Your Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Tire Maintenance
Feb 3, 2024Tags:ownersguidetireslisting tips
We’re about to cover a lot in this one guide on motorcycle tire maintenance- from tire replacement to your most-asked questions on tire pressure or handling repairs; we’ve got you covered.
What you’ll find in this guide:
- Tire Replacement
- Tire Pressure
- Repairing Tires
- General FAQ
- Reading your tire size
- How much do tires cost?
- How to maximize tire lifespan
Motorcycle Tire Replacement
Your frequently asked questions on motorcycle tire replacement.
When should I replace a motorcycle tire?
You should replace a motorcycle tire if your tread depth is below the standard legal limit of 1/32 inch (0.8 mm), if your tire is over five years old, if your tire has visible damage, if you notice a change in riding performance, if you have any flat spots on your tires, or if you see tire pressure issues. The most obvious sign is the tread depth. The legal limit for minimum tread depth is 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) in many places. Don’t wait until it’s too late; issues with flat spots, damage, or tread depth can harshly affect your tire’s performance.
How often should you change your motorcycle tires?
The below information may change based on your manufacturer’s recommendations, your riding style, storage, or any visual issues:
- Sport Tires: If you ride a sportbike aggressively, especially on track days, you might need to replace tires every 2,500 to 5,000 miles.
- Touring Tires: These are designed for longer lifespans and could last 8,000 to 15,000 miles or more.
- Off-Road Tires: The lifespan of these tires depends heavily on the terrain and intensity of use. They can wear out quickly on hard and abrasive surfaces.
How to Find the Age of Your Motorcycle Tire
- DOT Code: Look for the DOT (Department of Transportation) code on the tire's sidewall. It's usually a series of letters and numbers.
- Manufacturing Date: The last four digits of the DOT code represent the week and year of manufacture. For example, if the last four digits are 2519, your tire was made in the 25th week of 2019.
So… How long do they last?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Generally, motorcycle tires typically last between 5 and 7 years from the date of manufacture, assuming they are not worn out before then. This lifespan can vary based on the tire type, riding habits, and maintenance.
Which tire wears out fastest on a motorcycle?
The rear tire typically wears out faster than the front due to bearing most acceleration forces, weight distribution, and the stress of power transfer from the engine to the road. Regular monitoring of both tires for wear is important for maintaining safe handling.
Should I replace both motorcycle tires at the same time?
You don't always have to swap out both motorcycle tires together. Usually, the rear tire gets worn down quicker and might need changing sooner. Just keep an eye on both tires regularly, checking for any wear or damage. If your front tire also looks worn or damaged, it's time to change that one, too.
Motorcycle Tire Pressure
Your frequently asked questions on motorcycle tire pressure.
How much PSI should a motorcycle tire have?
The ideal PSI for motorcycle tires typically ranges from 28 to 40 PSI, but it's best to follow the manufacturer's recommendation found in the owner's manual or on a bike sticker. Check tire pressure when the tires are cold for best accuracy.
How low is too low when it comes to motorcycle tire pressure?
Tire pressure that falls below the manufacturer's recommended minimum is considered too low. As a general guideline, if your tire pressure is 20% below the recommended level, it's too low and needs immediate attention. For instance, if the recommended pressure is 30 PSI, anything below 24 PSI is too low. Riding on underinflated tires can lead to poor handling, increased wear, and a higher risk of punctures or tire failure.
How do I know if my motorcycle tire pressure is low?
An underinflated tire will ultimately give you terrible side-to-side performance- clunky, sluggish, and poor steering. Your steering might feel weird, or turning might take longer than usual. If this continues for a while, you’ll end up with a premature patch of worn tire, notably wider than usual. The easiest way? Consider your seat height- do you feel you’re sitting lower than normal?
Motorcycle Tire Repair
Can you plug a motorcycle tire?
Yes, you can plug a motorcycle tire for small tread punctures, but it's a temporary fix only until you can get a replacement- a maximum of a few days. It's safest to get the tire professionally inspected or replaced soon after, especially for high-speed riding. For safety, replacing the tire is the best option.
Should I ever patch a motorcycle tire?
Patching a tire should always be done carefully and only under certain conditions. For example, if you experience a flat tire while renting a motorcycle, it’s essential to let the owner know and get it replaced. Riders Share does not endorse patching motorcycle tires.
- Patches are really only suitable for small punctures in the central tread area of the tire. Punctures on the sidewall or near the tire's edges are not safely repairable.
- The puncture should be small, typically no more than a few millimeters in diameter.
- A professional internal patch is considered more reliable than external plugs. You have to remove the tire from the rim for a proper internal patch.
- Like plugging, patching is a temporary solution. The patched tire should be replaced as soon as practical, especially for high-performance or long-distance riding.
- Always prioritize safety. If in doubt about the tire's condition, or if the tire sustained multiple punctures or other damages, it's safer to replace it.
- Some motorcycle and tire manufacturers advise against repairs and suggest replacing the damaged tire. Check your owner's manual or with the tire manufacturer for specific recommendations.
Are motorcycle puncture repair kits permanent?
Motorcycle puncture repair kits, especially those designed for emergency or roadside use, are NOT a permanent fix. They’re meant to provide a temporary solution to get you to a repair shop or your destination safely.
General Motorcycle Tire FAQ
Do I need to balance my motorcycle tires?
Balanced motorcycle tires are key for a smooth ride and your safety. If they're off-balance, it can mess with your bike's handling and might even lead to an accident. Plus, keeping them balanced means they'll last longer – a win-win!
How do I break in new tires?
- For the first 100 miles, ride gently. Avoid sharp turns, sudden stops, and hard acceleration.
- Gradually increase the lean angle with each turn to wear the tire surface evenly.
- Avoid wet roads if possible since new tires can be slippery on wet surfaces.
- Vary your speed and avoid long stretches at the same speed to wear the tires evenly.
- Monitor the tires for the first few rides, checking for any issues.
How much do motorcycle tires cost?
One tire will cost around $50-200+, depending on if you pick a budget, average, or high-performance tire. Labor will cost $50-80, depending on your area. Replacing two motorcycle tires will cost you $300-$400 on average.
Reading Your Motorcycle Tire Size
Reading your motorcycle tire size is straightforward once you understand the markings. Here's a quick guide:
- Look for a Series of Numbers and Letters. On the tire's sidewall, you'll find a sequence like this: 180/55ZR17.
- Tire Width- The first number (e.g., 180) indicates the tire's width in millimeters from one sidewall to another.
- Aspect Ratio- The second number (e.g., 55) is the aspect ratio, a percentage representing the height of the tire's cross-section to its width. So, 55 means the height is 55% of the tire's width.
- Construction Type- The letter following the aspect ratio (e.g., ZR) indicates the tire's construction type. "R" stands for radial, while "B" would mean bias-ply. The "Z" in "ZR" signifies a high-speed rating.
- Wheel Diameter- The last number (e.g., 17) is the diameter of the wheel rim in inches that the tire is designed to fit.
- Additional Markings- You may find other letters for speed ratings (like Z, V, H, etc.) and a load index number indicating the maximum load capacity.
How to Improve the Lifespan of Your Tires
Take a look at these tips on improving your tires' lifespan so that they last longer while keeping you safe and/or avoiding downtime if you’re listing your bike for rent.
- Keep the correct tire pressure as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Inspect your tires frequently for wear, cuts, or punctures.
- Avoid hard braking, rapid acceleration, and taking corners at high speeds, which can cause excessive wear.
- Ensure your tires are properly balanced and your motorcycle’s alignment is correct.
- Overloading your motorcycle can put extra strain on your tires. Adhere to the load specifications given by the manufacturer.
- When not in use, store your motorcycle in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures to prevent the rubber from degrading.
- Using your tires on the appropriate surfaces can reduce unnecessary wear. For instance, avoid off-road riding with road tires.
- Replace tires when they reach the tread wear indicator or if there are any signs of significant wear or damage.
Reduce Downtown and Make More Money with Proper Motorcycle Tire Maintenance
We get it- the more people rent your motorcycle, although this means more income, it also means more maintenance. Avoiding tows and breakdowns during your rental periods means that keeping track of your tires is necessary. People tend to overlook that it isn't just about thread depth but also how old the tires are. When buying replacement tires, check the year they were manufactured; don't assume they are brand new.
While we can’t always predict a flat tire due to nails or other road hazards, we can help prevent flats, holes, and tows by ensuring our tires are under 5 years old, with good tread, balanced well, and keep good tire pressure.