In Tires We Trust: Laying It On The Race Line

Like every rider in the MotoAmerica Series, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin trusts his Dunlop tires. That’s how he goes fast and wins EBC Brakes Superbike races.

Last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park, I was given the opportunity to enjoy the Dunlop M4 Suzuki Two-Seater Experience, and the single most eyebrow-raising discovery of that experience was how fast Chris Ulrich was able to go through the corners, how far he was able to lean, and how amazingly well those Dunlop tires maintained grip.

I’ve been a motorcycle rider for more than four decades, but I’d never before gone as fast through turns as I did when I was on the back of that bright-yellow, Dunlop-liveried GSX-R1000 motorcycle.

It came down to a matter of trust. I had complete trust in Chris Ulrich because I know he is a highly skilled rider, a former Superbike competitor, and he’s taken passengers on the Dunlop M4 Suzuki Two-Seater Experience hundreds of thousands of times without incident.

I also had complete trust in the Dunlop tires. For riders who do track days, the thing that hinders them from going faster is that they don’t put enough trust in the tires on their motorcycles. This lack of trust influences 1) how much braking force they think they can use, 2) how far they think they can lean their bikes over in the turns, and 3) how much they think they can twist the throttle when exiting corners.

MotoAmerica road racers, and especially those racers who compete in the EBC Brakes Superbike class, exploit the full potential of the Dunlop tires on their motorcycles

Tire Grip While Braking

With faith that the Dunlops will do their job, Supersport rider Hayden Gillim rolls through the turn and is about to twist the throttle on his Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha.

For track-day riders, applying the brakes while the bike is vertical or nearly vertical is pretty much no big deal. With the bike near vertical, geometry will become a factor before front-tire grip is.

To allow the front tire to best do its job, apply the brake lever so that the weight transfers to the front in a controlled way. This means a quick but smooth application of the front brake that transfers some of the weight to the front more smoothly, and loads the tire correctly before reaching full braking force. Do this, and the front tire will cope with as much braking force as you can apply, until you reach a point where the rear wheel begins to lift and you can’t brake any harder or you’ll go over the handlebars.

Tire Grip At Corner Entry And Mid-Corner

Lean angle is the area where motorcycles riders struggle the most. The primary job of the front tire is to turn the bike and keep it rolling through the turn, and it’s perfectly capable of doing that job at high lean angles while remaining firmly stuck to the ground. Trusting the front tire in turns is a difficult mental hurdle to overcome because most riders (who aren’t named Marc Marquez) know that losing the front end pretty much means you have little or no opportunity to save it. For most riders, though, lean angle isn’t the limiting factor. The limiting factor is what the rider is doing with the other controls at the time.

As long as you don’t apply the brakes too aggressively going into the turn, you stay as relaxed as possible while in the turn, and you roll the throttle smoothly back on while coming out of the corner, your tires will do their job better than you can probably imagine.

Tire Grip At Corner Exit

Corner exits are where most riders are more willing to test the limits. Losing rear traction isn’t anywhere near as scary as losing the front, especially if you have the bike upright before testing those limits. But trying to do too much too soon with the throttle is the tricky part.

Getting back on the throttle before the bike is pointed in the right direction can cause you to run wide. This creates a situation where you’ve got the bike leaned over, and in most cases, you can still lean the bike over even more to prevent yourself from going off the track. There’s that matter of trust once again.

However, if your exit line is good and you’re picking the bike up as you smoothly roll the throttle on, you’re not likely to get into trouble. And, if you do happen to lose grip, you’re not likely to slide and lose control because you’re already picking the bike up.

To Have Trust In The Tires, Have Trust In Yourself

The capability of your tires is much higher than you probably realize, as I discovered during the Dunlop M4 Suzuki Two-Seater Experience.

So, what this all comes down to is having trust in yourself and what you’re doing because, if you’re doing things correctly, you’re giving the tires the best opportunity to work as they were designed.

Good technique alone isn’t enough to make you brake later, lean over further, and get on the throttle harder or sooner. Eventually, you have to step into the unknown, and that’s a matter of moving past your previous limits and building more confidence, allowing you to tap into the tires’ true potential.