If you ride a motorcycle, one of the most important parts of your bike, which are often overlooked by owners, are your tires. In fact, many motorcycle experts tout them as the most fundamental part of your ride. In this guide, we look at how to inspect and maintain your motorcycle tires given their importance not only to your bike as a whole, but also your health and safety as the rider. Without regular maintenance of your tires, you really are taking your life into your own hands every time you jump on the back. Plus, our guide shows how easy and quick it is to do so, so there really is no excuse not to look after your wheels so you have the best motorcycle wheels at all times.
Why Is Inspecting Your Tires So Important?
Tires on motorcycles are mostly made of a rubber composite regardless of what type of motorcycle you drive – though this is where the similarities end. There are numerous factors that affect the standard of a tire to make them the best motorcycle wheels on the market, or not. However, checking and maintaining your tires is important to do regularly, whatever you drive. But why is that?
Well, as mentioned above. Your tires are arguably the most important parts of your motorcycle and its continued health. Given that every motorcycle only ever balances on two points of a road at a time, it is because of this that the tires on a motorcycle need to be of the same size and tread to ensure a safe and smooth ride. This need to be exactly identical translates also into the shape and compound – not just the size. While some car drivers may play around with such characteristics, this is a freedom that motorcyclists do not have and is one of the reasons why motorcycle tires need to be checked as often as possible – if they start to become outshapen or worn down in different amounts, the motorcycle becomes unsafe.
How To Inspect Your Motorcycle Tires
- Read The Treads
Reading the treads of your motorcycle is a fundamental way to ascertain if you need to replace your motorcycle tires or not. Your tires in general will be the part of your bike that you need to replace most often, disregarding fuel! It is is the tread that gives you clues as to whether the tires can stay or should go.
So what is the tread? In short, it is the part of the tire that gives them grip. They give the surface of the tire a pattern as opposed to being totally smooth. You should have chosen your tire and its tread to suit the type of road surface that you intended to drive on from the outset – getting this wrong can be dangerous even though the tires are new.
The more you do use your motorcycle, the more this pattern of grooves on the tires’ surface will start to wear down and become smoother. This affects their chances of gripping to the road through friction – especially if the road surface is wet or icy.
Luckily, most tires come with indicators that start showing when the tread is starting to become too worn for safe use. So when you inspect your tires on a weekly basis, look out for these as they will let you know when you need to change them. The indicators usually show when 1/32nd of an inch has worn away on your wheels. They’re pretty clear and tough to miss so even novices will know when to take them to be changed.
- Changing Your Tires Before The Tread Indicators Show
There is some argument, however, to have your tires changed before the indicators on your wheels start to show. This is because the standard 1/32nd of an inch of wear is often seen as too close to the danger zone for leading motorcycle safety experts. They believe that the traction that a tire demonstrating such wear has is already seriously undermined and therefore putting a driver and fellow road users at risk – especially when roads are wet or icy.
That’s all very well, but without using the indicator, how do you tell if the tires need to be changed? Well some motorcycle enthusiasts swear by an actual tread indicator machine that is able to measure for you how much wear and tear your wheels have been through. However, old school motorcyclists often simply use a penny in the treads and see where the treads finish on the coin to ascertain how much wear has occurred since they were new.
- When One Of Your Tires Is Worn
It can be very tempting just to replace one of your tires at a time if one of them has a dramatically more worn tread than the other. However, it is not recommended for the same reason that it is not a good to have different tires from different manufacturers from the outset. It can be fine, but it is not a risk worth taking. This is because motorcycle tires and the bike itself will have be designed to work when they are exactly the same. Anything else could cause your bike to become unstable and so this is the same issue when one of your tires is more worn out of the pair. They have essentially become two totally different tires and the balance for your bike needs to be reset by purchasing a new pair.
However, some leading experts take a different tack and claim that as rear tires will often find their treads worn down almost twice as fast as the front ones, it is not necessary to change the front one every time the rear one needs changing. That being said, these experts only advocate doing so if you use your bike for street or ride driving.
How Old A Tire Should Be When You Change It
When it comes to tires, age also affects their ability to provide a safe ride, even if they have never actually been used on a bike. In the main, most tires should be used within five years of manufacture, or changed in their fifth year. Their age becomes an issue as the chemical makeup of the tire can affect their ability to create friction and traction with the road. Obviously over time this chemical makeup changes and the tires consequently become more slippery.
There will be a date stamp on the sidewall of your tire so that you can ensure you change your tire at the recommended time. It is a four figure number in a square or rectangular box. This number corresponds to the year and the week of that year that the tires were made.
The Tubes Of Your Tires
As well as the tread, motorcyclists need to inspect and maintain the tire tubes too. Not all tires will have tubes included, but the majority will. It is a good rule of thumb to change the tubes of your wheels every time you change the tires. This is because these tubes will expand and stretch with time so that if or when your tire is changed, a dangerous fold or crease can be created between it and the tire tube. This is risky to then drive. Tubes and tires need to be compatible so ensure that they are the same before you change either.
One of the essential methods of maintaining the efficacy of your tires is to check the pressure of them as regularly as possible. Tires are always easy to pump up too much or too little.
You can buy tools that can measure the pressure within your tires accurately. These pressure gauges are not expensive and are easily bought in auto shops. It is a particularly important piece of equipment to use before any long drives that you will be taking on your bike. You need to do it while your tire is cold as the heat that is created through use and friction can change the pressure within a tire to give an inaccurate figure.
Keeping your pressure at the bike’s recommended level will ensure that you get the best mileage out of your fuel as well as keeping you safe while you drive. The level of inflation can affect how your bike is able to corner so it is important that they are pumped up sufficiently.
On the other side, if your tire is pumped up too much and becomes overinflated, the extra pressure can cause your tire to be damaged far more easily and quickly. This can affect the tread of your bike.
PSI figures can be found in your owner’s manual as well as on the tire itself where the maximum PSI will be found. It’s important to note however that the figure on your tire is the maximum level the tire should be inflated at, not the optimum level which can be quite different.
Tires should not need inflating all that often, though that does depend on the amount of use you get out of your bike. A good yardstick is that losing more than two PSI in any one month is too much and you should have your tires or wheels inspected for any issue. Often, it can be an indicator for when to replace motorcycle tires on your bike or sometimes they just need to be patched up.
Tires Need Breaking In
Your bike will feel different when you change your tires so make sure you make allowances for this when you take it out for the first few times – particularly if you have changed the tire manufacture, shape or size as opposed to have a direct replacement. Experts claim that it will actually take about 100 miles before your tires are properly broken in and your bike starts to feel normal to you.
It’s a good idea therefore to take it easy on any drives you make in that time – no speeding down the highway or crazy fast country lane drives should be taken until the handling performance of your motorcycle has become second nature to you again. This is key to learning how to maintain your motorcycle tires as well as learning when to motorcycle tires in general. New tires will often have a coating on them that affects their ability to cause friction and maintain traction so take particular care with a new set of wheels and when the road surface is wet.
Learn How To Read Your Tires
As well as learning how to read the treads on your tires, the key to knowing when to replace motorcycle tires is to know what the symbols that ‘engraved’ on your tires’ sidewalls mean. They can look a bit like hieroglyphics at first in the amount of sense they can make to a novice motorcyclist but they can take a lot of hassle out of replacing and maintaining tires. Your owner manual should give you all the instructions you need for what the specific symbols mean, but if you are unsure you can either contact your tire manufacturer or look at the FAQs on their websites. Reputable brands will often have a thorough page dedicated to deciphering what your tires say.
When To Replace Motorcycle Tires: The Bottom Line
Learning when to replace motorcycle tires is not only crucial to a driver’s enjoyment of riding a bike, but it is also fundamental to a driver’s safety – as well as all the other road users that share the highways with them. Unnecessary motorcycle accidents can be avoided if tires have the right tread and are not worn away making them dangerous and unroadworthy. All motorcyclists, both old and new, should take the time to inspect their tires regularly to ensure they pose no undue risk to themselves or others.