Date reviewed: August 2020 | Tested by: Adam ‘Chad’ Child | Price: £130 (front), £160 (rear) | WEBSITE: www.metzeler.com
Choosing which tyre to use on a track day can be a complicated decision. You can opt to run standard rubber, which is fine if you intend to ride to the track, and obviously most road legal rubber will work on track. The downside is you’ll soon find its limitation as heat and speed develop. You can then try the other end of the spectrum, full race slicks.
Slicks offer jaw-dropping amounts of grip because they present a much larger contact patch to the track than road tyres and are designed to work at specific temperatures. But you’ll need tyre warmers, paddock stands, power (usually a generator), a van or trailer and probably an extra pair of hands to help you get the bike on and off those stands.
Slicks can also be fickle. They need to be baking hot form the get-go, otherwise they simply don’t work, and they don’t like being put through continuous head cycles (warming up and cooling down). The compromise is to opt for something in-between – a purpose track day tyre – but again these usually need tyre warmers and all the paraphernalia that comes with them.
However, now Metzeler offer an alternative: a track day slick tyre that is specifically designed to work for track day customers, even club racers. The new Racetec TD Slick has the advantages of a normal slick – grip and a large contact patch – but doesn’t require tyre warmers and will work in varying temperatures. Metzler also claim that grip remains consistent during the lifespan of the tyre as it is designed to work over repeated heat cycles. Additionally, you can even flip the rear tyre around if you’re on a ‘one-sided’ track, something unique to the TD. This means if you’re on a track like Brands Hatch or Mallory Park, where the corners are predominantly right-handers, you can flip the tyre over to get an even wear and increased longevity.
Metzeler have used the experience gained by racing at the Isle of Man to create this new TD (Track Day) slick, as rubber at the TT needs to work across a wide range of temperatures and road conditions in order to give the rider consistent performance and resistance to cold tearing. The zero-degree steel belts on both the front and rear tyre are a patented technology that allows more flex and, in theory, gives better feeling to the rider. The TD also features a sharp profile which improves the handling and increases the contact patch when cornering. We got the opportunity to test the new Metzeler Racetec TD slick around the Pergusa circuit in Sicily, using a track-prepared 2019 Yamaha R1M as our test bike.
It’s unusual to see a Yamaha R1 race bike dressed in slick rubber, but not on tyre warmers. I’m given the nod to leave pit lane, and I simply flick up the side-stand and we’re away. No electric blankets to remove, no wires, paddock stands or generator, just ride down pit lane and away.
I’m told the track day slicks will work from the off, but obviously you can’t barrel into turn one with your elbow on the deck. It also takes me a lap to get accustomed to the fast lakeside track and the racy R1M. But on the first lap, the TD slicks don’t feel like cold slicks, which feel horrible, instead it’s as if I’m riding a normal R1M.
When race slicks are not up to temperature, they move around, prevent the bike from steering properly and affect stability, as the pressures are too low. Even though the TD haven’t been baked under tyre warmers they feel ‘normal’. Within a lap I feel confident enough and start to push. The grip is impressive, and it doesn’t feel like I have to bring the TD slicks up to temperature, like you would with a conventional slick. However, it is worth noting the track temperature was high, and it will be interesting to see how they perform on colder days. I’m told they’ll work in conditions as low as 10°C.
After a few laps I’m up to speed and at a decent fast-group track day pace, and there are no complaints. The turn-in is excellent, the feel is what you’d expect from a track day tyre, and I’m getting on the power earlier and earlier, trying , without success, to find the limits. The Racetec TDs feel like a race tyre, taking the strain of the Yamaha’s 197bhp crossplane horses without issues.
After a good 20-min track session, it’s time to pull in. Again, it’s odd not to pull into a garage and go through the rigmarole of paddock stands and tyre warmers. After a quick refresh it’s back out for more fun, and this time I push on and attempt a fast lap. Again, there is no complaint from the front TD slick, whose grip appears to be endless; it’s only when exiting a tight first gear chicane, with a stupid amount of throttle, that I sense the slightest hint of a slide. You really must take liberties and push to the limit to find any fault.
Because these tyres are designed purely for track use by track bikes then there’s no surprise they’re only available in 17” format, though it’d be hilarious to see a 21” slick on an Africa Twin. Anyway, one standard front size of 120/70 ZR17 is accompanied by four options on the rear: 180/55 ZR17, 180/60 ZR17, 190/55 ZR17, 200/55 ZR17.
I’m sure 90% of track day riders won’t notice the difference between the outright performance of the TD slick and a full racing slick, plus you don’t have to mess around with tyre warmers and you won’t get frustrated when they hold you in the paddock for too long during a red flag incident. I believe club racers will also find the TD slick beneficial, as again at club level you’re often held on the grid for long periods. Plus, the rear tyre is reversable, therefore it should last longer, saving you precious budget, while staying consistent over multiple heat cycles.
As mentioned, the bike, track and conditions were perfect in Italy, and I can’t wait to see how they perform on a cooler day in the UK. But I’ll be popping the new TD slicks on my shopping list.
Photography by Fabio Grasso