Motorcycle tires are the most critical link between rider and machine. They are one of the primary performance aspects of a street or sportbike and the connection to what’s happening between road and handlebar. These days riders are fortunate to experience remarkable advancement in tire technology. Tire manufacturers invest millions of dollars in hopes of creating the perfect shoe for your bike and it’s all done to deliver the best possible product for a multitude of road conditions. From the street to the racetrack and even on wet surfaces, today’s high-performance street tires can truly do-it-all. Still the question remains which tire is the best? Considering the sheer number of offerings on the market today, determining which tire is right for you and your street bike is almost impossible. That’s where Motorcycle USA comes in with its inaugural 2010 Street Motorcycle Tire Comparison.
We contacted six major industry players including: Avon, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli and Shinko and asked them to submit its latest and greatest production DOT-legal sport rubber in sizes 120/70-17 front and 190/50-17 rear for fitment on a current generation Honda CBR1000RR. We specified that the tires had to be compatible for use in all sport riding environments (street and racetrack) as well as in the wet. The reason we selected Honda’s Superbike as a test platform is because it is endowed with one of the best and most versatile chassis of any contemporary sportbike (in stock form) which would allow us to hone in on the nuances of each tire instead of the intricacies of the motorcycle.
Out of the 10 tires we tested you simply can’t pick a bad tire. Yes there are some substantial differences between each model yet they still deliver a high-level of performance for your street or sportbike.
Both Avon and Dunlop chose to submit a single model for the comparison. Avon delivered its VP2 Supersport while Dunlop gave us its recently released Sportmax Q2 (read our individual assessment in the Dunlop Sportmax Q2 Product Review).
The remaining tire manufactures all submitted two different models of rubber. Japanese tire giant, Bridgestone wished us to test its Battlax BT-016 (learn more about this tire individually in our Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 Review) and its top-of-the-line and more-track oriented Battlax BT-003RS.
French tire manufacturer, Michelin provided the more affordable Pilot Power 2CT and top tier Power One 2CT tires which we tested last year (in race-only compounds in the Michelin Power One 2CT Tire Review) as a part of our 2009 Supersport Shootout VII. Unfortunately its recently released Power Pure tire wasn’t available when we first began the test.
Next up was Italian tire conglomerate, Pirelli with its base Diablo Rosso road tire (which we tested individually in the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Tire Review) and premier Diablo Supercorsa SP hoop that comes as standard fitment on Ducati’s latest generation 1198 Superbike and Triumph’s Daytona 675. Similarily to the Power Pure, Pirelli’s new Diablo Corsa Rosso tire was not available at the start of the test.. Lastly, Japanese-designed and Korean-built tire maker Shinko gave us both its base Advance 005 and more performance-oriented Stealth 003 road tires. Find out more about the Stealth in the Shinko Stealth Tire Review.
Testing was split between the track and public roadways in and around Southern California. We began by spending two days at Willow Springs International Raceway. Day 1 was on the 1.3-mile Streets road course. With its copious bumps, heavy braking and acceleration zones, not to mention banked low-to-medium speed corners it is an excellent circuit to simulate a real world riding environment. Day 2 we moved to the ultra high-speed 2.5-mile main course. Affectionately known as The Fastest Road in the West, the big track features a long fifth-gear pinned straightaway (on a liter-bike) and a number of triple-digit speed bends that subject tires to the most severe conditions imaginable. Adding to the chaos was the 100-plus degree ambient air temperature which heated the pavement in excess of 130 degrees.
In order to keep the racetrack portion of the test as fair as possible and mitigate rider bias we utilized a “blindfold” protocol for the test. After each tire was weighed and measured each set was segregated into three control groups based on price point. The “A” group consisted of each manufacturer’s top-of-the line tires including the Avon VP2 Supersport, Bridgestone BT-003RS, Dunlop Q2, Michelin Power One and Pirelli Supercorsa SP. Group “B” were made up of the Bridgestone BT-016, Michelin Power and Pirelli Rosso. Lastly, group “C” was comprised of the Shinko Advance and Stealth.
After acquiring a suitable base suspension setting with the standard OE tire, the test tires were then randomly mounted to the CBR according to group while the rider was out of sight. No additional suspension changes were allowed. Cold tire pressure was set at 32 psi in the front and 30 in the rear and then each set was pre-heated with tire warmers for a period of 20 minutes. The motorcycle was then fully re-fueled to ensure minimal changes in the weight of the bike.
Motorcycle-USA leaves nothing to chance testing tires—at times on one wheel—in
order to find out which street tire is truly the best.
The test rider (author) sat on the bike before the tire warmers were removed so he couldn’t see the tire and then put in exactly five laps. Data including lap times was acquired using a compact GPS-equipped Track Day Data Logger mounted underneath the rear seat courtesy of Kinelogix. As soon as he returned to the pits the rider handed the bike over to the mechanic and would walk away out of eyesight of the motorcycle. This procedure would then be repeated for the remaining sets of tires. Each day the order of the tires was switched.
After the racetrack portion of our test was completed we began logging street miles on each set of rubber. Cold tire pressure was set per Honda’s recommendations for unloaded solo street use (36 psi front, 42 psi rear). We rode in dry conditions (unfortunately it almost never rains in Southern California) on a variety of different riding scenarios including short-distance touring on the freeway, urban use through the city as well as spirited riding on some of our preferred backroads. Due to the sheer number of tires we needed to run through we were unable to successfully record mileage life on all of the tires. So without further ado, discover what tires you need to purchase for your bike as Motorcycle-USA brings you its most comprehensive tire comparison test to date.
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2010 Street Motorcycle Tire Comparison
Shinko 005 Advance Tire Comparison Review
Shinko 003 Stealth Tire Comparison Review
Michelin Pilot Power 2CT Tire Comparison Review
Pirelli Diablo Rosso Tire Comparison Review
Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 Tire Comparison Review
Avon VP2 Supersport Tire Comparison Review