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More than any other kind of vehicle, a motorcycle feels like a powerful extension of its rider: the pavement speeds by just inches below the feet and the wind rushes past unfiltered.
Motorcycle tires. together with the wheels and rims of the motorcycle, are perhaps the most critical feature of any bike. They determine its stability, whether it will stick or skid in wet weather, and play a large role in establishing the roughness or smoothness of the ride. They also determine what kind of surfaces the bike can handle. With the wrong tires, a bike is not only not road-worthy; it’s not road-legal.
In this guide, we will consider when it is necessary to replace motorcycle tires; what kind of tires to select for a specific bike; and how to size motorcycle tires.
When Do Motorcycle Tires Need Replacement?
Motorcycle tires show some of the same signs of wear as automobile tires, particularly when the tread is becoming sufficiently worn to merit replacement. Signs to watch for include:
- Exposed steel belts, cords, or fabric layers
- Wear bars even with tread height
- Tread worn enough that Lincoln’s head isn’t concealed at all when a penny is stood in a tread groove
- Cut or punctured sidewall
- Sidewall severely cracked from age or dry rot
Uneven tire wear may indicate that a tire is defective, the rim is bent, the bike’s frame is damaged, or the wheel is out of alignment or out of balance. Any of these require a trip to the mechanic. They
will not only interfere with steering today; they will accelerate wear and tear on the bike over the coming months.
Are the Current Tires Doing What Is Desired?
If the current tires have performed well in terms of tread life, road grip, and weather, a rider might choose to replace them with exactly the same make and model.
At the same time, given the constant innovation in motorcycle tires, there may be upgrades that would improve performance in some way important to a specific rider at the time tires are due to be replaced. One or another manufacturer is likely to have come up with tires that are just a bit better for high mileage touring, multi-season driving, high-speed racing, sharp cornering, driving in all weather conditions, or driving off road. So it may be worth checking out the newest tires to see if any of the improvement will benefit the way a particular bike will be used.
Issues in Tire Selection
When selecting tires for a motorcycle, a range of issues are appropriately considered, including how the bike will be used, what size will be best, and whether to select bias ply or radial tires.
How Is the Bike Used?
Different uses for motorcycles lead to different tire choices. Some tires are designed to be very stable, very durable, and to obtain very high gas mileage. Others are less durable and less fuel efficient, but perform at top speeds and give outstanding performance on corners.
In the chart below, major bicycle types, their uses, and the tires used, with their characteristics, are summarized.