Late in May, Continental Tires invited the press to its facilities near Hannover, Germany, to experience the latest in its line of new ContiAttack motorcycle tires, primarily the RoadAttack2 GT and SportAttack2. Continental also announced new sizes in its Conti TrailAttack and TKC 80 enduro tires for the North American market. In addition to the usual tech briefings, we also were allowed to ride various bikes equipped with the Attack tires on the Contidrom test track, high banking and wet track, along with the autobahn and a rather frenzied street ride.
While many tire manufacturers offer dual or even triple compounding, with a harder rubber compound in the center of the tread for mileage and a softer compound on the shoulders for grip in turns, Conti offers what it calls Continuous Compound Technology. Through a temperature-controlled process, it says, CCT offers the same sort of benefit with a single compound.
Traditionally, it is recommended that motorcycle tires receive a break-in period of about 100 miles to roughen the surface for optimal grip. One innovation across all its tire lines is what Conti calls Traction Skin technology, a “micro-roughness” of the tread designed to optimize adhesion between the tire and the road to shorten the break-in period.
The Attack line has been available for eight years, but several models within it have been upgraded for 2012. The SportAttack2 is intended to provide agile, precise handling for high-performance sportbikes, and is original equipment on the new 2012 BMW S 1000 RR. It features Conti’s Black Chili Compound that contains silica and carbon black for faster warm-up for enhanced grip. The entire Attack line is manufactured in Korbach, Germany.
The tire that may interest Rider readers most is the RoadAttack2 GT, intended for heavier touring, naked and GT bikes. The new GT version is built with a stronger carcass thanks to an additional carcass ply, which increases load-bearing capacity and resilience.
The Contidrom test facility has a wet track, high banking and 2.4-mile test track that is essentially a racetrack. Members of the press were first invited to ride the track on a variety of bikes from various manufacturers equipped with the RoadAttack2 GT and SportAttack2, where I soon found myself riding as hard as I dared in leathers borrowed from Rider Road Test Editor Greg Drevenstedt, pushing harder than I ever would on the street, staying out of the way of the young knee-draggers who were passing me like I was nailed to the asphalt.
Next came the high banking. It would be nearly impossible to run off it, so the rider feels like a marble passing through a hose—I cannot crash, therefore I’ll wick it up as much as I dare. Because of the banking the rider has to look up rather than forward as centrifugal force pushes the head down. It’s all a unique opportunity to go as fast as you dare…and we did.
The 1.2-mile wet track is doused by sprinklers, and I rode as fast as I dared for several laps in third gear. Gaining confidence, I eventually upshifted to fourth, and soon the rear briefly broke loose as a warning that the envelope was being pushed. At this point I was riding much faster than I would have attempted on a wet road.
That sunny afternoon we were led to the autobahn where, as an old touring guy, I opted for the “slow” group. That meant we were soon rolling through the German countryside at a safe-and-sane 190 to 200 kph (118 to 124 mph), while the young lions in the other group were smashing bugs considerably flatter.
The following day we were given a tour of the Continental tire factory in Korbach, where we saw the tires being manufactured. One of the most intriguing aspects was that the steel belt is applied circumferentially in one continuous 56-meter (183.7 feet) strand, neatly wound around the tire like thread on a spool. The tire tread is then applied as a hot layer that chemically adheres to the carcass, then the whole shebang is placed into a mold in which a bladder is inflated inside to force it against a form that essentially imprints the sipes and tread pattern into the still semi-molten robber. Finally, it undergoes a curing process to “cook” it into a finished tire.
Following the plant tour came a rather frenzied street ride through the Harz Mountains in which our group of about 25 riders was led over backroads lined with trees at speeds that were similar to what we’d done on the autobahn the previous day. What amazed me was that our leaders would pull out to pass, even into the teeth of oncoming traffic, and the cars would simply move over to let the bikes through in a long and howling line.
With nearly 35 years of motorcycle and related product testing under my belt, I can attest that the most difficult part of my job is tire testing. They’re round, they’re black, they stick (usually). Except for subtle differences in feel and how quickly they turn (which can vary from one size and application to another), there’s not really much concrete information to convey other than what’s inside that sinister carcass. Unless they fail or send us sliding down the pavement, most tires tend to perform well enough.
This was the most complete tire test in which I have ever participated. Over two days our group had ridden a dry track at speed, a wet track, the high banking, the autobahn, and then an absolutely insane street ride, the latter two with the speedo reading between 140 and 200 kph for much of the time, all on the same tires. It is my contention that one will not likely ever ride harder than our group rode during those two days. In addition to being round and black the Conti SportAttack2 and RoadAttack2 GT stuck very well, turned precisely and offered good feel, not only for an old touring guy but also for the knee-draggers in our group. In all, I was very impressed with the tires.
For Continental motorcycle tires contact your local motorcycle retailer or visit contionline.com.
(This Intensity on Two Wheels article was published in the September 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)