It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a motorcycle on the streets purely for the fun of it. Sure, I spend several hours a week carving up the local canyon roads of Southern California near my home, but this is more a means to stay sane. Routine therapy. I also usually take a motorbike to run errands around the city, but to be fair, soaring through swarms of Los Angeles traffic can sometimes feel like you’re flying a military sortie over a battlefield that’s full of soldiers who have forgotten what they’re fighting for, no longer care about the cause, and just want to make it home alive.
This is not using motorcycling to unwind, this is using a motorcycle to survive.
That’s why I got excited when I was told that my upcoming trip to Southern Italy to test liter-bikes and Pirelli tires for Motorcycle.com would include a day dedicated to just riding the hills and byways of a quaint seafront town called Forza di’ Agro, in Sicily.
The assignment was to give a proper wringing of Pirelli’s newest Angel GT II Sport Touring tires under real world conditions, then give my impressions.
I was picked up at my hotel by the head of Pirelli’s tire development, Salvo Pennisi, and driven to Pirelli’s hidden warehouse where they stash all their testing motorcycles. Salvo, myself, and a handful of other riders from Pirelli’s testing staff, suited up in our street gear, and chose which bike we’d like to ride, from a selection of machines all equipped with their Angel GT II rubber.
Given first pick, I immediately nicked an unassuming 2019 KTM 1290 Superduke GT that seemed patiently waiting there on its kickstand like a confident thoroughbred racehorse, equally content to either hang out in the barn with the other horses, find a little filly to take a nap next to, or be taken out to stretch his legs for all that his breeding was worth.
Let’s do that, Duke!
Salvo led the way, I followed in the P2 position.
Now, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of riding modern motorbikes around the roads of Europe, especially with locals, and especially in Italy, it doesn’t take long when doing so to realize that one of the driving forces behind our much adored Ducati, BMW, Aprilia, KTM, and other manufacturers to keep building higher-performance, more competent, extremely capable sporting motorcycles, is to meet the demand by their customers. Many street riders, outside of stuffy countries, ride these top-shelf inventions the way they were intended to be ridden; very very well.
Experienced riders, in my experience, do not live to go as fast as humanly possible at all times, on the street. They instead opt for the most efficient strategies to get them from point A to point B. Sometimes this allows for some higher velocities, sometimes this encourages a course of action which is slower and smarter. But efficiency is the name of the game, and Salvo and his boys are skilled motorcycle riders.
There is little in this world more enjoyable to me than riding among good riders. It’s happened to me several times around the world, and there’s no mystery as to why we can find capable riders all over the world; we share the same motorcycles and tires.
One awesome trait about the Sport Touring segment, and their respective tires, is they are arguably the most versatile products offered to the motorcycling world. With 17″ wheels, huge torque inside their reliable engines, comfortable seats some decent wind protection – while at the same time offering nimble maneuverable chassis – it’s no wonder the “GT” or Grand Turismo class of bikes are growing in popularity.
On this day, the sun was out, the sea was transparent, altitudes varied, and the old village reflected palettes of orange, blues, yellows, beige and browns.
The fastest bits of our ride were beautifully fast, the slow bits stopped us dead in our tracks for several minutes. Queuing in Sicily, whether on foot or road, seem mere suggestions. But, nobody seems to care, no one gets uptight, they just all funnel into an open hole and eventually everyone gets through. What’s your rush? It’s a beautiful day.
As our Grand Tour continued, the Pirelli Angel GT II simply blew me away with how well it accomplished so many different tasks.
When the air temperature was hot, and we went carving up some seriously twisty hillsides, the tires had very good side grip. When we went tearing down expressways, the chassis and the bars remained stable, even when the road surface became bumpy and erratic. Under hard braking and trail-braking, I was given great feedback and confidence in the front-end.
When maneuvering at slow speeds, around tourists who were walking down the cobblestone streets in Forza di’ Agro, the KTM dropped in and flicked around them with ease.
We stopped a couple times, once for an espresso and again to walk around the oldest parts of the town. Salvo gave me some great history lessons on Sicily, the most memorable moments being that seemingly every single empire, big or small, had invaded or tried to occupy Sicily at one time or another, but the Sicilian people were stubborn and eventually kicked them all out.
Another bit of trivia; Forza di’ Agro served as the backdrop for several scenes in The Godfather trilogy films. Still looks the same today.
By this point, I’m starting to love motorcycling again, for all the right reasons.
Next, we headed over to the Pergusa short circuit testing race track to put a couple laps on the Angel GT IIs. In a short amount of time, the outside air temperatures dropped drastically and it actually started to rain heavily. Being a good guest tester, I immediately took to the track with the same KTM and Angel GT IIs I had abused all day on the roads. As I exited the pit lane for the first time ever, and in the wet, within three corners I was dragging my knees. Quite incredible, really. I’ve been around a long time and have ridden on countless bikes, tires, and race tracks, but I don’t ever recall riding on a single set of tires that could do so many different things, so well, in one complete package. Usually, our tires either last a long time with low grip, or they’re awesome in the rain but suck in the dry. Or, give us an insane amount of grip, but last about as long as a tank of racing fuel.
Whenever I used to mount up the stickiest rubber I dared on my 1000cc sport bikes used for training purposes when preparing for an upcoming road race, I could typically get all of about 400 miles on a rear tire before it went bald, riding on “live” public canyon roads. 400 miles. And, if I couldn’t always source out a lot of them for free, they’d start costing me about $275. Each. That’s real money for four days of street use.
Reportedly, the tire life expectancy for a set of Angel GT IIs approach and often surpass 10,000 miles before a rear tire change is required. This isn’t a fair comparison between apples and apples, but for sure it speaks to the question of, “What do we really need our tires to do?” And, how good do they need to perform in the dry before we discount all of the other benefits a good set of Sport Touring tires can now bring; like high-mileage and good wet performance just in case we get caught out in a downpour far away from home?
We are very simply living in a new era of high-quality motorcycling, and these latest leaps and improvements have come in a relatively short amount of time.
The Angel GT IIs are offered in the most popular 17-inch sizes, which means they’ll fit on most sport bikes as well as sport tourers. There’s even one 19″ front option, if you’re into that kind of thing.
A little white paper info, the new Angels have been given an updated profile to promote linear behavior during lean transitions, updated compounds (dual on the rear, single on the front) to promote good sportiness but also offer high mileage in the centers, and a new tread pattern that is virtually identical to the race intermediates used in World Superbike.
For what it’s worth, I liked the way the tires looked on all of the bikes; the tread pattern, the fonts, logos and stamps on their sidewalls, and their overall shape. These tires reek quality.
High-mileage tires are slightly heavier compared to pure hyper-sport tires, hence the higher mileage and increased durability. Pirelli also offers a heavier-duty “Type A” variant for bigger touring bikes which aim to get loaded up with extra-heavy gear, etc.
Sport touring bikes are the new hybrid between pure sport and, well, touring. They’ve kind of crept up on me, now in my older age (I’m closing in on 50). Maybe I no longer need to be such a snob, who’s only interested in the fastest way through a series of corners. But to rediscover what motorcycling used to be, and can be again. Fun! Sharing a day or more with good people all riding their own bikes is genuinely half the fun of motorcycling. Everyone’s in a great mood, there’s oxygen in the lungs, you’re all getting a bit of exercise, and most of our daily troubles are whisked away for that moment of adventure and camaraderie.
In parting, this is the kind of story you might hear when you set out to unearth imaginative new ways to gather miles atop a usable motorcycle. I thought this was hilarious:
Salvo, the Pirelli development team boss, tells me a recent tale through a strong Italian accent, “Every Monday following a MotoGP race, and for several hours, half the office would debate how awesome Valentino Rossi was, the other half would counter with the opposite.”
‘He is his own biggest fan!’
‘He’s the greatest of all time!’
‘The commentators speak of no one else, no matter where he is on the track!’
‘I’ll fight any man that speaks badly about Vale!’
‘Yamaha needs to give the ride to someone else!’
‘The sport owes everything to him!’
‘He’s too old!’
Salvo continues with a smile, “So, I had to start regulating Mondays following every grand prix. Employees could only speak about Valentino Rossi from 8am to 8:30am, then that’s it. Get it out of your systems, then there will be no more mention of him. Back to work.”
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Source: All Bikes news one