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Sport-touring tyres on road and track – Conti Motions

Continental’s tyre range somehow isn’t as ‘sexy’ as the other major manufacturers, but I’ve been familiar with their range since the late 70’s, when I first fitted their tyres to replace the truly awful tyres on my Honda 400-four.

Through the 80’s, I often used their grippy (for the time!) TKV11 front tyre, pairing it on various bikes with the long life Avon Roadrunner mkIII rear. The TKV is still available as a “classic” tyre, incidentally.

But by the mid-90’s I’d switched to Michelin radials and continued to use them where possible until quite recently, when I found it increasingly difficult to get Hi-Sport pairs for the Hornet.

Having seen good write-ups of the Contiforce radials, I tried a couple of pairs and they were OK in the dry, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by their winter wet weather grip, particularly at the rear, but the longevity was comparable with something like the Pilot Road or the sport touring Bridgestones, and their economical price was a definite selling point!

Then in mid-2008 Conti released their new “Motion” range. It’s not a tyre that’s appeared in any tyre test that I know of, but the price was right, I needed a pair of tyres and so I gave into temptation and ordered some up for the Hornet.

Results were better than I’d hoped for. The Conti Motions behave impeccably on the road in all conditions from hot and dry to cold and sopping wet, with good grip under braking and stable with progressive steering. They are a distinct improvement on the Contiforce radials.

So I’ve stuck with them on the Hornet, and I’m more than happy with them as an all-round road tyre.

As it happens, I had another chance to do a short track session last week, and this time I was on the trusty Hornet 600, rather than the XJ6 Diversion I rode back in May.

The first thing that showed up was the extra power of the Hornet. Now, according to the spec sheets, they are only 4hp or so apart, but suffice to say the Hornet was 15mph faster down the back straight at Castle Combe, reaching a top speed of around 115 by the time I was rolling off over Avon Rise for the sharper right of Quarry. (And don’t bother to tell me how slow I am, I’m well aware of it from the speed the Castle Combe instructors come past!)

The second obvious difference was that the new suspension on the XJ clearly out-performed the rather tired suspension on the Hornet, with the XJ handling the bumps much better.

The Hornet suspension probably didn’t help the tyres out but the third thing I noticed was the difference between the way the tyres on the two bikes reacted to the day.

On the first session back in May on the Diversion, the nearly-new Dunlop Roadsmarts had started to produce little balls of rubber across the entire tread surface, and over the course of the next two trips out on the track, that continued and the tyre behaved consistently.

By contrast, on the first session, the Conti Motion on the rear just looked “cleaned” right to the edge of the tread. No marking up of any kind, no balled-up rubber, just no chicken strip left.

On my return from the second half dozen laps, it was interesting to see that the edges of some of the tread blocks were starting to tear off. Still no balled-up rubber though, the rubber was still nice, clean and smooth, and the bike still handled fine (up to the limits of the suspension).

On the third and final session, I had a couple of minor twitches from the rear. Whether this was down to me trying to ride a bit faster I’m not sure, but I took the hint and slowed down a touch and completed the session without further drama.

Looking at the tyre back in the pit area was interesting though; the scrubbed area was still clean and smooth, but it now had a sticky, oily looking deposit on the last couple of mms of the extreme edge of the tyre where I hadn’t scrubbed it over on that particular session. It did cross my mind that it was this oily looking stuff that caused the twitches till I backed off a touch.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera to hand to snap a pic, which would have been useful.

I’m no tyre expect but I suspect what I was looking at was a tyre beginning to overheat.

I have to say I had no complaints with the Roadsmarts on the track, and they were fine on the road, at least when they were new, but the payback for the track performance is that they don’t last on the road.

The rear Dunlop was totally squared off to the point where it affected the bike’s handling from about 3,500 miles and by 4,500 miles the rear was worn out down to the wear limit. However, the front still had quite a lot of tread. Very few of the on-road miles were motorway use – in fact, the best part of 1000 were fast and twisty N and D roads on the way to the Dordogne and back – so I can’t point the finger at dull motorway miles as the cause of the squaring off.

By contrast, the previous two pairs of Conti Motions on the Hornet have handled twisty roads as fast as I wanted to ride them in the Ardeche last year, coped with mid-summer deluges in Wales, and offered excellent feel in all conditions right into the freezing weather last December.

The icing on the cake was that they lasted just on 10,000 miles each. Considering that mileage including a fair amount of M25 work, they retained their profile well, and they wore out as a pair.

Now that’s what I call a sport touring tyre!

If you’re in the market for a tyre which you don’t have to change every couple of months for a middleweight, do a lot of fairly upright miles in mixed conditions, and can cope with more spirited riding from time to time in the twisties, then the Conti Motions are definitely recommended by me.

But I’d say they are not a tyre that can cope with the demands of the track, even with a not particularly quick track rider on board! It may well be that if you are very quick on the road, you might find they struggle too.

Personally though, given what I need a bike for, I’ve now fitted Conti Motions on both the Hornet and the Diversion.

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