day and sport-touring categories have grown increasingly popular, and nearly every tire manufacturer has a specific model (some have more than one model for a category — check our “tire market” chart on page 39 for more info) for each of these particular applications.
Seven years is an eternity in the sport tire market however, so we decided a comparison test of this particular group was in order. These are the tires you would select for average street and aggressive sport riding, with perhaps the very occasional track day included somewhere in that life span. For those who get out to the track more often, you’d probably be better off with the hybrid street/track models that are now offered; we’ll be testing those, along with the latest DOT race tires, at a later date.
As we’ve done in all our previous tire comparison tests, we contacted every tire manufacturer that offered a model for this specific application, and asked them to send us two sets of their latest rubber to fit a Honda CBR600RR and a Suzuki GSX-R1000. Using these two machines not only allowed us to double up on the data and subjective impressions, but also permitted us to test the two most popular rear tire sizes: 180/55-17 (for the CBR) and 190/50-17 (for the GSX-R).
Time has taken its toll on the overall market, as two manufacturers from our last comparison have since stopped offering sport tires or dropped off the map altogether (Maxxis has ceased its street tire catalog, and Tomahawk is no longer in business as far as we know). We did have one new entry, however: Shinko tires have made a name for themselves in the past decade as a very inexpensive alternative to the more popular name brands. In fact, their cult status (and increasing market share in this tough economy) has gained the attention of the name brands, with two manufacturers specifically “re-releasing” an older model in order to offer that same economical alternative within their own lineups. We have a total of seven manufacturers represented in this comparison test: Avon, Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Metzeler, Pirelli, and Shinko.
What about Michelin?
Most of you are surely wondering why veteran manufacturer Michelin wasn’t included in this comparison test. The reason is that the timing of our test was just a little too early to allow Michelin to get us its brand new sport tire that will be making its debut soon after you read this. The Pilot Power and Power 2CT will be replaced by this new tire, thus precluding us from using either of those models. We’ll be getting some sets of this new generation Michelin sport tire soon, and will give you the lowdown as soon as we’re able.
Back to the test…
As before, each model was weighed, and its sidewall and tread construction noted. After the tire was mounted, the circumference, sidewall height, and section height and width were all measured; this data is all listed in the chart on page 38. We made any chassis ride height adjustments to compensate for any differences in overall circumference heights only if the test riders (Editor-in-chief Kunitsugu, who rode the CBR600RR, and Associate Editor Bradley Adams riding the GSX-R1000) felt it necessary by adjusting spring preload in the front.
As shown in our data acquisition sidebar on page 40, the test loop this year was different due to the relocation of our editorial offices to El Segundo, California. The 130-mile test loop still includes a good mix of urban city, highway, and canyon curvy roads snaking through one of the many mountain ranges in Southern California, taking about 3.5 hours total to traverse on average. The variety of corners on this loop is easily a match for the previous one; everything from smooth and grippy to choppy and dirty pavement, fast corners, slow corners, elevation and camber changes that challenge every aspect of both a tire’s and rider’s performance, hard braking, trail braking, changes in tarmac — you could say that this loop has it all.
As before, while we’d like to say we included wet weather testing as part of this comparison, unfortunately rain in the late summer in Southern California is basically nonexistent. Regardless, it’s extremely difficult to conduct repeatable, reliable wet test parameters with the resources we currently have.
At the completion of each test loop, Kunitsugu and Adams each filled out a ratings sheet that included 30 parameters in four different categories of performance: general, braking, traction, and steering. General characteristics include break-in and warm-up time, feedback, predictability, compliance, stability, and confidence among others. Braking characteristics include feedback, predictability, stability, and mid-corner behavior. Overall grip was rated on smooth and bumpy pavement, at maximum lean, and in slow or fast corners; and steering was graded on categories such as effort, neutrality, precision, and linearity, among others.
Um…where’s the racetrack testing?
We’re sure some of you out there are wondering why we’re not including racetrack lap times as a measurement of these tires’ performance. For tires that are specifically intended for that environment such as the sport/track day or DOT race categories, that would normally be the case. But the main reason we don’t here is because the vast majority of these tires that are sold will only see the street for their entire life span. Using racetrack aggression levels and speed to measure a street tire’s performance and feel is unrealistic, because the tires will likely (and hopefully) never experience those upper-envelope speeds and ultra-aggressive usage on public roads; this test is meant to measure the performance of the tires at speeds that are much more relevant to those that they will see on the street, which is a completely different setting than the controlled environment of the racetrack.
Make no mistake — most of these tires would not be out of their element for the occasional racetrack foray. The overall performance of this category has risen by leaps and bounds in seven years, and quite truthfully, you would have to be riding at a pace on public roads that borders on reckless to really need a tire with better grip. Yes, DOT race takeoffs from the local racer are probably cheaper, but it should be remembered that those tire compounds are made to endure only one or two heat cycles (both of which were probably used up before they were re-sold), and overall grip won’t be the same as when they were new (nor will the tread on the sides, mostly torched from numerous hard racetrack laps). And there’s no need to go into how foolish running racing slicks on the street is…
Reading the capsules
For each tire, the SR Rating is based on the average of all the scores for that tire (30 total ratings, from a scale of 1 – 10). There are four ratings categories: general, braking, traction, and steering. The scores in the capsules are the averages of those scores in each particular category from the aformentioned sub-categories and are displayed for both the 600 and the 1000.
As always, we urge you not to just blindly go with the tire with the highest overall rating, and instead read the capsules and the riders’ subjective comments to find the right tire for the type of riding that you do and the makeup of the roads in your area.
You’ll also note that the section dealing with tire pricing has changed from our usual policy of just listing the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Because price fluctuates so much between retailers, we decided to average the listed prices from a handful of popular online motorcycle accessory chains, and come up with a number that way. We feel this more accurately reflects what you’ll find when you go shopping for tires, whether through a traditional brick-and-mortar bike shop or through an online source.
AVON 3D ULTRA SPORT SR RATING 83.5
Introduced earlier this year, Avon’s new 3D Ultra series sport tires (Late Braking, July 2012) impressed Bradley during the international press launch in Spain. The 3D Ultra Sport tire utilizes the same VBD (Variable Belt Density) design that places the rear tire’s circumferential steel belt windings closer together in the tread center and further apart toward the edge, resulting in better high-speed stability and a bigger footprint when leaned over. Tire profiles and compounds are new however, along with the 3D siping using interlocking grooves that cut warm-up time while limiting carcass flex. The rear Sport is only model among the 3D Ultra lineup to use multiple compounds.
We found the new Avons to be a huge step up in performance from the old VP2, and were very impressed with their performance. Steering habits were definitely the lightest in the test, with very little effort needed to initiate a turn or change lines midcorner; “The Avons feel similar to wearing the latest ultra-light running shoes,” remarked Bradley. The 3D Ultra Sports were also one of the quickest at major chicane transitions, and steering precision was rated highly by both riders. Overall traction and braking also garnered high marks, with the Avon’s somewhat soft construction feel providing a decent ride on the highway while also handling rough and imperfect pavement superbly.
Minor gripes centered around the Avon’s feel at max lean, with both riders noting that feedback once past three-quarters lean angle wasn’t the greatest. Bradley felt that the 3D Ultra Sport tended to squirm over big bumps that resulted in some chassis movement, and at max lean, both Kento and Bradley noted that rough pavement would upset tire grip. Warm-up and break-in times were better than average, and wear rates for both the 600 and 1000 were good, with just light to moderate wear showing at the end of the loop.
|Avon 3D Ultra Sport|
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
BRIDGESTONE S20 SR RATING 86.3
Another new release this year, the Bridgestone S20 is the company’s latest sport tire incorporating many of the lessons learned in its current tenure as the spec tire for MotoGP. Replacing the BT-016 Pro model, the S20 features new compounds front and rear utilizing slightly less silica for better warm-up and improved grip at all temperatures. Slight tweaks to the carcass construction and a revised tread design are intended to provide a larger and more consistent footprint at all lean angles. The dual-compound tread design is still used front and rear, but the ratio over the tread profile has been changed slightly; the front tire has more soft compound on the shoulders, while the rear tire has a bit less for better wear characteristics when driving hard off corners.
Immediately noticeable with the S20 was its incredibly quick break-in and warm-up characteristics; the new Bridgestones exhibited no slippery or squirmy tendencies in the first few miles, and provided surprising grip in the first canyon turns the testers encountered. “Didn’t expect this,” said Bradley, adding that “the Bridgestone felt the best out of the box, with absolutely zero break-in tread squirm.” The S20’s carcass feel is a bit stiffer than most, so highway ride was a bit harsher than the others, with sharper bumps getting felt a lot more. The flip side of that is tire feedback during nearly all aspects of cornering is very communicative — “You always know what’s going on at the tire contact patches both front and rear,” raved Kento.
Overall handling and grip characteristics were rated highly by both testers, with precise, composed steering and traction even over rough pavement despite the stiffer tire construction. Steering was appreciably quick, but took a little more effort than some of the others, especially at the very beginning and end of full-lean transitions from one side to the other. Wear rates were appreciably light considering the grip the S20s offered.
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
Continental CONTISPORTATTACK 2 SR RATING 79.0
The ContiSportAttack 2 from Continental is the latest 2012 upgrade of the original ContiSportAttack tire introduced in 2005. The SportAttack 2 incorporates many of Continental’s numerous technologies developed since that time, including Continuous Compound Technology (a specially cured single compound offering the benefits of dual compounds without the issues associated with them), Dynamic Ride Technology (steeper tire profiles for quicker handling), a modified version of the Activated Silica Compound for better wet grip and quicker warmup, and Traction Skin technology that does away with mold release lubricants for near-instant break-in of a new tire.
The Contis were one of the few tires in this comparison that had a consistent feel throughout the duration of the corner, instead of varying levels of tread squirm at different lean angles (often a sign of compound transition) like most of the others. Break-in and warm-up were extremely quick, second only to the Bridgestones (and only just, in Kento’s opinion). Kento liked the SportAttack 2’s steering habits on the CBR600RR, although Bradley wasn’t quite as enamored with them on the 1000. Both felt the Contis were very neutral; not the quickest or most precise, but certainly not the slowest or sloppiest either. Overall grip and bump absorption garnered good ratings, but both riders felt that feedback was a bit numb unless you were on the edge of the tire; “The Contis had good grip and handling,” remarked Kento, “but you had to kind of blindly trust the tire, as you weren’t really sure what was happening at the contact patch.” Bradley complained of tire deformation when it was heavily loaded in dips or large bumps that upset the chassis, zapping confidence.
The ContiSportAttack 2s simply had that “jack of all trades” feel. They did everything well, but nothing that was special in any category, making them feel not quite as sporty as the Dunlops, Avons, or Bridgestones.
|Continental ContiSportAttack 2|
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
DUNLOP Q2 SR RATING 92.3
The Dunlop Q2 is one of the older tires in this test, having been first introduced three years ago (Late Braking, September 2009). The Q2 replaces the venerable Qualifier — which incidentally has been “re-released” as Dunlop’s budget conscious alternative sport tire — and utilizes much of the technology proven by the company’s superb N-Tec D211GP DOT race tires. The Q2’s very tall profile is part of the company’s Intuitive Response Profile technology, with the front Q2 using Dunlop’s “cut breaker” cross-ply design while the rear features a newer iteration of the company’s JLB (Jointless Band) construction using an aramid circumferential belt. The Q2 also has Dunlop’s Carcass Tension Control System (CTCS) that is similar in concept to the Avon VBD. Multi-compound tread construction is also used in the Q2, with the grippier compound on the shoulders directly derived from Dunlop’s race tire formulas.
The Dunlop Q2s were, in a word, outstanding. Their performance in many aspects was so good that the few gripes Kento and Bradley could come up with seemed petty in the face of the exceptional grip and handling the Q2s provide. Steering wasn’t as light as the Avons or as easy midcorner as the Bridgestones, but the Dunlops were incredibly linear and consistent through all portions of a corner or transition, and never required additional input to hold a line. Feedback and ride quality were excellent, with just enough stiffness to communicate what’s happening at the contact patch without overwhelming you with vibration or harshness over bumps. The Dunlops tracked straight and maintained traction over numerous pavement irregularities that upset most of the other tires. Simply put, the Q2s inspire so much confidence that they were easy to spot in the datalogging speed graphs. Break-in and warm-up did take longer than most however, and wear rates were on the moderate side — but those are easy tradeoffs in our opinion.
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
METZELER SPORTEC M5 INTERACT SR RATING 62.0
Making its debut in 2010, the Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact is the company’s latest sport tire to utilize its Interact namesake technology, which is similar in concept to Avon’s VBD and Dunlop’s CTCS. Featuring five zones across the face of the tread profile, Interact involves different tensions in the steel belt windings around the circumference of the tire; high tension in the center for support and stability at high speeds, low tension in the middle of the shoulder for a bigger footprint and better grip, and slightly higher tension on the edge for maximum support at aggressive lean angles. The front and rear tires each use a single compound, with both made using a higher ratio of silica for rapid warm-up and good wet grip.
The Metzelers have a soft feel that provides one of the better rides over highway bumps, and when ridden at an average pace in the canyons, the Sportec M5 Interact behaves fairly well. Begin to ramp up the pace however, and the Metzelers start to disappoint. Bump absorption at moderate to aggressive lean angles becomes poor, with bigger hits often upsetting tire grip, requiring additional attention in the corners. Kento and Bradley also complained of a lot of squirm from the rear at max lean that sapped confidence, and steering habits were heavy and high-effort, especially when trying to tighten your line midcorner; “Steering effort is wrist-achingly high,” lamented Bradley after the test loop. Traction feedback at moderate lean angles was pretty numb, only adding to the confidence erosion. Break-in and warm-up were deemed slightly better than average.
Truthfully, the Sportec M5 Interact just has that heavy, durable feel of a sport-touring tire compared to the others in this group. And the wear rates almost seem to confirm that assessment, with the Metzelers looking basically like they’d been nicely scrubbed in.
|Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact|
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
PIRELLI DIABLO ROSSO II SR RATING 74.5
Although Pirelli and Metzeler have been accused of marketing the same tire under different names in the past (they are part of the same company), that’s definitely not the case here. Introduced last year, the Diablo Rosso II is intended as the latest street tire of the Pirelli Diablo lineup. An alphabet soup of acronyms includes the Functional Groove Design (FGD) tread pattern using new, longer sipes for better water drainage and increased contact patch. The high-silica/reactive polymer Extreme Cohesion Compound (ECC) center of the Bi-Compound (Bi-C) rear tread is claimed to improve wet performance in conjunction with the new tread pattern. Integrated Contour Shaping (ICS) and Enhanced Patch Technology (EPT) — sophisticated profile-mapping techniques developed for World Superbike — maximize contact area at all lean angles for optimum stability and grip.
Like the Metzelers, the Diablo Rosso II tires had a nice, compliant ride on the highway heading toward the canyons. Steering habits also felt similar, with Bradley feeling the effort was just as high as the Sportecs, although Kento wasn’t as harsh in his assessment on the 600, despite agreeing that the Diablo Rosso IIs didn’t like trail-braking; any front brake usage instantly made steering sluggish and heavy. Both riders agreed that the overall traction was a far cry from the Metzeler, with much better edge grip and a more consistent feel at max lean angles. Bumps and pavement irregularities tended to upset the Pirelli however, and feedback was deemed average at best, with not much communication at any lean angle.
Wear rates were light to moderate, with the different compound sections on the rear tire clearly visible after the test loop. Break-in and warm-up were better than average, with the Pirellis coming in fairly quick up the first canyon road.
|Pirelli Diablo Rosso II|
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
SHINKO 010 APEX SR RATING 59.6
South Korea-based Shinko Tires has been making a name for itself in the tire market by offering what we were told was adequate performance for far less cost than the more popular name brands. The original tire technology and molds were actually from the old Yokohama Tire company, which was purchased by the Shinko Group back in 1998. The Shinko’s sales have been strong enough to get the attention of companies like Dunlop, which re-released its old Qualifier sport tire to counter the Shinko’s economic appeal.
The 010 Apex is the company’s model “designed for serious sportbike riding.” The rear 010 Apex utilizes a zero-degree JLSB (Joint-Less Steel Belted) construction, while the front tire features aramid belts; both tires are made with an “intermediate compound” and have a tread pattern with less void ratio than the usual street tire.
Break-in and warm-up with the Shinkos was the worst in this group, with both Bradley and Kento experiencing a lot of initial squirm and requiring a good five miles up the first canyon road before they had any confidence in the tire. The tire carcass rides smoothly on the highway, but any big bumps can become spine-rattling, and anything more than moderate lean angles quickly cause bump absorption and compliance to go out the window. Overall traction wasn’t bad, but rocks and pavement irregularities upset the 010 Apex more than the other tires, requiring more attention midcorner than usual. Steering was high-effort and lethargic compared to the others, and trail-braking caused some stand-up tendencies that needed some muscle to correct. Wear rates were light to moderate, with a lot of feathering at the siping edges.
Considering their low prices, we really wanted to like the Shinkos, but as Bradley stated, “The amount of effort the tires require simply sucks the fun out of a twisty road.” While the Shinkos are definitely cheaper than the name brands, we’re not so sure the savings are worth it.
|Shinko 010 Apex|
|Kunitsugu: CBR600RR||Adams: GSX-R1000|
Deciphering the Code
There are many letters and numbers on the tire sidewall — Here’s what the important ones mean
There’s a lot of important information on a tire’s sidewall, but sometimes it seems as if there should be a codebook to understand all of the letters and numbers. Using a Dunlop D218 (an OEM variant of Dunlop’s original D208ZR Sportmax) as an example, this guide will help you know what to look for and what all the letters and numbers mean.
The most important label is the sizing designation, which in this case reads “120/70ZR17”. The “120” indicates section width (120mm), the 70 is the aspect ratio (the tire’s profile, 70 meaning 70 percent of the section width), speed rating (Z, meaning the tire is rated for speeds higher than 149 mph), construction (R meaning radial), and the wheel diameter (17 inches). Following the size label is an additional marking (“58W”) defining the load index/speed rating for the tire. This designates the maximum speed the tire is rated for at the manufacturer’s maximum designated tire pressure with a specified load; thus, the 58 stands for a load of 520 pounds, while the W represents 158 mph. The difference between the load index/speed rating and the speed rating in the sizing designation is that the latter is rated at a reduced load.
Note that even though tires may have the same sizing designation, that doesn’t mean their actual sizes are all exactly the same. If you look at the spec chart on page 38, you’ll see that actual tire measurements can vary widely between manufacturers. This is important, because if you’re already very close on clearance between the front tire and the front fender, or the swingarm or chain with the rear tire, you might want to do some research to see if you’ll have any issues with another tire. Also important is that changing tires can often change your bike’s chassis attitude due to the difference in overall circumference (as well as tire profile), which will affect handling. Changes in ride height through minor spring preload or fork tube height/shock or linkage length often may be necessary when switching to different tires.
The tire shown is the stock Dunlop D218 tire from a 2005 Honda CBR600RR. While the “F” denotes that this is a front tire (common practice with Dunlop, but not all other manufacturers), the “K” after the model designation indicates that this tire is an OEM variant. These tires are not the same as the models you would buy off the shelf; the OEM variants are subtly modified from the standard tires as requested by the particular motorcycle manufacturer, whether for lighter weight, better mileage, different handling characteristics, wet weather grip, etc. The OEM-specific tires also usually have different compounds, and sometimes have different belt packages and construction (the sidewall and tread construction is also stamped into the tire sidewall). This is also true of multi-compound tires; where the off-the-shelf tire may have three different compounds, the OEM variants may only have two different compounds of sometimes only a single compound.
While tread patterns sometimes vary, often the only way you can distinguish the difference between the OEM variant and the standard off-the-shelf tire is the additional letter identification after the model designation on the tire sidewall. The OEM variant tires can sometimes be purchased from aftermarket retailers, but the best way is usually to order through your local dealer using the motorcycle OEM’s part number.
But probably the most important numbers for a lot of people is the DOT code (we first broke this news in our 2005 tire comparison, and now suddenly everyone is an expert…), with the last four numbers being the ones to focus on. These numbers designate the week and year the tire was manufactured; in this case, “4104” means that the tire was made in the 41st week of 2004. A tire’s shelf life depends greatly on where and how it was stored (a tire sitting outside will obviously age much quicker), although most manufacturers agree that a tire loses a substantial amount of its performance qualities after about four years.
|tire||size listed||section width||section height||sidewall height||tread width||circumference||Weight||tread construction||sidewall construction||average retail price|
|3D Ultra Sport front||120/70-ZR17||115mm||70mm||25mm||160mm||1891mm||9.36 lb.||2 Rayon, 2 Aramid||2 Rayon||$122.86|
|3D Ultra Sport rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||178mm||87mm||34mm||220mm||2000mm||13.66 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$168.39|
|3D Ultra Sport rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||186mm||82mm||28mm||227mm||1969mm||13.82 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$177.88|
|S20 front||120/70-ZR17||122mm||69mm||25mm||161mm||1889mm||9.4 lb.||2 Rayon, 1 Steel||2 Rayon||$104.46|
|S20 rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||182mm||83mm||32mm||222mm||1976mm||13.68 lb.||2 Nylon, 1 Steel||2 Nylon||$139.31|
|S20 rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||190mm||85mm||30mm||232mm||1985mm||14.12 lb.||2 Rayon, 1 Steel||2 Rayon||$156.13|
|ContiSport Attack 2 front||120/70-ZR17||120mm||68mm||19mm||168mm||1882mm||9.08 lb.||1 Steel, 2 Rayon||1 Rayon||$152.23|
|ContiSport Attack 2 rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||177mm||84mm||32mm||218mm||1979mm||13.16 lb.||1 Steel, 2 Rayon||1 Rayon||$195.35|
|ContiSport Attack 2 rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||188mm||83mm||29mm||230mm||1975mm||13.86 lb.||1 Steel, 2 Rayon||1 Rayon||$206.65|
|Q2 front||120/70-ZR17||123mm||71mm||25mm||167mm||1900mm||10.04 lb.||2 Nylon, 2 Aramid||2 Nylon||$107.37|
|Q2 rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||192mm||86mm||28mm||240mm||1994mm||14.26 lb.||1 Nylon, 1 Aramid||1 Nylon||$133.99|
|Q2 rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||193mm||86mm||27mm||238mm||1997mm||14.08 lb.||1 Nylon, 1 Aramid||1 Nylon||$155.72|
|Sportec M5 front||120/70-ZR17||118mm||69mm||19mm||169mm||1886mm||9.26 lb.||2 Rayon, 1 Steel||2 Rayon||$124.55|
|Sportec M5 rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||175mm||89mm||33mm||222mm||2010mm||13.7 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$158.21|
|Sportec M5 rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||189mm||82mm||25mm||230mm||1970mm||13.7 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$183.64|
|Diablo Rosso II front||120/70-ZR17||115mm||69mm||19mm||168mm||1887mm||9.62 lb.||2 Rayon, 1 Steel||2 Rayon||$114.43|
|Diablo Rosso II rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||175mm||89mm||35mm||222mm||2014mm||13.32 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$146.91|
|Diablo Rosso II rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||185mm||82mm||26mm||232mm||1971mm||13.62 lb.||1 Rayon, 1 Steel||1 Rayon||$178.03|
|010 Apex front||120/70-ZR17||117mm||68mm||28mm||151mm||1883mm||10.66 lb.||2 Nylon, 2 Aramid||1 Nylon||$84.55|
|010 Apex rear CBR600RR||180/55-ZR17||177mm||83mm||29mm||225mm||1973mm||14.72 lb.||2 Polyamid, 1 Steel||1 Polyamid||$141.46|
|010 Apex rear GSX-R1000||190/50-ZR17||188mm||81mm||30mm||230mm||1966mm||15.2 lb.||2 Polyamid, 1 Steel||1 Polyamid||$149.29|
|Avon||Storm 2 Ultra||3D Ultra Sport||3D Ultra Supersport||3D Ultra Xtreme|
|Bridgestone||BT-023||S20||BT-003 Racing Street||R10, BT-003 Pro|
|Continental||ContiRoadAttack 2||ContiSportAttack 2||ContiRaceAttack Comp Endurance, ContiSportAttack||ContiRaceAttack Competition|
|Dunlop||Sportmax Roadsmart II||Sportmax Q2, Sportmax Qualifier||Sportmax Q2||Sportmax D211 GP-A|
|Metzeler||Roadtec Z8 Interact||Sportec M5 Interact||Racetec K3||Racetec K1, K2|
|Micheiin||Pilot Road 3||Power 3||Power Pure||Power Cup|
|Pirelli||Angel ST||Diablo Rosso II||Diablo Rosso Corsa, Supercorsa SP||Diablo Supercorsa SC|
|Shinko||011 Verge||010 Apex||003 Stealth||003 Stealth|
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.