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Tyres

25/05/2017

 TRIED AND TESTED 

Two things I learned on Avon’s recent launch of its new sport touring tyre – the first was that jackets designed for Nordic conditions may be great for British weather, but by golly they’re hot under the Mediterranean sunshine, and the second was that there is absolutely no point in trying to keep up with an ex-racer on your first time on a track, even when he is taking it easy.

Avon had selected the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimao on Portugal’s southern coast as the venue to reveal its new Spirit ST, which it bills as a “hypersports touring” tyre, to the press. The Spirit is a replacement for the Storm 3D X-M, which will continue as a ‘second tier’ sport touring option in the range at a lower price point.

The press contingent, a mix of British and European reporters and test riders, plus one intrepid soul who had made the journey from New Zealand, was first introduced to the Spirit via a wet-condition braking and stability test. A Suzuki Bandit equipped with outriggers was hustled up to 35mph and then riders tried to emergency brake in as short a distance as possible on a flooded section of Tarmac. The lack of lock-ups or drama was testament to the work done by Avon’s design engineer Ash Vowles to improve wet grip and water disbursement.

Road testing followed, with riders selecting from a wide range of machines to tackle a twisty route up into the Algarve hills. I tried the Spirits on a Triumph Speed Triple, Suzuki GSX-S1000F and Yamaha Tracer 700 to see how they measured up.

The tyres warmed up quickly from the off, giving good levels of confidence as I tipped into the roundabouts leading away from the circuit. As speeds increased heading along the sinuous lower section of the test route they felt reassuringly grippy on all three of the bikes, even on the dusty and broken tarmac. As the corners became tighter and the road climbed the tyres proved to be light-handling and made it easy to lean the bike from one side to the other. Even the Suzuki’s snatchy and abrupt throttle action in the tighter corners failed to upset front-end grip.

And so to the track. Steve Parrish, who has been retained by Avon Tyres as a brand ambassador to help promote the UK brand’s range, led two sighting laps of the twisting and undulating circuit, full of blind crests, hidden apexes and a mix of high-speed and tight corners. We were then let loose on a sun-drenched track on a choice of machines – bliss.

The Spirits showed that using a sport touring tyre on track is not an impossible task. Fitted on the Yamaha XSR900, Suzuki GSX-S750 and Triumph Street Triple RX they were grippy and confidence inspiring for this novice track user. Even on the heavier and more powerful Kawasaki Z1000SX and Suzuki GSX-S1000F they proved to have ample front-end grip, although some of the faster testers reported a tendency to spin-up under power at full lean.

To provide all this performance, the Spirits use a variety of new technologies. A multi-compound rear tyre is not unusual these days, but the Spirits use extremely high levels of silica reinforcing to improve low-temperature performance and enhance wet grip. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of 3D sipes (thin grooves in the tyre) which improve warm-up time. Variable density radial belting is said to improve stability and reduce wear.

The Spirit STs come in a variety of popular sizes –  fronts in 17, 18 and 19in diameters, rears in 16, 17 and 18in diameters – and are priced from £88.93 to £100.66 SRP for the fronts and from £106.62 to £163.87 SRP for the rears. Deals on pair prices should be available.

Watch the Spirit ST launch film here.

Avon Tyres
tel 01225 707050
www.avonmotorcycle.com