"Sport", "Supersport" or "Hypersport" tyres are soft rubber tyres which are intended for use in sports on roads or occasionally on racetracks. They have an operating temperature which is relatively high but not as high as competition tyres. They do not have much tread.
This type of tyre is usually mounted on sports bikes from the outset. Exceptional grip is achieved by modern "sport" tyres, especially on dry surfaces; however, their relative lack of tread and relatively high operating temperature makes them more difficult to use in the rain.
Their life expectancy is low due to the softness of the rubber used in their manufacture.
These are also commonly called "sport / touring" tyres - they are usually made of medium rubber which gives very good grip, an operating temperature which is lower than for sports tyres and a large area of tread. Their life expectancy is greater than for sports tyres.
They are suitable for varied use - from daily urban travel, to trips, to Sunday outings.
"Road" or "Touring" tyres are made of hard rubber and have a low operating temperature which is quickly reached. They give good grip and usually have a lot of tread, making them very safe on wet surfaces. The use of hard rubbers makes them very long lasting.
Due to the speed of their application (low operating temperatures), these tyres are recommended for urban trips. These tyres can also be used for trips or tours. Only use in sports may perhaps push them to the limit of their grip.
"Mixed" or "trail" tyres are mounted on bikes which are able to leave the bitumen and ride on earth tracks. As their name suggests, they can be used on both bitumen / earth. Their main characteristic is the very broad treads - especially on the rear tyre - which divide the tyre into blocks. This enhances driveability on loose earth.
These tyres are usually made of hard rubber. They have a relatively low operating temperature and very long life expectancy. They give good grip, although this is lower than pure road tyres due to the width of the treads which decrease the surface of contact with the ground.
These tyres are appropriate for mixed road / track use. On the road, they adapt to a broad range of uses, although the limit of grip is reached more quickly due to their lower surface of contact with the ground. For a biker who mainly rides on the road, it is thus preferable to choose road tyres rather than a mixed tyre.
"All terrain" or "cross" tyres have large studs in order to be as effective as possible on surfaces other than roads. These tyres are mainly used on earth tracks, in quarries, and on paths... with the studs enhancing grip on different surfaces. These tyres are not very effective on the road although they can be used to link short distances.
It must be noted that some cross tyres are not authorised on the road and if this is the case a trailer is necessary.
These are often called "trail tyres", "track tyres" or "race tyres" and are reserved for use on the racetrack. They are made from very soft rubber and operate at the very high temperatures which are particular to the temperatures reached by tyres during use on the racetrack. This is due to the extreme mechanical constraints which they are subject to: high speeds, strong accelerations, violent braking and intense lateral forces.
Different models often come in different softness of rubber: hard - medium - soft. These terms are relative: a "hard" competition tyre will often be made of rubber which is softer than a "sport" tyre, Some models are even composites: they have different softness of rubber for different parts of the tyre. For example: "hard" for the central tread and "medium" for the sides.
These tyres are usually "slick" to achieve maximum surface of contact. "Rain" competition tyres also exist - these have a very high density of treads in order to evacuate as much water as possible as quickly as possible.
The extreme softness of the rubbers used makes their life expectancy very low.
Usually they are not authorised on the road. Some models are, however, authorised and they bear the inscription "DOT Race" (DOT: Department of Transportation). These have a minimum of tread (slick tyres are forbidden on the road). It is, however, not advisable to use this kind of tyre on the road. They do not give a better grip than "sport" tyres and wear out more quickly.