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The 3 Keys to Motorcycle Tire Maintenance

The 3 Keys to Motorcycle Tire Maintenance

Or How to Ensure A Great Ride

Let’s face it tires may not be the most sexy part of your ride but havin’ only two of ‘em means we really need to be aware of their wear and performance. There are many tire manufacturers out there and most are pretty good. This report isn’t about which tire you choose but rather how to care for and maintain the tires you have. I’m not really much for making long drawn out reports just to get a bunch of words on the page; it’s about reaching you, my riding friends, and helping to keep your knees in the breeze as much as possible so let’s jump right into this.

It’s all about the pressure. Proper tire pressure is of the utmost importance as improper inflation is the leading cause of tire failure. Your motorcycle’s owner’s manual or the tire information label on the chain guard, frame or swingarm will have valuable information about pressure for solo riding or when carrying a partner/cargo. The recommendations may not be the same for both. Over or under-inflation each carry their own consequences and can lead to rapid and immediate problems up to and including a crash.


  • Wear is the next thing to keep in mind. Because motorcycles are single-track vehicles and lean when they turn they experience tremendous force when cornering and stopping. Riding on worn tires is just asking for trouble. Motorcycle tires are U shaped and the contact points vary when in a straight line, cornering, and braking.  This point of contact when you think about it isn’t all that big. Motorcycle tires are designed with wear bars molded into the grooves indicating when it is time to replace the tire. These usually are exposed at about 1/32 of an inch. Not much real traction left at this point as you can imagine, and channeling water away isn’t happening either. Visually inspect the tires for embedded objects, cracks, splits, bulges, and uneven wear regularly.


  • Maintenance is the final key in this report. Rubber is harder when cold so it is important to give your tires ample time to warm up before leaning into a curve and rolling on the throttle during the morning commute. When cleaning your bike just use mild soap and plain water on your tires. Check your wheels spokes (if you have them) to make sure they aren’t loose. Check the valve stem occasionally and the bead where it meets the rim to prevent air loss or more serious issues. While there note those numbers on the sidewall, they tell different things that are useful to know. Size matters. Also, you can find out when your tire was made and what the max load is from those numbers on your tire.  To find when your tire was made find the letters DOT and the set of numbers after that. That is your serial number by the way. The last four digits indicate the week and year when your tire was made, for example 2313 means it was made in the 23rd week of 2013. To find your load limit you need to id the numbers after the M/C located near your tire size. The number and letter combination that follows is your load index and speed index respectively. In your motorcycle owners’ manual there may be a chart that explains this or just google it if you are really interested in understanding it.  And no 69W does not mean that it can only carry 69 pounds at speed. I’ll leave understanding the index chart to those that want to know.


Okay, that’s about it for this report. Keep safe, ride hard and ride.