Mc Tested: Avon's Viper Sport Tires

Impressive performance--even in the wet!--from Britain's Azaro sport replacement

The scene was all set for the launch of Avon's new Viper tire line. A line of shiny sportbikes stretched across the paddock of the Pembrey circuit in south Wales, wearing the new tires in both standard Sport and super-sticky Supersport compound. The only problem was that it was raining like mad on this section of verdant Welsh coast.

Avon's factory is in England's West Country, not far from south Wales, which explained the venue. At least the rain delay allowed plenty of time to gin up on the Vipers, now on sale in the States a few months after being launched in Europe. Developed to replace the Azaro range (which Avon is retaining for sport-touring duty), the Viper comes in Sport, Supersport and track-day Xtreme options. The Xtreme, which we didn't test, has less tread for circuit use only.

The Viper's profile is more rounded than the Azaro's, giving a smoother transition when cornering plus increased stability under braking, according to Avon. A more rigid carcass improves tire life despite a softer compound that provides more grip. Avon tested five different compounds and 14 types of carcass at 11 different racetracks before deciding on the final spec.

The rear Viper incorporates Avon's variable belt den-sity construction, which fine-tunes rigidity using the Aramid fibers around the tire's circumference. The belts are closely packed at the center to aid stability and wear resistance, and more widely spaced at the edge of the tire to give a larger footprint under cornering loads.

The tread pattern is new, designed to clear water from the contact patch and reduce tread flex. The base-model Sport tire, designed for street riding and occasional track use on a wide range of bikes, incorporates silica in its compound to improve grip in the wet and at low temperatures. The softer Supersport, which comes only in the most popular 17-inch sizes (120/60 and 120/70 front; 160/60, 180/55 and 190/50 rear), has an identical tread pattern without the silica.

I was grateful for the Vipers' ability to warm up when the rain finally stopped as I set out aboard a Honda CBR600RR on a damp circuit with a few dry patches. The Avons gripped impressively well and barely slid in the treacherous conditions. Give some credit to the abrasive track surface, but the level of grip was very reassuring.

The Vipers also did a good job when the sun finally came out and we got to play in earnest. The Sport rubber was well capable of keeping Triumph's sweet-handling Daytona 650 in line, and the Supersport gave impressive levels of grip even when I traded Kawasaki's rev-happy ZX-6R for the extra grunt of a Honda CBR1000RR.

Making meaningful comments about tire performance is difficult, especially when you can't test new rubber against competitors' products. But I was very impressed with the Avon's grip and feel, especially the standard tire's performance in the damp. If you aren't near the front of a track-day on one of those last three bikes with the Supersports fitted, it won't be the fault of the Vipers.

Gilles Superbike System**
What's that, Bunky? Stock chain adjusters getting you down? There, there. Let Lockhart Phillips make things all better with its Gilles Tooling Superbike System. L-P says the German-made device offers simple, ultra-accurate chain adjustment, while being stronger and more attractive than the stock hardware. The lift fixture also works with a variety of paddock stands. Available to fit popular sportbikes from Japan and Europe, the Gilles Tooling pieces come in black, titanium or gold for $199.95. (800) 221-7291,

Crg Gp Clutch/Perch Lever**
CRG already makes some of the most sought-after control levers in motorcycling, as used by several teams in AMA professional roadracing. Now the firm has developed a positively lust-worthy control for cable-operated clutches, the GP Clutch/Perch Lever. Made almost entirely from CNC-machined-from-billet parts, the GP unit utilizes a double-ball-bearing pivot, a folding lever, adjustment of the lever's static position to accommodate different hand sizes, variable leverage ratio, on-the-fly cable-adjustment wheel plus a thumb-actuated ratcheting cable-slack adjuster. Ask it nicely and it might even get you a beverage. The GP Clutch/Perch Lever retails for $395 from the Constructors Racing Group. (831) 763-7811,

Lustrelab Total Bike Care**
There are riders who'd rather wash their bikes than ride them, but they're as common as wolverines who like their bellies scratched. For the rest of us there's LustreLab's Total Bike Care, or TBC. LustreLab claims TBC replaces the need for a host of conventional bike-wash products, which should save you time and money. The company also says TBC contains no petroleum distillates, adds an acrylic bond to your bike's surface that provides protection and shine, and leaves your skin soft--what more could you possibly want? Retail price is $10.95 for a 24-ounce spray bottle. (864) 322-0440,

Set Up Vision**
Set Up is at it again. The motorcycle footwear value-leader from Motonation has created the Vision, claimed to be the best buy in a sport boot. There's more than a ring of truth to that claim. Take a look: The Visions feature synthetic leather uppers, double-stitched at high-stress points; a soft, pleated material in the Achilles and instep for excellent flexibility; a vented cotton/poly-blend liner; and extensive use of injection-molded plastic, such as for the shin plate, wraparound heel cup, internal and external ankle shields, and recessed shift pad. All that, in red, blue (U.S. sizes 8-13) or black (U.S. sizes 5-13) for $129.99.