One of the most famous and basic rules of motorcycling is, “shiny part up, rubber part down.” It is likely that the importance of this advice is not lost on you, but it is also important to understand the mechanics of the rubber part. Tires are one of the most important parts of your vehicle, and having good tires can be the difference between a fantastic ride on the back roads and a ride full of frustration at minimum and injury at maximum.
Essentially, it is important to understand how to choose motorcycle tires. If you are new to the subject of motorcycle tires, consider this your crash course in how to understand where the rubber meets the road.
Shop Tires by Machine Type
In order to fully grasp tires, you’ll need to understand some basic terminology first. When talking about tires, one of the more common terms you will come across is tread. A tire’s tread is probably the most well-known part of a tire, and the type of tread determines the type of tire you are purchasing. For instance, a smoother tread is more desirable for street riding, while a rougher, chunkier tread is better for playing off road. There are literally tens of different types of tread you can choose from based on the kind of road surface you are working with most often.
The bead of the tire is where the tire touches the metal part of the wheel. Usually it is constructed out of steel wire and rubber. This part of the tire is designed to provide a snug fit so that the hubcap does not twist uselessly within the tire and cause slippage.
The sidewall is the part of the tire that connects the bead to the tread. Sidewalls provide load transfer and handling. You may be surprised to learn that the tires play a vital role in the suspension of your motorcycle, as shorter sidewalls provide better handling but worse bump absorption. So racers tend to have shorter sidewalls while cruisers tend to have higher ones.
Finally, the carcass refers to the tire located under the tread. Typically a tire’s carcass is either radial (with reinforcing belts running between the beads) or bias-ply (cords of fiberglass or polyester running between the beads at an angle).
Do I Need a Motorcycle Tire Size Chart?
One of the more confusing aspects of choosing the right tire for your ride is selecting the size. To give a bit of history, there are two different ways to measure your motorcycle tire. These measurementy systems are called “alphanumeric” and “metric.” This information can be found on the sidewall of your tire. You can find a soup of letters and numbers here. Alphanumeric measurements are more rare these days, as this system was used prior to the introduction of radial tires. Nowadays, there are too many types of tires on the market for this system to be adequate. Thus, the majority of modern tires are measured in metric.
To answer the original question: motorcycle tire size conversion is generally unnecessary if you are trying to play by the book and make safe choices for your motorcycle. Every motorcycle has a stock size tire that goes along with it. This doesn’t mean that there is only going to be one choice for you if you would like to experiment with different types of tires: depending on your bike, you may have a healthy selection of sport tires, sport touring tires, and touring tires to choose from. Touring tires are the best choice if you would like to get maximum mileage out of your tires. If you like to ride aggressively, sport tires may be a great choice because they give you additional grip. Sport touring tires are the hybrid option and give you the best (and worst) of both worlds.
If you stick with this list, any tire that you select from it can work with your ride.
Of course, there is always the choice to go for a customization that is not by the book, but we like to err on the side of safety. It is indeed possible to deviate from standard practice and end up with a modification that is desirable, but it is also possible to deviate and up with injury or death. Plus, sticking with the stock sizes recommended by your manufacturer is a lot less work for you.
How Do I Know When to Replace Tires?
Probably the most obvious way to know if your tire needs replacing is if it is flat. While you may have a tire patch set with you to help you get home in the event of a flat (you do have one of these, right?), once a tire needs repair the tire needs to be replaced. This goes for if the tire was punctured in the tread or on the sidewall. Remember that, unlike a four-wheeled vehicle, your motorcycle only has two wheels. This means that both of those wheels need to be in top condition to ensure that you have a safe and effective ride.
Additionally, if your tires are older than 10 years, they need to be replaced no matter what kind of shape they are in. If your tires are more than five years old, you should probably be keeping an eye on them for excessive wear. If your tires have less than 2/32 of an inch of tread, they should be replaced. Some tires come with treadwear indicators that tell you when you need to replace the tire.
Essentially, A good rule of thumb is that if you are asking yourself if you need to replace your tires, you probably need to do so. Pay attention to the feel and ride of your bike. If you feel as though the performance of your bike is lacking, it may be time for new tires.
Now that you understand how to choose the best motorcycle tire for your bike, you want to ensure that you are getting a fair price with good shipping. Make sure to check out our motorcycle tires on sale for the best rubber for your ride.