Long-Term Yamaha R1 Tire Test: Bridgestone Battlax R10 vs. V02 Slick Tires

DOT Race Rubber and Racing Slicks: Head-to-Head Track Test

Wrist: Zack Courts
MSRP (2015): $16,490
Miles: 3082
MPG: 33
Mods: Bridgestone tires

This product test and update is part of a running story of Zack's 2015 Yamaha R1 Long-Term Test, which he prepped for the track and then raced. To read more about the project, click here.

Yamaha R1 wheelie
Thorough tire testing means making sure stability is maintained when the bike is on one wheel. Fine, also it’s fun.Photo: CaliPhotography

You could say it's common knowledge that slicks offer more grip than treaded tires, but a more complicated question is, why? What is it about a tire with no tread that makes it better? To find out, I raced this Yamaha R1 test bike (essentially stock) on Bridgestone R10 DOT race rubber and then subsequently on Bridgestone V02 slicks.

I first used the DOT-spec R10 in 2012, in our “Shogun Showdown” cover story comparison of Japanese superbikes, and was impressed. The R10 has evolved since then, with small tweaks and upgrades to compound and carcass construction designed to offer longer life and more consistency over a wider range of temperatures. Evolutions in tires are small and nuanced these days, in part because most tires are awfully good and making them better is equally difficult.

On the new tire, peeling through Chuckwalla Valley Raceway’s looooong, double-apex corners was more a matter of will power than managing grip. The R10 is extremely sticky, yet compliant over bumps and predictable when the rear tires breaks loose under power. In fact, in the first couple of sessions I hardly slid the R1, simply because the tire offered more grip than I needed or could use. At the end of the weekend however, after using both sets of tires for approximately 4 sessions, grip was fading and slides were much more prominent. In inspecting the grooves in the R10 (especially the rear), small tears were evident and growing with every session. This is where the speed of the bike and rider come into play—a rider lapping faster than I did would have felt these effects sooner, whereas a slower rider would get more life out of the tire.

Motorcycle tire test: Bridgestone V02
Seriously, don’t use slicks on public roads. In addition to being illegal, the compound and carcass of the tire isn’t designed to work on the street. Also, it’s wasting rubber that would grip like hell at a track!©Motorcyclist

About a month later, I raced the same course (in the opposite direction) on the same bike, in roughly the same weather, on Bridgestone’s Racing Battlax V02 slick rubber. The slicks feel stiffer, and the feedback through the bars and seat is more direct, yet there is more grip available. The profile is also steeper on the edges, meaning when the bike falls into corners more aggressively. For expert riders, this is a big advantage. The V02 is not built for stability or usability on the street; it’s built for pure performance when racing.

Then there are the wear characteristics of the V02, which are much better. Where the tread grooves in the R10 started to tear, the V02 does not suffer because there are no tread grooves. Also, grip falls off less dramatically after a few sessions, and the tires stand up to heat better than the R10. When I raced on the R10 air temperature were in the mid-to-high 80s and yet the rear tire was overheating, our pyrometer measuring the rubber at temperatures over 200 degrees. Adding pressure helped, but that’s a finite resource, because the contact patch will get smaller as pressure rises, and in keeping the tire cooler you will lose grip. No such trouble with the V02 slicks. Pressure stayed within Bridgestone’s recommendations, and the rubber did not reach temps above 190 degrees. The V02 slicks are designed to compress and increase the size of the contact patch while being able to tolerate the heat of 170 horsepower and steep lean angles.

Bridgestone V02 slicks tested
How a tire should look after a day at a racetrack: No harsh wear or bands of torn rubber. A uniform tire is a happy tire. Instead of wear bars in the tread, slicks use those little holes to determine how much rubber is left.©Motorcyclist

To answer the question I posed at the beginning, it’s a combination of things. Not having tread means a larger contact patch and less damage from wear, and the more aggressive profile helps the bike turn and settle into corners in a way that is conducive to lowering lap times. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the V02 slicks are designed for racing. Massive amounts of R&D dollars are poured into evolving the tire’s potential, and it’s made to stand the intense heat and pressure of racing. It’s more advanced—stiffer, while offering more grip and generous wear—and more expensive. More resources have been dedicated to refining the technology, and the result for this application is just plain better.

On the topic of price, something to note about the R10 is that it’s about $50 cheaper, per set, than it was in 2012. It’ll be $350/set in R1 sizes ($340 with a 180-section rear). The V02 slicks are noticeably more expensive, at $413/set (with a 200-section rear for the R1). But, as I said above, better durability and lots more grip, too, if you’re able to use it. Bottom line, for beginner and intermediate riders I would recommend the R10—it’s a solid performer with lots of grip. For advanced and expert riders, you probably already know what feels best, but if you haven’t tried slicks you owe it to yourself. If you can tell the difference you’re probably ready.

A more detailed account of weekend one aboard the treaded, DOT-spec R10 race tire can be seen here: Yamaha R1 Project Update.

A note about conditions and other circumstances for testing: Both races I attended were at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, the first in counter-clockwise direction and the second in the clockwise direction. The clockwise direction is historically faster, although usually it makes a difference of under a second, according to the lap record listings at cvmaracing.com. Weather (more specifically, wind) is also a common issue when racing with CVMA, but the two weekends in question for this test were comparable. There was more wind at the first event, when I tested the R10 DOT race tire, which likely cost a few tenths in my fastest time. Lap times on the R10 tires were consistently in the 1:52 bracket (counter-clockwise at CVR), with a best time of 1:51.9. Lap times on the V02 slicks ranged mostly between 1:49.5 and 1:50.5 (clockwise at CVR), with a best lap of 1:49.1. Tire warmers were used prior to all sessions.

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