Dear Tire Guy | July 2020
There's nothing like a new pair of shoes. Fresh, clean, no holes in the soles, suuuper uncomfortable and chafe-y because you haven't worn them in yet... who doesn't like blisters right? Everyone. That's who. Race tires and new shoes are not so different in that they need to be worn in first to really feel comfortable. This is where heat cycling comes in. What is heat cycling? Why is it important? DE Newbies, this one's for you!
What is heat cycling? The easy answer: It's "breaking in" the new tires. Now the long answer: Track and competition tires are manufactured to be very aggressive, and need to be broken in first to perform consistently later. Tires flex under load and duress as they roll into and out of contact with the road surface. As a tire flexes and heats up it breaks some of the weaker bonds between the rubber molecules. After an initial heat cycle the rubber bonds will link again after they cool, this time more uniformly and stronger. A full heat cycle therefore consists of heating and flexing the tire to break weak rubber bonds and then allowing it to cool for at least 24 hours so the rubber compounds re-link stronger and more track-ready. This can be done one of two ways:
- By running an easy 10-15 minute lap session on the track. Don't push too hard though. Start easy and work your way up, just enough to properly and equally heat all 4 tires without any spinning or burnouts (That's cheating and it won't work!).
- With a specialized machine that applies pressure to the tire as it spins off the vehicle it reaches its ideal temperature. Either of these is a viable method, though this one will afford you more time on the track.
So why does this matter to you? Because if a tire is initially run too hard, (Under real race conditions for instance) rather than being properly heat cycled, it will break not only the weaker rubber bonds, but the stronger ones as well. This will reduce their grip, therein lessening YOUR ability to stomp that guy who was talking trash in the pits. Laaame. Proper heat cycling will also allow for more consistent performance on the track, as well as longer tread-life. That's more money back in your pocket per lap. Who doesn't like more money, right? No one. That's who.
Until next month, Drive On!
~The Tire Guy