Bridgestone claims that in spite of improved overall performance, the new S20s last as lon
Bridgestone’s street tire offerings run the gamut from long-wearing touring buns like the BT-023s to high-performance DOT race tires like the R10s used in this issue’s “Class of 2012” superbike comparison. The new Battlax S20 Hypersport tires slot somewhere in between. They supplant the BT-016 Pros and reside in Bridgestone’s versatile “Sport” category, suitable for commuting, aggressive street riding and track days.
During the S20 press introduction at our hotel near the Portimao race circuit in Portugal, Bridgestone presented us with a battery of charts depicting appealing upward shifts. Compared to the BT-016 Pros, the S20s are said to have better traction in the wet and dry, improved steering response and an increase in better feel at full lean. New rubber compounds offer faster warm-up and improved grip at all temperatures, while a revised tread design and some tweaks to the carcass construction yield a larger footprint at all lean angles, resulting in an increase in traction and feel. Revised compound segmentation finds more soft rubber on the shoulders of the front tire and less on the rear. The broader center compound should help preserve the tire’s profile and contribute to more consistent performance throughout its life.
Tire tests are some of the most exciting events we get to attend because the host provides a wide array of bikes to ride, and Bridgestone didn’t disappoint. I started the day on a Kawasaki ZX-6R, following former MotoGP racer Jeremy McWilliams until I got my bearings on the challenging, undulating, 2.9-mile Portimao circuit. The S20s felt sure-footed after just one lap and were fully warmed-up after two. Traction was sufficient to cope with full-throttle corner exits on a 600, but stepping up to an Aprilia RSV4R and Yamaha YZF-R1 served to show how much traction the S20s have and how they behave when that traction runs out. With the bikes’ TC systems turned off, slides were progressive and easy to maintain, increase or end. Feel from the front tire wasn’t stellar, but traction proved to be excellent so faith followed.
The S20s felt neutral while trail-braking and didn’t mask or enhance any of the bikes’ inherent handling characteristics. Traction and resistance to overheating are noticeably better than the S20s’ predecessors. While the BT-016 Pros may have allowed you to ride at 7/10ths, the S20s let you turn it up a notch. When the tires were changed at mid-day they’d already been flogged for eight 20-minute sessions (the equivalent of your average track day), and showed very little wear.
During a street ride around the Algarve region of Portugal the following day, we observed a conservative pace on the occasionally damp and often dirty back-country roads, but both tires felt warm to the touch when we stopped. The unpredictable nature of the narrow roads required frequent mid-corner trajectory and velocity adjustments, and the S20s took everything in stride. We expected the S20s' long, wide tread grooves to cause the tires to track along pavement seams, but they showed no tendency to wander.
The S20s are terrific tires for the intended market, with the grip and performance to satisfy aggressive street riders and A-level track-day pilots. They’re available in four front and seven rear sizes, including a 130/70ZR-16 front for the Honda CBR900RR holdouts as well as a new 200/50ZR-17 rear for 1000cc-plus superbikes..
Bridgestone Battlax S20 Hypersport Tires
Price: $170.22-$182.69 front,
Contact: Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Noticeably better than the BT-016 Pros, which were some of our favorite street tires.