If you have ever owned a big adventure bike, you know keeping it in off-road-specific rubber can become a massive drain on your wallet. The added off-road security of chunky tyres (particularly up front), allows you to attack the dirt with a little aggression, and they certainly do make off-road riding a lot more pleasurable. But that pleasure can start to get very costly.
So for the most part, it makes a lot more sense to run rubber that lasts longer than a few days when heading off on an adventure. Tailoring your off-road riding technique to suit less grip in the dirty stuff, while reveling in the levels of on-road performance available for you to exploit on the tarmac, can be the cost effective approach to take.
Bridgestone’s A40 rubber astounded me on the launch of the new DL1000 and DL650 V-Strom a while back. We went places that long-time Tour Far North Queensland motorcycle tour operator, Roy Kunda, had never seen negotiated on what were essentially street tyres. We slipped and slid through soft sand, along with some fairly deep and rocky river crossings, yet managed to somehow remain upright, even if my nerves were quite frazzled by the experience after a few days of concentration.
That Bridgestone A40 tyre, which impressed when used so far out of its design criteria, has now been replaced with the new Battlax Adventure A41, which promises a generational leap in performance over its already impressive predecessor.
Most of the new technology has been focused on the street abilities of the tyre because, like its predecessor, this rubber is aimed at mainly tarmac use, and not serious off-road shenanigans. It is still what you would describe as a 90-10 tyre – 90 per cent on-road, 10 per cent off-road.
One of the main focal points in Bridgestone’s switch to a new multi-compound carcass for both the front and rear hoops was to provide much greater purchase and surety in wet conditions, while not sacrificing longevity.
Water drainage channels and the so-called ‘sea-to-land ratio’ is a distinct area of improvement across the shoulders of both front and rear tyres. Bridgestone claims the new A41 is now an incredible 8 per cent faster around their test circuit than its predecessor.
That improvement stems from a nine per cent higher friction coefficient in the wet, and a five per cent larger contact patch. That all translates to the A41 performing brilliantly in the wet.
Bridgestone claims to have achieved that improvement with zero impact on wear levels. As anyone who has closely followed the absolutely astounding improvements in motorcycle tyre technology will attest, the incredible levels of grip now afforded are amazing. Tyre companies continue to make improvements in grip, while simultaneously improving wear rates to levels that are almost equally as astonishing.
So while the science of climate change might still be a matter for conjecture, the science behind modern tyre technology is not. Tyre compounds are endlessly studied and experimented with by scientists and engineers, right down to the molecular level. It’s all polymers, nanotech technology and silica percentages – science at a level neither you or I are going to have much chance understanding. But what’s important is the benefit we derive from this wizardry.
Dry grip of the A41 is also dramatically improved according to the spider chart provided by Bridgestone that compares the A40 to the new A41. All I can say is that on the roads of Morocco they stuck perfectly, steered nicely, and wear was almost imperceptible.
Revelling in hoiking a KTM 1290 Super Adventure into crossed-up monos out of tight mountain hairpin bends after mashing the throttle and ripping on the bars before the bike was even vertical is a memory that makes me grin. Rear grip and a big KTM LC8 twin are a recipe for truly stupendous levels of hilarity that never grows tiresome.
Well, my arms were a little tired at the end of the day from reefing the big bugger up on one while still on the side of the tyre out of all those switchbacks, but some very pleasant Moroccan beer soothed me later that evening, as my soul glowed from the experience of pulling wheelies across yet another country.
From the launch in Morocco it was clear off-road performance was not high on the agenda for Bridgestone’s tyre engineers. While incredibly dramatic as a backdrop, our off-road loop was not in the least bit challenging to an experienced off-road rider. Even so, a few of the group before us had seen their ambition outweigh their talent and dropped bikes in the gravel. This saw organisers taking a fairly soft approach to the dirt sections on the launch and ensuring speeds were kept down.
Thus as to the off-road performance of the new rubber, I must call on my previous experience with the A40 during a serious off-road expedition in Far North Queensland. The new A41 has more grooves than its A40 predecessor, so combine that with the multiple compound construction with its softer shoulders and it leads me to imagine the A41 will prove more sure-footed off-road than the outgoing A40.
While all tyre manufacturers are taking great leaps forward in the performance and longevity of their rubber, two points of difference separate Bridgestone from its competition.
Firstly, all of Bridgestone’s tyres are made in Japan. Unlike many brands, Bridgestone motorcycle tyres are not produced in various other countries around the world to benefit from cheaper labour rates and the like.
Secondly, the massive range of sizes Bridgestone offers in its range also set the Japanese manufacturer apart from most others. The new A41 is available in a wide variety of sizes that cater to almost every motorcycle with a remotely adventurous bent.
Fronts come in 17, 18, 19 and 21-inch sizes, while the rear comes in both 17 and 18-inch fitments across a full range of widths from 130,140,150,160,170, and 180, right through to a whopping 190/55ZR17 monster. Pricing starts at $169.95 for fronts and $259.95 for rears.
The A41 has also been selected by BMW to become the new standard fitment on their R 1200 GS and R 1200 GS Adventure models, which suggests that Motorrad must also think the new A41 is a step above average. The A41 will also be fitted to the new F 750 GS and F 850 GS.
The new Bridgestone A41 is now available from motorcycle dealers across the country via Australian distributor McLeod Accessories.
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