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Sport Motorcycle Tyres

There are many kinds of motorcycle sport, from scrambling to Enduro and from speedway to Superbikes. But when we use the term “Sports Motorcycle” in this context then we refer to motorcycles designed for the fast road rider.

The typical buyer who chooses a sports model is one who appreciates a motorcycle’s performance for its own sake but who also needs it for everyday use. They arguably became famous with the introduction of the Honda Fireblade and the Ducati 916. But a large range of “Sports” motorcycles are available from 600cc upwards…

Whatever their size, one of the easiest ways for owners to optimise their performance and running cost is the tyres.

What are sport motorcycle tyres?

The design of a good sports tyre is a challenge for tyre makers. A sports tyre should warm up quickly to the temperature at which it performs the best and then dissipate heat efficiently so that it stays there. It needs to be very durable under the crown where the traction is applied to the road on those long straights but have extra flexibility on the shoulders for confident cornering.

These problems are why sport is at the very heart of motorcycling, not just an afterthought. Sport puts huge pressure on both motorcycle designers and tyre designers to be inventive and innovative and those innovations then sell their products to the motorcycling mass market.

Few companies have worked harder to associate their name with motorsport than Pirelli. Two of their leading offerings in this game are the Super sport standard “red devils” - the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV Corsa and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV. Again, a high silica content helps them warm up rapidly.

The Bridgestone company have a long-established reputation for supporting motorcycling and no doubt that is why it is difficult to fault the Battlax tyre family: it is hard to go wrong with them, especially as an all-purpose tyre for both track and highway. They offer wet weather safety, durability and fuel efficiency. For sheer sport performance, one of the latest and best is the Battlax HyperSport S22. Bridgestone claim the rubber is engineered down to the size and orientation of the silica particles so that more silica is presented to the road surface without having to weaken the tyre by adding more.

Continental recently enjoyed a surge of popularity as innovative providers of racing and dual sport tyres. One of the most celebrated is the Sport Attack IV. This uses Race-inspired Black Chili compound and tread pattern which also offers highly effective water clearance on wet roads. MultiGrip technology improves mileage over previous generation tyres 2 by creating a wear resistant central area and progressively increasing grip levels towards the shoulder, with no sudden change in compound.

Dunlop never disappoint and their latest offering has been the SportSmart Mk 3. Dunlop have a race-to-road philosophy of producing high performance sports tyres continues with the new SportSmart Mk3. Its Dynamic Front Formula (DFF) design construction combined with innovative compound composition offer improved grip and performance, in all conditions. This ensures the Mk3 pushes the envelope of what’s possible, to match the performance of the latest HyperSport motorcycles and supernakeds.

The Dunlop Qualifier Core is at a different price point but delivers the essence of HyperSport tyres – excellent grip, dynamic handling and great feedback. Modern technology and innovative manufacturing methods mean you can experience the levels of performance previously restricted to high-end tyres at exceptional value.

Metzeler are very popular on Motorsport and Supermoto bikes and they are also major suppliers to the Isle of Man TT. Recent offerings include the highly praised Sportec M7 RR and M9 RR. The latter has more durability than the former so is a better choice if you do more road miles.

Choosing the best sports tyre for you

While all the above are excellent tyres, you cannot choose the ideal tyre without considering your motorcycle, your usage and your own driving habits. There is no “best tyre in the world”, only the best tyre for you. Choosing your tyres is an opportunity to maximise the merits and compensate for the shortcomings in your particular riding experience. On the highway, confidence keeps you safe; on the track confidence helps you win.

You must also consider the motorcycle. No matter how slight their weaknesses, no motorcycle is perfect. Some have a slight oversteer or understeer, or they are a bit long for the turns or give too little road feedback or too much and so forth. Equally, every rider is a different weight and height, they have longer reach or shorter legs or a less flexible back. So too the roads: your region may be notoriously wet or dry, there may be many hills or none at all. In order to achieve that ideal confidence, you need to choose tyres that adapt the driving experience to overcome whichever of these possible shortcomings applies to you.

Finally, you must consider availability. Not all tyres are available in all sizes and this is not just because they are out of stock. Tyre designs are developed with a specific range of motorcycles in mind: differences in weight or torque will make a big difference to how a tyre design behaves. In fact, when studying the performance specifications of a particular tyre design, you should be aware that the specifications may vary for different sizes in that same tyre.

Always check that the tyres you are looking at are suitable for your motorcycle – and that means checking their dimensions, load index and speed rating. If you aren’t buying a matched-pair, then also check that you are fitting tyres that are safe to use together. In particular, never fit a rear tyre that is more flexible than the front tyre. There are some general rules about this which can be illustrated as follows:

Safe tyre combinations

Front tyre Acceptable rear tyres
Cross-ply Cross-ply, bias-belt, radial or zero-degree
Bias belt Bias-belt, radial or zero-degree
Radial Radial or zero degree
Zero degree Zero degree

Sports motorcycles are finely tuned, so we would never consider fitting tyres with anything other than the exact specified dimensions on this class of motorcycle.

To find the correct Load Index and Speed Rating for your motorcycle, your manual is always the safest authority. You can also check for specifications written on your current tyres but not all motorcycle tyres carry them and you should still compare them with your manual or the manufacturer’s website. The tables below provide a general guide.

Tyre Load Index

Code Kg
31 109
32 112
33 115
34 117
35 121
36 125
37 128
38 132
39 136
40 140
41 145
42 150
43 155
44 160
45 165
46 170
47 175
48 180
49 185
50 190
Code Kg
51 195
52 200
53 206
54 212
55 218
56 224
57 230
58 236
59 243
60 250
61 257
62 265
63 272
64 279
65 289
66 299
67 307
68 314
69 324
70 335
Code Kg
71 345
72 355
73 365
74 375
75 387
76 400
77 412
78 425
79 437
80 450
81 462
82 475
83 487
84 500
85 515
86 530
87 545
88 560
89 580
90 600

Tyre Speed Index

Index mph
B 31
C 37
D 40
E 43
F 49
G 55
J 62
Index mph
K 68
L 75
M 81
N 87
P 93
Q 99
R 106
Index mph
S 112
T 118
U 124
H 130
V (&Z) 149
W 168
Y 186

These are minimum tyre specifications for motorcycles that might carry those loads or potentially reach those speeds, whether you think it is likely you will ever do so. They are specified by the manual and on the public highways these minimums are law. Never fit any motorcycle with tyres that do not meet these specifications. In fact, we would advise anyone who races seriously to consider tyres with better than these minimum specifications.

Giving tyre advice is always easier when the motorcycle and rider are present. Fortunately, specialist advice is free at Market Tyres (Southend) Limited. Contact us online or by phone on 01702 343165.