Round and black. That’s the extent of a lot of motorcyclists’ tire knowledge. Most people spend a majority of their time customizing their motorcycle by focusing on either making it look sharp by bolting on chrome or dropping large quantities of money on elaborate paint jobs. Or if you’re like some, you spend the majority of your hard-earned dollars on go-fast parts, strapping on the latest and greatest exhaust or air cleaner, or jamming oversized pistons and monster cams into the motor. All of those things are well and good, but they amount to nothing more than scrap metal without the right set of tires.
We spend a lot of time at events and motorcycle shows. And, all that time spent at biker rallies has given us some insight into what people want, or what they think they want in a tire. Here are a few of the common mistakes we have observed.
Your OEM tire isn’t necessarily the best option for replacement. When it comes time to get new rubber, many people go right back with the exact same tire that was original equipment because they don’t know what else is available or what the difference would be. Chances are the manufacturer of your motorcycle equipped that bike with that tire because it was the best deal they could cut with a tire manufacturer. That doesn’t mean it’s a terrible tire, but do some research and you could probably find a better fit for your riding style.
Pick a tire that fits your riding style. Don’t pick a tire based on mileage alone. For too many riders that is their only concern. If you like to ride aggressively, look for a tire with a softer compound. If you ride year-round in all kinds of conditions, dirt, rain and gravel, you’re going to want a tire built for those conditions. If you are a slave to the super slab and spend the majority of your time in the saddle criss-crossing the country’s interstates, then a high mileage tire is for you. Do your research and cruise the internet forums to educate yourself. You may give up some mileage, but the time you do get from the tire will be a better experience.
Stay close to your manufacturer’s recommended size. One commonly heard question is “How much bigger can I go?” Just because you may be able to squeeze a 150mm tire where that 130mm tire should go, it doesn’t mean you should do it. Generally when you put a larger tire on a rim, it will fit and bead up, but it causes the sidewall of the tire to bulge out and doesn’t allow the tire to perform correctly. Also, you run the risk of having the tire rub the sides or top of the fender and possibly fail at speed. Having the look of a slightly larger tire isn’t worth the risk of injury or possibly death to you or your passenger.
Cheaper isn’t always the best way to go. Don’t do your tire shopping based solely on price. Just because you can find an off-brand tire that’s half the price of a proven brand doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go. Stick with reputable brands. Like the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” Even though that tire is cheaper today, it’s probably going to wear out faster than a proven brand tire and almost undoubtedly will not perform as well.
Specs, specs, specs. Be sure your tire has the proper speed and load rating for your motorcycle. Just because the tire size fits on your bike doesn’t necessarily make it the correct one. Make sure it has the proper load and speed ratings for your bike.
The second thing you should check is air pressure. This is probably the single most important thing you can do for your tire’s life and performance. Before every ride, check your air pressure. Set it to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure on the side of the tire and you will get the maximum performance and life out of your tire. It’s cheap and easy, but rarely done by most motorcyclists. Lastly, what may seem like a no-brainer. Check to make sure the directional arrows are facing the right direction. Installers make mistakes too, and if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, double check the direction before mounting. It will save you headaches later.
Follow these few simple tips and do your homework before purchasing tires, and your ride will be longer and that much more enjoyable.