|CONTINENTAL LAUNCH ROADATTACK 2
May 28 2010.
Continental launched its new ContiRoadAttack 2 to the world press towards the end of May at its Contidrom test facility in Germany. Ian Kerr attended on behalf of Trader and he spoke at length with the manufacturer's head of two wheel sales and marketing, Andreas Faulstich, to find out why, in terms of the great riding public, the brand does not enjoy the same high profile as some of its opposition.
Andreas is a motorcycle enthusiast through and through and can talk bikes all day. He has his own small collection, which includes a mint GSX-R750, and he is currently looking for a classic Norton for his father. He also said that each member of the small motorcycle team is equally as enthusiastic and are all working hard to increase the brand awareness and develop tyres every rider wants.
"Perhaps one of our problems is that we are not original equipment for a large range of bikes like some of our competitors are, but we are working on that," said Andreas. He then went on to recount an impressive list of brands and bikes equipped with the German-made tyres at source, including BMW, Bimota, KTM and Honda. The latter now fits ContiRoadAttack tyres to its CBF 1000 and CBF 600, and BMW has just agreed a 50 per cent fit on its new superbike.
"We are not as big as some other manufacturers, but our wide, modern range of products shows that we are on the right track," explains Andreas, "and we can chart our history back to the fifties and beyond. The development and production of motorcycle tyres has been a long-standing tradition for the company, pretty much ever since personal transport first began."
Although a follow-up to the original version that first appeared back in 2004, the ContiRoadAttack 2 is totally new. It is intended for sports and sports touring bikes and features the latest developments in tyre compound and tread design. According to the designers, this means that the new tyre achieves superior performance and greater wet weather capability than its predecessor. As a result, handling and mileage capabilities have also been improved.
Andreas was keen to point out that, rather than copy the opposition, Continental has continued with its own line of development. Key words have been grip, safety and dynamics, something the Conti team believes all riders expect from a tyre.
Starting with grip; Continental has gone for 'Continuous Compound Technology' (CCT). Basically what this means is that unlike some competitors who have created different bands of rubber across the width of the tyre in order to improve mileage in the centre, while giving grip on the shoulders, Continental has achieved the same result by a different method. The same compound is used across the tyre's width but, during the curing process, each part of the tyre is heated to different levels. This gives the centre a harder wearing surface, and the areas near the sidewalls a softer surface and more grip. The manufacturer claims that this means transition from one side to the other is continuous with no distinct bands, thus giving better wear and grip. With no shoulders when the tyre starts to wear, rider confidence is inspired as well.
Next up, the company makes use of what it calls 'Black Chili Compound', containing silica and carbon black, as used in the racing world. This complex mix is not cheap, particularly with the carbon black coming from Japan, but it does mean faster warm-up times (and shorter braking distances), something that is important for grip, especially on wet roads and cold winter mornings.
The tread has also been redesigned not only to give a distinct brand appearance, along with the sidewalls, but the grooves have been tapered so they still support the tread area, even when worn.
Under the safety banner, Continental lists Traction Skinn Technology. Unlike normal tyres, which have a nice shiny surface to start with, that needs to be removed by running in the tyre, the Continental product already starts with a rough surface. Once again, this function is achieved in a curing process technique whereby the releasing agent which causes the shininess is not needed. Instead a micro-roughness of the tread is left to optimise the mechanical adhesion (grip) to the road from the off. The result is that the tyre warms up quickly and requires no running in, so is safe from the time the bike rolls out of the workshop with its new rubber fitted. Andreas calls this the Continental Plug and Play approach.
Underneath all this the tyre structure itself has also been redesigned to achieve greater riding dynamics and grip.
Dynamic-Ride-Technology(DRT), is comprised of a patented steel belt construction and a unique contour of the tyre carcass. By marrying the two, better steering response and enhanced safety is attained.
Andreas states that, according to their research, the sport touring market makes up approximately 25 per cent of the overall street market, with the UK in fourth place some way behind Germany, France and the USA. He believes the new tyre will be pitched against the Bridgestone BT023, Dunlop Roadsmart, Michelin Pilot Road 2, Pirelli Angel ST and the Metzeler Z6 Interact. Continental will be producing the tyre with six front sizes and seven for the rear. It is already approved for over 250 machines.
With the talking over, it was time to put the theories to the test. An assorted range of machines were fitted with the new tyres, offering the opportunity to demonstrate the diversity point and to allow us to fully test the tyre under load.
First up was the handling circuit, a 3.8 km tack with every type of corner imaginable, including a tight hairpin. Unfortunately, it was damp due to a recent downpour, but in some ways it was a good start thanks to the fact that it was drying and so provided a mixed surface. This slowed nobody down, thereby substantiating Continental's claim about quick warm up times and wet grip. A return to the circuit, once fully dry, saw the bikes being pushed to the full with no confidence or lost traction crisis, and all machines escaped any physical alterations - which is always a good sign.
The wet circuit, used later in the day, was totally drenched with water and that too failed to cause any problems.
The banked circuit was a real bottle tester due to the damp conditions but, after a few cautious laps, the tyres soon inspired enough confidence to keep the bike pinned on the banking. Once fully dry,
The day ended with a run through the German countryside in company with Harry, Continental's chief tester, on an Aprilia RSV fitted with tyres that had completed several thousand miles and had remarkably little wear compared to ours.
So in common with most tyre launch tests, Continental come out with top marks as, to be fair, it is only from long term testing and regular use that any failings will show. However, I personally think the new RoadAttack 2 will quickly become the choice for riders who are looking for normal use on the public highway, and who are not interested in going near race tracks.
At this point I can admit that I ran the original ContiRoadAttacks for three years on my own bike and found them to be brilliant. Wet weather grip was always spot on and they never gave me a moment's worry. The wear rate was superior to some other brands I had used, including the original equipment brand. Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of the Continental team, this new version seems to be even better and it won't take long for it to start appearing on your customer's shopping list - not due to clever marketing, but because of it being a top class product.
For information on price and availability contact Cambrian Tyres on 01970 624004 or visit www.conti-tyres.co.uk
*Read the full article in the June issue of Motorcycle Trader.