On the second day of our 2013 Supersport test we outfitted each of the eight middleweights with Bridgestone’s Battlax S20 road tire to evaluate its circuit performance.
Bridgestone is capitalizing on its technical might as the exclusive tire provider for the MotoGP World Championship by trickling down technologies to every day riders with its Battlax S20 road tire. The S20 is the Japanese company’s do-it-all sport hoops for the work week commute and spirited rides on the weekend. They’re also designed for the occasional trackday. It’s positioned between the BT-003RS (performance-based for trackdays) and BT-023 (sport touring) models, and sold alongside the older generation BT-016 Pro road tire.
Made for modern sport-oriented motorcycles of all virtually all engine displacements, the S20 is available in three 17-inch front sizes (110/70, 120/60, and 120/70) and a 120/70-16 (for fitment on odd-ball 16-inch front wheel equipped bikes like Honda’s classic 1992-1997 CBR900RR). Seven sizes are available at the back ranging from a 150/60-17 all the way up to 200/50-17, meaning it will fit everything from Honda’s entry-level CBR250R all the way to BMW’s ridiculous 190-horsepower S1000RR. We fitted sets during the second day of track testing during our 2013 Middleweight Supersport Shootout X.
Bridgestone’s Battlax S20 uses new compound formulas and an updated tread pattern to increase the contact patch against the pavement. This is what the tire looked like after a full-day of track riding at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.
Considering the surefooted performance of the outgoing BT-016 as tested in the Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 Tire Comparison Review, Bridgestone didn’t want to mess with a good thing. Instead it tweaked the carcass allowing for a larger footprint that increases with lean. Like its predecessor the S20 still has a flatter profile that isn’t as tall at the center compared to other name brand offerings. This pays dividends in terms of steering feel with the S20’s offering exceptionally neutral handling manners—never turning more or less than what the rider inputs through the handlebar. Sure, there are sharper-steering tire options in the category, however, few offer as friendly and non-intimidating turning response than these ‘Stones. Another plus is the high-level of chassis compatibility ranging from Japanese 600s to Ducati’s unique 848 EVO and MV Agusta’s new F3, so you don’t have to modify the suspension’s ride height or damping settings to get the tire to perform optimally.
Probably the best feature of the S20, besides its increased contact patch, is the new rubber compounding. It still makes use of Bridgestone’s dual compound zones, however, the compound arrangement has changed. The front hoop returns to the BT-016’s formula of wider strips of soft rubber on the
Front (cold): 32 psi
Front (hot—off the track): 34 psi
Rear (cold): 30 psi
Rear (hot—off the track): 34 psi
Front (OEM recommendations)
Rear (OEM recommendations)
shoulders, improving grip at lean, between more durable material for mileage and straight-line stability. Curiously the rear tire goes about it the opposite way with a large section of tough rubber sandwiched between two softer strips that are smaller in width. The rubber formula was also enhanced for faster warm-up and a better operational range, especially on chilly road surfaces. The updated rubber mixture works alongside a new tread pattern with deeper grooves to effectively channel away water on wet roads. However, since we’ve yet to ride with it in the rain its wet weather performance is still an unknown.
Bridgestone’s latest Battlax S20 road tire is designed for riding in all conditions including street and track use. While we appreciated its neutral handling manners we wished the tires had more road feel especially when used at the track.
The front tire weighs 8 lbs. 13.8 oz. while the rear tips the scale at 12 lbs. 14.4 oz. That’s a few ounces less than the more expensive BT-003RS and older generation BT-016. This helps the motorcycle handle and accelerate faster due to a slight reduction in unsprung weight. Though to be fair we conducted this test with 180/55 rears opposed to the larger section 190/50 used as a previous base measuring point.
Both on the street and racetrack we were pleased with the tire’s quick warm-up times, but to be fair it wasn’t perceivably faster than the already excellent BT-016. With the tires aired to the OEM recommendations grip was surefooted and the sidewall gives just the right amount of flex which helps mask bumps on a rough road. At the racetrack however faster riders might experience rear wheel spin especially on more powerful motorcycles. Reducing air pressure allows for more flex thereby boosting grip yet it didn’t compromise stability under braking or acceleration. Another plus is the consistent traction-feel even after a 20-minute track session on a hot 100-plus degree day.
Telltale signs of overheating including that ‘greasy’ feel that we used to experience on older generation Bridgestone road tires has been eliminated but the tire’s don’t offer as much road feel as we remember. This makes it tricky to understand the tire’s adhesion limit. We’re unable to provide an accurate assessment of the S20’s durability and resistance to wear since we haven’t logged enough miles on them. We hope to provide another update upon running them down to the wear bar.
- Neutral steering
- Compatible with wide range of motorcycles
- Quick warm-up time
- Could deliver more road feel
- Profile could be a little steeper for quicker handling response
- We miss the old 5LC (five compound zone) of the BT-016 rears
Overall we were generally pleased with the S20. It’s an easy tire to get a feel for and works adequately in a wide range of temperatures and road conditions. Although it lacks a degree of road feel it makes up for it in terms of its consistency, especially during fast, hot and long rides not to mention its excellent bump absorption and ride quality.