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Tech talk: Know your race tyres

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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 involved with racing 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, huge amounts 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.

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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 can also rise and fall with heat.

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

GH: Essentially, slick tyres offer more grip as they have 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.

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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: Wet weather tyres are designed solely to disperse water. They’re not road legal and are just for racing purposes. They offer incredible levels of grip due to the deep tread patterns, as they can shift water at a mind boggling 60 litres per second. The tyres are usually 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 per cent 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.

Read about our TVS Tyres factory visit here

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