Tires buying Guide

Motorcycle Tires Buying Guide
March 2, 2016 – 12:03 pm
Motorcycle tire sidewall

Motorcycle Tires Buying GuideTires have come a long way from the early days of motorcycles, and there is a fair amount of technology used in the construction of modern motorcycle tires. Riders know that a good set of tires is paramount to safe and enjoyable motorcycle riding. Motorcycle tires are the key factor when it comes to steering a motorcycle and gripping the road. Tires also provide shock absorption, support the frame of the motorcycle, and carry the load created by the rider and passenger. Riders need to know when to replace their tires to ensure maximum safety and control, and riders should also learn how to care for tires to keep them in top condition. Choosing new tires for a motorcycle can be challenging, as a variety of types and sizes are available. When it is time to purchase new motorcycle tires, riders need a basic understanding of tire sizes and specifications in order to decide which type of tire is best for their motorcycle and riding circumstances.

Know When to Replace Motorcycle Tires

As motorcycle tires start to wear, the back end of the motorcycle feels loose when taking corners. Vibrations, unstable handling, tire noise, and rubbing are all indicators of potential tire problems and wear. Tires need to be inspected regularly and properly maintained to ensure a long life. Maintaining tires for maximum life involves checking tire inflation and avoiding exposure to certain elements.

Check Tread Wear

Motorcycle owners should be in the habit of checking tires for uneven wear, flat spots, punctures, and cracks before every trip. Treadwear indicators, small raised bars placed inside the treads, let riders know when the tread is worn down to approximately 0.063 inches or less. Another useful test is to place a penny upside down in one of the grooves and check to see that the tread at least touches Lincoln’s hair. The distance from the edge of the penny to the top of Lincoln’s head is about 0.063 inches, or the minimum tread amount required for a tire to be considered safe to ride on. Perform this check in several locations on the tire to test for even tread wear.

Keep Motorcycle Tires in Top Condition

Every tire has a recommended inflation level, known as psi, which refers to the pounds of air pressure per square inch inside the tire. To ensure optimum performance, tires need to be inflated to the recommended psi levels at all times. Underinflated tires can build up heat, leading to a possible blow out. Overinflated tires are more prone to punctures. Keep a tire pressure gauge handy and check tire pressure once a week. Check tires when they are cold for a more accurate reading.

Riders should avoid exposing tires to direct sunlight for prolonged periods, as sunlight causes the rubber to harden more quickly. Store the motorcycle in a garage or another covered area, or use a heavy motorcycle cover to prevent sun damage. Keep the tire free of harsh chemicals, such as gasoline, oil, and other non-rubber compatible liquids to prevent contaminating the rubber. Wash tires only with mild soap and water. Do not use cleaners or wheel dressings, as these can adversely affect the ability of the tire to properly grip the road.

Choose the Right Motorcycle Tires

A motorcycle tire needs to be the right type and size in order to properly fit the wheel. Also, the front and rear tires on a motorcycle are different sizes. While sticking with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part is the easiest way to ensure a tire is the right size and type, some riders may want to switch to a different brand or alter the tire’s specifications slightly. If this is the case, it helps to know a little about the different types of tires and how to decipher tire sizes.

Types of Motorcycle Tires

Motorcycle tires need to be matched to the type of motorcycle, as well as to the style of riding. The differences among touring tires, sport tires, and off-road tires are pronounced, and a rider needs to be aware of how a specific style of tire influences riding, durability, and handling.

Whether a tire is bias or radial cut makes a difference in the overall performance of the tire. Tread pattern affects handling, especially in wet conditions. Tires made from harder rubber compounds wear more slowly and offer better gas mileage, but have inferior grip when compared to softer tires.

Touring and Sport Touring Tires

Motorcycle touring tires have heavier load capacities and are designed specifically for the larger body styles of cruisers. Touring tires are stronger and more durable than other types of motorcycle tires, making them ideal for driving long distances at lower speeds. The tread patterns on touring tires offer better performance in wet weather, as they disperse water more effectively. Touring tires are generally bias-type tires with a round profile, which gives better straight-line stability.

Sport touring motorcycles are lighter and more nimble than cruisers. Sport touring tires have lower load capacities than touring tires, with better grip and higher speed ratings. Wet weather handling is sacrificed slightly in order to provide better performance on dry pavement.

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