A good tire, especially for hot weather

Bridgestone is capitalizing on its technical might as the exclusive tire provider for the MotoGP World Championship by trickling down technologies to everyday riders with its Battlax S20 road tire. The S20 is the Japanese company’s do-it-all sport hoops for the work week commute and spirited rides on the weekend. They’re also designed for the occasional track day. It’s positioned between the BT-003RS (performance-based for track days) and BT-023 (sport touring) models, and sold alongside the older-generation BT-016 Pro road tire.

Made for modern sport-oriented motorcycles of all virtually all engine displacements, the S20 is available in three 17-inch front sizes (110/70, 120/60, and 120/70) and a 120/70-16 (for fitment on odd-ball 16-inch front wheel equipped bikes like Honda’s classic 1992-1997 CBR900RR). Seven sizes are available at the back, ranging from a 150/60-17 all the way up to 200/50-17, meaning it will fit everything from Honda’s entry-level CBR250R all the way to BMW’s ridiculous 190-horsepower S1000RR. We fitted sets during the second day of track testing during our 2013 Middleweight Supersport Shootout X.

Considering the sure-footed performance of the outgoing BT-016 as tested in the Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 Tire Comparison Review, Bridgestone didn’t want to mess with a good thing. Instead, it tweaked the carcass, allowing for a larger footprint that increases with lean. Like its predecessor, the S20 still has a flatter profile that isn’t as tall at the center compared to other name brand offerings. This pays dividends in terms of steering feel with the S20s offering exceptionally neutral handling manners – never turning more or less than what the rider inputs through the handlebar. Sure, there are sharper-steering tire options in the category; however, few offer a more friendly and less intimidating turning response than these ‘Stones. Another plus is the high level of chassis compatibility, ranging from Japanese 600s to Ducati’s unique 848 EVO and MV Agusta’s new F3, so you don’t have to modify the suspension’s ride height or damping settings to get the tire to perform optimally.

Probably the best feature of the S20, besides its increased contact patch, is the new rubber compounding. It still makes use of Bridgestone’s dual compound zones, but the compound arrangement has changed. The front hoop returns to the BT-016’s formula of wider strips of soft rubber on the shoulders, improving grip at lean, between more durable material for mileage and straight-line stability. Curiously, the rear tire goes about it the opposite way with a large section of tough rubber sandwiched between two softer strips that are smaller in width. The rubber formula was also enhanced for faster warm-up and a better operational range, especially on chilly road surfaces. The updated rubber mixture works alongside a new tread pattern with deeper grooves to effectively channel away water on wet roads. However, since we’ve yet to ride with it in the rain, its wet weather performance is still an unknown.

The front tire weighs 8 pounds, 13.8 ounces, while the rear tips the scale at 12 pounds, 14.4 ounces. That’s a few ounces less than the more expensive BT-003RS and older generation BT-016. This helps the motorcycle handle and accelerate faster due to a slight reduction in unsprung weight. Though, to be fair, we conducted this test with 180/55 rears as opposed to the larger section 190/50 used as a previous base measuring point.

On the street and the racetrack, we were pleased with the tire’s quick warmup times, but to be fair it wasn’t perceivably faster than the already excellent BT-016. With the tires aired to the OEM recommendations, grip was sure-footed and the sidewall gave just the right amount of flex, which helps mask bumps on a rough road. At the racetrack, however, faster riders might experience rear wheel spin, especially on more powerful motorcycles. Reducing air pressure allows for more flex, thereby boosting grip without compromising stability under braking or acceleration. Another plus is the consistent traction-feel even after a 20-minute track session on a day with temps over 100 degrees.

Telltale signs of overheating, including that "greasy" feel that we used to experience on older generation Bridgestone road tires, has been eliminated, but the tires don’t offer as much road feel as we remember. This makes it tricky to understand the tire’s adhesion limit. We’re unable to provide an accurate assessment of the S20’s durability and resistance to wear since we haven’t logged enough miles on them. We hope to provide another update upon running them down to the wear bar.

Overall, we were pleased with the S20. It’s an easy tire to get a feel for and works adequately in a wide range of temperatures and road conditions. Although it lacks a degree of road feel, it makes up for that in consistency, especially during fast, hot and long rides, not to mention its excellent bump absorption and ride quality.

Bridgestone Battlax S20 Tire Pressures

  • Racetrack
  • Front (cold): 32 psi
  • Front (hot – off the track): 34 psi
  • Rear (cold): 30 psi
  • Rear (hot – off the track): 34 psi
  • Street
  • Front (OEM recommendations)
  • Rear (OEM recommendations)

Bridgestone Battlax S20 Highs & Lows
Highs

  • Neutral steering
  • Compatible with wide range of motorcycles
  • Quick warmup time

Lows

  • Could deliver more road feel
  • Profile could be a little steeper for quicker handling response
  • We miss the old 5LC (five compound zone) of the BT-016 rears