TRACK DAY TYRE TIPS
There are many misconceptions when it comes to tyre choice for track days. Here’s Gary’s guide to achieving rubber perfection...
W hen it comes to tyres, first and foremost, it’s important to remember that they are the only part of the bike in contact with the track. Unless, of course, you’ve exceeded the limits of adhesion, or made a mistake, and then it won’t just be the tyres making contact with the circuit…
WHERE IS THE LIMIT OF ADHESION?
A modern tyre’s limit is way beyond the average rider. However, it’s easy to make mistakes and ask the tyre and bike to do something it wasn’t designed to do – and this can potentially be trouble. To help make the best use of the grip available, below are some tips to help you get through the day.
Always set pressures to the manufacturer’s recommendations for track use. These pressures could be hot or cold pressures, but my advice is to always set them while hot. Set from cold you don’t know what they will rise to as ambient and track temp’ can vary through the day, so one particular day will give different results to another day. Keeping the hot pressure checked provides better results, not only with grip levels but also durability and, in turn, essentially your pocket.
For session one, set the hot pressures on the warmers slightly higher than you’d want them. When on warmers the discs are cold, the hub is only slightly warm and when they’re up to working temperature it will affect the pressures as you’re now adding extra heat which increases pressures. So, go and do the session and get all components up to working temp’ then come back in and reduce the pressure to your desire. This should give you the most accurate setting to start your day.
Make the following a ‘must do’ part of your checks before you have your banter with your mate when you come in off track.
Bike on paddock stands Warmers on Check pressures Adjust if needed Tell your mates how good you are… If you’re riding home, be sure to raise the pressures back to the manufacturer’s road recommendations.
DO I NEED TYRE WARMERS?
On track then it’s advisable to use warmers, but not essential, especially with road tyres. They’re designed to work at lower temperatures and will offer more grip at these temps than a road legal race tyre (or slicks). Road legal race tyres and slicks, like our (Bridgestone) R10 & V02, operate at far higher temps and ideally need warmers. They can be used without but it will take longer to reach optimum temperature, resulting in lost track time. If you don’t have warmers, then you will benefit by using a road-based tyre. Let’s put it this way, Leon Haslam can lap Donington on a standard ’Blade on the Bridgestone T30 Evo touring tyre in sub 1 min 35 seconds…
If you do buy tyre warmers, be sure to buy them with a variable thermostat that has a range that will suit all tyres. The difference in optimum operating temperatures between road/race tyres is considerable. If you heated the road tyre to a race tyre temp, it will degrade the compound and reduce grip levels. The whole point of warmers is to increase grip levels!
WETS! HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED WETS?
Good question – the general rule of thumb is to go look at the track. If there’s spray, then you need wets. If there’s no spray, then there’s no water to shift so you don’t need wets. It will also depend on how wet the remainder of the circuit is as to what your choice will be, so go with the highest percentage. Or, if its damp all the way round, go for an intermediate or soft race tyre option. As a last resort, you could invest in a tyre cutter and make your own inters and wets from soft slicks
One question we get asked on a regular basis is ‘do I need warmers on wets?’ That’s up to the individual. Warm wets will probably mean a more confident start to your session, but be careful. If you don’t have adjustable warmers, chances are you’ve heated the wets up to dry tyre temps. This will cook the compound and, secondly, will give you huge amounts of grip to start but from this point on, the tyres will be losing all their heat, which, in turn, means grip levels will decrease. So, turn one on the first lap you wind the throttle on and no movement, do the same on a wet with a third of the temperature and it could be a very different result. If you do use warmers on wets, then ensure you change the setting to suit. And check the temperature recommendations, too.
You may have your favourite brand when it comes to tyres but even changing the type of tyre in the same brand can cause issues. Ever wondered why? Let me explain – tyres can vary in sizes from width to overall diameter. For example, a certain tyre like a Bridgestone R10 medium rear (180/55-17) will have an overall diameter of, say, 640mm, but the S21 could have an overall diameter of 634mm. This means when you fit the S21, the rear of the bike will be lowered by 3mm, and will likely affect the handling. The fronts can vary in the same way too, so be careful. You could easily change your agile bike into an ill handling chopper. There you are scratching your head, wondering how that’s happened, thinking to yourself that you’ve not changed anything but, unknowingly, you have!
Tyres are a crucial part of your bike and are there to keep you upright. Pay them some attention and if you treat them right, they’ll do the same.
You can change tyres yourself, but it’s far easier getting someone else to do it!
Tyre pressures are crucial.
A set per session? If only!
We love a tyre lackey...