Buyers’ Guide – Sport-Touring Tire – Time to Retire?

Mar 11, 2011 View Comments by

Is it time to retire? If your tires are more than five years old, if the tread-wear indictor bars are beginning to show at 1/32nd-inch or less tread-groove depth, or if the rear tire is worn flat in the center…it’s probably time. Rubber hardens with age and loses its grip. An easy way to check the life of the tires is to read the manufacturing date: on the sidewall the last four letters after DOT indicate when the tires were made, with the first two numbers signifying the week and the last pair signifying year. For example, 2309 indicates the 23rd week of 2009. Be sure to shop for fresh tires too.

Sport-touring tires are designed for longer life and a smoother ride, in addition to good traction and handling required of sportbike rubber. Tire shopping can be confusing and requires considerable research, as different types of tires have different objectives. You can choose tires that handle sharper, grip better on wet or dry roads, or last longer. If you’re satisfied with how your original-equipment tires performed and lasted, you can’t go far wrong by spooning on another set.

Current sport-touring motorcycles use radial tires; the letter R in the size stands for radial construction, whereas B means belted bias. Never mix radials and bias-ply tires, as it can result in dangerous handling. Consult the owner’s manual to verify the right size and type for your bike. The original tires for an older motorcycle may be discontinued, but expert tire shops and manufacturers can recommend new replacement models. Correct matching of front and rear tires is important for optimum performance and handling.


Speed Ratings

Motorcycles continue to get faster, and as a result, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) updated tire speed ratings. The letters W and Y have been added to indicate maximum sustained speed ratings of 168 and 186 mph, respectively. The letter Z in a tire’s size isn’t a speed rating per se, but is good for speeds “over 149 mph.” Other ratings still used are H for up to 130 mph and V for up to 149 mph.

Besides the tire size, you may notice the load index on sidewalls, which signifies the weight the tire is capable of handling when properly inflated. It’s usually shown in either a numerical code, or a letter code. Most manufacturers also list on the sidewall what the maximum load rating is, so there’s no guessing.

Wet-weather performance is determined by the depth and shapes of the grooves in tires, which channel off water before the tire rides up on it, called hydroplaning. Tires with longitudinal grooves tend to follow irregularities in roads like lengthwise joints, tar strips, and rain grooves.

Installing a wider rear tire may look cool, but it can actually alter a bike’s handling for the worse. Likewise, front tire shape affects handling. A rounded profile provides moderate steering effort with better ability to make mid-corner corrections. While a front tire that peaks at the center will have quicker turn-in and a tendency to fall into the turns, but it gives up stability and raises steering effort.

When new tires are installed, use new tubes (if so equipped) and have the tires balanced. Proper inflation is critical, so consult the owner’s manual or look for an inflation tag on the motorcycle. Give the tires time to scuff in; for the first 100 miles or so, avoid hard braking and work up to maximum lean angle gradually.


Avon Motorcycle Tyres North America

Avon Motorcycle Tyres offers the new Storm 2 Ultra as its primary sport-touring rubber. Storm 2 Ultra uses a multi-compound SRS (super rich silica) tread that is said to provide up to 12-percent more mileage than the original Storm ST, in addition to enhanced performance and excellent grip on the street. Avon reports that the multi-compound design for Storm 2 Ultra provides greater stability, longer life, reliability, responsiveness, improved traction in both wet and dry conditions, and a more comfortable ride.



Bridgestone’s latest sport-touring tire is the Battlax BT-023, said to offer good wear characteristics and wet performance, along with grip and control, thanks to a new rubber compound enhanced with silica and RC polymer. Dual compound technology in the rear tire places different rubber compounds in the center and shoulder areas of the tire to provide good stability and mileage, along with excellent grip and bump absorption. A GT spec is also available for heavy bikes, such as Yamaha’s FJR1300, in 120/70ZR17 front and 180/55ZR17 rear sizes tires.


Continental Motorcycle Tyres Continental recently introduced its second-generation ContiRoadAttack 2, which promises new levels of grip, safety, and dynamics in the radial sport-touring segment. Conti’s Traction Skin adds grip, Continuous Compound-Technology helps mileage, and Dynamic-Ride-Technology improves handling and control. Black Chili Compound assists with quick warm up, short braking distance, and excellent traction on wet and dry roads. The RoadAttack also continues in the lineup. ContiMotion sport-touring radial is for the entry level market with zero-degree steel-belt construction for excellent stability and comfort. ContiForce is a sport-touring radial for daily use that offers good traction when wet, quick warm-up, and high mileage.



Dunlop bills its new Roadsmart™ as an advanced sport-touring radial tire with exceptional mileage and sportbike handling — plus the best wet-weather performance of any Dunlop road tire. The MT Multi-Tread rear tire incorporates a long-wearing compound in the center tread and a lateral-grip compound on each shoulder to maximize cornering. Micro-sized carbon particles improve dry grip, and wet grip is improved with a special silica additive. The cosecant-curve tread design has deep and long grooves to evacuate the maximum amount of water in both straight-line and cornering conditions.



Kenda’s K657 Sport Challenger is marketed as a budget choice for lightweight sport-touring machines. The bias-ply H-rated K657 features a tread pattern designed to disperse water effectively on wet roads, yet resist tracking in rain grooves. It has a six-ply rating and stiff sidewalls to promote stable handling – additionally, it’s rated as tubeless, but is approved for tube use. Challengers come in a variety of 90-profile sizes.



The sport touring Roadtec Z6 INTERACT is the successor to Roadtec Z6, and shares the same tread pattern. INTERACT™ technology is designed to give maximum stability in all riding conditions, while also assuring a fast warm-up. A new silica ratio (65% versus Roadtec Z6 30%) along with the use of synthetic polymers give improved wet grip at all temperatures, delivering maximum confidence in every weather condition. Plus, the application of a special resin ensures the same mileage as the previous Roadtec Z6.



Michelin just released its Pilot® Road 3 sport-touring tire, which, it says, surpasses all benchmarks established by its predecessor, the Pilot Road 2. The Road 3 is designed to deliver even better wet grip due to greater water channeling. Plus, the tread is made to wear evenly with an extended life, thanks to Progressive Sipe Technology (PST) and 2CT dual-compound technology, which integrates a soft rubber compound on the tread shoulders with a wear-resistant compound down the middle. Michelin’s Pilot Road 2 continues in the lineup and also excels on wet and dry roads, thanks to a 100% silica-charged tread compound. This exclusive silica rubber mix also helps give Pilot Road tires exceptional durability.



The new Angel ST, which replaces Pirelli’s Diablo Strada, is an Extended Mileage Sport (EMS) tire that’s tailored for the latest sport and supersport-touring bikes. The Angel ST is approved fitment for such powerful machines as Suzuki’s Hayabusa and Kawasaki Concours 14. Angel ST features a patented zero-degree steel belt radial structure to enhance stability, as well as an advanced compounding technology to provide balanced grip, wet and dry.

The Sport Demon is a bias-ply tire designed for modern performance and mileage for late 1970s to early 1990s bikes. It has a special front tire contour for improved handling and the rear tire block distribution is optimized for water drainage, even wear, and contact patch.


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