Know Your Race Tyres

How to choose Motorcycle race tyres

Unlike a versatile road tyre, the vast majority of motorcycle race tyres have a very specific operating window.

Fast Bikes recently teamed up with Bridgestone’s Gary Hartshorne to help readers brush up on their race tyre knowledge, so that they can select the right rubber next time they hit the track.

Here’s a few key things from Gary’s article you need to know.

  • How Are High Performance Tyres Developed?

Gone are the days of tyres simply being round pieces of rubber. Many years of development and testing can go in to producing the final version of a tyre which sits on your local dealer’s rack. Designers are now working at a molecular level, tinkering away to obtain the very best levels of grip and durability. Bridgestone use a unique technology called U-EYE, developed in MotoGP, to analyse how different tyre specifications will react in different conditions, taking a lot of the trial and error out of the equation.

  • Are Treaded Tyres Better For The UK?

Making the choice between slick and treaded tyres can come down to several things. If you’re less confident, a slower paced rider, or if the conditions aren’t great on the day, then treaded tyres will give you a little bit of an extra helping hand, where a slick would be a little less forgiving.

As there are no grooves, slick tyres do offer more outright grip, because you have more rubber in contact with the track surface. You’ll need to ride harder to get the heat into the tyre, so quite often it will seem like they offer less feel and movement than treaded race rubber. Only when they reach their optimum working temperature (usually above 80°C) do they begin to work as intended. Bridgestone’s Battlax V02 is a very user friendly slick, but Gary says they are still best used on race prepared machines with stiff suspension and a fast rider.

  • What Are The Cons Of Using Slicks?

If you’re running a set of slicks, for starters you’re probably going to want to invest in a second set of wheels fitted with wet weather tyres. However, if you opt for a treaded tyre like Bridgestone’s latest Battlax R11 (or even their S22 hypersport tyre) then the tyre will at least be able to disperse some water, although not as much as a proper race wet.

Riding slicks on a wet track will quickly lead to aquaplaning, as a film of water forms between the track surface and your tyre.

  • How Do Wet Tyres Differ?

Race wets are designed for one single purpose – to disperse water. They can shift water at an unbelievable 60 litres per second, thanks to their incredibly deep tread grooves, hence the incredible grip levels they offer. They tend to be a softer compound, which generates heat very quickly. In most cases, a rider can be within 10% of their regular dry lap time.

  • Can You Use Warmers On Wets?

Gary has always advised riders not to use warmers on race wets, but there is no right on wrong answer. If you do use warmers, turn the heat down as they don’t really like being above 30 degrees, and you’ll only need to put them on for about 20 minutes. If it puts your mind at ease having that little bit of heat in them before you start, then go for it.

  • How Important Is Pressure?

Whether on warmers or not, you should always be checking your pressures before you head out on track. If using a road tyre, you’ll want to drop it by a few PSI to allow the tyre to better cope with the additional stresses and heat generated by hard riding on circuit. Go too low and the tyre will feel almost lethargic, while too high will reduce contact patch size. Remember that pressures will rise and fall in line with temperature!

If in doubt, always speak to a specialist race tyre supplier.

Find out more about Bridgestone’s full race range here.

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