Choosing Tyres For Your Motorbike

Why are Tyre's Important?

Tires are perhaps the most important component on any motorcycle. They are the key to performance, comfort and safety. Without proper tires and routine inspection and maintenance, our motorcycles aren’t going anywhere. Use this tire guide to learn some of the basics about how motorcycle tires function, their construction and how to choose the right tire for your bike.

Understand The Motorbike Tyre

Construction / Make-up / Design

Make -Up of Tyre

Get familiar with the basic parts that make up a tyre.

Tread: The most obvious part of the tyre people see is the tread, this is where rubber meets the road. You’ll find a variety of tread patterns depending on the intended use for that tyre.
Carcass: This is the backbone of the tyre that lies underneath the tread. Essentially, the carcass is made of steel or fiber cords that run from bead to bead. Every tyre is either a bias ply or radial ply, which is a MAJOR distinction. Bias plies are laid at an angle (bias) in a direction, whereas radial plies are laid directly from side to side. We will discuss the benefits of each a bit later.
Bead: The bead is where the tyre mounts to the wheel. Multiple steel cords are placed in these areas to ensure a snug fit against the wheel and no leakage in a tubeless tyre.
Sidewall: This is where the vital tyre information is displayed, however the sidewall is much more important than just an indicator. Virtually all the load support and much of the handling is determined by the sidewall design.

BIAS OR RADIAL

As motorcycle engines and chassis have advanced, so have tyres. Traditionally, motorcycle tyres were bias ply, which means the carcass was made up of body cords at an angle directionally. Flash forward to the present, and you’ll see a radial design in many tyres, where plies are laid from bead to bead instead. This leads to many advantages:

• Heat dissipation: Radial tires displace heat better, which increase longevity and improved wear
• Sidewall Flexibility: By construction, radial tyres sidewalls are not stiff as bias-ply tires. This allows the sidewalls to contour to the road better, improving surface area to the section or tread.

Bias-ply tyres are still sticking around, but for good reason. Due to the stiffer sidewalls, bias-ply tyres come standard on many heavy cruisers and touring bikes. The lack of flex works well for bikes designed to carry passengers and/or luggage.

Now that we’re familiar with the tyre construction, the next step is learning how to decode the sidewall information. Most of what you need to know is molded right into the tyre’s sidewall in either metric or alphanumeric. Let’s dissect a typical metric sidewall designation example: 130/90 R 16 67 H

  • The first number refers to the tyre width: 130 indicates the tire is 130mm wide at its widest point when installed and ready to ride. This is referred to as “section width.”
  • The second number refers to tyre height: 90 indicates the tyre’s sidewall aspect ratio; which is 90 percent as tall as measured as it is wide, or 117mm in this example. The lower the aspect ratio, the shorter the sidewall if section width remains unchanged.
  • The Letter designation refers to tyre construction: For this example, R stands for radial ply. If the carcass design was bias, it would be indicated as “B”.
  • The third number is the wheel size: 16 indicates the wheel diameter in inches the tyre is designed to fit. In this case a 16-inch wheel.
  • The last number refers to the load index: In this case, 67 is the load index designation. In this example 67 informs the consumer that the tire’s maximum load capacity is 661 lbs. (see chart)
  • The last letter refers to the load index: In our case, H is the designated rating, which means the tyre is suitable for speeds up to 130 MPH.

Alpha Numeric- MT 90 – 16 Load Range B
Alpha numeric is very similar to metric. The first letter always is M, for “Motorcycle.” However the second letter is important which represents the width or section. Like metric, the number following the section width is the aspect ratio. Like metric again, the next number is wheel size followed by load rating.

STICK WITH OEM SIZING

Stick With OEM Size Tires

With your new-found understanding on sidewall information, finding a replacement tire can be quite the undertaking. With a seemingly endless amount of options, you might be asking yourself what you’ve gotten yourself into. The best option is actually perhaps the simplest option, sticking with what came stock on your bike. Motorcycles were designed and developed with a specific tire size, so altering the ply style or load rating can be unsafe and not handle properly.

PROPER TIRE PRESSURE

Possibly the most overlooked preventative motorcycle maintenance is checking the air pressure. Not only can under or over inflation be unsafe and cause unpredictable handling, millage decreases as well. When your tires are over inflates the middles section tends to wear faster than the sides of the section. When under inflated, the inverse is true, and your sides will wear disproportionality to the middle section.
Here are a few tire pressure tricks to ensure longevity and safety out on the road:

Tire Pressure Gauge

1. Use Suggested Pressure: Always abide to suggested tire pressure indicated on the side wall for proper pressure. If you are going to carry lots of luggage or a passenger, we suggest adding a bit more pressure being sure not to exceed the tire pressure indicated on the sidewall of your tire.
2. Get yourself a good gauge: Cheap $5 gauges found at the checkout counter of a NAPA can be a decent tool to have, but a quality tire pressure gauge will be much more accurate. Tire performance is heavily tied to pressure, and even a few PSI can drastically effect handling. Always check pressure when the tire is cold (not immediately after you get off).
3. Check pressure frequently: Anywhere from daily to weekly will serve you fine. Really, the conditions and amount you ride should dictate how often you check your pressure, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

TUBE TYPE TIRES


Many bikes come with a tube type tire, and if yours does, it is important to install a fresh new tube with every tire change. Do not try and fit a tubeless tire on a tube type wheel, as the bead will not likely seal properly, which will ultimately leak. Finding the right size tube is a simple procedure if you know your tire size. In metric sizing, tube sizes are indicated as such: 110/90 (where the first number is width and the second number being the aspect). Alpha: MP85 (First letter is always M for “motorcycle”, second letter is the section width, and the number represents aspect ratio).

WHEN TO REPLACE AND HOW TO SPOT A WORN OUT TIRE

It’s tempting to look at your tread and think, “she ain’t bald, there’s tons of tread left on those bad boys.” But in reality, your tires don’t have to bald, to be out of commission. Here are a couple of things to inspect if it’s been a while between fresh hoops:

Tread Depth
Tread depth should not be below 2/32"

1. Tread Depth: To eliminate the guess work, manufactures incorporate wear bars that run across the tread. Once the wear bars are flush with the tread, it’s time to replace. Another easy trick is use the old penny technique. Placing a penny in the tread, if Honest Abe’s head is covered in some degree, your tires likely have some life in them. There should be at least 2/32” of tread in any area.
2. Age: As a rule of thumb, no matter the tread wear, a tire’s active life span should not exceed five years. Some people suggest a tire’s life is done five years after manufactured date, however we feel it’s safe to extend that to 10 years.

Cracking Tires
Look for cracks in the sidewalls & tread

3. Cracking: Like most things, tires are not immune to sunlight, and if your tires have been exposed for long periods of time, you might experience cracking on the tread or along the sidewalls.
4. Cuts and Punctures: Frequently check for any cuts or punctures in your tire.
5. Loosing Pressure: Since you’re checking your pressure frequently, you’ll notice if a tire continues to loose pressure too rapidly. If this is happening, your bead may be worn out and leaking air.

Worn out tire

6. Feeling Odd: Sometimes the best way to spot a worn tire is in your hands. If you notice vibrating, pushing, pulsating or any unnatural sensation when riding, it could be your tires.
7. Under-inflation or over-inflation can lead to uneven wear (mentioned above). You will find excessive wear in the center or sides of the tire if not aired up properly (shown here).

CONCLUSION

That’s it for our basic motorcycle tire buyer’s guide. Hopefully with the knowledge you’ve gained you can take the right steps towards buying the best tire for your bike and needs! The individual tire pages will have great info on intended and best usage, features and even detailed videos to help you make an informed purchase. Remember to check your tire pressure, let your tires warm up before opening her up, and as always, have fun!

Here is a speed Rating Scale for reference:

Tire Code Max Speed (MPH) Max Speed (KMH)
L 74 120
M 81 130
N 87 140
P 94 150
Q 100 160
R 106 170
S 112 180
T 118 190
U 124 200
H 130 210
V 149+ 240
W 168+ 270
Y 186 300
Z/ZR 186+

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D

Without meaning to make a bad pun, there's an awful lot riding on your motorcycle tyres. Poorly maintained tires compromise the bike's handling and your safety to a degree that can't be overstated, so making sure they're in good condition is one of the most important tasks associated with motorcycle maintenance. Fortunately, it's a job that's quick, easy and requires nothing more than a tire pressure gauge and a Lincoln head penny.

All tire maintenance starts with a thorough visual inspection, and yes, that usually means getting down on your knees so you can get a worm's eye view of it. The first thing you'll want to examine is the tread depth. A bald tire can toss you down the road faster than it takes to read this sentence, especially if the road is a little wet. They're also more prone to puncture, so there's no compromising here. Taking "one last" ride on a worn out tire can have dire and very expensive consequences.

Because "bald" is sometimes open to interpretation, "whadda ya mean that's bald, that things got another couple of thousand miles left in it," the tire manufactures and the DOT have come up with two ways to determine just how bald a tire is. To eliminate the guess work all current DOT approved tires incorporate wear bars that run across the tread to provide an easy to read visual indication of the tread condition. When the tire is new the bars are invisible, as it wears they become more prominent and eventually become unmistakable. As a rule, once the tread reaches the wear bar, its shot and should be replaced before the next ride.

In some instances the wear bars might not be readily apparent. If you can't find them look for a small repeating pattern on the sidewall, a small triangle perhaps, or if you're running Michelin tires a tiny representation of the Michelin Man. The symbols indicate where the wear bars are located in the tread, or better yet consult the tire manufacturer's web site.

As an alternative you can always measure the tread depth. Normally a tire is considered worn out when the tread depth is 2/32 of inch deep. This number varies slightly between the tire manufactures, and some of the motorcycle manufactures supply their own specifications as do the states, but in general the 2/32 of an inch number should keep you out of trouble. Of course reading a ruler marked in 32nds can be tough, especially when you're on your hands and knees peering at a tire.

Tire depth gauges are available, you can find them at most anywhere you can buy a tire, but an easier solution is to stick a penny in the tread. If all of Lincoln's head is visible the tire is past it's sell by date. If a portion of Abe's head is covered up you're good to go. By the way if you're wondering why I used the 2/32 of an inch instead of just saying 1/16, it's because in the US, using 32nd's to describe tread depth is a convention that goes back to the inception of the rubber tire. The rest of the world describes tread depth in millimeters or nominal fractions.

Besides inspecting the tread depth, keep an eye out for any foreign objects, primarily sharp ones that will create problems at a later date. Often a screw, nail or other road-hazard can be removed before it does any real damage, if you catch it in time. And if the tire does start leaking when you pull out that roofing nail, well at least you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that it happened in your driveway while the bike was parked, as opposed to it happening at 65mph on the interstate. Last but not least, check the sidewalls for damage, look for bulges, splits and cracking and as you'd expect, replace any tire that's questionable.

Once you're satisfied with the tire's physical condition check the tire pressure(s) and adjust them accordingly. My preference is to use an electronic digital gauge, they're inexpensive, dead accurate and easy to read, and don't forget that tire pressures are always adjusted with the tires cold.

The bottom line here is that if you take care of your tires, they'll take care of you. A little maintenance, the foregoing should take about ten minutes a week, provides an extra margin of safety and reliability. And most importantly keeps you on top of your tire wear. Because when it comes to tires, what you don't know is what hurts you.

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A Few Dos and Don’ts

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Step 2

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Step 3

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WE FEEL ARE MOST USEFUL FOR QUICK REPAIRS

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