MC Tested: Bridgestone Battlax BT003 Racing Street Tires

Introduced at the 2008 Intermot Show in Cologne, Germany, Bridgestone's new BT003 Racing Street tires are now available to the public. The BT003RS is the next step in the progression of the Battlax line, replacing the BT002RS and filling the gap between the tire-warmers-recommended BT003 Race and BT016 Hypersport street tires. Designed with a new "Ultraction" shoulder compound, the BT003RS is said to have better feedback, grip and stability than its predecessor, and is tuned for sportbikes flogged on twisty roads and race circuits.

The BT003RS's riding intro was held at the Almeria Circuit in Spain. With a full day of riding and a variety of machinery, we were able to get a good feel for the tires' capabilities. Turn-in was smooth and linear, and the carcass design proved impressively stable while braking at the end of the 140-mph back straight. The tires also behaved well while trail-braking, although post turn-in deceleration was intentionally kept to a minimum out of respect for the tire's dual-natured design.

While the front tire performed impeccably all day, the rear didn't. It had a hard time coming to grips (literally) with Almeria's numerous high-speed sweepers. The new compound is sensitive to tire pressures and has a narrow ideal operating range. The morning sessions were spent experimenting with rear tire pressures in an attempt to achieve an operable balance, but a workable compromise eluded us. Almeria's predominantly right-hand layout, with nine right turns and five lefts, created a large temperature variance from one side of the tire to the other. Increase tire pressure so the right side doesn't overheat and the left side never gets up to temperature. Reduce the pressure enough for the left side to warm up and the right side gets greasy. In both circumstances, the rear tire spun and slid when the gas was rolled on.

The slides, however, were astoundingly smooth and easy to control. Unlike race tires or stickier street tires that have a tendency to slip and then hook up quickly and upset the chassis, the rear BT003RS simply wags gently to the outside in a predictable and manageable power slide, with a sizeable margin for error.

Besides making you feel like Garry McCoy, the slide characteristics of the BT003RS make them an excellent learning tool for advancing track-day riders. Bridgestone's sport-tire lineup is meant to be climbed like a ladder, with the expectation that riders will ascend the performance rungs as their skills develop. While they're not optimum for experts pursuing lower lap times, novice and intermediate riders may find the BT003RSs worth a try for their slide and throttle-control educational value.

Although advertised as a street/track tire, we were only able to experience the 003RSs on the track, where the speeds and lean angles surpass anything a rider would attempt on the street. With more time to experiment with tire pressures and suspension settings, we're sure better results could have been attained. But it'd be a tough sell to choose the BT003RSs over Bridgestone's own BT016s, which offer higher and more consistent traction for the same price.

Bridgestone Battlax BT003 Racing Street Tires
Price: $169.50 - $280.77
Contact: Bridgestone Americas Inc.

Verdict 3 stars out of 5
Not as sticky as advertised, and too difficult to find a set-up for the average rider.

The tread pattern is similar to the BT003 racing version, but with longer shoulder grooves tuned for better bump absorption and wet-weather traction. S-shaped grooves across the center of the tire are said to improve contact feel, braking grip and traction.
The BT003RS is offered in a range of sizes to accommodate sportbikes from 250cc up to 1200cc. Smaller 140, 150 and 160mm-wide rears will feature a 3LC, five-compound tread similar to the BT016 to further improve cornering grip and resist uneven wear.