When you hear the name Continental, you probably think of the tires fitted to your grandmother's Buick, not high-performance motorcycle rubber. However, the German company enjoyed tremendous success in the two-wheeled world during the 1970s and '80s, racking up eight world championships before shifting its focus to auto-motive applications.
In 2002 Continental re-entered the bike biz, investing millions in the effort. That resulted in the Attack family of premium tires, of which the Road Attack 2 is the latest addition. They boast a list of innovative features and technologies such as Black Chili compound, Conti's special blend of resins, carbon black and silica aimed at balancing durability and grip. Continuous Compound Technology (CCT) is the German manufacturer's approach to the multi-compound craze. This uses a homogeneous mix of rubber that is given varying levels of hardness (stiffer in the center of the tire, softer near the shoulders) during the curing process, creating compound zones rather than discrete bands. The carcass consists of a zero-degree steel winding and the tires have a steeper profile for quicker handling and deeper lean angles.
Continental textures its tire molds and treats them with a permanent anti-stick coating so
Aside from the checkered sidewalls and swooping tread pattern present on all members of the Attack family, the RA2's most striking physical feature is a fine graining of the tread surface. It's what Continental calls Traction Skin-a rough, grease-free finish that eliminates the traditional "scrub-in" period and allows you to ride unrestrained as soon as the tires reach operating temperature.
To put the RA2s to the test we traveled to the Contidrom, Continental's testing facility in northern Germany. The grounds accommodate a dry handling course, an irrigated wet handling course and a high-speed oval with fantastically steep 58-degree banked turns (almost twice Daytona's 31 degrees). The Road Attack 2s are billed as sport-touring tires, but it's important to note that while in America that means touring first and sport second, in Europe the term is taken quite literally. Sampled on a selection of standard, sport and touring bikes, we were able to experience the tires' behavior under myriad conditions.
To begin we set out on the dry handling course, and immediately noticed the benefits of the Traction Skin. Halfway through the first lap, this American's knee pucks had already kissed German asphalt. Handling was excellent, with quick-yet-neutral response and a stable sensation leaned over. While riding some of the less powerful bikes a friendly competition erupted, and a 15-lap "Moto-Journalists' Grand Prix" ensued. Despite ever-increasing speeds, vanishing braking points and standard street pressures, the tires' performance remained consistently good throughout. On more muscular bikes like the Kawasaki ZX-6R and Triumph Speed Triple the tires were quickly pushed beyond their limits, but the slide behavior proved progressive and controllable.
In the wet the Road Attack 2s provided plenty of grip for safe-yet-spirited riding. Cornering feel was good, with a fair amount of squirm signaling the limit. Traction while upright was superb, with enough friction available to apply full throttle or brake hard enough to make the back end get light.
Inspecting the tires at the end of our two-day test, I could still make out the "Conti Attack" text embossed in the tread. Until we get a set levered onto one of our long-term testbikes, that will have to serve as an indicator of the RA2s' longevity. But assuming they wear at a reasonable rate, these new tires might just shift riders' perceptions of Continental away from that boat of a LeSabre and back to motorcycles where they belong.
Continental Road Attack 2 Sport-Touring Tires
Price: $135-$165 front; $185-$210 rear
Contact: Continental USA
Verdict 4 out of 5 stars
An excellent do-it-all tire, from commuting to intermediate-level track days.