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The Dual Sport Tire Buyer's Guide

>> Ashley Benson

Buying tires just strictly for street riding or for off-road riding can be complicated enough without putting the two together. But both are just so darn fun! So it's understandable that you would want a motorcycle that could do both. And sure, you could buy two sets of tires for each kind of riding. But switching them out constantly when you change terrains would be a pain. Plus storing so many tires can really cramp your workshop. Either way, it's just a whole lot easier and more convenient to slap on a pair of tires that are made to cross over the terrain barrier. But not just any ol dual sport tire will do. Depending on the riding you'll be doing most of, there's a plethora of dual sport tire options.

The Ratio

One of the great things about dual sport tires is that tire manufacturers produce them with varying ratios of street riding vs. off-road riding in mind. Depending on how much you do of either, each tire is slightly different to try to accommodate that. The most difficult part of this, however, is that in order to make a tire better for off-road riding, you need to give up street riding quality and vice versa. If a dual sport tire is made for ten percent street riding and ninety percent off-road riding, this does not mean the tire will perform perfectly during that ten percent street riding but rather that it will be ok to ride on the street ten percent of the time. On the other hand, this tire will give you a better performance in the dirt most of the time. This tire would be a tire that you would only want to ride on the street on the way to your off-road riding destination. If you want something more middle of the road, a tire that is made to be ridden on the street forty percent of the time and in the dirt sixty percent of the time, like this Conti Twinduro TKC80 Motorcycle Tire, would be decent for both street riding and off-roading. Tires like this, however, are not particularly great for either type. These tires aren't meant to give you the best ride off-road or on the street but will give you a decent ride for both.

Off-Road Riding

As if figuring out the ratio at which you will be on the street and playing in the dirt isn't enough, another thing to really keep in mind when picking out your dual sport tire is what kind of off-road riding you will be doing. With so many different types of off-roading come countless types of off-road tires. Depending on if you'll be riding in the sand, mud, gravel or rock, you'll need a tire to accommodate the terrain. For more information on the types of off-road tires there are and a guide to help you purchase the right ones, check out this Off- road Tire Buyer's Guide.

This same principle carries over to dual sport tires. Depending on what kind of off-road trekking you'll be doing, you'll require your tire to have different qualities. Keep in mind what type of terrain you'll be in most when you look at a dual sport tire as well as how often you will be doing it.


Properly maintaining your tires is an important part of riding both for the safety of you and your ride no matter what kind of riding you're doing. Without proper maintenance, tires will wear a lot faster than they should, become damaged or even cause you to be in an accident that could have been very much so avoidable. Before any time you get on your motorcycle to ride, take a few seconds to do a lap around your bike and inspect their shoes. Check for cracks, debris, unusual wear patterns, and foreign objects lodged in the tread or sidewalls. It's also a good practice to check your tires' air pressure before each ride in order to make sure that they are at the appropriate levels.

Also keep an eye on your tire tread to tell when you'll need some new rubber. If your tires tend to get a lot more of the street under them, you might want to go off of the penny trick rule. You never want your tread to get any lowed than 1/32nd of an inch (0.8 millimeters) and even that is letting it get a little low. Many tires will come with tread gauges that show you when you're in need of some replacements, but we really love to just use a penny as a gauge (they're practically worthless as money these days so we're trying to give them a new purpose). Grab one of the pennies that is lying abandoned in your change bucket or snag one from a grocery store parking lot and flip it so that Lincoln is looking at you upside-down. Then place the copper coin piece into the tread of your tire and take a look at Lincoln's hair cut. Is some of his hair covered up or is all of it showing? If Lincoln has a crew cut, you're tire tread is just fine. If all of his hair is showing then you're tread has gotten too low and it's time to splurge on some new shoes for your ride.

Unfortunately, not riding your motorcycle does not mean that your tires are going to last for decades. Preserving that tread will only last so long as tires have an unspoken expiration date of five years after they have been made. To find their birthday, check the sidewall of your tire for a date stamp. This number should read four digits long; the first two numbers are the week in which the tires were manufactured and the last four are the year. This format was different prior to the year 2000, however, if your tires are that old, don't bother trying to figure that all out and just replace them since they are definitely past their due date.

If you're changing out a tire that has tubes, rather than cutting corners, replace the tubes as well. If your tires have become worn down, then so have the tubes inside them. With use, tires tend to stretch out slightly and, if they don't get replaced when a new tire is put on, the tube could crease. When replacing tubes, always use the size that matches the size of tire you're putting on your wheels.

Breaking them in

When throwing a new set of tires on your ride, keep in mind that they'll feel a whole lot different than the ones you just wore down. With new rubber and new tread comes a whole new feel. Be careful when riding on the road as there is a coating on tires that will take a bit of riding to wear off. Cool it on taking corners too sharply or braking to quickly until the coating has had a chance to wear off and you can get the grip you had with your last set.

When riding off-road, you won't need to worry too much about breaking in the treads. If anything, off-road riding breaks down tires a whole lot faster and you'll get the best grip when you first hit the dirt with new tires. What you do need to worry about is having the proper inflation.

Dual Sport Tire Inflation

When it comes to the right inflation for a dual sport tire, it can get a little tricky. Always keep a tire pressure gauge like this Motion Pro Professional Tire Pressure Gauge with you. With street tires, you only need to check your service manual for the suggested PSI and stick to it. For off-road tires, the best PSI depends on what type of terrain you're riding on. This is also a factor with dual sport tires when you're riding off-road. Depending on the terrain you're playing around in, you'll want to adjust your tires to be firmer for harder terrains and softer for more mushy terrains. If you plan to be doing a lot of rock climbing on your bike, keep the tires pretty well inflated. A general PSI for a hard terrain that seems to give most people a good ride is 18 pounds. In sand or mud, don't be afraid to let quite a bit out. We recommend sticking to a PSI of around 11 to 15 pounds. It's always a good idea to check your service manual for the numbers that they suggest as well.

The tricky part comes when you're switching from off-road to street riding. It's easy to let the air out of the tire when you hit the dirt, but you'll need to put some of that air back in when you get back to the streets. We recommend bringing a tire pump with you for your off-road riding but if you can't manage one, you'll need to find an air pump at a gas station in order to re-inflate. Your tire should have a minimum PSI marking on the sidewall for what you should run at when on the street. Riding below this level will not only give you horrible handling and be extremely uncomfortable but can also be dangerous.

Always make sure that you're running at the right PSI in order to get the best performance out of your tires as well as have a safe ride. Overinflating or under inflating tires can have some pretty nasty effects such as bursting a tire or increased fatigue. Check your tire pressure often with a tire gauge (low tire pressure gauges such as this, Accu-Gage Low-Pressure SX Series Gauge, often work better because they'll give you a more accurate reading at lower levels) to make sure that they're at the right levels. If you notice that your tires are losing a lot more air than they should be or that one tire is losing air faster than the other, check your sidewall, tread and valves for cracks or leaks. If you find any abnormalities, make sure to have your tires repaired or replaced before riding on them.

One thing to remember when checking your tire's air pressure is that the PSI will increase as the air inside the tire heats up. If you just measure your tire's air pressure after it has been sitting in the garage, your tires will read out at a lower PSI. However, as you ride them and the air heats up in the tire it will expand at a rate of 1 PSI per 10 degrees. This can make a bit of a difference when off-road riding. Say you measure the PSI in your garage when it's at 60 degrees before heading out to ride. As you're trekking along, your tires heat up to around 100 degrees. This means that your PSI has managed to hike its way up 4 PSI. And since 4 PSI can be the difference between a good inflation for street riding and a bad inflation for off-road riding, it's important to measure the PSI in your tires often and while they're hot. And if you seem to think that's too much work, look into filling your tires with nitrogen, which is an inert gas that won't expand as it heats up.

The Sidewall

If you just read the phrase "check the sidewall of your tire" and groaned, fear not for your days of sidewall confusion are over. Take a look at this chart to interpret the gibberish that is stamped on the side of your tire in order to know what width it is, what its speed rating is, the diameter or the rim, the load rating and more.

Tires are a huge part of your motorcycle. They're the main thing between you and whatever terrain you'll be riding on so you'll want to know that you can trust them to keep you upright. And even though tires may look like just some round pieces of rubber, they need a lot of care to maintain their composure. If you're lucky, neglecting your tires will only mean having to replace them more often. But often enough, not taking care of your tires properly will end in a crash or accident. With proper care your tires will both give you a better ride and a safer ride both off and on the road. For more information on tire care such as how to properly clean and store your tires, check out this Guide for Inspecting and Maintaining your Street Motorcycle Tires.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:38:13 AM
bevo said:

i reckon you have hit the nail on the head as far as tyre pressures go, and also the width. is the web's largest powersports store with more than 8 million factory fresh motorcycle parts, apparel, accessories and more online, including motorcycle helmets, motorcycle boots, motorcycle gloves and more.