Current hypersport tyre delivers classic Bridgestone neutral feel with superb wet weather performance
Pasir Gudang, Johor, Malaysia & Singapore –
We’re all familiar with how car and bike brands have certain implied characteristics – a Harley, for example, delivers thundering torque and laid-back ‘Easy Rider’ experience, while Kawasakis are known to be risque, green-speed-demons.
It’s also true for tyres as well, or at least when it comes to motorcycle tyre. Pirellis are acutely rounded and fast-steering but don’t last very long, while Metzelers are evolving away from being a touring-tyre company (see our review of the Racetec RR after this)
The Bridgestone Battlax S20 Evo tyres we’re testing here have been on the market for a year or two, but there are good reasons as to why we’re reviewing them here: It takes time to do a comprehensive tyre test, it takes time to get the tyres that we actually test, we’ve tested the predecessor to these tyres and lastly, 2016 will see the debut of a new, S21 tyre model that’ll replace this current model.
Bridgestone pitches the S20 as a ‘hypersport’ tyre, which really doesn’t say much. To be fair, cutting through tyre marketing spiel is even harder than it is for machines – at least cars and bikes don’t all look round, black and with grooves on them. But take a peek at our handy chart below for more info.
It’s a good chance to reiterate just what’s expected of a sport tyre: Good handling, decent all-weather performance and longevity, plus the ability to cope with the occasional track day.
The ‘Evo’ part of the name comes from the fact that this is a ‘facelift’ of the original S20 which debuted in 2012. Bridgestone says the new tyre has better straight-line and cornering stability, front grip and is easier to lean with than previous, while the rear is also 25 percent longer-wearing.
The front tyre has the same triple compound layout as before but has a more rigid belt construction – all modern radial tyres use steel and nylon belts as their ‘chassis’ with the rubber compound going on top of this base. The rear tyre has the improved belts, plus an enlarged bead filler and five-layer compound instead of three previous. We’re assuming that allows for a harder-wearing centre strip for straight line work, coupled with softer shoulders and softer edges for better handling.
Bridgestone also has some of its patented tyre technologies as found in its other car and bike products, for example RC Polymer and Silica Rich EX which allow for combined characteristics of good wear and wet weather performance.
S20: On The Road
As mentioned, the ‘inherent’ character of Bridgestones seem to be neutral, stable handling and predictability. We tested the BT-016 Pro tyres which were the predecessor to the S20 (and still available on sale now, so they’re a rung-down in price) and they lasted very well on a 7,000km trip to Thailand and back, plus a track day thrown in too.
We haven’t had enough time to cover that sort of distance, but we’ve shod our regularly-ridden Triumph Daytona 675R with the S20 and covered almost a 1,000km with them on commutes and spirited rides with standard 36 psi front and 42 psi rear pressures.
It seems the Bridgestone ‘nature’ holds true with the S20 Evo. In direct comparison to the previous tyres on the Daytona, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa BSB, the S20’s feel less flighty and stable, but at the same time also less agile and require more effort to ‘drop’ the bike into a lean for turns.
We should make it clear here that this is not a bad thing – it really comes down to what the rider expects of the tyre. Pirellis, in general, have a more aggressive U or V-shaped tyre profile, while the Bridgestones, as far as we can see, have a fatter C-type profile.
The overall construction of the tyre also feels stiffer than the Pirellis, which meant we had to back off our suspension settings quite a bit (rebound and compression on both ends) to get the ride quality back to our liking.
This explains the handling and stability characteristics. With a narrower profile you have quicker turning but likely also a smaller contact patch. The S20’s offer rock-solid stability at all phases of cornering (entry, mid-corner/max lean and exit). But though it required a bit more effort to lean in, we felt it didn’t detract much from the already very agile 675R, and it’s something that smooth, deliberate riders will appreciate.
Stability extends to braking performance too, with the front end loaded up and on practised e-braking maneuvers, it was harder to get the ABS to kick in and stopping distances (disclosure: not exactly measured) felt improved too. No coincidence too, since Bridgestone claimed front-end stopping and feel was another point it improved on the Evo model.
The S20’s real party trick, just like the BT 016 Pro, is its wet weather performance. Bridgestone’s claims again seem to be verified here. Typically, the sportier the tyre, the more you have to tiptoe when it gets damp. Luckily we tested the tyre during the year-end monsoon season on roads with moisture levels varying from just damp to torrential downpour, and it’s high praise for any tyre if you can ride the same way you do in the dry as you do when the monsoon weather really starts to come down.
You certainly don’t have that confidence-sapping sense of being disconnected from the road, or riding on metaphorical ice, as the S20s feel plugged in and even able to handle good amounts of lean without slipping.
S20: On The Track
We also tested the S20s at Pasir Gudang circuit in Johor, Malaysia and came away with some interesting conclusions as well. It took awhile to get the bike dialled into the tyres – again the Bridgestones seem to have a very stiff construction, which mean using softer suspension settings than before, and the MotoBuyer team did three separate sessions with tyre pressure ranging from 32psi hot all the way down to 25psi hot front and rear – we found 28 hot to be a good balance between them in the end.
The same Bridgestone solidity shone through on the track experience and this delivered more confidence at higher speeds which translated to slightly higher top speed on the straights (before and after Turn 1). As with our street experience, the S20s don’t seem to turn in as quickly, but hold the line steadily even with accidental rider movement during the mid and end-corner phase.
One big shortcoming of the tyres though is that they don’t seem to faciliate bigger lean angles – hence there is a lower limit to your ultimate corner speed. At the long left hander, Turn 3, the end of the back straight, it’s easiest to get your knee down but the S20s seem to reach a certain angle of lean and then ‘stop’. Crack MotoBuyer test rider Deyna also did a session on the tyres and concluded the same thing – so it’s not a case of not enough skill/balls to lean – and you can see in our photos the wear pattern on the tyre shows the extreme edges of the tyre to still be relatively clean.
Still, that’s not exactly a huge shortcoming, but it’s something experienced riders, or those aiming to set a lap time, should note. In fact it’s not surprising at all, given Bridgestone’s own brief of the S20 Evo as they are for “riders who want to start track riding”. The good thing here is that if you’re a beginner to track days, the S20 Evos could give you a good starting point as well: Over our three sessions and almost 30 laps, the tyre wear was very uniform and notably less than on other tyres with softer compounds. Given Pasir Gudang’s tendency to eat through tyres like Cookie Monster with baked goods, it could also be a good choice for those who can’t drop $400 plus on a new set of tyres every two sessions.
The S20 Evo are still a great set of sporty road tyres and deliver classic Bridgestone qualities that might make more powerful, fast bikes more accessible to riders. The excellent wet weather performance also shines, and we also expect the tyres to last a long time too. But that does come at a cost though, as track junkies looking to set their personal bests should look at a dedicated track tyre as the S20s are just a starting point for circuit riding.
While the promising new S21 model is launching very soon, Bridgestone typically continues to supply ‘existing’ models (like the BT-016 Pro) so the S20 Evo can still be a very relevant product for those who need great on-road performance in all conditions.
Bridgestone Battlax S20 Evo
Size Tested: Front 120/70 R17; Rear 180/55 R17
Price As Tested: $380 a pair, tyres only
Tested On: Triumph Daytona 675R