Motorcycle tyres tires choosing


This section deals with motorbike tyres ( tires - USA )

Quiz Question.The deeper the tread the better the tyre will grip the road

** True/False **


Quiz Question.You can decide whether to fit tubed or tubeless tyres to your motorbike

** True/False **


Quiz Question.An over-inflated tyre grips the road better than  an under-inflated one.

** True/False **



In all ways bikers take their motorcycles more to the extreme than the average motorist. There is also a bigger variety available to the biker who wants to replace his tyres. For this reason, selecting the correct tyres for your motorbike is more involved and should only be undertaken after a lot of research. Fortunately the Internet has a lot to offer from input from manufacturers and bikers themselves

The Tread

A common misconception about tyres is that the deeper the tread, the better the tyre will grip the road. This is incorrect. It is the rubber that is exposed to a good surface that keeps the vehicle controllable. The deep tread is simply somewhere for the water / mud / sand / crud to go when the tyre travels on a imperfect surface. If there were no tread, the crud would come between the good surface and the tyre. The vehicle would cease to be in contact with the road and the result would be loss of control (aquaplaning in the case of water)

Tyre Pressure

Tyre pressure is a compromise. 

The lower the pressure, the better the tyre is able to 'flow' into the uneven surface of the road and the bigger the contact patch is  - this is what we mean when we say a tyre 'grips' the road. Under inflated tyres generate more heat and although this helps them grip better, the tyre does not last as long. Under inflated tyres also wear unevenly. This leads to poor handling and premature replacement.

Over inflated tyres run cooler and therefore last longer. Tyres however need to be warm in order to offer good grip on the road surface. At high speed they offer better handling and save fuel. They also offer better resistance to damage as a result of impact.

The manufacturers recommended pressures are therefore the best compromise as they have no idea of the type of riding you do, the type of roads you travel on and the climatic extremes of where you live. You as a rider can therefore adopt their approach - stick rigidly to the recommended pressures and forget about the matter altogether. This approach is a good one for motorcyclists who travel short distances and long distances on asphalt only in a country with a moderate climate.

If however you ride on a variety of surfaces, during a variety of climates and temperatures you can adapt a proactive approach and vary your tyre pressures by a very large margin to suit conditions. For this to be viable however you need a compact 12v compressor, tyre gauge and 12v electric plug point fitted on your motorcycle. With this kit you can quickly and easily match your tyres to the conditions. Consider the guidelines as giving below. The logic applied is aimed at providing the maximum grip while still protecting your wheel rims, tube and side walls from damage. 

NOTE: The table below is not for specialist tyres that require very specific tyre pressures to perform. At no times should the maximum type pressure be exceeded as per the manufacturers specification

Tyre PressureConditions
40% above recommendedHigh speed, long distance touring in warm weather with a loaded bike in all round ideal conditions
30% above recommendedHigh speed, long distance touring in warm weather in all round ideal conditions
30% above recommendedAsphalt surface but with large, dangerous potholes and other sharp surface hazards
20% above recommendedLong distance commuting including highway / freeway travel
Manufacturer's recommendationShort distance commuting in city traffic below 100kph. Seasons Spring, Summer and Autumn
Manufacturer's recommendationOff road trail with smaller rocks at some speed
Manufacturer's recommendationRiding when conditions are less than ideal e.g. in very windy conditions. Or when conditions vary a lot.
10% below recommendedRiding when conditions are less than ideal for shorter distances at moderate speed e.g. in extremely windy conditions
15% below recommendedShort distance commuting in city traffic below 100kph during cold Winters
15% below recommendedA long day of riding in the wet at moderate speed
15% below recommendedDirt road with moderately good surface but with some rocky spots
40% below recommendedTravelling slowly in loose, deep sand with tyres with tubeless tyres
40% belowRocky off road trail with very uneven surfaces at slow speed
50% below recommendedTravelling slowly in loose sand with tyres with tubes. Tyres must not get too hot.
60% below recommendedTravelling slowly in very loose, deep sand with tyres with tubes. Tyres must not get too hot. Tyres must not be able to slip on the wheel rims

Note that tyre pressures are measured when the tyre is dead cold. 

You should be using your own gauge and not the local service stations which are seldom accurate.

Tyre patterns and design

There is a huge variation in tyre patterns and design.

Broadly tyres divide into road, enduro (trail) and off-road (scrambler). You do not take slick track tyres off-road and aggressive off-road tyres stay exactly there i.e. off road!. Enduro types are an attempt to make a tyre with reasonable characteristics of both but must not be pushed to the extreme in either environment as they are in all ways a compromise between two incompatible extremes.

Within these three categories tyres are again divided into hard and soft compounds. Hard, giving longevity and soft, offering extra traction but fewer kilometres.

The maximum speed rating and maximum load bearing characteristics differs from tyre to tyre as does width, profile and tread pattern

Road Tyres

On the extreme end of the road tyre spectrum there are the fat, smooth, slick tyres for sportbikes capable of more than 200km. These road/track tyres place maximum rubber onto the road surface and have only the smallest treads to funnel away small amounts of water that may be on the road. Track tyres are made of a softer compound than their road counterparts.

The tread in a sport touring tyre is wider, deeper and there is more of it. The compound is harder and the maximum load rating is higher.

Cruiser tyres have a higher maximum load rating to cope with the bigger size of the motorbike.

Off Road

If you plan to ride more challenging trails your motorbike should have wheel rims with spokes and heavy-duty tubes which are able to resist objects like thorns. Inner tubes should be replaced every 20 000km even if they have never sustained a puncture. This is because the area around the valve deteriorates and finally tears causing a puncture that can be impossible to repair. Water that seeps in through the spokes also causes damage to both the rims, spokes and tube. Ideally your rims should dry out before you park your bike.

Off road tyres vary. The more aggressive the tyre looks (big separate blocks of rubber) the more suited it is to very rough conditions. On hard surfaces however it offers poor performance. One of the reasons for this is the small amount of  rubber that actually comes into contact with the road surface. They are also noisy and affect the top-end speed due to the increase in road friction (therefore going 200km on a breakfast run is not an option!).

The wider and bigger the tread between the blocks of rubber, the more suited it is to thick muddy conditions. The more closely packed the blocks of rubber are, the more suited it is for sand and gravel.

Enduro (trail) Tyres

Somewhere in the middle between road and off road tyres comes the trail tyre with large flat blocks of rubber closely packed together in order to get more rubber onto the road. They offer reasonable performance on road and off road. They are not too noisy and the rubber compound is not too soft.

Issues when choosing a tyre

Even when you have chosen the right type of tyre there are still a number of ratings that apply. Explore these in detail with your dealer.

  1. Will the tyre fit your particular rim?

  2. Can the width of the tyre be accommodated by your motorcycle frame?

  3. What is the maximum speed rating for the tyre?

  4. How is the maximum speed affected by having a pillion passenger or by heavy touring gear?

  5. What is the maximum load for the tyre?

  6. What is the recommended and maximum tyre pressure?

  7. How does the tread width and tread depth compare with comparable tyres by other manufacturers?

  8. Is the tyre essentially a soft or hard rubber compound?

  9. Is the tyre a radial or a bias ply tyre?

Puncture repair kits

When touring you will need to carry your own puncture repair kit. The AA in the UK states that they are called out for tyre problems more often  than for any single other reason. This kit should comprise of the following . . .

Two tyre levers, a puncture repair kit for your type of tyre (with fresh glue), a high pressure, push-pull, bicycle pump (for maintaining tyre pressure in remote areas) and an aerosol can of tyre repair foam. Also a small pencil tyre pressure gauge (Petrol stations tyre gauges of often inaccurate).  You can also buy a CO2 cartridge system for inflating flat tyres - one cartridge gives one bar (if you fit it quickly enough!). You should also take a spare front tyre tube. In an emergency this can also be used for the rear wheel as well. Also useful if your tubeless tyre gets a side wall puncture..


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Tyres - Five Characteristics

Generally tyres have six different characteristics i.e. their grip in the dry, their grip in the wet, off road handling, tyre noise, expected kilometres and method of construction i.e. bias ply (cross ply) or radial

Tubed and Tubeless

The tyres that one fits are either tubeless or tubed. This is dictated by the construction of the wheel rims in the first place, the tyre itself in the second and the nature of the riding you do. Naturally, rims with wire spokes that go right through the middle of the rim need tubes while alloy rims that are cast as a single unit can accept tubeless tyres. Rims with spokes that attach to the rim on the side rather than the middle, can be used with or without tubes.

Tubed tyres and their associated spokes rims are hardier e.g. one can deflate the tyre to a greater extent when travelling over thick desert sand. They can also tackle tough off road conditions with stones, rocks and potholes as the spokes wheels can handle this type of abuse better than alloy wheels.

Tubed tyres are seldom speed rated over 200km per hour as they generate more heat than their tubeless counterparts. In the event of a sudden puncture they are also more dangerous as the tyre can easily come adrift from the rim (unlike tubeless)

Tubeless tyres and their light alloy rims are not well suited to tough conditions as they loose their shape and the tubeless tyres can no longer seal themselves against the rim. One of the big advantages of tubeless tyres is the ease of repair when one has a puncture as the tyre can stay on the rim during the repair process (large side wall punctures are the exception). They are also safer at high speeds and can be speed rated in excess of 300km per hour. The tyre also fits more tightly onto the rim meaning that a sudden puncture is less of a threat (this is why "breaking the bead" is more difficult than tubed tyres). Badly damaged tubeless tyres can accept a tube in an emergency if they are ridden slowly back to a repair shop.

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Hard and Soft Rubber

Tyres are always a compromise between the ability to grip the road and longevity. The softer the rubber compound the better it grips but it will not last more than a few thousand kilometres. The harder the compound, the less it grips but the longer it will last.

The Myth of 'Sticky' Rubber

In isolation, there is no such thing as a sticky tyre. What does happen is that rubber does become more sticky as the temperature increases. Because racing tyres are ridden at high speed they have to be able to handle high temperatures. It is therefore only as they approach their normal operating temperature that they become sticky.

Therefore one can see the error in fitting a racing tyre to your sportbike and then riding off in rush hour traffic on a cold winters day. A regular road tyre would probably offer more grip in this situation than its so called 'sticky' racing counterpart.

Tyre ratings

Every tyre has a series of rates e.g. max speed, max load, max pressure etc. How to read them is a big topic. For a full explanation of tyre ratings see the Bridgestone web site at The site is a site where bikers give their feedback on various tyres. (See links page for both of these sites. Find links page on the Navigation page)

Sportbikers should take special note of the 'Maximum Load Rating' and 'Maximum Speed Rating under Load' of their selected tyre before putting a passenger on the pillion seat.

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Pairs of Tyres

Motorcycle tyres come in pairs - the particular model has a front wheel version and a partnering back wheel tyre. Both tyres have the same characteristic profile (i.e. the shape of the tyre when cut cross-ways) which is just one of the reasons why tyres are sold in pairs in the first place. Generally one will wear out two rear tyres to every front tyre but this does depend a lot on your style of riding. 


Even within each type of tyre the name of the game is compromise. In fact the only time you will really know whether your tyres suit your overall needs is when the ‘tacky hits the track/road/trail’ so to speak! Guys who own dual sport motorbikes may even find that you will have to purchase two sets of tyres e.g. one set for town use and one for their annual trek into the bush or desert.

Garages and Service Stations

All riders should own a small pencil type tyre gauge as tyre pumps at service stations are notoriously inaccurate. This allows you on a regular basis to check the pressure being put in at your local garage.

Rural long distance touring brings its own problems i.e. it is not uncommon for very small towns not to even have a working compressor. If you know that you are going to be 'in the sticks' for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to buy a high pressure bicycle pump that allows you to top-up your own tyre pressure by hand. Alternativley one can invest in a compact compressor that runs off a 12v power point fitted on your motorycle.

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Using the Bridgestone range of tyres here are examples of the different types.

Bridgestone Tyres

bridebt45f.jpg (14012 bytes)BT45F

Sport Tyre. Small fine tread.

bridebt56r1.jpg (8560 bytes)BT56R

Sport Tyre. Maximum amount of rubber on the road. Side walls are small offering a more rounded profile.

bridebt020f.jpg (14788 bytes)BT020F

Sport Touring. More tread. Tread is deeper. Higher side walls.

brides11f.gif (8597 bytes)S11F

Sport Touring. More tread. Tread is deeper. Higher side walls.

brideg703.gif (5693 bytes)G703

Cruiser Tyre. Rated for more load. More tread for general riding conditions.

BRidetw25.jpg (14944 bytes)TW25

Dual Sport (Enduro)

brideed11f.jpg (5237 bytes)ED11F

Serious Off Road Tyre

bridgem_25.jpg (26964 bytes)M25F

Thick Mud Tyre

Riding Safely     Riding Off Road     Road Hazards     Choosing the Right Motorcycle  

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