We all know you can't re-invent the wheel. But ever since that first Mesopotamian mechanic decided to strap a dried crocodile carcass to the wheels of his chariot for better traction in the corners at the local dirt track, tires have constantly been evolving. If oil is the lifeblood of your motorcycle, then the tire ought to be the hands and feet, you'd have a hard time getting any where without `em. Thankfully, due to advancements in technology and materials, tire manufacturers are able to keep up with the ever-changing styles, trends and demands of the H-D and V-Twin community by creating tires that last longer and perform better in a myriad of sizes. We hit up some of the major players in the motorcycle tire industry to see what's new and asked them to give us the lowdown on their products.
Avon's new Cobra tires, AV71 (left), AV72 (right).
Hoppe & Associates has been heading up sales and marketing for Avon Tyres in North America since 1985. Larry Hoppe has strong ties with the V-Twin market going back to when Donnie Smith first talked about how to fit a 150/80-16 Avon on a stock bike. This led to a 180/60B16 and then a 200/55B18. With a new wheel needed to accommodate the fatties, the diameter increase was preferable to show off the new wheel designs. Builders like Arlen Ness finally had something new to build around. In 1998, Avon spaced an existing mold to make the biggest motorcycle tire in the world, a 230/60-15. 2002 saw the entry of the 250/40R18 Venom R. Then a 300 size in 2004 followed suit. Another couple of years and Avon decided to go tall and introduced the 280/40R20 and 130/60R23. Avon has always led the industry in wide tires and it's a case of the tail wagging the dog. When Avon builds a tire this leads to innovations in frames, wheels, right side drives, and more.
HB: What's your newest tire offering(s) for the H-D/custom V-Twin market? What type rider is this tire directed toward?
Our latest offering is the Cobra tire directed at the new H-D Softail, Screamin' Eagle and V-Rod, as well as any custom tires. So basically the cruiser and custom rider is the target. We still have our Venom tire for the touring rider.
HB:Tell us about tread design. What's new? Benefits?
Our new minimalist tread design looks almost tribal and features a snakeskin effect on the sidewall. Benefits are no center groove so no tracking on rain grooves and irregular road surfaces. Big solid blocks of rubber resist cupping and squaring off. The tire is quiet running and the grooves are oriented for efficient evacuation of water.
HB: What about your tire compounds and/or tire structure? Anything new? Benefits?
New is our Wide Custom Tread Arc (WCTA) and Advanced Variable Belt Density. The new profile gives improved maneuverability at all speeds and the use of sport tire technology-wrapping a steel belt tight in the center for more even wear and high-speed stability. And more space out on the shoulders gives a huge compliant contact patch providing a better footprint.
HB: Do you have new tire sizes you are offering for H-D/custom V-Twins?
We have sizes for the 240/40R18, 200/55R17 and 220/50R20.
HB: What would you say is your most popular tire for the H-D/custom V-Twin market?
The 16-inch front and rear Venom tires.
HB: Do you offer replacement tires for H-D Touring models? If so, what's the estimated mileage of these tires?
Yes. From what we have seen from most riders is if they use the recommended Avon tire pressure, which is higher than stock Dunlops, they usually achieve several thousand more miles. So if you were used to 7-10K you would more likely see 8-12K. Avon tires can handle up to 50 psi in the reinforced 16-inch sizes and have several hundred pounds more load carrying capacity than other tire manufacturers.
For more information, visit www.avonmotorcycle.com