This is a tricky article to write in a number of ways. A product test is easiest to write if the item under review has clear strengths, or weaknesses, which one can fairly assume are going to be generally identifiable by all readers. The difficulties come when there are inconsistencies – as in the case of the Pirelli Angel GT sports touring tire.
When we bought our Ducati Sport Classic 1000 last year the dealer included any tire I wanted in the purchase price. For a sports touring machine, like the Ducati GT, the most obvious choice was the Pirelli Angel GT, which had been very well reviewed by my fellow journalists throughout the world.
The dealer selling the bike to me was also a fan of the tire – and it wasn’t a question of just off-loading some tire he had in stock because the Angel GT was brought in fresh for our bike.
The rest of the bike, which had been in a private collection for some years, received a full service including a change of front fork oil. The rear shocks work as well as they ever did from Ducati, which is not brilliantly but still satisfactory. So malfunctioning, or poorly performing, mechanical elements have been removed from the equation.
The tires were broken in as per the manufacturer’s instructions – 100 miles of careful riding with no harsh acceleration or excessive side loading on the tire.
As you might expect from someone who races, the tire pressures are meticulously accurate and checked with a race quality gauge.
In short, the tires should have been a match made in heaven for the Duc.
Now, here’s where things get really, seriously tricky. The tires work fine in that they have never misbehaved in terms of a lack of adhesion and the bike turns and stops well too. So, what’s the problem? The answer comes in two parts – and both may well be down to me.
First, there is the feeling that riding the Duc with these tires is a bit like making loving wearing ten prophylactics. You know that you are doing something really exciting and worthwhile but you’re so far distant from the action that you might as well not bother. The tires are a barrier between me and what is happening on the road and the feeling is most disconcerting.
Bike tires are not at all like the rubber fitted to a car. I have just changed the front Goodyear tires on my SUV after 38,000 miles and the best thing I can say about them is that they did their job in a wide range of conditions without me ever knowing that they were there. As a bonus, they were cheap to run.
But a motorcycle is quite different from a car. Even on a 10-mile trip to the shopping mall, you have to know exactly what is happening in the interface between the road and the motorcycle – because not having this information can have serious consequences.
For me, this is a major issue and my hyper-sensitivity may well stem from racing. A race tire feeds a huge amount of information back to the rider, milli-second by milli-second. It is almost as if your naked hand is on the track, and this is why you see racers at every level obsessing over tire compounds and pressures – and this is a fact, from MotoGP superstars all the way down to clubman Muppets like me. With the Angel GT, there is no feedback and I abhor this lack of information.
The big issue is why – especially when the Angel GT is so highly regarded. First, let me say that I approached Pirelli, through the correct media channels and with the appropriate amount of information, and I have received no response whatsoever. It seems that Pirelli’s response is that there is no issue.
Without technical support from Pirelli, I have just had to develop my own hypothesis. I think that the most likely reason for the under performance is the Classic GT’s weight – or more accurately, the lack of it.
The Ducati weighs in at around 400 pounds and, since it carries no luggage, this is its actual running weight. If you take a high performance sports tourer, like Yamaha’s formidable FJ1300, this turns the scale at 650 pounds wet. Then add the inevitable full luggage kit and its contents, and you can reckon on adding a further 100 pounds to this – maybe even more. So now, the Angel GTs are supporting a whopping 750 pounds rather than 400 pounds.
The tires also have to handle a lot more power than the Duc is putting out. Instead of 93 horsepower, the rear tire on an FJR 1300 is transmitting 141 horses.
Even the riders are likely to be heavier – and I’m not suggesting that touring couples hit the hyper burgers and triple fries more than Carol and I. Rather, because we go out and ride for just a couple of hundred miles in the warmer weather, we wear light clothing rather than the full on GoreTex gear we used for touring on our beloved Suzuki V Strom.
This means that the Angel GT on a FJ1300, out for a long weekend, is carrying a shade under double the weight of us on our Ducati.
This idea is supported by two pieces of evidence. First, the Pirellis never get warm. Even if I am pressing on, riding solo, I can never get any heat into the tires.
Secondly, after 3000 miles the tires look like new. I can image riding from New York to San Francisco half a dozen times and there still not being a mark on them.
An additional, but much less important, factor is that the steering geometry on the Ducati, at 24 degrees and 103mm of trail, is more classic than sports bike. With less trail and a more aggressive rake, then maybe there would be increased front-end feel.
Pirelli are able make a tire to suit this bike – and I know this because when I rode Triumph’s Thruxton R at the bike’s launch, a machine very similar in terms of weight, steering geometry and power to the Ducati, it handled a treat on the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa.
In summary, I think that I made the wrong choice for the bike and that both I, and the supplying dealer, were led astray by not standing back and considering all the factors which were going to affect the bike. In this case, it was not so much “Caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) but rather: “Uti eius cerebrum emptor” (let the buyer use his brain!!!)
The Angel GTs are going to go on e-bay, for certain, this year and when I’ve found a suitable replacement I will let you know.