Following the introduction of the new Bridgestone BT-023 sport-touring tire line in Japan and my factory tour and tire review from that trip (Rider, August 2010 issue), for a real-world follow-up I sent two pair of BT-023s to my buddies Dick and Bryar, who own identical 2005 Yamaha FJR1300s and ride like demons. In addition to sizes for everything from 600 sportbikes to the BMW K 1300 GT, Bridgestone offers special “GT” versions of the BT-023 in 120/70-ZR17 front and 180/55-ZR17 rear sizes for high-output torque monsters like the Yamaha FJR1300, BMW K 1300 GT and BMW R 1200 RT. For the same MSRP, the BT-023 GT is said to offer similar handling and performance to the standard BT-023s in those sizes, but with even more longevity, a plus for FJR and other high-performance sport-touring bike owners (if for no other reason than they’re sick of having to change tires so frequently).
Every summer following the MotoGP at Laguna Seca Raceway in California, Dick and Bryar take off on a multi-day ride on their bikes, trading the lead but otherwise riding together the whole way. Same roads, same speeds, same gas stops, etc. Could there be a better (albeit unscientific) way, I thought, to see how the standard BT-023s hold up against the GT versions and vice versa? Do they really perform similarly (which was my assessment from some back-to-back track time in Japan), and do the GTs really deliver more mileage?
More than 2,500 miles later here’s what they reported:
Bryar, BT-023 GTs: We had the tires installed at the same time at GP Motorsports in San Jose, so we had the same exact starting point, mileage, and riding conditions. That photo of Dick with the yellow “Winding Road 140 miles” sign is typical of the kind of roads we sought on this ride. These are our kind of roads, and we tested these tires on them for nine days. We pushed them hard, chasing each other for more than 2,500 miles. Grip was very predictable, neither had a tire advantage and the wear was similar–sides and center.
Bottom Line–we think they wear the same and have the same traction (stopping, cornering and acceleration). Maybe one could tell a traction difference on the track, but one cannot on the street. Not many can hang with us on our nine-day trips–we ride hard and push these bikes.
Dick, BT-023: We were very pleased with their performance and wear, which is probably somewhat better than most of my experiences with various tires on my FJR over the past five years. I didn’t experience a particularly noticeable variation in grip from those other brands, as none were especially slippery, but I believe the Bridgestones are wearing better, both in terms of depth and uniformity of wear across the tire, from bead to bead. I look forward to getting some continued use out of this set, though I doubt it will exceed another 1,000 miles.
While I typically have had to replace rears at around 2,500 miles due to both pronounced wear and non-uniformity of wear pattern, with the edges usually grinding off first, these tires appear headed for a more satisfying result. My front tires have tended to last possibly another 500 miles, though the sides have generally shown considerably more wear than the centers.
One possible variable may have been that these tires were kept inflated at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure of 36 psi, while I may have run others at slightly softer pressures. Still, the Bridgestones gave away nothing in grip, and performed very well across a wide variation in road surfaces (nearly all of which were paved).
My conclusions? Dick weighs a bit more than Bryar, so if anything that means the standard 023s would hold up even better against the GTs than demonstrated here. Either way it would seem that fast-riding sport-touring bike owners seeking more longevity and strong, even-wearing grip have a good option in either the standard Bridgestone BT-023 or BT-023 GT tires. Given that the distinction between them is largely an additional belt in the front and rear GTs, greater differences in handling might emerge when the tires are used on lighter sport-tourers or sportbikes. And greater differences in wear on larger bikes may arise when your riding is primarily long distances on straight highway, where the GTs may resist squaring-off longer than the standard BT-023s. We’ll just have to get the guys to test that theory next year–if we can get them to ride straight up-and-down for that long.