Continental Tire may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think about replacing the skins on your high performance sportbike, but the German tire magnate is out to change that. Recently we were invited to sample the latest offering from Continental for the sportbike market, the ContiSportAttack 2, at the its private testing facility in Hannover, Germany, dubbed the Contidrom. The test area sounded ominous with such a moniker, but from the scuttle in the world of motorcycle editors this would be one trip not to miss. So I jumped at the chance to put these new hoops to the pavement at such an exclusive and secretive area.
Continental Tire has been supplying rubber to the world for over 140 years. Founded in 1871 in Hannover, Continental produced its first motorcycle tire in 1904 and has been proudly producing tires for all segments of motorcycles ever since. While the manufacturer leads in many automotive markets, it admits that it trails in popularity in the motorized two-wheeled world.
Ten years ago the company made a decision to re-focus on motorcycles, and the ContiAttack family of tires was born from that resolution. Since then it has seen significant growth in all of its key markets. Now with the ContiSportAttack 2, Continental is pushing to prove it has what it takes to be the best in the sportbike market.
The ContiSportAttack 2 brings more perfomance in every aspect to Continental’s top-shelf sportbike tire.
The ContiSportAttack 2 replaces the previous SportAttack tire and was developed to offer higher performance matching the latest and greatest sportbikes on the market. In fact, the SportAttack 2 is the OEM fitment on the 2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Street-winning BMW S1000RR. BMW is confident that these tires are the best fit for what is arguably the best superbike available today, and that speaks volumes.
Our Continental hosts explain that the SportAttack 2 is meant to be the best all-round performer rather than being the best at just one attribute, such as wet-grip or durability. Instead the engineers focused on creating a sportbike tire that can provide the best overall quality in the segment. In doing so, every characteristic of the tire has been improved from the model that came before.
Three main technologies make up the lion’s share of the SportAttack 2’s character. The first is the rubber compound, which Continental calls Black Chili. This high structured racing carbon black compound improves dynamic stiffness at high temps but also quickens warm-up. The Black Chili compound also minimizes the rollover at the edge of a tread block or groove. Mixed with the compound is an Activated Silica Compound that improves the wet traction and helps in dealing with lower temperatures.
Continental’s Traction Skin allows for a quick break-in period for added safety and confidence right out of gate.
The second piece of tech in the SportAttack 2 is Continental’s Traction Skin. Out of the mold the tire has a rough surface that increases the grip during the tire’s break-in, making the first miles safer and more predictable. Additionally there is no mold release agents used on the tire during the molding process further enhancing grip right form the get-go.
Last but not least of the technology in the ContiSportAttack 2 is Continuous Compound. This allows Continental to use one single compound throughout the tire but still have different wear and grip characteristics for the center and sides of the tire. During the molding process the sides and center of the tire are heated at dissimilar temperatures to make the compound softer or harder. This treatment creates a seamless transition from the more flexible sides to the more wear resistant center.
The tread pattern is familiar to the ContiAttack family with a V-Shaped tread groove that is meant to reinforce the tire during braking and accelerating. In the center of the tire the amount of rubber is high with a minimal amount of grooves to both increase traction and minimize wear. Just off center in the 5 to 30-degree range, the tread pattern is most prevalent to increase water drainage. At maximum lean, only 3% of the surface has tread for better grip.
After expounding all the virtues of the ContiSportAttack 2 inside a garage at the Contidrom, it was time for the rubber to meet the road. Actually, it was time to meet the track; the road would come later. First off was the dry-handling course to test the
We tested the ContiSportAttack 2 tires on the track with street pressures and found that the traction is excellent.
limits of traction and get a feel for the handling of these new skins. As Continental’s highly skilled test riders lead us around the track, the pace quickened turn after turn. We were on fresh rubber without a lick of break-in and within two minutes it was knee-down and full-tilt. That is impressive for brand-new street tires with manufacture recommended pressures. I would say the traction skin works and works well.
Turn-in on the track is fairly easy and the feel when transitioning from the center of the tire to the side is uniform. For a sportbike tire such as this, the initial effort may be marginally higher than some of the competition, but not all. Changing direction is quick, flicking from one side to the other with a consistent feel.
The amount of traction is impressive. Even with recommended street pressures, the tire hooks up well and feels planted in the corners. Only when you are really pushing hard and feeding big handfuls of throttle while leaned over will you get some squirming or sliding. Even at that point it is predictable and easy to control. Never once did I experience any sudden loss of traction.
After we spent a couple hours on the road course we hit the oval to test the high-speed stability of ContiSportAttack 2. This portion of the test facility had me worried and excited from the first glimpse of its unbelievably steep banking. At the outer edge the concrete surface is tilted on its side at 80 degrees. We were told if we went too fast the g-forces could cause you to black out, so they recommended taking it easy until you got the feel of the banking. Within three laps I had a Triumph 675 to the stop on the straightaway hurling headlong towards what looks like a wall. As I curved around the banking the G-forces smashed my chest into the tank with every bump and ripple;
There may be no more extreme test than the banking of the Contidrom’s oval. The SportAttack 2 performed flawlessly.
my neck muscles burned as I struggled to hold my head up; and my vision went burry. It was an exhilarating and violent ride, but not once did the SportAttack 2 tires become unstable. These tires are rock solid at truly ridiculous speeds and loads.
Once our adrenaline highs wore off, it was time to tackle the wet-handling course. Constant streams of water soak the straightaways and turns. Anymore water and the track would be a pond rather than a surface for testing tires. The amount of grip from the Conti’s was just what you would expect from a high performance sportbike tire. When straight up and down the traction was above average, and I was actually able to do a few wheelies to the dismay of the Continental staff. At a sane and prudent pace the traction on the side of the tire is connected and sure. Add some herky-jerky throttle, and you’re bound to have the back-end step out. Even when it does it is controllable, just as it is on the dry pavement. Trying to push the limits on lean with these tires is going to result in big slides and loss of traction as the sides have minimal channels to divert water. Riding in the heaviest of rain is entirely possible with the ContiSportAttack 2, as long as you exercise good judgment.
After three quarters of a day at the Contidrom we hit the road, including a few hours on Germany’s greatest gift to
After two days of vigorous testing the single set of ContiSportAttack 2 tires still had plenty of life in them.
motorheads, the Autobahn. This gave us a change to test the high-speed handling of the tires in the real world and they performed as well as they did in the controlled conditions of the Contidrom.
The next day we toured the factory in Korbach before taking the best street ride I have been on in my life. Roads in Germany are better than the racetracks here in the US, and with the dial turned to 11 we assaulted the back roads with aggressive street shredding that would end in jail time back at home. I even saw a few knees on the pavement on completely unfamiliar roads. This goes to show the confidence we all had with the very same set of tires that had spent hours being abused at the Contidrom and Autobahn the day before. To me this is the most impressive part of the ContiSportAttack 2. More than a few times the MotoUSA crew have completely destroyed a set of tires on the street in a single day, yet these tires have survived two days of merciless flogging and would surely last for another two. And if you rode like a normal law-abiding citizen, I could see this rubber lasting for quite some time.
Continental Tire has a hit on its hands with the ContiSportAttack 2 Tire. It may not be the best in any one single condition, but it could very well be the best all-round performer out there. These tires should be added to your short list of anyone looking for a set of replacements. And if you are a 2012 BMW S1000RR owner, enjoy your stock tires. They are more than capable of anything you throw at them.