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Heed 505

Pirelli Motorcycle Tire Italy Adventure

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



Pirelli gave Motorcycle USA the opportunity to see how it engineers and tests its motorcycle tires at its test track and proving grounds in Italy.
After riding back from Misano, I was aboard another jet enroute to the island of Sicily for another superb adventure with premium motorcycle tire manufacturer Pirelli. And this trip was big. Never before in the company’s history has it allowed media-types an inside look at some of its engineering and testing procedures.

First up was a street ride through the psychotic streets of Sicily. And after just a few minutes of riding it became quite apparent why Pirelli chooses to develop its road tires here. Because the pavement surface and road conditions are extreme diversity making it a real world proving ground unlike anything else on earth. From slippery cobblestone paths built centuries ago, to rough, pot-hole laden thoroughfares, and high-grip bowling ball smooth stretches of winding mountain road, Sicily offers it all.

Street riding here isn't for the faint of heart, but if you've experienced motorcycling in third-world countries and aren’t scared of trading paint with the other folks on the road than you’ll do just fine. We piloted new big-bore sportbikes including the Honda CBR1000RR, Yamaha YZF-R1, and Ducati Streetfighter shod with Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorsa SP and Rosso Corsa road tires.

After a few hours ride we arrived up at Pirelli's Siracusa private test track. The track was built way back in the ‘60s and actually held a Formula 1 car race at one point. Nowadays, the place appears abandoned. Its brick walls crumbling, vegetation overgrown, and a rough, bumpy, and broken pavement surface that just so happens to be perfect for tire testing.

The track itself is over 3-miles long and features a number of different road scenarios including two straight-aways taken in fifth gear on 1000s (285 kph on the dash!), rough braking and acceleration zones, and a variety of different uneven bends which allow engineers to dissect the performance of the tire at each and every situation. We rode on the same tires that we used during the street ride. In spite of its dilapidated surface, the track was actually a blast to ride and gave me some insight on why Pirelli engineers its tires with certain characteristics. As a side note, Pirelli had a Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7-K8 for us to ride and wow! I forgot how awesome of a bike it is to thrash around at the racetrack.

The next day we were on another plane bound for Milan, the location of Pirelli's headquarters and Vizzola proving grounds. Here they have a very elaborate multi track set-up including the ability to soak the pavement with underground sprinkler system.

We rode Pirelli’s recently released Angel ST sport-touring tire mounted on a Honda CBR1000RR and Suzuki Bandit. Both bikes were equipped with an anti-lock brake system which completely eliminates the possibility of crashing during brake application as long as you stay on the pavement and are straight up and down.

While we tested the final production version, Pirelli’s chief tester Salvo Pennisi was running though a variety of other tires and it was fascinating to see first-hand how the testing process works. Equally as impressive was Pennisi’s skill level with him routinely getting the bikes crossed up and nearly high-siding as he accelerated hard onto the front straight. It’s good to know that the guys developing these tires can actually ride! On a final note, during our test, Ferrari was also on-hand putting its new 599 replacement through its paces and it was cool to see how rough those prototype cars look like during the testing process…

Post Tags: Pirelli Motorcycle Tire Italy Adventure
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