Tire Sense: Motorcycle Tire Tips

Sound RIDER! logo


Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Cbarn


Tire Sense

Common Sense Thoughts on Street Tires

Buying new tires for your motorcycle can be a bit of an investment and it's one we all need to deal with from time to time. What kind of tires to select, how to take care of them and understanding all you need to know about them before you buy is an area few of us delve into. Instead we trust a dealer, an online newsgroup, or word of mouth. It's time to take the bull by the horns and educate yourself about your tires. to be our brain trust.

Air Pressure

Simply put, most people don't maintain their tire pressure with any regularity and typically run below the recommended p.s.i. levels. Case in point was when a local dealer recently checked the tire pressure of every street bike that came in for service over a two- week period. The numbers were added up and divided and the outcome was that the average bike had 9 pounds of pressure per square inch. At that rate a tire is breaking down internally and even if the p.s.i is finally increased, the damage has already been done.

Online vs. Store Bought

Think you'll save money by buying your tires online? Think again. Unless you plan to mount those tires yourself, you won't be saving any money at all and in most cases you'll end up paying more. Once you arrive at a dealer or shop and ask to have your internet- bought tires mounted, you'll most likely be paying the hourly shop rate to have the mounting done which negates your online savings. In addition, any reputable shop would decline from honoring the manufacturer warranty and won't sell you their own warranty if they have one internally. The only thing they're selling you is shop time.

Tire Warranties

There are two types of warranties for tires. A manufacturer warranty and a store-bought warranty.

Some manufacturers warranty all their tires;, others only cover some models. Find out before you buy and get the details about what is covered and length of coverage.

Some shops offer a store-bought warranty which can be a good way to go, but be sure you understand the details before you buy. Is the warranty transferable to your next buyer? How much tread wear is eligible before the warranty is nil, and so on.

What is Free Mounting?

Free mounting comes in two flavors. Off the bike, or on the bike. If your shop offers free mounting be sure you know which type. Off the bike simply means you remove the wheels from your bike and take them to the shop to get the tires mounted. On the bike means bring the whole bike in and they handle everything

Model Development

Some tires are designed before a model actually hits the market, others after. For instance the Dunlop K491 was developed for use on large touring bikes, the first such was Honda's GL1500. It wasn't until later that Avon developed the Venom X as an optional replacement, working with data that came from the wear on the Dunlop. Thus, in Avon's mind they've built a better tire. When selecting a tire consider this if you're going for the most advanced technology available.

Traction vs. Mileage

When it comes to choosing a tire, consider if you want more traction or more mileage out of the tire. Softer rubber provides better traction, but won't last as long. The opposite is true on a firmer rubber compound.

Plugging a Blowout

At some point you have had, or will experience a blow out. Often times the only way to get to a dealer to replace the tire is to plug it. If you're running steel belted tires, don't expect the plug to last long., You'll be lucky if you get 50 miles from either a mushroom or string plug, maybe longer with a bias-ply, maybe not. Bottom line is that once your tire has been punctured, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Unlike car tires, motorcycle tires don't have the depth of tread to retain a plug for any length of time.

Tire Age

Tire age plays a factor. As years go by, rubber tends to harden and the traction that a new tire once had is gone. If your bike was sitting for 5 years in the garage, you probably want to consider tossing those treads, even if they only have a few miles on them.

Changing Air Pressure

Understanding air pressure is an art. More pressure when you've got a load, less when you're mixing off-road travel into your adventures. Less pressure when it's raining gives you more traction, use more pressure when it's dry. It varies greatly from bike to bike and tire to tire as to just where you want your pressure each time you ride. Ask around, talk to others, call the manufacturer and study up.

Three Wheel

If you've got a side car or trike, you're into another can of worms. That Venom X tire that's so great on a Gold Wing is a poor choice if you have a sidecar. The tread was never developed for flat-down traction at all times. Instead, take time to talk with side car manufacturers, installers and tire manufacturers about the best rubber for your rig.

Patrick Thomas/Spring 04

We've worked hard to upgrade this site. Click here to notify us of any problems we need to correct.


Subscription has its privileges - Each month Sound RIDER! publishes new features on rides, clubs, dealers and events. Don't miss out on these informative stories.

Sign up today for your FREE subscription and you'll get notification each month when the new issue comes on line. You'll also be the first to find out about special Sound RIDER! events. From time to time, we also provide valuable coupons that can save you hundreds of dollars on motorcycle services. What are you waiting for? Click here to sign up now!