Where is the grip limit of the tire? How far can one go before the tire lets go?
These traction concerns are not only for the sport enthusiast rider, but in the mind of most. This post we will give some tips to keep in mind to help you react to your bike’s road feedback between the road and your tires. Above everything, we must first acknowledge that there are a multitude of compounds and tire shapes that directly affect a bike’s behavior. The type of bike and suspension will also play a crucial role.
Our brain, in normal conditions, is capable of reacting very fast. Movements and sensations a bike can transmit through the tires and suspension happen in a fraction of a second. Therefore, it is extremely important not to consume any alcohol, medications or other substances. This may hinder your ability to feel what the bike is doing and unable you to react precisely.
Let’s now explain how a certain type of motorcycle and riding style can affect a bike’s behavior. Before we do this, we must make some variables clear. A sport tire with a narrow circumference like the ContiSportAttack 3 has a faster ability to lean into corners and enforce a better contact patch than a touring or cruiser tire like our ContiTour, which tends to have a wider or rounder circumference shape for a more delayed and less aggressive lean into corners. Also, the harshness of the carcass can also affect the braking and acceleration performances.
A softer carcass is more sensible, while a harder carcass is more indifferent to road imperfections. Off-road tires like the TKC 80 also have different characteristics. Off-road tires with more tread will adapt better to on-road conditions while tire with less tread or more negative ratio will adapt better off-road. All this is supposing that the tires have been inflated to the manufacturer specifics, how it should always be.
Braking and leaning
Let’s imagine for a minute that we are riding a sport bike that weights around 440 lbs, has 118 hp, sophisticated variable suspension, a pair of ContiRoadAttack 2 EVO tires and is being driven over a dry winding road with medium 45 mph corners. In the toughest brake inputs, when the tire momentarily deforms to adapt to the asphalt. It is here we need to apply the most pressure, at the beginning and gradually remove it from the brakes. For total confidence and control, a minor pressure should be applied over the handle in the opposite sense of the turn. This way the rider will notice the total and precise lean of the wheel when letting go of the brakes. This happens as the suspension expands in a less aggressive way when leaning into different angles.
Be fearless, confident and commit to the chosen leaning angle. This way the motorcycle won’t make any extra movements, leaving the road imperfections to the tires and suspension only. The limit of the lean angle will be determined by the radius of the turn, speed, and physical limit of the motorcycle and the rider. If the limit is exceeded, is probable the contact patch will be minor and the rider may find him or herself on the edge of losing control. During acceleration, something similar will happen and the rider must get the feel for the rear tire.
Smooth, keep it smooth
The gas should be applied progressively as the motorcycle gradually starts to straighten itself up and out of the turn. This way, traction will always be available and reliable. If the rider is too aggressive with the gas, he or she will feel and hear the tires squealing and start going sideways. If this happens, make sure not to let off the gas too quickly. You will need to lift the gas slowly, until the motorcycle gains the right composure and stability.
For many riders a squeal may be too late, therefore; Continental addressed this with its latest GripLimitFeedback core technology. This technology – included in the ContiSportAttack 3 – increases the level of safety during extreme lean angles. The rider receives feedback from the tires at an early stage in critical situations for a higher level of control at the limit.
In case of losing control of the rear during a turn, it’s better if the motorcycle slides to the exterior, this way it doesn’t come back to the inside. Coming back to the inside would cause a harsh rebound created by the preload of the shock. Remember that the alignment and position of the rider’s body is essential to feel the constant surface of the road. Remember that you can help stabilize the motorcycle to your advantage. Press your feet on the footrest, slightly raise your elbows and move your body forward or back. Forward when braking, back when accelerating. By doing this, our brain will be better connected to the bike inputs.
It is the same story for wet conditions, the only thing that changes are the rider’s inputs. Inputs should be significantly less aggressive and more subtle. Since all the rider’s inputs will be softer, braking, acceleration and turning should be elongated. Over very wet circumstances, it is recommended to try and release the suspension preload in order for the brain to better process the bike’s movement, since wet roads provide very little caution and can cause a sudden loss of grip. Unlike dry conditions, you won’t hear the tires squealing before losing control.
We hope that after reading this post you will be able to ride safer during dry and wet conditions. You should also have a better understanding when feeling the bike’s overall grip.
Until next week!