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Bridgestone BT-023 Tire Review

Thursday, May 6, 2010
This Yamaha FJR1300AE was shod with Bridgestones BT-023 GT rubber  the special GT spec reinforced to hold up to the extra weight of the sport-touring class.
Bridgestone's exclusive proving grounds in Tochigi, Japan hosted our evaluation of the Japanese tire manufacturer's release of the Battlax BT-023 sport-touring tire.
Tires are the only things that touch the ground on a motorcycle. Well, the occasional footpeg too, but only if the tires do their job. And that job, keeping the bike upright on a credit card-sized contact patch, often goes underappreciated. Not by the folks at Bridgestone, however, with the historic manufacturer living and breathing tires since its founding in 1931. Motorcycle USA recently tested the Japanese firm’s latest creation, the Battlax BT-023 tire on the company’s own home soil.

We sampled the new tires on a street ride and closed-course circuit. The street tour took us from Bridgestone’s Tochigi Japan facilities to the Twin Ring Motegi circuit and back, ostensibly to watch the Japanese Grand Prix. Though that Icelandic volcano threw a damper on the GP plans, we still made the scenic route. As for the track portion, our press tour was privileged to be the first journalists to ride at the company’s exclusive proving grounds. Located 10 minutes from Bridgestone’s sole motorcycle tire plant in Nasu, the BSPG proved an ideal controlled setting for tire evaluation (See Sidebar).

Though designed with sport-touring in mind  the BT-023 services a wide range of machines including street bikes like the Ducati Monster.
The latest generation of the BT sport-touring tire line, the 023 replaces the 021 and promises a 30% increase in tire life.
Battlax BT-023 Sport-Touring Tire

Bridgestone bills its new Battlax BT-023 as a full spec sport-touring tire – the design replacing its BT-021 (except where the 021 remains OE fitment, with the BT-020 actually still in circulation as OE fitment for some bikes, like the Honda ST1300). Representing the latest generation of sport-touring performance, the BT-023 aims to increase tire wear life and improve wet weather handling, all while delivering the optimal combination of touring comfort and sportbike handling. To do this, the 023 sports a new tread pattern and compound, as well as a special GT version for heavier sport-touring rides.

After visiting the Nasu plant and visiting the Proving Grounds, it’s obvious a lot of research and critical thought goes into tread development. The new pattern claims improvement in three particular areas: A V-groove aids braking, T-groove improves linear handling and a groove-free area at the crown of the rear tire promises a smoother, quieter ride. (The predominant sound emanating from tires being the air cupping within the groove spaces of the tread pattern, a phenomenon Bridgestone engineers measure and try to neutralize through testing).

The new compound makes use of an increased silica composition dubbed Silica Rich Ex (compared to the previous Silica Rich) and RC Polymer, the former improving wet performance and the latter a proprietary polymer blend said to “control the change of properties of rubber in any temperature and assist Silica effect.” The rear tire also utilizes the Silica Rich Ex and RC Polymer composition but in its 3LC dual compound format, with a stiffer center rubber formulated for stability and long wear life. Flanking the center, two grippier shoulders complete the dual-compound construction.

Back-to-back rides on the Suzuki Bandit with the new BT-023 and its 021 predecessor gave us comparable settings for evaluation.
Back-to-back rides on the Suzuki Bandit with the new BT-023 and its 021 predecessor showed the new tire's stability and grip in the corners.
While our ride on the 021 felt a little lighter handling  the 023 delivered a more planted feel in the corners.
Though designed with sport-touring in mind, the BT-023 services a wide range of machines including street bikes like the Ducati Monster.
Covering the interior carcass on both standard-spec 023 tires are Bridgestone Monospiral belts, the MS-belts made of a thin strand of steel spun repeatedly around the tire circumference to produce a single one-piece construction belt void of overlaps or joints. (We witnessed the belt-making process of a different tire during our tour of the Nasu plant, watching as two strands of steel wire spun onto the rotating, warm rubber interior before the tire’s tread layer was applied and then shipped away to the final curing process.) Claimed advantages of the monospiral belt design include lighter weight and less heat generation on the interior of the tire.

Enough with paper performance, it’s time for some real-world evaluation. While at the BSPG we compared the 023 on a variety of rides, including back-to-back sessions with its 021 predecessor on a Suzuki Bandit. We also tested the new GT and regular spec tires back-to-back (more on this later).

It’s difficult to make any strong assertions at tire intros, without direct comparisons to work off, so the quick sessions on the Bandit proved valuable. Both BT tires perform well, but we recognized some modest differences in feel. The 021-shod Bandit actually felt a little lighter on its toes, with nimble turn in and quick directional transitions. Which isn’t to say the new 023 felt sluggish, just not as light handling as its replacement. However, the 023 Bandit delivered a more planted, secure feel once turned over on its side. The regular 023 also felt smoother when we rolled over a rougher section of the high-speed straight compared to the 021.

In direct comparison the changes to the BT-023 are quite subtle. However, the claims for durability are not, with Bridgestone stating a 30% gain in tire life. If the 023 is fractionally slower to turn than its predecessor, the sensation is far off-set by the value of the extra mileage.
The BT-023 GT uses cross belt construction in the front  with an extra belt supporting the monospiral design in the rear.
Standard spect BT-023 front tire  with a V-groove claimed to aid braking and T-groove linear handling.Bridgestone BT-023 GT spec front tire utilizes a different tread pattern.
The BT-023 GT uses cross belt construction in the front, with
an extra belt supporting the monospiral design in the rear.
The GT also utilizes a different tread up front (bottom right),
compared to the standard BT-023 front tire (bottom left).

On the street the BT-023 handled all the regular riding conditions with ease. There were no gaffes to speak of, as it held up well to the tight, twisty terrain we encountered, as well as smooth comfortable stretches on the interstate. It also navigated bumps and road imperfections without trouble, including the striped paint/speed bump/rumble strips we sometimes encountered in corners where the Japanese road engineers made it clear they wanted traffic to keep the MPH down. About the only thing the BT-023 couldn’t handle was reorienting my brain to riding on the left side of the road… But we won’t hold that against it.

Amazingly, even though this karma-stricken reviewer was in attendance, it didn’t rain heavily during our riding days. Good news for us! Bad news for being able to vouch for the 023’s wet-weather handling. However, Bridgestone is keen to point out the new higher-silica compound improves corner handling in the wet.

BT-023 GT Spec

Bridgestone purpose built a separate BT-023 GT spec for heavier ST bikes, fitting sizes 120/70 ZR17 front and 180/55 ZR17 rear. The GT tire looks to rectify the durability complaints reported by owners of some ST bikes, the Yamaha FJR singled out in particular by Bridgestone reps.

Turns out the sport-touring crowd isn’t just puttering around, they like to hammer down on those tires with high-performance riding. The heavier weights of the comfortable ST platforms proved harsh on the 021, loading up the front and producing premature wear on the shoulder area.

Bridgestone counters with beefier construction on both the GT tires. Up front sturdier cross belt construction replaces the MS-belt of the standard spec, while the rear makes use of the MS-belt but reinforces it with another belt underneath. The BT-023 GT front tire also makes use of a different tread pattern.

The new BT-023 GT should deliver more miles for those riders of the heavier sport-tourers  like the FJR and R1200RT.
The new BT-023 GT should deliver more high-performance miles for those riders of the heavier sport-tourers - a critical bonus for the touring set.
Riding the GT and standard BT-023 on the Yamaha FJR back to back at the proving grounds, we noted slight differences. The GT-equipped machine transmitted a little more stability at speed in the turns and felt faintly more comfortable over bumps. But the true benefit of the GT tire is not in short-term performance, perhaps even more than the standard version, it’s the long-term wear reduction where the GT succeeds or fails. If the GT treads hold up to the claimed 30% increase in tire life, the grey-haired gentlemen whose FJR needed new rubber every 3000 miles will be much obliged.

Price may be the best feature of the new BT-023, as it doesn’t sway much from the previous model. In fact, with fronts ranging from $174-190 and rears between $218-$261, the rear tire MSRP drops somewhat from the 021’s.

Overall the BT-023 delivered solid performance on both street and track. We couldn’t verify in our brief riding time that impressive claim of a 30% improvement in tire life. But if this extra durability holds true, fans of the original 021 will be extremely happy with the new rubber. More miles and solid performance with virtually the same prices as the tire it replaces. It’s a sound formula for a happy customer.

Check out more Bridgestone Tires and Motorcycle Tires at Motorcycle Superstore.
The Battlax BT-023 is also available at Motorcycle Superstore starting at $179.99
Videos Our Sponsor
Bridgestone BT-023 Tire Review Video
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Bridgestone Proving Grounds
Bridgestone Proving Grounds  Tochigi  Japan.
A highlight of our Japan tour, the Bridgestone Proving Grounds proved a memorable ride. Made up of a series of 10 different tracks, the Proving Grounds evaluate more than 10,000 tires a month in a battery of tests - everything from endurance tests on the high-speed, 50-degree banked oval, to stability on the watery skid plate, to tire vibration and ambient noise, to the standard performance acceleration and braking tests. A staff of 50 work at the grounds, where they maintain a fleet of 180 cars, along with 40 larger trucks and buses – anything that runs on tires. And sourcing bikes for our testing crew wasn’t an issue, they have a roster of 70 motorcycles to choose from.

As the first journalists to ride at the exclusive grounds, our mission was pretty basic, don’t crash and follow the rules. Or we would be known as both the first and last American motojournos to ride at BSPG. We did both, though the suggested speed limits may have been fudged a little…

One complaint about tire intro testing is often that there is really nothing to compare it to. Fortunately, Bridgestone set up the back-to-back sessions on the 021 and 023, as well as the standard-spec 023 and GT-spec 023. And each back-to-back session was on the same bike making the comparison more valid, a Suzuki Bandit for the 021/023 and Yamaha FJR for the regular/GT-spec (though the GT spec was aboard the AE version of the FJR and the standard spec on the standard Yamaha.)

The Bridgestone proving ground folks were more than squared away, with a regimented testing plan in place well in advance. We started on time, exactly. We ended on time, exactly. In between we rode each bike we were assigned to ride, exactly the same amount of time on two separate tracks. Even the order of bikes ridden was predetermined to ensure all journalists rode the same bikes. At the end we were expected to fill out detailed evaluation forms and answered questions from genuinely interested Bridgestone employees.

Testing tires. It’s almost like they did that sort of thing all the time…
Pirelli Angel ST Tire Review
Pirelli Angel ST tires in action at the press launch in Asheville  North Carolina.
The Bridgestone BT-023 sport-touring tire competes directly with Pirelli's Angel ST tire. Read more about the Italian rubber in our Pirelli Angel ST Tire Review.
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rcarstop   June 22, 2014 05:49 PM
I bought a new 2012 Concours in July 2013 and put 4000 miles on it in 3 months. The stock tires were Battlax 21's. Started riding this year and got to 6500 miles and the stock front tire Battlax 21 had chewed the sides right off. I had purchased a set of Battlax 23's during the winter and just put the front tire on last week. The rear tire is about done as well. Why would Kawasaki put a tire on a ST bike that would wear out that quickly? Anyone else have this poor mileage from the 21's? My 2001 Concours has OEM Dunlop tires and I average 10~11,000 miles before they are worn out. I am wondering should I have bought the GT version of the 23's.. ? Michelin has the Pilot 4 GT as well for the heavier ST bikes. I plan on doing some long range touring on the 2012 motor, most likely w/o a passenger next year. Any thoughts about tires?
jparrie   October 25, 2013 12:31 PM
Darksider Rider... Because a motorcycle is NOT a car. If you enjoy riding in a straight line all the time, enjoy your car tire. I'll start using them when I see the guys on the podium using them.
edjemison   October 5, 2013 07:29 AM
I just got 4000 miles on my BT-23 GT rear tire riding two up the whole time. The front tire still looks new. My original tires on my 2012 Ducati Multistrada S Touring didn't last 3000 miles front and back which were Pirelli Scorpion Trails. If anything I rode harder on this set of tires as I got to be better on this bike and having the Ohlin's CPU installed cornering much better.
damianomigani   March 21, 2011 04:57 PM
Just had a set of BT023 GT installed on my FJR1300. they currently have 2 miles on them :) I'm about to go on a long (6k+ miles) trip to Alaska from Southern California, and I wanted a new set of touring tires. I'll be back in mid May, I'll let you know if they survived! damiano
dean -thumbs up  January 21, 2011 03:11 PM
great tyre compared to the 021's. Have transformed my GSX1400. Turn in and tip in have improved 50% in my opinion making a good bike fantastic.
Laurie Harding -Honda CBR1100xx rider  October 12, 2010 06:00 PM
Put BT021 of front and back, front tire developed a 1'' strip in the middle of the tire. Handles like sh""! Bought new BT023's and the front is doing the same dam thing 1" strip around the tire. Bridgestone... Not on my bike again!! Do wonder what the GT tire would do but not going to throw any more money away!
Zahadoom -Bt023  July 6, 2010 07:39 AM
Well my BT-023 arrived today, I have to go get them installed, I have close to 46,000km on my 2007 Ninja 650r, this will be my 3rd set of tires, got over 25,000km on the stock bt-20's that came with the bike, front bt20 had a bumpy look & feel to it when I was replacing it, back tire was bald in center after a trip to the West coast, I put bt021's on after that, the rear tire is still good, almost down to wear bars in center, but the front bt021 is bald! It also showed some bumpy texture about 5000km ago, but then shortly after balded out on the shoulders, center of front tire now bald also. I thought about only replacing the front but figured do them both now. I've gotten good life out of the Battlax tires, at least that's what I'm told, tires have never let me down, i've driven in all kinds of rain & conditions, I'll let u know how these ones hold up! Wondering if I shoulda got the GT front tire, as I have read the ninja 650r puts alot of weight on that front tire, could be why they are wearing out before the rear.
mark smith -k1200rs bmw  June 2, 2010 02:04 PM
bought a set of bt-023, paid $116.00 ft. $166.00 rear. great solid feel in wet, turning and high speed. lasted 4000mi. replaced with dunlop roadsmarts after 2000mi. they have more tread left than the bt-023 did, but the feel is not as sharp. will buy bt-023 next time.
Peter -Motorcycle Japan - A Rider's DiIary  May 15, 2010 08:26 PM
Sounds like you had a great time in Japan, coming back to tour soon?
Darksider -rider  May 12, 2010 03:23 PM
We solved the atrocious Bridgestone Motorcycle tire problem a few years ago. Can't imagine why it is legal to put those other tires they make (not the battle-axe series) on stock bikes. We switched to the Bridgestone car tires on the back, and Metzler rear motorcycle tires on the front. The car tire is wider, has better traction in wet, handles better in wet, has better braking and acceleration characteristics, handles better in gravel and dirt, HAS SOFTER rubber and better grip AT ANY ANGLE, 2 times the tire patch size - at any angle, 3 times the mileage, and 1/2 the cost. My $95 Potenza has over 30K on it and plenty of tread to go. Took it up and down Maui's Hana Hiway in the rain with a passenger, over 400 curves, absolutely no complaints. This BS about bad of unsafe car tire handling on bike is for the birds. Anyone who has a car tire on their bike can tell you it is 91% fantasy, 9% new feel. They handle fine. Why does Bridgestone need to make a special motorcycle tire to emulate a car tire they already make is a mystery to a lot of us.
Tim Shevlin -ST11/1300 Rider  May 11, 2010 01:01 PM
A 30% improvement over the terrible 021 is not good enough, when you can attain an instant 100+% improvement by mounting the amazing Avon Storm front tire.(rear mileage depends heavily upon riding technique)
Hutch -Rosso  May 10, 2010 12:04 PM
That review was put off as we conducted our Superbike test. Expect that one soon...
Tim -Tires  May 7, 2010 07:22 AM
What happened to the review of the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa at Assen? Did I miss it?
Bliz -Not Bridgestone Again  May 7, 2010 06:28 AM
Not going to be burned by Bridgestone again. BT-O20 was a good tire. 021 was terrible. Less than 2000 miles on the front on my ST1300 and 2 ridges developed completely around the middle of the tire. Bridgestone knew they had a problem with this tire, and what did they do about it? Nothing. Too many other tire manufactures out there with better products that they will stand behind, to use another Bridgestone tire.
Shaitan -Sport-tour tire comparo please  May 6, 2010 06:45 PM
I'd love to see how these stack up for an extended review against say Dunlop Roadsmarts, Metzelers, Michelin, etc.
Jeff -Mr.  May 6, 2010 04:35 PM

As one who also had the pleasure of joining you on this trip I wish to say that you conveyed the experience superbly. Any chance of you posting some video?