Avon Tyres America: Azaro ST45 ST46 Test - Sport Touring Tires

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Avon's Azaro ST's

Road Test Report

Sochiro Honda hit the nail on the head when he realized that racing was the only way Honda could learn what their machines were really made of. The same holds true for tires. If you're a tire company and you're not at the race track, do you really know what extremes your tires are capable of?

On the other hand, there's something to be said for the capabilities of a tire under everyday circumstances, which seems to be overlooked by most product reviewers. Do we really care how a tire handles at 135 m.p.h. on an open track? For most of us the answer is 'no,' although it's important to push a tire that hard to find out what it does at high speed.

And come to think of it, most tracks don't exactly resemble your everyday urban, suburban, or middle of nowhere road… so let's look at the Avon Azaro ST tire from the everyday rider's point of view, keeping in mind that this tire does check out well at the track.

For our test we rode to the Columbia River Gorge and spent a lot of hours on roads like Washington SR14, Oregon 30, Highway 97, Interstate 5, and a few hundred miles of back roads that you won't find on just any map.

The first thing that popped out was how the tires handled on tar snakes, not a common occurrence at most race tracks, but the devilish little things sneak up on you when you're riding the back roads. The results? What tar snakes! The tread on the AV45 front we tested is such that it provides a sort of "self-correcting" style tread, which translates to fast steering response. On a flat surface there's not much you'll pick up about the ingenuity of this tread pattern, but once you start in on the tar snakes your fears of losing control are diminished by its auto re-maneuverability.

We're talking a company that's been building motorcycle tires since 1911. If they haven't figured out how to do it by now, then why are they still afloat? Because they have figured it out, plus a thing or two more.

While other manufacturers are coming to the market on the front end of a model with tires, Avon typically sits back a year or longer to assess what the actual needs of a bike and tire are before they head into production. But once that tire comes to market, they're typically a cut above the rest because they've learned from their competitors' mistakes.

So on to the back tire.

The rear tire we tested, the AV46, has a unique tread pattern. Solid lines that aim outward solidly to the left and right (called EAF) make water dispersion a reality. And since we live in a land where our roads do get a bit wet from time to time, this is a feature you want to be looking for in a tire. More important to me than if the thing stays together at 160 m.p.h. down the straight at Pacific Raceways.

If you're not familiar with their tires in general, Avon's are constructed with variable belt density. Rather than go into detail about it here, you can learn more at the Avon website at http://www.avonmotorcycle.com/. Simply put, it means the tire provides as much traction in a lean while cornering as it does when you're running straight on. Well now, there's a bright idea other manufacturers can catch up to.

One major complaint most motorcyclists have is the short lifespan of a tire. When you're getting 70,000 miles out of Michelin Energy X's on a Honda Accord, it would be nice to get even 10,000 out of a motorcycle tire. Avon has found a way to get higher mileage out of the Azaro than its nearest competitor, while still providing a good grip by way of a compound that offers solid traction, yet lasts a long time.

The biggest complaint about Avon tires from here? Here goes: Where can you walk in the door in Puget Sound and get the right Avon tire to fit your bike on the spot without having to wait for a special order? Marketing and sales have some catching up to do with R&D so that you, the consumer, can get what you need on the day that you want it. This summer Avon began a TV campaign that will hopefully pay off with more inventory at more dealers. For now your best option is to try Seattle Cycle Center, or expect to special order a set through your local dealer.

PT/Summer 03

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