Avon's AM22 and AM23 Vintage Racing Tires

These Tires are the Real Deal for Vintage Racing: If you want to win -- or seek maximum traction for your street bike -- buy a set of Avon's AM22 front and AM23 rear tires.

There are few aspects of vintage motorcycle racing that require the latest cutting-edge technology. Rather, a slow and steady refinement takes place over many years, eventually reaping the benefits of continual development cycles.

This does not, however, hold true for vintage racing tires. The pace here is quicker: Every year or two a new tire bursts into the vintage racing scene, dropping lap times and "changing the game" as we once knew it. Such is the case with Avon's new AM23 130/650VB18 series rear tire and AM22 110/80-18 front tire, the result of specific development work at Avon Racing in England.

Well known British vintage racer John Cronshaw was involved in the development of Avon's newest vintage racing tire, with the end results obviously being a tire that is specifically designed for the weight, power and rim specifications of vintage machinery that is available only in a sprint racing compound.

In particular, we found that the 130/650VB18 series rear tire can be mounted on rims as narrow as 2.15 inches (WM3), which is the widest rim size currently allowed in some of AHRMA's smaller classes. Even on these narrow rims, Avon's 130/650VB18 series re ar tire maintains the same contour and width as if it were mounted on a 3.0 inch (WM5) rim. The widest rims sizes allowed in vintage racing are 2.15 inch (WM3) to 3.0 inch (WM5) (depending on the class) in AHRMA, and 3.0 inch (WM5) for all WERA vintage c lasses (but not including WERA Super Vintage, which can use any width rims).

One has to wonder how Avon engineers managed to provide such a constant contour profile for various rim widths, and an obvious clue is the unique inset bead area of the rear tire. The design of these sidewalls obviously eases excessive carcass bending on narrow rims while still maintaining a low profile tire. In addition, the special casing design, which incorporates two nylon and one Kevlar ply with one Kevlar and one nylon circumferential belts, was laid out specifically with this point in mind, while providing an extremely stable and large contact patch area.

Avon's front tire, the AM22 110/80-18, is of a more conventional sidewall design and is recommended for 2.15 inch (WM3) to 2.75 inch (WM4.5) rims. Both tires are only available in a sprint racing compound.

Our test bike was Vintage Editor Dr. Rob Tuluie's (59) Championship- Winning 750 Norton Commando race bike, equipped with a 2.15 x 18 inch front rim and a 2.5 x 18 inch rear rim, the maximum allowed for AHRMA's Sportsman 750 class. Here, Tuluie is followed by Michal Eiland (641) and Al Charles (74). Photo by EuroTech.

Our test site was Daytona International Speed Week during the AHRMA vintage races. Daytona is renowned for demanding the highest performance from any tire; furthermore, it is the most competitive vintage race (apart from the WERA Grand National Final at Road Atlanta) for this type of machine.

During the first practice session, a few laps of scrubbing in tires were followed by progressively harder riding. Tires pressures were set initially at 30.0 psi front and 32.0 psi rear cold, and a quick post-practice check revealed a pressure rise of 3.0 psi in the front and 5.0 psi in the rear. Consequently, we lowered tires pressures to 29 psi in the front and raised the pressure to 34 psi in the rear. The second practice session justified this change as tire pressures now rose 3.5 and 4.0 psi in the fr ont and rear tires, respectively. In addition, the tires were pushed harder in the second session. While we were still somewhat tentative to explore the unfamiliar limits of traction of these tires, no tendency to "push" the front or slide the rear was ex perienced, even at near-race pace. In addition, steering behavior was steady and gradual, thanks to the nicely contoured profiles.

The true test of the new Avons came during the Sportsman 750 race itself, where our tester, Vintage Editor Dr. Rob Tuluie, had to start from the last row of the grid (row 13), with over 50 bikes gridded in front of him -- the largest grid of any AHRMA rac e. Even on the first lap of the race the Avons provided secure grip as evidenced by the fact that Rob went from the back of the pack to fifth place in one lap. No slips or slides during this hectic first lap was encountered, even when abrupt maneuvers wer e necessary in order to avoid turfing some slower riders ahead. By the third lap our tester had settled into a steady pace and was gaining ground on the leader of the race, who was running quite a bit further ahead. This scenario provided our tester wit h an excellent opportunity to push the bike and tires to the limit at every turn without the struggle and distraction of nearby competition.

What ensued was pure bliss: The lateral grip of the Avons is phenomenal! Maximum lean angles were executed repeatedly and securely without any slip form the tires. In particular, Avon's front tire provided insatiable grip and never developed anything but just a very minor and predictable slide. Even pavement patches that -- on the identical machine in the past -- have caused a slight chatter in the front end under extreme lean was now mastered without any hint of chatter. Under straight line braking, Avon 's front tire provided stable, "non-walking" deceleration and smooth turn-in. Braking while leaned over, such as in Daytona's turn one, was equally secure.

The performance of Avon's 130/650VB18 series rear tire was equally impressive: Only under hard acceleration from tight turns would the rear tire break loose, and then only in a very predictable manner. Even longer slides out of the tighter turns could be executed without excessive oversteer angles and without any tendency to highside. Of course, any tire will eventually reach the limits of traction and lead to large and dangerous slides, but given the wonderful predictability of both front and rear tires this tendency is considerably reduced and placed squarely in the hands of the rider.

Back to the racing: The event had come down to the last lap and our tester was now less than two seconds behind leader Larry Kirby going into the infield for the last time. A last ditch, hell-bent-for-victory effort in the infield -- demanding the most fr om the tires this late in the race -- enabled Tuluie to get into the slip stream of race leader Kirby for the first time during the entire race. And a fortuitously-timed drafting pass coming towards the finish line allowed us to draft by and capture the win!

Without a doubt part of the credit for this win goes to these phenomenal tires. Having raced his Norton Commando for over 10 years on virtually every available vintage tire, our tester was both surprised and grateful about the excellent performance of the Avons. Whether this level of performance can be maintained throughout a few more races or whether the tires will harden up and loose traction remains to be seem, but so far there are no indications of any decrease in tire performance even at the end of o ne of the most competitive vintage races. In fact, inspection of the tires after the race revealed a well-scuffed and, on the rear tire, a somewhat ragged surface, but no indications whatsoever of excessive wear or overheating.

In conclusion, Avon's 130/650VB18 series rear tire and AM22 110/80-18 front tire deserve our most-coveted five star rating, even considering their somewhat higher retail price (see below for pricing information). Simply put, they are the top of the crop.

For current prices and availability, contact:

Avon Customer Service
407 Howell Way
Edmonds, WA 98020  

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