Tyre Launch: Bridgestone BT-012ss review

Review of the Bridgestone BT-012ss tyre from the Almeria circuit

Now here was a day's work I was looking forward to. After another hellish deadline week filled with stale pizza, short-fused bust ups and thousand-yard stares across the gloom of a late-night office I was up, up and away to sunny Spain for the launch of Bridgestone's new BT-012ss tyres. For this event the ever-hospitable Bridgestone boys had laid on the Almeria circuit and a brace of the finest 600-1,000cc superbikes for us to play with and - even better - they'd slotted the whole deal into a pleasantly relaxing three-day schedule. Much more like it.

The 012SSs are a replacement for the old BT-56SSs which makes 'em Bridgestone's numero uno sticky rubber for the likes of you and me when it comes to track and fast road riding. The only thing they make stickier are the BT-001s and they're for racing use only. Now the tricky thing for tyre manufacturers nowadays is striking a balance to create a tyre that grips like buggery, gives you the feedback to know when enough is enough at the track, doesn't send your superbike into headshaking nastiness when you give it max beans on the road, and that can still happily handle wet roads, potholes and freezing cold and slimy mornings. Hmm, not much to ask is it?

Bridgestone's novel approach to creating this ideal rubber mix was to use two separate belts running around each shoulder of the tyre. The gap between the belts around the centre of the tyre make it more supple when the tyre's upright and help flat-out straightline stability, while the belts at the shoulder increase the contact patch and boost grip when the tyre's on its ear.

Then the men in Bridgestone's top secret lab cooked-up a brand new rubber compound with more silica in it than ever. This means the tyre warms up to operating temperature more quickly (very useful on the road), and helps wet weather grip too. In a nutshell, Bridgestone reckoned they'd hit the nail on the head with more outright grip and feel than the outgoing 56SSs to keep us all happy at the track, and better all-round road manners to please us even more on the road. But then they would say that wouldn't they. Fortunately we had a day in searing heat at the Almeria circuit to put their claims to the test.

And bugger me if things weren't pretty impressive indeed. After a couple of sessions getting an idea where the track went it was time to play. I took a ZX-9R first to test Bridgestone's claim that the new tyres helped fast steering. After all, a stock 9 needs a bit of help in this department, and with the tyres up to temperature I found the 9 was indeed a little easier to throw from side to side. So much so we were merrily grinding footpegs for the remainder of the session. The bike did shimmy slightly uncharacteristically over the crest of the flat-out front straight, but not alarmingly and none of the other bikes I rode did, so all in all, that's the steering well sorted on these babies then.

As for the other bikes, it was a case of hot laps, lap after lap in total comfort and confidence with happy peg-surfing and flick-flacking and brain-out riding all day long so I'll happily say the grip levels and feedback are up there with the best sports tyres on the market at the moment. The Bridgestone's ace card here though will be their full tread pattern for wet use back in the real world of British riding.

There is one small point left to be addressed however, because I did manage to somewhat mangle an SP-2 after losing the front halfway through a corner. Ah. Now how do I explain this one? Well, I got so carried away with the grip the tyres were giving I just pushed a bit too hard, leant right over and that was that. No drama, no highside, just a gentle slither onto the floor and a backwards trip into the gravel. Very civilized. Anyway, must have been rider error because legendary TT racer and all-round racing demon Phil McCallen was going ten times faster than me and didn't fall off all day.

So there you have it, quality tyres that'll see you as right at the track as they do on the road, unless of course you're a ham-fisted idiot like me in which case you'll still fall off whatever tyres you choose.