Michelin Pilot Sport
Fast Freddie's Little Secret?
LOS ANGELES, October 11, 1999
"...real-world sportbike riding on the open road."
Of the five million motorcycle tires Michelin sold in 1998, only five percent of their sales came from North America, while 70 percent came from Europe. Apparently the Europeans knew something that we here in the States weren't privy to, but with the recent introduction of the Pilot Race tire, many of us Yankees have taken notice of what Michelin has to offer. Based on their race-winning, super-sticky Pilot Race tire, Michelin's new Pilot Sport is the street-going version designed for "real-world sportbike riding on the open road."Michelin invited us to a sort of Moto-journalist Grand Prix at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a chance to sample the latest rubber available to the two-wheeled public. The introduction was overseen by Michelin's staff of testers and engineers and was emceed by Freddie Spencer, who made sure that all journalists realized that they are, after all, only journalists and not 500 G.P. Champions.
While the Pilot Race tires are designed to work best at race-track speeds, the Pilot Sport tires are designed, using Grand Prix technology, to be used on the road. They are manufactured with Michelin's patented Silicium tread compound, which uses 100% silica reinforcing fibers derived from the same fibers used in their racing rain tires.
Michelin claims that this Silicium "promotes exceptional grip, especially on wet and cold roads while also extending the Pilot Sport's tread life."
Another trump card of Michelin's is their patented Radial Delta technology used exclusively on their Pilot rear tires. This technology refers to the way the two crown plies are laid at opposing angles.
Where the Pilot Race tires are laid at 45° angles to promote grip at extreme cornering angles, the plies in the Pilot Sport are laid at 75° for an "ideal balance between cornering and stability." When the Silicium is combined with the Radial Delta technology, the Sport tires are supposed to offer grip almost equal to that of the Race tire until heat build-up causes the Sport tire's adhesion to fall off more than that of the Race.
We spent the better part of an entire day lapping the circuit at Las Vegas aboard Honda's CBR-600F4s, CBR900-RRs and a VTR-1000. The Vegas speedway is not your normal road-course affair. It's laid out within the infield of the huge oval track that NASCAR and CART use, and it incorporates a few portions of the big oval into the road course. There are some serious high-speed sweepers, hard transitions both off and onto the banking, some slow turns and a chicane or two. There was ample opportunity to see how these street tires worked when subjected to elevated, too-fast-for-road-riding speeds. The Pilot Sports did a wonderful job of keeping us connected with every little movement taking place.The best indicator of how the tires stuck to the pavement is that, despite all of the scratched knee-sliders, foot-pegs and exhaust canisters, not one journalist fell off all day in spite of a few close calls, and these mishaps were due to pilot error. Things can get pretty heated at Jour no G.P.s, and everyone who rode came in from their session remarking about how well the tires stuck, about how far the bikes could be leaned over and how predictable the tires were.One of the most important points when evaluating a tire is how a rider feels what is going on beneath them. The Pilot Sports did a wonderful job of keeping us connected with every little movement taking place. They were very stable under hard braking and turned in quite well, even when trailing off the brakes into a bend. And when trail-braking towards the apex of a turn, the bike never stood up and forced a wide line. Overall, the tires were very predictable, even when accelerating hard onto the banking while leaned over at triple digit speeds. Throughout the course of the day, even at the end of long sessions, the Pilot Sport's adhesion didn't fall off as the laps took their toll on the tires.
When ridden back to back with the Pilot Race tires fitted to the same bikes, the outright adhesion of the Sport tires fell a bit short. Where judicious mid-corner application of the throttle would cause the rear tire to slip a bit -- albeit predictably -- the Race tires would just huff and get along with their business. But, then again, their primary goal for the Sport is not to be the outright stickiest racing tire on the market. The Sport offers improved mileage over the Race, better wet-weather traction and abundant adhesion for back-road jaunts. And, from what we felt at the track, the Michelins should hold up very favorably when compared to the competiton. We can't wait to get a set on one of our long-term test bikes.
If you are planning on purchasing a new sportbike soon, you'll be glad to know that the Pilot Sports are fitted as OE equipment on all new Ducati 996s, Aprilla RSV 1000s, CBR 929s, ZX-6s, ZX-9s and MV Agusta F4s. The Pilot Sport is already in dealerships, even if only in limited sizes right now. The 120/70-17 is available now, along with 180/55-17 and 190/50-17 rears. More sizes will be available soon, including a 200-section rear tire for fitment on the new ZX-12s. MSRP for the Sports start at $139.20 for the fronts and $169.63 for the rear.