Captain Gino’s Motorcycle Tire Guide Part 1/2

The motorcycle tire: the key to performance, stability, great handling, comfort and safety.

From heavy baggers to ultra-fast liter bikes, the right tire is what keeps the good times rollin’ and help your motorcycle feel like the powerful extension of yourself that it should.

WHY THE RIGHT TIRE IS SO IMPORTANT

So why are tires so important? Fit a tire that’s too wide and you could run into some terrible problems, including problems with the law.

Pick the wrong tire, wear it out by using it in circumstances its not built for, and you could be looking at $600 for every replacement set…

And of course the wrong tire could also cost you your life.

And why should you keep reading?

Well, I’ve often been looking for motorcycle parts online and wondered if others have problems choosing the right tires out of the huge selection available.

If that’s you, here’s your guide!

A Suzuki Biplane at the Tokyo Motor Show, 2007

CHOOSING THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLE TIRES

Finding the right tire can be quite the undertaking because of that seemingly endless amount of options.

And the boring answer to the question “which tire should I choose?” is to go with one that came stock on your bike. It’ll be pretty much perfect, with the right ply style and load rating.

But failing that, you’ll want to choose from the tire style that suits your bike.

Tire Styles

Saying that, you’ll ultimately make your choice depending on what you’re going to be doing with your motorcycle and the kind of motorcycle you have.

Cruiser/Touring Tires

Heavyweight cruisers, touring bikes and baggers need a tire with a load rating that can handle the weight of the bike, riders and baggage; all weather conditions. And need good mileage per gallon.

All those Harley-Davidsons, Indians, Victorys and customs all fit into this category.

These tires are therefore made with harder rubber compounds that wear down more slowly. Rain stripes are also common on these tires to channel out water. They’re great for straight-line stability, but not for outright traction or performance.

A Harley Davidson Cross Bones

Sport Tires

Sport bike tires have to provide lots of grip, high speed performance and mileage. They must adapt to a variety of surfaces and conditions.

They are generally softer than a cruise tire, with more tread than a race tire but less tread than a normal street bike tire, to allow for a larger contact patch on a smooth surface.

Rain tires for sport bikes are also out there if you are going to encounter wet surfaces.

Sport bike race tires, or racing slicks, are also available and provide even more grip and high speed capabilities. There is virtually no tread on them, if any at all.

They are the pinnacle of performance, expensive, specialized and are mega sensitive to temperature and pressure.

If you’ve ever seen a Formula 1 race, you know what can happen if you put slicks on and then ride on a wet surface or where there is debris! Not recommended. They also need replacing after a few dozen laps at most!

Racing tires have a more triangular profile, to help with extreme lean angle cornering. They need warming up so they grip well.

Marc Márquez using slicks

DOT roadrace tires are just below slicks, and are actually slicks with a little tread so they meet Department of Transportation standards. Like slicks, they need to be hot to grip, only work when the road is dry and don’t last long, so they have a stiffer carcass for handling acceleration and braking, as well as an aggressive profile with a tall crown.

Sport touring tires are a whole other animal. They combine a little bit of that cruiser tire durability with a big dollop of performance, good mileage and incredible grip. Most street riders are rolling on these.

Think tread grooves that extend right across the tires centerline for great water dispersion, with slick shoulders for grip.

They may also be multi-compound, with harder rubber down the middle for mileage and a softer compound on the shoulder for grip as you corner.

They work over a broad range of temperatures and in dry and wet conditions, thanks to the silica mixed into the rubber, which improves their wet grip.

Hypersport tires are all about performance. They’re at the premium end of the street spectrum and are a little more sensitive to temperature and pressure than sport-touring tires. They’re not always great when wet, although the grip is great, but use multi-compound tread to provide more mileage though they wear fast.

These guys are also just for racing the twisties or on track days. Use them on the street because you ride hard, and you’ll get very little life out of your tire. Sport-touring tires might serve you better.

Check out Part 2 for more on dual sport/ADV tires, off-road tires, radial vs. bias tires, common mistakes made when selecting the right motorcycle tire, how to mount one yourself, and where to buy them!

Images courtesy of Box Repsol, Wikimedia Commons, Greta Ceresini and Double-M
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