When to Change Your Motorcycle Tires (Full Guide)


Skimping money with the motorcycle wheels can be costly. Check the condition of your tires and change them as soon as the first signs of damage appear.

When to change your motorcycle tire? Change the motorcycle tire upon noticing visible wear on the tire, a puncture or if the tire has exceeded its legal wear limit and lifespan. Tires with bubbling and cracking are significant amount of heat and friction. 

When Is It Time To Change The Motorcycle Tires? 

Every time we ride a motorcycle, we entrust ourselves to two small points (tires) of support on the asphalt that often go unnoticed but are always there.  These small points make our ride safe and stable when they are in good condition or, on the contrary, can become dangerous if they are worn or damaged. We are going to review when to change tires and some tricks to keep them in the best possible condition and extend their life.

  • Exceeding The Legal Wear Limit
  • Non-Repairable Puncture
  • When The Tire Has Visible Damage
  • If The Tires Are Old
  • Bubbling/Cracking On Tire

Exceeding The Legal Wear Limit

The General Vehicle Regulations indicate that tires must have a depth of at least 1.6 mm in the grooves of the tread. To verify the state, the ideal is to use a depth gauge or coin, which can be purchased in spare parts stores and workshops, having all kinds, from cards with precision measurements to digital ones (focused on a more professional use).

In any case, the tires have indicators that indicate when the limit has been reached, which requires visual inspection. Look for the acronym TWI (which means tread wear indicator) on the side of the tire and look at that height you will see some projections inside the tread grooves. We advise not to even reach the wear indicator for safety. The legal limit of 1.6 mm is insufficient in heavy rain or puddles.

Another reason not to speed, in addition to its worse performance on wet grounds, is that the last layers of rubber don’t offer the same grip. This occurs because the effectiveness of the components is affected by the number of times the heating and cooling process has taken place.

A variation in the properties of the rubber compound affects grip, and both the amount of rubber in the tire and its aging have a negative influence on its performance. The tire progressively loses performance as a function of wear, and when we exceed a specific limit, it stops gripping, although there is still gum left.

With current construction technologies, it has been possible to reduce the incidence of these factors by improving safety, but it is still something to take into account that when you have a tire with high mileage.

Non-Repairable Puncture

The tire shells have significantly improved their resistance over the years, but punctures are still inevitable. Some punctures can be repaired when they are of moderate size and occur in the tread, but if the damage occurs on a sidewall or if the internal tarpaulins are torn (most often from glass) surely there is no choice but to change the tire.

Rolling with a flat tire is dangerous, but it can also cause internal cuts. If you have had to travel for a little while in these conditions, you should check for this extra damage in the repair shop.

A Good Solution: Puncture Repair Kit

Repairable punctures can be solved many times immediately if you have a reliable repair kit. There are some that consist of a kind of brace and a viscous rubber that is inserted into the hole. It can help if the problem is in the tread and as long as the hole is small to moderate size.

Another model of puncture repair is a foam spray, which is administered by the air fill valve and which expands and distributes through the interior of the tire. The first system is more advisable because it covers the leak, and it lasts the entire life of the tire. In contrast, the foam is a temporary solution and will force you to visit a workshop to disassemble the wheel and clean it inside.

We recommend getting the affordable BETOOLL repair kit from Amazon. It’s small enough to carry even if you have a small storage space on your bike and holds all the vital tools you’d need to patch up a punctured tire.

When The Tire Has Visible Damage

Sometimes hitting hard against a curb, pothole or any other projection that causes extreme deformation of the tire can damage its internal structure causing a bump or egg-shaped protrusion on a sidewall that is very dangerous. It can affect stability unpredictably and even burst while running.

In this case, you’ll need to have a professional inspection of the wheel. Maybe the tire can be saved, or maybe not. But until you are sure, it’s best not to ride the bike.

If The Tires Are Old

When does a tire expire? It is not easy to give an average age of tire life because they depend on too many factors: material quality, conservation, maintenance, environmental use etc. What is clear is that they deteriorate over the years, even if they are not used. We are going to see several cases in which a tire will suffer a loss of longevity:

As a bit of first advice, maximum usage of 10 years is recommended for a tire, and annual inspections are carried out starting with the fifth year.

Poor Environment And Storage

Let’s look at a case when you have the motorcycle parked for a long time, resting on the tires in the same position. In the case of “hibernation,” it is ideal to support the bike with studs or harnesses so that the tires don’t support all the weight. A central stand can also be used for this purpose.

If you do not have any of these supports and your bike isn’t lying vertically (which is also the ideal resting position for the engine components) at least remember to move the motorcycle from its position from time to time so that it does not sit for months or years in the same place.

Solvent or aggressive chemicals for rubber. Even oils, detergents and cleaning products. If, for example, you clean the garage floor with bleach, ammonia or another strong product, avoid touching the motorcycle tires.

When they are exposed to direct sunlight, store your tires in a dark area or protect them with something that does not let light through. Direct sunlight dries and degrades the rubber.

Substantial changes in temperature and humidity. It would be best if you did not leave tires that you want to use again out in the open because changes in temperature will dry out the rubber before its time.

Bubbling/Cracking of Tires

Tires are often exposed to significant amounts of heat and friction for lengthy periods. Highway driving is incredibly tough on tires during the summer months and can cause bubbles in the outer wall of the tire to form. Bubbles or cracks can be a sign of more trouble to come, so the safe bet is to replace tires when these irregularities form.

Look for Signs of Wear before Purchase

It is highly recommended to take a look at the tires from time to time, especially in some situations – for example, when inspecting a second-hand motorcycle – where their condition can be vital.

At first glance, we can discover if the grooves have cracks and the sidewalls are worn, logical symptoms of an old tire and should not be used anymore. The color will also help us because a rubber that is too shiny and with a crystallized surface will be warning us that it is “mummified” The last definitive test is to touch it, because the rubber shouldn’t be too hard and without elasticity.

If the tire has been well preserved, it can last ten years, but it is advisable not to rush and not to exceed five years. To know the date of manufacture, you have to look for this information on the tire itself. It is a number located after the DOT and is made up of four digits: the first two correspond to the week of the year, and the second two to the year of manufacture.

The Solution for Uneven Wear

The Front And Rear Wheels Wear Differently: The front wheel generally supports less weight and lasts longer. But we must mention that in sports bikes there is not that much difference – in fact, more wear is usually found on the sidewalls and on the front due to the position of the rider that is placing more weight to the front of the bike.

In all other situations, the rear wheel tends to lie flat in the center while the front wheel still looks much better, which often results in up to two rear wheels being swapped for each front. In motorcycles that are rarely used, the front wheel can become old because of this, so it is crucial to take into account how many years it’s had to spin even if it looks fine on the surface.

We have explained when you should change your bikes tires, and now we will look into how to check your tires for issues.

Types Of Motorcycle Tires

There are as many types of tires as there are classes of motorcycles. Everything will depend on where you drive and how you use the bike: is it a road bike? Trial competition? Or a moped? Thus, on the market you can find tires with different adhesions, depending on the terrain.

They are distinguished, first of all, by their toughness. There are soft tires, medium tires, and hard tires. Once again, the choice of one or the other depends on the terrain on which the circular sole is used.

The lower the hardness, the higher the hysteresis capacity; that is, the ability to resume its shape when sliding on uneven terrain. In other words, the softer the tire, the more grip it has. On the other hand, the harder tires provide good grip on a wet terrain.

Let’s begin with road tires (or ‘touring’ or ‘sport’). They are the most common and are especially suitable for city driving.

They are hard and resistant – they last longer – and have a good grip both in dry and wet, thanks to the fact that they have a lot of treads. Their main advantage is that they have a low operating temperature; that is to say, they do not need to be heated very much to be completely effective.

  • Mixed (or ‘trail’) tires are useful both on level ground (asphalt) and on rough terrain, although having somewhat less grip on the asphalt road. They differ in the drawing, which in this case is wider. Their operating temperature is low.
  • Off-road tires (or ‘cross’ or ‘off-road’) are the ones with the greatest grip on uneven terrain (roads, tracks) thanks to their large studs. For this reason, they are used in motocross motorcycles and should never be used on the road.
  • Similar to these are the trial tires, specific to trial bikes: studded, large and with good grip on roads.
  • Racing tires (or slicks) are used in competition circuits. Their operating temperature is very high, and they can be found in different degrees of hardness. Another of their main characteristics is that they do not have a tread – they are entirely smooth tires – so they have a shorter life, although within this mode there is also a variant with a tread, for driving in the rain.
  • Scooter tires are incredibly resistant (they are made to last), work well at low temperatures and are characterized mainly by having a diameter smaller than that of other tires in other bikes.

How To Know Which Tires You Have

Each tire comes with a kind of “DNI”. It is an alphanumeric code that indicates a series of identifying information about the tire:

  • Width, In Millimeters: The value will be between 125 and 335 mm.
  • Height: In proportion to width, expressed as a percentage.
  • Type of Tire: About whether they are radial or diagonal. Now they are all radial, so this data always corresponds to an ‘R’ in the code.
  • Diameter, in Inches: Between 10 and 23 inches.
  • Load Index: Expressed in a value between 65 (equivalent to 290 kg) and 108 (equivalent to 1,000 kg).
  • Speed ​​Symbol: Which indicates the maximum speed you can drive with these tires. The value is expressed with a letter, which is equivalent to a particular speed: from M (130 km / h) to Y (300 km / h).

Checking the State of the Tires

A regular inspection is an indispensable duty for every driver who cares about the safety and avoiding extra costs. So an appropriate pressure, general care and providing the right storage conditions are the keys to success.

Regular Monitoring        

We are suggesting not only regular monitoring the level of thread wear, but also paying attention to every seasonal change. This will help you to avoid unpleasant consequences which could end tragically.

Check the Tire Pressure

We recommend doing it at least once a week and accurately. It is vital for your safety, for the excellent behavior of the motorcycle and also for your tires to last longer and, above all, to be in good condition. It is one of the mandatory maintenance tasks for every driver.

As always, the first recommendation is that you know the appropriate pressures for your motorcycle, which are those recommended by the manufacturer of your bike and that you can check in the instruction manual or, on some motorcycles, on a sticker that you will find for example in the swingarm.

For example, standard pressures for a medium-type scooter can be 1.8 kg/cm2 (or bars) at the front and 2.3 kg / cm2 at the rear and for a sports bike, 2.3 kg / cm2 at the front and 2.8 kg/cm2 at the rear. Field bikes tend to carry less pressure to facilitate grip on loose dirt or mud, reaching one extreme a trial bike can carry 0.5 kg / cm2 on the rear wheel, or even less.

Bonus: Tires Pressure Measurement Explained

Kilos, bars or PSI… What a mess. They are different air pressure measurement systems. In most cases, you will find the references in bars or kilos/cm2, which is the same. If you see it in PSI, you must bear in mind that 1 bar (kg / cm2) is 15 PSI.

Reading the Motorcycle Tire Wear

How do you read the motorcycle tire wear? If the tread of a tire is wearing thin, then it is time to consider new tires. A tire with worn treads won’t funnel moisture away from the road as effectively as a new tire, and it also won’t have as much grip.

An excellent way to see if a tire is worn and needs replacement is to take a quarter, insert it into the tread’s groove, and observe the depth of the tread. If over half of the quarter remains visible, the tread is worn enough to warrant a replacement.

Risks of Riding On Bad Motorcycle Tires

Unlike a car, the motorcycle needs its wheels to be well rounded to turn. Cars with their four support points have a flat surface on their tires. Not motorcycles. What happens if we carry too low of a pressure or a bad tire? Well, the shape of the tire flattens, and it will be difficult for us to turn our bike.

An inadequate pressure of the tires of our motorcycle on wet ground can also compromise the safety of the bike, especially when we ride with a passenger or with a load. All this information is given to you by the manufacturer within the instruction manual that you should read carefully if you haven’t already.

Some motorcycles are already equipped with tire pressure indicators that warn you on the instrument panel that your wheels are flat. It is a pressure gauge that is located on the inside of the rim, on the valve, which continually measures the pressure and, through a frequency, sends a warning signal to the motorcycle’s control unit.

Motorcycle Tire Change FAQ

  1. How many miles should motorcycle tires last?
  2. Professionals’ advice is that a rear motorcycle tire lasts up to 1,800 miles while the front tire can last up to 3,700 miles.
  3. How do you know if your motorcycle tires are bad?
  4. Even without visible changes, you’ll notice maneuverability issues when driving your motorcycle.
  5. How Do You Read Motorcycle Tire Wear?
  6. A good way to see if a tire is worn and needs replacement is to take a quarter, insert it into the tread’s groove, and observe the depth of the tread. If over half of the quarter remains visible, then the tread is worn enough to warrant a replacement
  7. How often should you change your motorcycle tires?
  8. You should change your motorcycle tires when you notice wear, puncture or weakness.
  9. Can you have two different tires on a motorcycle?
  10. No, you shouldn’t try this. Motorcycle tire brands sternly warn against this for your safety.
  11. Are new motorcycle tires slippery?
  12. New bike tires always have a glossy surface because of the chemicals used to cure them. This makes them slippery.

Lastly, here’s a DIY video tutorial on how to change and balance motorcycle tires:

Has your motorcycle tire been giving you issues lately? Or are you curious about the state of your tires? We hope this brief article will help you resolve any tire related issue you’re experiencing sooner rather than later.

Luka Barron

Motorcycle mechanic, writer and Heineken lover. A bit like Hank Moody on a Suzuki.

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