Gripping stuff: motorcycle tyre technology at the limit

MotoGP’s acrobatic qualities at eye-watering speeds all depend on traction. Just how different is the existence of Marquez, Rossi and co to the normal road bike user?

This weekend MotoGP will produce the kind of sights and scenes that have helped establish the series as arguably the closest and most spectacular of motorsports; one that is immensely followed on a global scale. The Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley will take place within the fabulously sweeping, fast and demanding curves of Mugello; where bikes will complete 5.2km in less than two minutes and hit almost 220mph at the end of the main straight, when they’ll brake down to 57mph in just 300m for the ‘San Donato’ opening corner. 

Whether it is another Marc Marquez ‘save’ that defies physics of how two wheels and a motorcycle remain perpendicular, the thick black lines, crazy lean angles or searing temperatures, Mugello will provoke more wonderment, as well as a reminder of how Grand Prix is a level above-and-beyond most people’s experience and expectations of motorcycling.

The speeds and performance of these multi-million euro prototype machines (and thus the athleticism of the riders) are mostly conditioned by the efficacy of the control tyres, which have been supplied by Michelin for the last four years. The French firm are using the extremes of MotoGP as the ultimate R&D. “Once we find something that works in MotoGP we want to give some of it to the commercial tyre for the end user,” says Michelin Motorsport Two Wheel Manager Piero Taramasso. “We try to have some of this transfer of technology to the road tyre for the same things: grip, consistency and better feeling.”

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