Tammy Broccas June 20, 2019
touring motorcycle photo

Every biking enthusiast is well aware of the fact that tires are the most critical part of a bike. While all tires may look the same to a rookie, they come in various different styles and sizes. Choosing the correct tire type for you depends on how you ride, why you ride, and your level of expertise. Picking out the most important component for our bike is no easy task, so these are 10 things you should do to select a tire to ensure durability and safety for your bike.

1. Looks can be Deceptive

Often, tires that appear to be the same to all us rookies can be built for completely different purposes. They are built to reach different performance levels, safely. The speed rating for each tire is mentioned in an alphabetic (letter) code on the sidewall of the tire. It is usually the last character of the alphanumeric and metric code which is mandatory to be inscribed on every tire, by law. For example, the letter “L” denotes a safety speed of 120 kmph, while the letter “U” denotes 200 kmph. The codes should be properly checked before fitting new tires onto your bike.

2. Size matters!

Just like humans, tires come in different sizes. Usually, one is advocated never to let size determine your judgment, but here tire size can play a major difference in the handling of our bike. Tire sizes are usually depicted in metric dimensions on the sidewall. For examples sake, if a tire says “120/90B-19 60H”, it means:

  • The section width of the tire in millimeters is 120
  • The aspect ratio (sidewall height from tread to the bead) expressed in percentage with relation to section width is 90
  • B indicates bias-ply, and R would indicate radial
  • 19 is rim size (diameter) in inches
  • “H” indicates speed rating of 210 kmph

3. Don’t Overload

Taking the same example as above, 60 would represent “load index”. Load index is the maximum load that the motorcycle can carry safely. Here, 60 denotes this particular bike can carry a maximum load of 551 pounds only. If the total load on the bike exceeds this given value, the motorcycle may start malfunctioning.

4. Perfect Fits

There are mainly two types of tires based on how they are constructed:

1. Bias ply: the reinforcing belts are placed at a 30 to 40-degree angle to the beads.
2. Radial: the steel belts are place in line, from bead to bead.

All motorcycles are developed with special tire recommendations for its skeleton and suspension parts. Switching from bias ply to radial or the other way round negatively impacts the handling, stability and breaking. Therefore, it is important to consult a professional before switching tires.

5. Choose Identical Tires

Opting for one bias ply and one radial tire is not the most favorable decision. This adversely impacts the handling of your bike. Also, automotive (car) tires should not be fixed even though they might seem to fit perfectly.

6. Consistency is Key

Choosing the same size and type of tire as mentioned in original equipment (OE) promises you consistent performance for your bike. You can go for different manufactures if you feel the need but opting for the same type and size prevents interference between the tire and suspension or driveline components.

7. Don’t “race” into it

Biking experts say using racing tires for daily use don’t work out very well. Racing tires are built to withstand high stress and high-performance applications. They usually tend to work best at higher tread operating temperatures which is not probable to occur on a day to day basis. Also, the lack of rain grooves on high adhesion racing slicks make them skid in wet conditions, compensating on the rider’s safety.

8. Tread Patterns

Considering tread patterns before selecting tires is an important step. Tread patterns, and the size and positioning of rain groves are an important factor in determining how the bike performs under different road conditions. There are different tires suitable for tight packed dirt, or sand or wet, marshy land. Make sure to think of this minor detail as ell to ensure complete cooperation from your bike.

9. Don’t “Tire” the Tires

Tire conditions need to be constantly monitored. The sidewall or tread bulging out may indicate ply separation on the inside. Dry cracking due to wet and dry conditions or over usage can be dangerous as well. The general thumb rule is to use tires that are less than five years old. To determine this, follow the steps listed below:

How to Read Motorcycle Tire Date Codes

Like perishable food items, even the best motorcycle cruiser tires have an expiration date. Most experts recommend you replace your tires at least once every six years. If you ride with old tires, you increase your chances of getting a flat or experiencing a blowout on the road. Here’s how to read motorcycle tire date codes so you don’t have to worry about riding on old, weakened tires.

Locate the Code

To locate the tire code, take a look at the outside of your tire. On the sidewall you should see a series of numbers preceded by the acronym “DOT.” When you’re shopping for the best motorcycle tires online, you can easily figure out what year the tires were manufactured by looking for the last four digits in the series of numbers on the tire’s sidewall. The last two digits indicate the year the tire was manufactured, while the two immediately before them represent the week.

Calculate the Numbers

Unless you’re good at working out numbers in your head, you may need to use a calculator to figure out precisely when the tire was manufactured. If the last four digits on the tire are 1019, for example, you should be able to figure out or calculate that the 10th week falls in March. Since the last two digits indicate the year, you now know the tire was made in March 2019. Keep in mind that when you purchase street bike tires from a dealer, they may already be a few months or even a few years old.

Other Indications You Need New Tires

Although the 6-year recommendation can help you decide when to replace your tires, it’s important to inspect them regularly and replace them if they show signs of excessive wear. Even the best motorcycle cruiser tires need to be replaced if the tread wear indicators are showing or if there are tears or deep indentations in the rubber.

10. (Tire) Inflation is Good

Routinely check if your tires are inflated properly. It is important to note that it is the air that carries the load of the entire bike, and not the tires. Proper tire inflation ensures proper performance, long tire life and complete safety.

Under inflated tire tend to overheat, blow out or lead to sidewall failures, while over inflation causes tires to fail ahead of its time and wear out incongruously. Therefore, inflation is required in just the right amount.

No matter. how fancy the body of the bike is, the efficiency is usually determined by its tires. Choosing the right one can make a simple bike into a Harley Davidson. So, think judiciously before you choose.

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