We here at Motorcycle-USA are always striving to bring you more comprehensive and precise motorcycle and motorcycle-related comparisons. This is exactly why for our 2009 Tire Shootout we mixed things up – and in a big way!
Check it out as Steve Atlas puts some of the top DOT Race tires to the test in our 2009 Motorcycle-USA DOT Race Tire Shootout video!
One of the biggest parts of any comparison is the rider’s opinion. And while this is very important, when it comes to something as similar as motorcycle rubber, using just rider opinion makes it impossible to be exactly accurate. Also, one rider’s preferences may not be that of another’s – especially when it comes to tires. Some like them soft, some hard, some in the middle. Not to mention certain riders are “front end” guys, putting higher value in front tire grip than rear, while you’ve got your big-bore liter-class riders looking for every possible inch of rear drive-grip possible.
These black and round pieces of silicon are worth their weight in gold – especially with racers – and are the link between man, machine and success and man, machine and disaster. Or so everyone thinks.
For this reason the aim in our tire shootout is to turn the rider from a variable to as much of a constant as possible, downplaying opinion in favor of data acquisition, lap times, weight and high-heat durability to determine the winner. We will still add impressions of the tires, so you are able to get an idea of the feel and the feedback given, as data can’t show that. But for scoring and ranking, numbers will take center stage for this mega shootout!
Five sets of DOT-spec race rubber set to be put to the test in 100-plus degree heat at the infamous Willow Springs.
Behind the Scenes
Here’s the score. Five manufacturers submitted sample rubber to fit a lightly-modded Suzuki GSX-R1000 – pipe, fuel mapping and suspension setup. Avon, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli all supplied their latest and greatest DOT-labeled race buns – 120 front and 190 rear – to go head-to-head and in a “blind taste test” style of comparison.
“Blind taste test” you say, what’s that? Think Pepsi Challenge from the mind-’90s. By this we mean that at no point was the rider allowed to see what tires he was riding on. The rider (myself) would be secluded while our lead technician Catalyst Reaction’s Dave Moss and Chris McGuire changed tires and put them on warmers. The rider would then mount the bike before the stands and warmers were removed, so as not to see the tread pattern or any logos to give the brand away.
As you can see the rider was kept totally blind to which tire they would be on throughout the entire test.
Protocol was to do five flying laps on each set — this being the max we could fit in while still having time to get through all five sets each day. And though this doesn’t seem like much, in 105-degree heat it was enough to show early signs of wear, some more than others. Once back in the pits, the rider remained on the bike as it was put on stands with the warmers reapplied, then sent to seclusion again to take notes while the next set was mounted and heated. All tires were set at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure settings, while being weighed and measured (with the exception of the Avons, which slipped through the cracks somehow) before they were used, as well as put on tire warmers for exactly 35 minutes each.
To continually even the playing field, tire order was changed from day to day, with the rider unaware of this until the test was totally complete. The rider would also be interviewed on video before knowing any info about the tires, so as not to change options any. Furthermore, a new set of tires from each brand was used each day with the exception of the Avons, who would only send one set because of “financial reasons,” thus they were used both days.
For data acquisition we enlisted the help of Kamal Amer from Kinelogix, who fitted the Suzuki with loads of parameters to give the most accurate possible comparison.
Willow Springs’s multiple racetracks played host to the test in the heat of the summer – mid-July – with Day 1 at Streets and Day 2 at Big Willow. The time of the year brought temperatures well above 100 degrees, really putting both the rubber and the rider to the test.
To gather the hard data, Kamal Amer from Kinelogix was on hand and fitted the Suzuki with their full bolt-on data acquisition system, measuring several parameters and mapping the entire track via GPS. This gave exact lap times, GPS track mapping and line display, as well as individual corner segment times and corner-exit speeds.
Moreover, a control set of tires was used to get a good overall base setup at the beginning of each day, which remained unchanged for every set of new rubber. Due to the large differences in tire profiles and circumferences, it would have been impossible to adjust the Suzuki to make all equal, so the GSX-R was left in the base setup position and remained as a constant for each set of rubber. So how did they stack up?