When dawn breaks to clear, blue skies and warm golden sunshine, every motorcyclist is itching to ride.
You know the feeling. You step outside in the morning on your way to work and breathe in that fresh air. There’s an irresistible urge to leave the four-wheeler home and take the motorcycle.
If you haven’t ridden your bike in a while, your mind soon races with thoughts about the state of your motorcycle. Is it ready to ride? So, you start a list. And of all the things on your pre-ride safety checklist, your motorcycle tires deserve careful consideration.
Your connection to the road
We live in a connected world. Our everyday life is filled with information, often delivered to a phone in the palm of our hand. Our motorcycles are connected to the road by a pair of tire contact patches not much bigger than the palm of your hand.
Every time we accelerate, brake, or lean into a curve, our motorcycle tires make the connection to keep us going. Think about this for a minute. Put your palm down on a nearby surface. What you see is the small area your motorcycle tires have to grip the road surfaces, no matter the riding conditions. That’s why maintaining your motorcycle tires is so important.
How much do you think about your motorcycle tires?
Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about riding your dream motorcycle? Of course you have, we all do it.
But what about daydreaming about your motorcycle tires? Yeah, that’s not a likely scenario. As motorcycle riders, what’s better than just dreaming about tires is being educated about what are the best tires for our bikes. Motorcycle tires are critical riding gear, and the more we know, the better and safer the ride gets.
How to pick the best motorcycle tires for your bike
When it comes to choosing the right tires, the place to start is with your owner’s manual or a manufacturer’s service manual for the correct make and model year you own. There will be a precise specification for the type of tires your motorcycle was designed to operate with.
Motorcycle tire specifications can seem confusing at first. That’s why we have a helpful article to bring you up to speed on motorcycle tire terminology. Original equipment motorcycle tires are usually made by a company that worked in conjunction with the motorcycle manufacturer during the design phase. If those tires aren’t available, there are many brands to choose from for replacement tires. With some research and consultation of various motorcycle tire size charts, we can find the perfect fit for our motorcycles.
But getting the best motorcycle tires is just the start of the journey. Pre-ride inspections and maintenance are required throughout a tire’s life.
How to perform a good tire inspection
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) places tires first in their pre-ride inspection checklist known as T-CLOCS—the “T” is for tires. While your whole motorcycle needs inspecting before every ride, in this post, we’ll solely focus on your tires. Here are some important items you should inspect to extend your tire life:
Tread depth and tread pattern
This is the height of the blocks of thread as measured from the bottom of the rain sipes. Rain sipes are the channels in-between the blocks of tread that allow water to be displaced outward so you have good traction in wet conditions. Tread blocks wear away when riding, and there’s a minimum height of tread needed to provide proper performance. The best way to measure this is with a tread depth gauge. Check around the whole circumference of each tire.
The tire sidewall holds the tires up. With proper inflation, this area helps create a good contact patch while flexing to absorb surface irregularities and bumps. It also contains the bead, which connects the tire to the wheel’s rim. All the important information about the tire is printed on the sidewall. Look for cuts, bulges, and other damage. A compromised sidewall can result in catastrophic failure.
Motorcycle tires are made of highly engineered rubber compounds designed to deliver high performance and good service economy in a truly harsh environment. Motorcycle tire compounds include agents designed to resist UV radiation from the sun and slow down oxidation. Over time and from exposure to the sun, ozone, and chemicals from the road, these compounds wear out. If you see fine cracks in the sidewalls, thread blocks, or rain sipes, your tire has aged out and should be replaced promptly.
Tire inflation pressure
Probably the most overlooked part of motorcycle tire maintenance is proper inflation. Inflation is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition and can impact handling. The air molecules in your motorcycle tires slowly work their way out. A change in ambient temperature changes the pressure in your tires. Under-inflation is the most common problem affecting tire performance, service life and tire wear. Read this article for how to maintain proper tire inflation, and always check inflation pressure on a cold tire.
Look for any objects like glass or metal that are embedded in the tire tread. Small things that don’t puncture the tire can be removed. Some punctures in the tread can be plugged with rubber plugs. Only trust these tire plugs long enough to ride to a nearby motorcycle shop and replace the tire.
Select, inspect, and check
Check your motorcycle owner’s manual and always select the correct types of motorcycle tires for your machine. Inspect them before every ride. Check the cold tire pressure and adjust for the load before every ride. Following these tire tips, and you’ll know your tires are ready for riding.
Tire safety is just one aspect you need to keep an eye on when riding your bike. Another forgotten element is your battery. Here’s how to test your motorcycle battery.
What’s the best way to keep track of your tire pressure in all types of weather? An at-home air compressor with a pressure gauge makes it easy. Here are some tips when buying an air compressor.