Find out which tires handle best

Tires are one of the most important factors when it comes to the handling of your motorcycle. It’s what separates a great ride from just a good ride. So as a follow-up to our last tire comparison, we’re putting 11 sets of the latest and greatest road rubber to the test by lapping them at The Fastest Road in the West, Willow Springs Raceway, during a two-day evaluation to find out which hoops are the best.


This time eight tire manufactures stepped up to the plate: Avon, Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Michelin, Metzeler, Pirelli and Shinko. We asked each to submit one or more samples of its current sport rubber designed for high-performance street riding (not racing) in 120/70-17 front and 190/55-17 rear fitment for a 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000. We then divided the models into two categories: A and B. The A group are the premium, top-of-the-line tires in each manufacturer’s respective lineup, while the B group represent a more affordable but still capable sport tire solution.

English tire brand Avon supplied its 3D Ultra Xtreme 3 for the A group and the 3D Ultra Supersport for the B segment. Bridgestone followed suit, offering its Battlax S20 for the premium segment and an updated "Pro" version of the successful and previous B-group-leading Battlax BT-016s.

Continental is a new entry for our shootout, and as such, the German brand shipped its top-of-the-range Sport Attack 2 (A group), a tire that comes as OE fitment on some new BMW S1000RRs.

Dunlop, the reigning shootout champ, enters the competition with its new and improved Q3 shoes, while French rubber powerhouse Michelin wished us to test the equally fresh Pilot Power 3s. Both were slotted into the A segment. Metzeler also joins the fray with its Sportech M5 Interact that features a new special "D" compound rear for the B class. Its Italian sister company, Pirelli, submits a retooled Diablo Supercorsa SP V2 that comes as standard equipment on both Aprilia’s RSV4 Factory APRC and Ducati’s 1199 Panigale superbikes.

Last but not least are highly-affordable options from Shinko, a Japanese brand with production based in Korea. The A group gets its more expensive Apex tire, while it enters its Verge 2X donuts in the B group.


Because it would take months of riding to put enough miles on each set on the street, we quite literally sped things up by conducting this exercise strictly at the racetrack. The first day was spent at California’s Willow Springs Raceway on the fast and flowing 2.5-mile main course. The big track is especially tough on tires because of 100-plus-degree summer pavement temperatures, highly abrasive asphalt and ultra-high-speed Turns 8 and 9. On the following day, we moved to the shorter 1.3-mile Streets course, which emphasizes a different set of parameters, including heavy braking and acceleration, as well as quick transitions from left to right and vice versa, often over pavement irregularities and large bumps.

Beforehand, each tire was weighed and measured. Once mounted to the motorcycle, tire pressures were set according to each manufacturer’s recommendations. Continental, Dunlop and Shinko didn’t submit a recommended pressure, so those were set to our internal suggested baseline of 32 psi front and 30 psi rear. Each tire was then wrapped with Chicken Hawk Racing tire warmers to conceal their identity to the rider (the warmers weren’t powered so we could gauge each tire’s warmup performance). At the end of each day, we used a durometer to measure the tire’s hardness, comparing it to when it was new.

After a quick warmup on the GSX-R’s OE-fitted Bridgestones, we employed our proven blindfold test methodology. Here’s how it worked:

The rider spun six laps on each set at random on the big track, and another seven (again in random order) on day two at the Streets. Temperature and pressure sensors monitored the tires and were augmented by our trusty data acquisition partner, Kinelogix. The data helped us evaluate the Warmup Time scoring category. Other criteria including MSRP, Weight and Lap Times made up the remaining objective components of the scorecard.

Each model was further rated on an equal number of subjective measures, including Steering, Stability, Grip and Overall Preference. Points were then assigned based on our longtime scoring system with 10 points for first, eight for second, seven for third, six for fourth, etc. We then tallied the points to arrive at a winner. Now it’s time to find out what’s the best motorcycle tire.

Objective Scorecard Glossary

MSRP: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price for a set of tires, both front and rear.

Weight: The combined weight of a front and rear tire when new, not mounted on wheels.

Warmup Time: The measure of the time it took the tires to arrive at operating temperature on the track after leaving the pit according to data supplied from the manufacturer. Since Continental and Shinko didn’t provide a temperature, they were assigned an average minimum operating temperature based on the average temperature of the brands that did submit data.

Lap Times: Combined best lap time between the 2.5-mile main track and 1.8-mile Streets course.

Tire Wear: We took multiple tread depth measurements of each tire to calculate wear characteristics, but due to measuring inconsistencies on account of rubber-balling (edges of the tire get so hot they melt and form balls), the data was inconclusive. We are investigating new testing methodologies for the future.