Written By
Published Oct. 29, 2018

Two important components on a bike are the front tire and rear tire. Just think about it for a second. It doesn’t matter how effective your brakes or how powerful your engine is – if you tires can’t handle the job that motorcycle is going to ride terribly. That’s because it is the tires that connect the bike – and you – to the road. All the action of the bike goes through them, so they better be up to the task.

In this guide, we help you to find the best motorcycle tires on the market. We look at the key features when making your selection and do a deep dive review on some of the best models out there.

So read on for a crash course (pun intended!) in the best motorcycle tires. Vroom vroom!

The Best Motorcycle Tire

We start out with a tire from Michelin. Ever since the company was founded way back in 1889, Michelin has become a name – and a company – synonymous with high-quality tires.

This model mixes durability with performance for a sports-inspired front tire that is the best of both worlds. In particular, it has a number of features that make it adept at operating in wet conditions. For example, silica has been incorporated into the compound of the tire. This, along with the tire’s unique tread pattern, is designed to clear water quickly and efficiently from the surface to help grip in the wet.

Those treads are also designed to avoid uneven wear, a very useful feature. The tire is also designed with a particularly dense carcass and sidewall. This makes the tire a little more rigid, which in turn provides excellent feedback and handling in all conditions.

Key Features
  • Designed for Extra Wet Grip
  • ADT Technology for Amplified Rider Feedback
  • Tread Pattern Designed to Resist Uneven Wear
Specification
  • Brand MICHELIN
  • Model 43863
  • Weight 15 lbs

This pair of Pirelli tires is from a heavyweight tire manufacturer with a worldwide reputation for producing high-quality equipment. This set from Pirelli brings a lot to the party.

First, we have the obvious fact that this is a complete tire set with both front and rear tires included for one price. Not only does that help to keep the overall price down – and this set does offer phenomenal value for the money, especially for a Pirelli product – it’s also convenient. It’s always a good idea to change both front and rear tires at the same time and to use the same manufacturer on both wheels.

Pirelli promises that the WSBK-derived profile of the tires is designed for added agility with great tire response to quick turns and transitions. The tires also feature a bi-compound strip for additional grip. All of that is rounded out with a W rating for safe use at up to 168 mph, so these tires are rated to handle any speed that you are going to be hitting – you certainly shouldn’t be topping 100 mph on the highway!

All in all, a very well designed pair of sports style motorcycle tires that offer amazing value for money.

Key Features
  • Front & Rear Set
  • Excellent Value for Money
  • Large Footprint
  • W+ Rated
Specification
  • Brand Pirelli
  • Model 871-1153 871-1166

Our next product comes from another manufacturer with a reputation for producing excellent motorcycle tires. Once again, these tires come as a front and rear set, which is usually a great way to get a good value when tire shopping.

This is also a more entry-level tire compared to some of the more premium, high-end editions that Continental puts out. That’s not to say this isn’t a good tire, just that some features have been stripped back to keep costs down. We don’t need to tell you that this represents excellent value for a set of tires from such a well-respected maker.

Even as entry-level tires there is still a lot to like here. The big stand out feature is the durability of these tires. They have been manufactured using a newly developed Polymer compound that has been specially designed for durability while also providing a highly stable and comfortable ride.

Key Features
  • Front & Rear
  • Extra Durable Compound
  • Designed for Stability and Comfort
Specification
  • Brand Continental
  • Model 02550190000 02550200000

Shinko may not be a name that immediately springs to mind when you think of tire manufacturers. But this joint Japanese/South Korean company has been making motorcycle tires since 1946, so you imagine they would have learned a thing or two about making good tires in that time!

The 712 is a front motorcycle tire designed for use on a 19-inch rim. It is another entry-level tire, with a price tag hovering around the 50 buck mark. Once again though just because the price is low doesn’t mean you’re missing out on a lot! The most impressive feature on this tire is the tread pattern. Described by Shinko as a staggered pattern, you can certainly see that this design has been carefully produced to help slick water away from the tire surface and provide grip on difficult road surfaces.

A traditional 4-ply Nylon carcass is designed to give a rigid but smooth ride. The tire is H rated, so it has the max design speed of 130MPH. That should be more than sufficient for the engine power of any bike riding on 19-inch rims. It may lack an eye-grabbing big name manufacturers logo on the sidewall, but this is still a very good tire for a very reasonable price. 

By the way, we get the feeling this may not be Shinko’s last appearance on the list…

Key Features
  • Entry Level Price
  • Excellent Tread Etching
  • H Rated
Specification
  • Brand Shinko
  • Model LEPAZA60381
  • Weight 10.9 lbs

Well, how about that, after just meeting Shinko they are back again with another entry. This is the 712 rear tire, so it compliments the 712 front tire we just looked at above. 

Speaking of the 712 front tires, everything we said about it also holds for the 712 rear. So once again you have a good quality but entry-level tire here. It has excellent grip etching to match the front tire, it has the same 4-ply carcass construction and is H rated for safe use at speeds up to 130 MPH. That’s about it really. If you liked the looks and features of the front 712 then we imagine you’ll be happy to see there is a rear version to match.

This is still a great value tire, with the price of round 75 bucks reflecting the natural fact that rear tires are always bigger and heavier than front ones. You could say that it would have been nice if both tires were bundled into a set by Shinko, and that probably would have saved a little extra cash. But even when buying them separately like this they still represent excellent value for money.

Key Features
  • Entry Level Price
  • Excellent Tread Etching
  • H Rated
Specification
  • Brand Shinko
  • Model LEPAZA60646
  • Weight 14.86 lbs

From one of the lesser known – at least here in the States – tire makers we are back to one of the most prestigious with this set of front and rear tires from famed French manufacturer Michelin. With a price pushing well over 200 bucks, we are also back into the realms of the premium tire.

So what are Michelin bringing to the party here? Well, they have reached into their extensive store of knowledge of making Moto GP racing bike tires to produce this set of tires for everyday riders. That translates into a set of sports style tires here with a number of features that lend themselves to high performance.

The tread, for example, only covers around 12% of the tire surface. This has been done to provide the maximum road adhesion during cornering. The rubber compound that has been used here has been employed because it heats up to its premium operating temperature extra quickly. It is also W rated, meaning it is safe for use up to 168 MPH. not of course that we suggest you drive at those speeds (unless you want to be chased by the Police chopper).

If you are looking for a sport orientated high-performance tire, there is a lot to grab your attention here.

Key Features
  • High Performance Tires
  • Design Derived from Moto GP Bikes
  • W Rated
Specification
  • Brand MICHELIN
  • Model 67624 92557

Choosing between a touring style of tire and one that is more designed for sports use can be a tough decision for many motorbike riders. On the one hand, you want the performance and speed capacities of sports tires. On the other, you want the long lasting endurance and comfortable ride of a touring tire.

It’s quite a head-scratcher, but it is a decision that Continental is looking to take out of your hands with this model of motorcycle tire, the ContiMotion. It is designed to combine the best parts of sports and a touring tire into one. So it is designed to provide excellent grip in wet and dry conditions just as you would expect with a sports tire. At the same time, it is designed to provide outstanding ride comfort and stability – just like any good touring tire.

The good thing as well is that this tire is priced for the entry-level market, and you can expect a fair bit of change back from a hundred bucks. That’s good value for any Continental brand tire, let alone one that boasts such an interesting, problem-solving design.

Key Features
  • Hybrid Sport / Touring Style
  • Excellent Rider Feedback
  • Entry Level Pricing
Specification
  • Brand Continental
  • Model 2550190000
  • Weight 9.4 lbs

Hey, remember that awesome tire we were talking about earlier, the one that combined the qualities of sports and touring tires? Not only did it do all that, but it also did it for a really impressive, entry-level price?

It was a very impressive tire, but it was a shame it was only available as a front tire. Well, what are you going to do huh? It’s a real kick in the – wait a minute here it is as a rear option too! Yes, just like the entry from Shinko we saw earlier, this style of tire – the ContiMotion – is available as a set of front and rear tires for your hog. They are just sold separately for some (annoying) reason.

Just as before then, simply scroll back up to the entry for the front tire to read all the benefits of this design. Just as with the Shinko, it’s also a little bit of a shame they are not sold as a dedicated set. That being said the rear tire is also an entry-level price point so buying both is not going to break the bank and it is a very good tire design too. 

Key Features
  • Hybrid Sport / Touring Style
  • Excellent Rider Feedback
  • Entry Level Pricing
Specification
  • Brand Continental
  • Model 2440340000
  • Weight 15.4 lbs

Next up we have this interesting looking tire from Dunlop. With deep and overlapping tread, it is clearly more toward the touring/cruising end of tire design than a stripped back sports style. Not only is it the tread pattern that marks this out, but the treads themselves are also one of the key features of this tire.

Dunlop has deployed a tread design here that is specifically designed to slick water away from the tire surface quickly. This, combined with the overall high degree of wet grip, makes this a very good tire to use in wet conditions. The tire compound has been specially developed by Dunlop to provide an ideal balance between grip and mileage. It also boasts a slightly off-center groove which is designed to provide extra stability during straight-line driving – again, a great feature in a touring/cruising style tire.

This is a front only tire (not a set), with a price tag of around 100 bucks. That does put it toward the pricier end of the options out there, but it’s not a really high-end premium price either. For the money, you are getting a very good tire that should be especially appealing if you live in a particularly wet region.

Key Features
  • Touring Style Tire
  • Well-Engineered Tread
  • Good Grip in Wet Conditions
Specification
  • Brand Dunlop
  • Model 45605397
  • Weight 11 lbs

This is the rear option for the Dunlop D404. You know the score by now, we reviewed the front tire above so if you want to know the characteristics and key features of this tire, just read about them up on the review above. Both tires share the same features and are available at a similar price.

Key Features
  • Touring Style Tire
  • Well-Engineered Tread
  • Good Grip in Wet Conditions
Specification
  • Brand Dunlop
  • Model 32NK38
  • Weight 13.4 lbs

Next up we have this entry from Bridgestone. It goes without saying that Bridgestone motorcycle tires are well-regarded worldwide as some of the best on the market. This entry is, though, the only tire from this manufacturer to make our list. Don’t take that as a slight against Bridgestone though, it’s more that there are actually so many great motorcycle tire brands out there.

What we have brought you here is one of the best motorcycle tires for off-road riding. Just look at that chunky, rugged looking tread on these tires. They are specially designed for use on the harder ground, with an emphasis on being best suited for “Blue Groove” style conditions. This is a hard off road surface that has had a lot of bikes ride over it, leaving behind rubber deposits from the tires that wear a blue colored groove into the driving surface.

In reality, that means that this is a tire designed with the idea of providing outstanding grip. That even applies to corners too, with this tire being very grippy in turns too. It won’t be ideal for long trips on the highway, but it is packing enough features to be a standout, if somewhat specialized, off-road motorcycle tire that is great value for the pretty low price.

Key Features
  • Off-Road Grip
  • Excellent Cornering Grip
  • Low Price
Specification
  • Brand Bridgestone
  • Model 144096
  • Weight 6 lbs

Vintage motorcycle tires are not as easy to find as they used to be, so it’s great to see this entry from Duro. What makes them vintage? Well, vintage motorcycle tires are designed for older styles of bikes where there is no size difference between the front and rear tires.

That is a pretty cool feature. Usually there is a clear difference in size, weight and most importantly the price between the front and rear tires. That’s not the case with vintage bikes. Make sure that your model takes identical tires and you can really get a bargain here.

These tires are much smaller than modern designs, weighing in at only around six pounds. They boast a 4-ply construction, so they are remarkably tough. The tread design is certainly old school but should prove effective across typical road conditions. This tire is not suitable for all bikes. But if you have a vintage bike that needs tires of this style, you could pick up a high-quality tire for an excellent price.

Key Features
  • Vintage Design
  • Suitable for Front & Rear Wheels
  • Excellent Value for Money
Specification
  • Brand Duro
  • Model 25-31916-300B-TT
  • Weight 6 lbs

When this tire is described as Elite that is not just a reference to the tire model name. This is a single tire with a price tag that is pushing 300 bucks. That there is premium money, so this tire better be bringing a lot of high-end features to the market to justify that investment.

Luckily though it does just that. Dunlop has clearly put a lot of time and attention into the design of this tire. The biggest stand out is what Dunlop refers to as Multi-Tread (MT) technology. This means that the center of the tire boasts a construction that includes a rubber compound that is designed to give a high mileage, long lifespan. A lateral grip compound is added to the tire shoulder to provide extra grip during cornering.

Can you see the tread pattern too? That is a brand new design from Dunlop which they have developed to help clear water from the tire surface as efficiently as possible, helping you to keep a grip during wet weather riding. This is a premium tire in terms of design, materials, construction and price tag. But there are definitely enough outstanding features here to justify that investment.

Key Features
  • Multi-Compound Construction
  • Great Handling, High Mileage
  • Excellent New Tread Design
  • H Speed Rating
Specification
  • Brand Dunlop
  • Model 40RR-02
  • Weight 36 lbs

Our final tire is this dual sports motorcycle tire from Heidenau. By being a tire of dual sports design, this is another tire that can be mounted to the front or rear of your bike. In practice, this is most likely to be done by on an off-road style of bike.

To that end, this tire has excellent, deep tread to dig into softer off road surfaces to provide as much grip as possible across the range of surfaces that can be thrown at you when off-roading. If you compare this design to the pure off-road tire we looked at earlier from Bridgestone though, you can see that the tread used in this design is a little less aggressive. That makes these tires better to use on paved streets (like roads and highways). That is why they are Dual Sport, and that is why this is such a useful style of tire design. 

Price wise you are looking at a tag a little over 100 bucks for this tire. Considering it can be deployed on front and rear wheels, that is pretty good decent value for such a well-designed tire with multiple applications.

Key Features
  • Front & Rear Usage
  • Dual Sport Style
  • Excellent Grip on a Range of Surfaces
Specification
  • Brand Heidenau
  • Model K601209017
  • Weight 12 lbs

Next up we have this tire, the Michelin Commander II tire, which is… hang, we just saw this tire didn’t we? Well, yes and no. As we will see as we move on during this list, whilst many tire manufacturers will sell their tires as sets, many others offer them as individual products only. `

We’ll also talk about this some more in our buying guide further on, but for many modern styles of bikes, the front and rear tires are indeed quite different, with the rear tire being bigger and heavier. That is the case here, with this rear tire clocking in at a meaty 21.5 Lbs – though the weight will fluctuate depending on the tire size.

Features wise everything is exactly the same as on the front tire described above, so flick back up there to read more about them. Suffice it to say you are getting all the excellent features found on that product, but now configured for a rear tire.

Key Features
  • Designed for Extra Wet Grip
  • ADT Technology for Amplified Rider Feedback
  • Tread Pattern Designed to Resist Uneven Wear
  • Rear Tread
Specification
  • Brand MICHELIN
  • Model 28747
  • Weight 21.5 lbs

Best Motorcycle Tires Buying Guide & FAQ

In our buying guide, we’ll take you through the features that you should keep an eye out for when picking out the best motorcycle tires for you. After that, we’ll take a look at how best to use your new tires and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these bad boys.

Features to Consider When Buying Motorcycle Tires

  • Multipack Value – Just as with any other product, you can save some money by looking for tires sold in sets rather than buying front and rear individually. As we’ve seen above though, that can be easier said than done. The price saving is often only a few bucks anyway, so don’t be put off buying the tire you want just because it’s not sold in a set.
  • High Mileage – Tires aren’t cheap, so you do want to get a reasonable amount of use out of them to justify the investment. A high mileage tire will often sacrifice grip by employing a harder compound. Premium tires will often get around this problem by employing multi-compounds, with a strip of harder wearing material down the middle where there is the most road contact.
  • Speed Rating – We’ll go into this a little more below, but all tires have a speed rating that is represented by a letter. H is a max speed of 130 MPH, V is a 149 MPH and W is 168 MPH, to name three of the most common letters to be found.
  • Tread – Take a good look at the tread on the tire you like, because it will give you a good idea of the handling characteristics and where the tire should be used. Deep, aggressive tread is going to be best for off-road riding. Low profile tread will be found on sports styles of tires. Also, look out for a tread that is designed for tackling water build up if you regularly ride in the rain.

motorcycle tires

What Type to Choose – Tube or Tubeless?

In reality, you probably won’t have much of a choice here, as it will really depend on the style of wheel already mounted on your bike. If your bike is set up for a tubeless tire, you can’t just take that tire off and try to install a tube tire – it just won’t work.

Whatever your bike already has is probably the best style of tire for it anyway – that’s why the bike manufacturer put that style of a tire on the model you ride. A tubeless tire is most likely to be found on road bikes. This is mainly a safety feature as if you have a blowout whilst riding on the highway, a tubeless tire will (usually) be far less catastrophic an event, and you should be able to limp over to the side of the road without the tire shredding dangerously.

On the other hand, a tube tire is easier to repair. That makes it a better choice for slower off-road riding, where you can carry spare tubes, repair kits, and tools and perform a repair out there in the wild.

Radial vs. Bias

These two terms refer to the different methods of tire construction. All tires have cords, usually of steel, that run through the tire and give it strength. A radial tire has cords that run from bead to bead, i.e. in straight bands through the tire. A Bias ply tire has the cords running at an angle.

A radial tire will have softer sidewalls and better heat disposition, making them better for sport style tires. Bias tires are stiffer and more solid, making them better for cruiser style tires and heavier bikes like Harley Davidsons.

How to Read a Motorcycle Tire Sidewall

On the side wall of the tire you will find a code of numbers and letters that may look something like this:

120/90 – 16 67 H

All of these numbers and letters refer to the different aspects of the tire size. You need to know all of them so that you can order a new tire of the correct size.

  • The first number – 120 in this example – is the width across the tire tread in Millimeters.
  • The second number is the aspect ratio. This, in percentage, is the size of the sidewall compared to the width of the tire. 90, in our example, means the sidewall is 90% the width of the tire.
  • The next number is the rim size in inches. In our example, this tire is made for a 16-inch rim.
  • The next number is the load rating. The number refers to a load index, which you can find online. 67, in our example, gives a load index of 661 Lbs which is the maximum weight that can be put onto this tire.
  • The final piece of information is the speed rating, given as a letter. Again, you can find lists of them online, but an H rating equates to a max speed of 130 MPH.

Motorcycle Tire Brands

There are a lot of tire brands on the market today and we’ve taken a look at most of the big players in our product guide above. Bridgestone motorcycle tires, Pirelli tires, and Continental tires can be found on our list – just a few amongst many others. Ask any biker, and they will often have their own favorite brand. The truth is they are all capable of making top quality tires, so it can be a good idea to experiment until you find the manufacturer that you like the best.

Best Motorcycle Tire FAQ:

Q:  Can a motorcycle tire be repaired?

  Yes and no. On the one hand, very small punctures can be repaired with a puncture kit or by using a good quality tire sealant (affectionately known as Tire Slime). Any other damage should not be repaired at home, though some garages may offer to repair some tires. Really though you’ve got to ask yourself if it is worth it. As we’ve shown on this list, cheap motorcycle tires can still be effective, and even those with tight budgets can pick up new replacement tires easily enough. Motorcycle accident rates have fallen in recent years, but it still remains a more dangerous mode of transport than most other kinds. Adding to the risks by not adequately replacing a damaged tire just seems crazy to us.

Q:  Can a rear motorcycle tire be used on the front wheel?

Broadly speaking, no. On most modern bikes, the front and rear motorcycle tires have different designs due to the different forces that are put onto them when you riding your bike. So the front tire, for example, is designed to withstand the drag forces generated by applying the bike brakes. The rear tire is designed to withstand the pushing forces generated by being attached to the wheel that the motor drives. You should never, ever mix front and rear tires as it will dramatically affect the handling characteristics of your bike and make it dangerous to ride. One exception to this rule is vintage motorcycles. Old style bikes are often set up so that the front and rear tires are the same. This isn’t the rule for all older models of bikes, so make sure that your model is one with identical front and rear designs. If it is though then keep an eye out for vintage motorcycle tires such as the one from Duro that made our list above. The other exception is Dual Sport motorcycle tires. Typically employed on off-road bikes, they can also often be mounted to the front or rear of the bike.

Q:  How can I tell when my tire needs to be replaced?

  The first thing to do is to keep an eye on the mileage being put on the tire, though you also need an idea of the endurance of your tire. Most bike tires are rated to last between 5,000 to 15,000 miles to find out what yours is. Secondly, perform visual inspections of the tires at regular intervals. Look for obvious damage to the tread and sidewalls as well as things like bumps and bulges that could indicate a weak spot is building up. Thirdly, check the age. Any tire more than 10 years old needs to be replaced as the rubber in the tire will start to degrade after this time, making the tire unsafe. Finally, you can just ask old Honest Abe for some advice. Tread depth is a great indicator of tire lifespan. 1/32” is the absolute minimum you can have, so insert a penny with Lincoln facing downward into the tread. If the top of his head touches the tire then your tread is too shallow and the tire must be replaced.

Q:  How can I reuse my old tubes when putting on a new tire?

  No that is definitely not recommended. Tubes age and are subjected to wear and tear just like the tire itself. This is essentially the same answer as we looked at above when we were talking about whether to repair the tube or not. In this instance, a new tube is even cheaper than a new tire so, again, why take the risk? Spend a little extra and come away with brand new sets of everything.

Q:  What size tube do I need?  

  If you already own tubed wheel, the best bet is to remove and measure the diameter of your tube. Otherwise, you could try reading the sidewall for your tire size (see above to find out how to do that) or check the paperwork with your bike for the tire size. Inner tubes should clearly state the size of tire they are compatible with, so arm yourself with this information before going shopping for one. man riding a motorcycle

Our Top Pick

Selecting a top pick from this list is unusually difficult. Not just because of the quality of the tires that made our list either. Hey, this is Car Bibles, it should come as no surprise that we are only dealing with the best of the best here.

No, the issue is more that because there is a wide range of tire types – sports or cruiser style, front and rear, tube or tubeless – it’s hard to pick the best one because it may not be suitable for you or what you need. So instead we’ve picked what is to us the best overall tire. It may not be suitable for your bike, it may not be what you are looking for. But, to us at least, it packs the most useful features into the best overall design.

For us, the best motorcycle tire is the Michelin Commander II. We were just extremely impressed with the level of features on this tire. Everything from the silica blend in the rubber compound to the tire tread designed to ward off uneven wear was well thought out and well implemented. The tire itself is also highly durable with excellent handling and rider feedback too. It is, therefore, a very deserved winner as the best overall tire on the list.

Sources:

  1. Motorcycle Accident Rates – Forbes

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