KNOW YOUR… RACE TYRES

Fast Bikes - - MASTERCLASS - WORDS: PRETTY BOY IMAGES: FB ARCHIVE

Whether you fancy some track­day spank­ing or go­ing full-blooded rac­ing, tyres are one of the most im­por­tant things to have right on your bike. So what’s the deal with high per­for­mance rub­ber, and how do you get the best from ’em? We caught up with Gary from Bridge­stone to find out…

FB: What makes a good tyre for the track?

GH: We do! But hon­estly, it’s a whole host of things, from feel, to longevity to grip lev­els and just about ev­ery­thing in be­tween. For ex­am­ple, we have our R11 treaded tyre which fea­tures tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped from EWC and other top world level en­vi­ron­ments, where we aim to cover all bases… from fast times to last­ing a whole heap of laps. In all hon­esty though, most man­u­fac­tur­ers who are in­volved with rac­ing will de­velop their prod­uct from the top and then fil­ter down what they learn. Not all tech­nol­ogy will work in your road tyres, so it’s im­por­tant to have that per­fect bal­ance, for rid­ers of all skills. FB: How do you de­velop a high per­for­mance tyre?

GH: A great deal of time and ef­fort, a huge amount of mileage and a host of tech. Long gone are the days when tyres were sim­ply just round and made of rub­ber. Okay, they’re still round but the amount of rub­ber in there now is min­i­mal. It’s all oils, anti-ox­i­dants, anti-ag­ing (yes I know, I need some of that!), sil­ica and even mol­e­cule tam­per­ing to ob­tain the best com­pounds, grip and life through the cy­cle of the tyre in ev­ery con­di­tion. But then again it’s not even all about the in­ter­nal as­pects, be­cause the car­cass needs to be pli­able and give a good sized con­tact patch to the tar­mac be­low; a high grip com­pound is worth­less if it’s not in con­tact with the tar­mac. When all of these as­pects have been weighed out, tested and de­liv­ered, that’s when we bring a new tyre out… it takes years.

FB: Is it bet­ter hav­ing treaded tyres in the UK and what are the ben­e­fits of hav­ing cuts?

GH: It de­pends on a lot of things re­ally. In essence, a slick tyre will be able to han­dle more, but then again, for the most part, hav­ing treads makes life eas­ier. Think about it this way, if you’re a lit­tle less con­fi­dent, or if the con­di­tions aren’t great or if you sim­ply aren’t go­ing as fast, hav­ing treaded tyres will give you that lit­tle ex­tra help­ing hand where a slick won’t budge. Even if you’re head­ing out on track as a road rider they make life eas­ier, as you don’t re­ally need tyre warm­ers in com­par­i­son ei­ther.

FB: How im­por­tant is hav­ing the right pres­sures?

GH: Vi­tal! Whether on warm­ers or not, al­ways check the pres­sures be­fore you head out on track. If you’re us­ing road rub­ber, usu­ally you’ll want to drop it by a few pounds – this is be­cause of the ad­di­tional stress and heat gen­er­ated through the tyres. If you’re run­ning the pres­sures too low, it will have al­most the same lethar­gic feel as a flat tyre, whereas too high means that the con­tact patch will be­come smaller. It’s all a trade off, and re­mem­ber that pres­sures rise and fall with heat.

FB: What are the ben­e­fits of us­ing slicks over treads?

GH: Es­sen­tially, slick tyres of­fer more grip as there are no grooves – mean­ing that there is more rub­ber in con­tact with the tar­mac. For you, the rider, the slick will feel like it’s of­fer­ing less feel and move­ment, and this is be­cause usu­ally you’ll have to ride harder to get the heat in them and also to keep the heat in them, too. It’s only when they’re fully up to their work­ing tem­per­a­ture (you’ll be look­ing at over 80 de­grees) does the tyre work, and as a slick is de­signed for high per­for­mance rid­ing, will need to be pushed harder to get the de­sired feed­back. Our V02 slicks are still very user friendly con­sid­er­ing, but are best on race-prepped ma­chines, with stiff sus­pen­sion and a fast rider.

FB: And the cons?

GH: They’re not the most user friendly tyre in the world – I mean for starters, if you’re run­ning slicks you’re re­ally go­ing to need a spare set of wheels with wets. If you’re run­ning treaded tyres, like our R11s or S21s, then at least there’s a few grooves which means you do get some form of wa­ter dis­pers­ing, al­beit nowhere near as much as on a full wet. If you ride with slicks on a wet track you’ll just aqua­plane as the film of wa­ter forms be­tween the rub­ber and the tar­mac, which isn’t good for any­one. FB: What’s a wet weather tyre and how is it dif­fer­ent?

GH: A wet weather tyre is a tyre de­signed solely to dis­perse wa­ter, be­ing not road le­gal and just for rac­ing pur­poses. They of­fer in­cred­i­ble lev­els of grip due to the deep tread pat­terns, as they shift wa­ter at a mind bog­gling 60 litres per sec­ond. The tyres tend to be of a softer com­pound to gen­er­ate heat quicker, and are an ab­so­lute god­send when rid­ing in the rain! They’re pretty ef­fec­tive as well, as in most cases a rider can lap within 10% of their dry time on a reg­u­lar track. FB: Can you use tyre warm­ers on wets?

GH: That’s a tough one… it de­pends who you ask. I’ve al­ways ad­vised not to use warm­ers but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong an­swer there. If you do, then turn the heat down on your warm­ers as wets don’t re­ally like be­ing above 30 de­grees and you only need them on for 20 min­utes or so. Some rid­ers like to have a bit of heat to start. If it’s good for your mind, then go for it. What­ever suits you best.

IF YOUR PRES­SURE IS TOO LOW YOU WILL GET THAT LETHAR­GIC AL­MOST FLAT TYRE FEEL

Fresh rub­ber is easy to scrub in if it’s been on warm­ers.

Enough rub­ber to make Ron Jeremy jeal­ous.

Not much ac­tual rub­ber goes into tyres these days.

Big grip equals big fun.

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