Pirelli North America Racing...
Pirelli North America Racing Manager Cristoph Knoche.
Few aspects of riding technique are as clouded with the dark specter of myths, old information-or just plain bad information-than how to warm up new tires. In fact, many of us, me included, still use the misleading terminology of "scrubbing" in new tires, which wrongly implies that the surface of the tire itself needs to be scrubbed or abraded to offer traction. While this may have been the case long ago when manufacturers used a mold release compound, it most definitely is not the case today.
To clear up the issue of how to ride on new tires, we cornered Cristoph Knoche, the Racing Manager for Pirelli Tire North America's Motorcycle Division. Knoche has been with Pirelli for 13 years, working with the company's R&D department while involved with World Supersport, where Pirelli won the World Championship with Fabien Foret while battling against the other brands prior to the series adopting Pirelli as the spec tire for World Supersport and World Superbike. More than just a racetrack technician, Knoche also has first-hand experience with the prototyping process and development of special racing tires.
First off, Knoche quickly dispatched the old wives' tale that the surface of the tire needs to be scuffed or roughed up to offer grip. "Maybe it's coming from the old days when people were spraying mold release on the tread when the molds were maybe not that precise," Knoche speculates, "and the machinery was not that precise. But nowadays molds are typically coated with Teflon or other surface treatments. The release you put in there (in the sidewall area only, not the tread) is for like baking a cake, you know, so that it fills all the little corners and today that is done more mechanically than by spraying. The sidewall is important because you have all the engraving in the sidewall [with tire size, inflation pressure and certifications] and that you want to look nicely on your tire, so that's why we still spray the mold release there."
Knoche discusses tires with...
Knoche discusses tires with Attack Kawasaki's Chaz Davis (right) and Richard Stanboli.
The next myth we see perpetuated nearly every time we watch the warm-up lap to a race. Riders begin weaving back and forth in apparent attempt to scuff the tread surface (which we've already discounted) and generate heat. The reality is that, according to every tire engineer that I've asked, there are far more effective ways of generating heat in a tire that are also much safer. Rather than weaving back and forth-which does little in the way of generating heat but does put you at risk asking for cornering grip from tires before they're up to temperature-you're far better off using strong acceleration and braking forces, and using them while upright, not leaned over! Acceleration and braking forces impart far more flex to the tire carcass, which is what generates the heat that then transfers to the tread compound as well (you often see Formula 1 cars weaving violently back and forth because automobile tires operate on a horizontal plane, so they have and use significant sidewall flex to generate heat).
All I can say is that you should trust the educated opinion of tire engineers over the old habits and superstitions of even the best racers. That said, I still-out of habit-occasionally catch myself weaving out of the pits on fresh rubber before chastising myself and then applying heavy yet smooth acceleration and braking forces into the tire while keeping the bike relatively upright.
If you're a racer, or a serious enough track-day rider to have tire warmers, Knoche recommends that you have them on the bike for a full hour to get not only the tread surface of the tire, but also the entire carcass and sidewall section, up to temperature as well. "With modern compounds," Knoche explains, "there are a lot of waxes and oils and (we) have to get them really to temperature. We suggest to get them up to around 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Because what happens is you have to warm your tire not only on the surface but what we look for is touching the wheel and you want that a little bit more than hand warm."