The supermoto season is drawing near. As I prepare to swap the ice tires with the motocross tires, I can’t help but reflect on how mild this winter has been in southwestern Ontario. The lack of ice has pushed me indoors to ride motocross to stay sharp. That got me thinking about tires, and how I have used different brands over the years with varying degrees of success. One sure thing is that tire selection is as varied as rider personality. Each tire has similar characteristics, but is very individual in how it grips the track and how it behaves through its usable life. A supermoto-specific tire is a lot like a road racing slick, albeit with a light, flexible carcass designed for less horsepower and a lighter bike.
It is shocking to think that the small, sometimes toonie-sized contact patch is all that we have to use for traction on our motorcycles. The contact patch is the portion of a bike’s tire that is in actual contact with the road surface. The size of contact patch does vary depending on tire pressure and weight distribution; a lower tire pressure results in a larger contact patch. Similarly, weight transfer during braking or accelerating can affect the size of the contact patch.
The temperature of the tire also plays a huge part in the traction available at any given time. Tire manufacturers have recommended tire pressures when the tire is up to temperature. It’s always best to set and adjust tire pressures after riding, to tailor for feel and grip. Ambient temperatures will determine track surface temperature and, along with friction, will ultimately affect tire temperature.
Like I stated earlier, I have used many different brands of tires. When I first started riding, like most of us, money (or lack thereof) was the largest determining factor in the selection of my tires. Supermoto is great for beginners because one can expect to use one set of tires all season. A set of slicks and maybe, just in case, a set of rain tires can give you that extra bit of grip, and security on rainy days. A rain tire is grooved and the compound incorporates silica to improve wet grip as well as the tire’s ability to get up to temperature quickly.
Manufacturers such as Shinko, Maxxis, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin and Goldentyre all produce a supermoto-specific tire. Goldentyre is the new control tire for the USA Pro Supermoto for the next three years. The Canadian Goldentyre distributor is GP Moto out of Kamloops, BC. They have tires for the upcoming season if anyone wants to check them out. From what I have read in forums, they perform like the Michelins or Dunlops, with identical grip and feedback and a slow wear through the tire’s lifespan.
All manufacturers make a few optional compounds with different grip levels and wear rates; this allows you to select the appropriate tire, depending on ambient temperature and asphalt type, to ensure optimum results. The best way to determine what you need is to speak with your knowledgeable tire distributor and fellow racers at the track.