A motorcycle's tyres are the only part of the vehicle in contact with the road. They affect all aspects of control from accelerating and braking to steering and cornering.
It's essential for the safety of both the rider and other road users that the bike is fitted with appropriate tyres that are properly checked and maintained.
Choosing the right tyres
There are three basic types of motorbike tyre. These are:
- Diagonal or cross ply
- Radial ply
- Bias belted
In addition, tyres may be tubeless or tube type (requiring an inner tube) depending on the wheel type. The type and size of tyre required will depend on the make and model of your motorbike and what you intend to use it for (touring, street riding, off-road, racing etc.). You can find the appropriate tyre for your situation by consulting your bike owner's manual, a motorcycle tyre specialist or the tyre manufacturer's guide.
The front and rear tyres should also be of the same type. In some European countries it is illegal to ride a bike with tyres from two different manufacturers. This is not currently a legal requirement in the UK but using the same brand and type of tyre for both wheels is still advisable.
Inspection and maintenance
It's a good idea to inspect tyres regularly, even if the bike appears to be handling normally. Visual signs of a tyre's deterioration can include cracking of the tread or sidewall rubber, cuts, lumps or bulges. The depth of the tyre tread should also be regularly checked.
Driving over potholes, kerbs and debris can all result in damage to the structure of the tyre and riders who experience an impact may be advised to get their tyres checked out even if there are no visible signs of deterioration. Air loss, unusual noises and vibrations can also indicate problems with the tyres.
Tyre treads help maintain a grip on the road and disperse water from the area where the tyre is in contact with the tarmac in adverse weather conditions. In the UK it's a legal requirement for the tread to be at least 1mm in depth around the whole circumference of the tyre and across 75% of the central width. The original pattern must also be visible across the remaining 25%.
Most motorcycle tyres have tread-wear indicators located in the grooves. These give an indication of when the tyre is approaching the end of its safe and legal life. The tyre should be replaced when these tread wear indicators reach the level of the tread surface.
The correct inflation of tyres is vital to road safety and performance. It's recommended that tyre pressures are checked regularly (preferably once a week) and before any long journey. Tyre pressures should be checked when the tyres are cold, as heated tyres can give a false reading. This means taking a reading before the bike is ridden. Spare tyres should also be checked at regular intervals.
Under-inflated tyres can result in poor handling and reduced grip with the road surface. They can also be prone to overheating and causing excessive flexing and deterioration of the casing. Under-inflated tyres tend to wear out more quickly and can adversely affect the mileage you get from the bike, which can increase fuel costs. This can also increase your carbon emissions.
A tyre will tend to lose air pressure over time (typically around 1 psi or 0.076 bars per month). Excessive air loss could be an indication of a slow puncture or a problem with the valve, valve cap or the wheel itself.
Tyres that have been run while flat or seriously under-inflated should not be re-inflated and reused. There may be damage to the structure of the tyre and they should always be removed and inspected by a trained tyre specialist.
Over-inflated tyres reduce the area of tyre in contact with the road, leading to reduced control and faster wear in the centre of the tread. Over inflated tyres can also be more susceptible to damage from impact with things like speed bumps, potholes and kerbs.
The recommended pressures for original equipment tyres can be found in your owner's manual. Tyre specialists or tyre manufacturers can provide the optimum pressures for 'aftermarket' alternative tyres. The recommended pressures may also vary depending on the load. This may include factors such as whether you are riding solo or have a pillion passenger, have a heavy pannier load or have a side-car attached.
New tyres should be allowed a 'running in' period. This allows the tyre to settle properly on the wheel rim, 'scuffs' the tread surface and gives the rider a chance to adjust to small differences in handling. When new tyres are fitted, the bike should be ridden at low speeds for the first 100 miles or so.
It’s best to avoid hard braking and cornering, while it’s a good idea to take extra care in bad weather or otherwise tricky conditions. After the first 100 miles, the tyres should be checked to ensure the correct seating and inflation.
Disclaimer – Please not that this guide is not designed to be advisory and you should contact the tyre manufacturer for full details of the products mentioned.Back to top