Two sets of wheels, lol, absolutely. You don't wear the same shoes to work that you would to church, would you? Use one set for your sticky "Sunday Best" tires and the other set for a good sport touring tire for commuting.
Asking this crowd for opinions on tires is gonna get almost as many posts as, well, any news item having to do with Buells.
I'm running Michelin Pilot Roads on one bike and (mainly because there seemed to be some logic in putting German tires on an R11S) Metzeler Sportec M1's on the other.
The Pilot Roads, despite being a "road" tire seem waay more sticky to me than the OEM Dunlops (D207's, I think) that the bike came with. After 3300 miles, including a track day, they still have wear left too although I am notoriously easy on equipment. Steering is solid and the front always seems planted although at my max speeds, why not?
I like the Pilot Roads a lot and recommend them.
The Sportecs seem to wear better than the Pilot Roads. I took the Beemer to California this summer and the M1's don't appear worn after 3500 miles! Hey, I'm not THAT easy on the equipment. Maybe it's just me but they don't seem to have as much grip as the Pilots, either although any slippage is easily controlled.
One tire I would not necessarily recommend is Metzeler's Z4. I put these on my CBR1000F a couple of years ago and the front became fairly slow-steering due to the round front tire profile. Some bikes come with these from the factory (Yamaha FZ1, SV650 used to) and maybe these bikes aren't affected as much. But I'd check out the front tire profile of the OEM F4i and try to replicate it on your next set.
Why stop at two sets of wheels? Keep the F4 for the twisties and get another bike for commuting duty. If you get a used bike that does not depreciate, like a Hawk, a Sportster, or an early SV650, it may be cheaper than the wheels, and you don't have to swap them. Plus, it will be more comfortable on the freeway, and switching bikes will make you a better rider.
OK, that's not a sport tire opinion but even if you find the best compromise, it is still a compromise.
The following is based off of the experiences of myself, my close friends, and my co-workers:
Dunlop (D207/D208) = Heavy carcas (pick up a 180/55 Dunlop and Michelin at the same time)- that equates directly to more centripetal force which causes slower breaking, slower turning, and slower acceleration; Uninspiring; Average tread life; Average heat up time.
Michelin (Pilot Power) = Supposed to serve up incredible stickiness without sacrificing tire life- the incredible stickiness seems to hold more truth than the claim of longevity (keeping in mind that , generally, Duc 748's [a twin] will eat tires faster than F4i's [an inline four]); Above average heat up time.
Metzeler (Sportec M1) = Good grip; great heat up time; decent tread life for most, although not as long-lasting as a harder-compound tire; cheaper than a Diablo. [This is my second choice.]
Pirelli (Diablo Corsa) = Best experiences all around- Great heat up time; good tread wear (on a Mille R no less!) and very sticky- very inspiring. [This is my choice in tires!]
Pirelli (Dragons) = Very uninspiring; horrible wet-weather tire; disappointing even after extended warm-up time.
Bridgestone (BT 10/14's) =Despite the slightly lighter carcas, I think I'd rather have a D207.
Go to a shop that sells and stocks tires and feel the stickiness of the tires by rubbing your thumb along the tread. Even when cold, you can tell which tires offer more stick and which offer less. This doesn't give any insight into tread life, but it doesn't necessarily mean the softest will wear fastest either. The Sportec M1 and Diablo (Street and/or Corsa) offer the best grip and heat up times, but still manage to last longer than many lesser tires.
Always remember that there is a scrub-in period after getting new rubber- ride gingerly for at least 100 miles.
On a Buell M2 Cyclone, the D208's just are not as sticky and do not wear as well as the previously mounted Pirelli Diablo's. Next change, Diablo's, with the Corsa version if they make it for My 170 rear size by then. The Pirelli Diablos lasted for about 6000 miles, the D208's were showing much wear by 4000.
I can't say that they'd be great on your CBR, but when I switched from the OEM to Continental Road Attacks on my FZ1 I found it be more responsive. Felt like a softer grippier tire, but I also took it out on a 2000 mile tour and it showed little or no wear.
Definitely check out Continental. Not the trendiest of tires, but they seem to perform extremely well for considerably less money. I've got a set of standard ContiForce on my ZRX and they have been fabulous. Granted, the bike never sees any track days, but for communting and spirited weekend riding they have been more than I hoped for. Very stable at highway commuting speeds (70-90 mph), excellent feedback and grip on back roads and in the wet. I've only got about 1000 miles on them, so I can't speak for wear characteristics, but from what I've read, they wear very well.
For your CBR you might want to check out the ContiForce Max version (softer compound for track/road use) or the above mentioned Road Attack--a newer, long life sport/sport tourer model that has been turning some heads. Soft, grippy compound suitable for track use, but the wear characteristics of a good sport touring tire, at least that's what I've heard. Neat.
Try Bridgestone BT010's. I had them on an F3 and have them on my zx9 now, I got around 9000 miles on my last set and probably would have gotten more, but had to replace them because I flat spotted the rear. And they are sticky enough for the track.
Your riding sounds pretty similar to mine ie; more freeway comuting than anything else except I probably run into alot more rain and wet roads than you .
Right now my tire of choice is the Avon AV45 front and AV46 rear, the front is still new, but the rear has around 5k and no appreciable wear. They stick well dry, in the wet they will break loose but in a controlable fashion, not all at once. I'm expecting around 10~15k out of them.
The last set I had was Dunlop D220's that stuck well wet but only lasted 5k miles, as I can't afford tires with every oil change I'd stay away from them. If you can find D205's they're better tires for milage, but the fronts cup badly.
Another tire I had good luck with and exceptional milage from was a Michelin Macadam 100X, they've been supercede by the Pilot Roads but they're excellent wet weather tires and lasted 17k on my Bandit. They actually stuck well enough the grind the pegs on wet roads once or twice and with the Bandits torque they set up some *****in' wet road powerslides. Ton's of fun. In fact the only reason I went with the Avons this time around instead of Michelin is because I though it would be cool to have Brit. tires on a Brit. bike.
I've had two sets of Bridgestones BT54's that came stock on bikes and I think they're little better than rim protectors, in dry climates they might work but her in the North Wet they're not much use. I know people who swear by BT010's and 020's so they may be better.
For a good combination of traction and milage I'd get either the Avons or Michelins, price wise they're pretty close and both should get good milage and still stick well on the street. Avons are a little hard to find, but Cycle Gear can order them and you can get them from Motorcycle USA Superstore and put them on yoursef.
You can't beatem. They heat up really fast and my back tire lasted about 2,500 miles longer then the stock Dunlop, the front I'm still trying to wear out. I'm running them on a XB12S Buell with race kit.
I've got 5500 miles on a set of AV ST45/46 and they're about half done. 50/50 commute and sport-touring in terms of mileage ridden. Not bad for a 90hp, 20yo Sabre that's 600lbs dry with no front tire cupping either.
I roasted a set of Avon AV 45/46 in 4200 miles on my VFR 800. I had expected more of them. They had decent grip, but I never felt fully trusting in them. On wet roads I was even less trusting of them.
I have recently put on a set of Continental Conti Road attacks on the VFR and am very impressed with the grip and the turn in. I would highly recommend them. I can't yet vouch for mileage or grip in the wet, but they have a way cheaper list than comparable tires. It seems Continental is pricing aggressively to try and enter the US market. These are described as a sporty sport touring tire.
After baking a set of Dunlop D207's in 1,650 miles on my Buell Lightning. I put a set of Pirelli Diablos on 1,000 miles ago. They are terrific tires. Good feel, fast turn in and confidence inspiring. Still lots of tread left.
For only 20% twisties I would say get the Continental Conti Road attack sport touring rubber and save about $100.
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