We get asked a lot of tough questions about tires here at BikeBandit, and the answers often don’t come down to right or wrong, but rather, what’s best for you. We answered the 7 toughest questions we get, and discuss the truth about each one, so you can really learn how to get the best tires for you. A must-read resource for every rider!
At BikeBandit, we’re known for having the biggest selection and fastest shipping on tires in the industry. But because we sell so many tires, we also get asked a lot of questions about tires by our customers – and the answers aren’t always so simple.
The fact is that there are often no “right answers” when it comes down to tires, because so much about tires comes down to your individual needs, riding style, and personal preference. So to help clear things up, were answering the toughest questions we get asked about tires, and we’re going to give you not just our official answers, but also explain the “gray areas” about tires, where you might be able to bend the rules a bit (as many riders like to do.)
So with that said, lets dive into the 7 toughest FAQs we get asked by customers about tires!
If your tire looks like this…you’re in the right place!
What is the best tire for my bike?
Believe me, we wish there was a simple answer to this question because we get asked it a lot! But there is no way to tell you what the “right” tire is for you because tires vary so much, and riders needs vary so much. Asking what the right tire is for you is just like walking into a shoe store and asking what the right shoe is for you – the answer would be totally different between a logger in Wyoming, a nurse in Texas, and a basketball player in California, because the demands they place on their feet are totally different. It’s really no different with motorcycle tires.
Getting the right tire for you depends on these factors:
- Your needs, based on your specific type of bike, and how you ride it
- Your preferences, in terms of looks, brand, and riding style
- Your budget
While there is no “right answer” to this question, we help you do your research by doing in-depth video reviews of every tire we sell, where we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each tire, and who it would be best suited for. We also have a knowledgeable staff on hand to answer any questions you have, and point you in the direction of what we think might be best for you based on your needs, preferences, and budget.
With that said, when choosing your next set of tires, you can really not go wrong trying our best sellers; they have a solid reputation, are a great value, and they just plain work. Check out the most popular tires we sold in 2015 below, separated by category so you can easily get to the ones that will work best for you.
Shinko 230 Tour Master
Michelin Commander II
Dunlop D402 Harley-Davidson
Dunlop American Elite
Dunlop Sportmax Q3
Michelin Pilot Power 2CT
Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S20 EVO
Michelin Pilot Power
Michelin Pilot Power 3
Avon AM26 Roadrider
Dunlop Roadsmart II
Michelin Pilot Road 4
Pirelli Sport Demon
Bridgestone Exedra Max
Kenda K760 Trakmaster II
Can I change the size of the tires on my bike?
Officially, we always recommend sticking with the size recommended by the manufacturer of your bike. A lot of engineering goes into designing and building our precision two-wheeled machines, and they did all that work with a certain size tire in mind that they know will work.
However, we also know a lot of you like to switch tire sizes for different reasons too.
For example, a popular mod among sport bike riders is to swap out the rounder 190/50 tires that come on many bikes for a narrower, pointier 180/55 tire. This will make turn-in quicker, but will also make the bike feel unstable when traveling straight. Depending on where and how you ride, you may love the change, or hate it. (Note: for more information on how to understand motorcycle tire sizes and make sure you’re ordering the correct one, check out our guide How to Choose Motorcycle Tires.)
A modification some sport bike riders do is swapping a rounder 190/50 tire for a taller, narrower 180/55 tire; but while this can make turn-in quicker, it can also make the bike feel more unstable. There is always a tradeoff when you stray from manufacturer recommendations, so do your homework and “tread” carefully.
Another mod popular among cruiser riders is to fit the fattest tire they possibly can on the rear, for that muscle bike look. Trouble is, while it looks badass, it will adversely affect handling, making the bike feel slower and more sluggish to turn, and may make your bike hard to ride.
Others just want to know if they can fit that tire they got on closeout for 78% off onto their bike to save a few bucks. (Yeah, we’re looking at you bargain hunters!)
In all of these cases, changing tire sizes can have adverse effects, such as:
- Making your bike feel skittish or unstable
- Making handling worse
- Altering speedometer readouts
- Throwing off traction control systems
- Decreasing fuel mileage
- Rubbing laterally against chains or belts
- Rubbing vertically against fenders and swingarms.
As you can see, its easy to go wrong when it comes to changing tire sizes!
The bottom line: sure, you can experiment with different tire sizes, and you may prefer the outcome. Just remember, modifying from stock is always going to have unintended or unexpected consequences, and only you will be responsible for them. We’ll be honest with you on this one though: overall, seeing a performance advantage of altering tire sizes is pretty rare.
What tire pressure should I run?
Our official recommendation for street riding is to run the air pressure at the level set by the manufacturer of your motorcycle (not the tire.) Check your owners manual, and inflate your tire to the max level in the range suggested for your bike. (Note: the reason you don’t follow the max level of the tire is because tires fit a wide range of bikes, the max level for that tire might not be what’s best for your particular bike.)
Proper tire inflation is probably the single most important factor in making your tires work properly and last a long time; but unfortunately, it’s also probably the most overlooked. Underinflated tires will flex excessively, overheat faster, get damaged more easily, and can jeopardize handling, while overinflated tires will cause uneven wear and sacrifice ride quality.
However, with that said, a lot of riders do like to experiment with tire pressure too, usually performance riders on sport bikes or dirt bikes. Changing tire pressure is one of many things they might tweak to get a little more grip on the track, or to get a handle on varying off-road terrain.
If you’re going to start playing with tire pressures, make sure you are keeping track of it and measuring it accurately, with a high quality tire pressure guage like this digital one from Motion Pro.
This is one of the things you can experiment with. It is very common for riders to drop tire pressure a few PSI to get better grip in corners or a more compliant ride. If you do this, just remember to:
- Go in small increments of 1-2 PSI at a time
- Measure your tire pressure with a high quality tire pressure gauge
- Check it frequently to make sure it’s not dropping to dangerous levels.
Overall, if you’re paying enough attention to your tire pressure that you’re dropping it a few PSI for more grip in the twisties, you’re probably okay. It’s the people that don’t check their tire pressure for a year and are unknowingly running around at 18 PSI that we’re really worried about!
Can I run different tires on the front and rear?
Because they are designed with a certain profile for certain handling characteristics, with certain tread patterns for certain terrains, and made of certain compounds for certain amounts of grip, it is always recommended to install tires in matched sets. At best, it would be a waste to mismatch tires; at worst, it can adversely affect your motorcycle’s handling in unpredictable and even dangerous ways.
However, there are cases when mismatched tires can be acceptable. There is a handful – and we mean a tiny handful – of motorcycles that actually come like that from the factory, so they’re an obvious exception to the rule. You’ll also see some dirt, dual-sport, and ADV riders go with a knobbier tire on the front for more control off-road, and with something less aggressive in the rear for better street manners. Usually, these are guys who ride a lot and go through a lot of tires, and are comfortable experimenting with tire combos based on the terrain they’ll be riding.
But in most cases, people who mismatch tires are just trying to save a buck! Usually, it’s someone who only wants to replace one tire, and found something cheap on closeout or something that they want to use in order to save some money. Sure, other riders may tell you there’s nothing wrong with mismatching your tires, and you can try it if that’s a risk you’re willing to take. But we’ll always recommend that you match them, because that’s how you’ll get the most out of them, and more importantly, the only way to know that they’ll perform in a predictable and safe manner.
Should I use bias-ply or radial tires?
This is a good question, because there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes a bias-ply vs. a radial tire, and what the purpose of each tire is. So let’s clear that up first.
Bias-ply tires: a more old-school design of tire that’s been around for years. The carcass of a bias-ply is made of layers of fabric such as nylon or polyester (the “plies”…yup, just like in toilet paper!), wrapped over each other in a criss-cross pattern. The multiple layers flex and create a cushioning effect, which makes bias-ply tires comfortable to ride on and good at handling heavy loads. On the down side, they have more rolling resistance, less control at high speeds, and retain more heat.
In this diagram, you can see the construction of bias-ply tires, which have layers of fabric laid over each other in a criss-cross pattern. (Yes I know these diagrams are car tires, but you get the idea.)
Radial tires: the more modern variety of tire, with a carcass made of stiff cords that go straight across the tread, running perpendicularly from one bead to the other, with belts of steel, polysester, or aramid fibers (like Kevlar) criss crossing atop them. Radials tend to be stiffer, allowing better high speed performance, longer tread life, and more precise handling, but the down side is usually a stiffer ride. By and large, radials are superior tires, and you will find them as standard equipment on most bikes.
This diagram shows the construction of a radial tire, which has a carcass made of cords wrapped directly across the tread from one bead to another. Compare this to the bias-ply design above.
However, bias-ply tires do have their place. Heavy bikes that see a lot of miles, like touring bikes and big cruisers, often do well with bias-ply tires (several of our top selling cruiser and sport touring tires are bias-ply, in fact.) You will sometimes also see a mix of a bias-ply on the front and a radial in back in some bikes; Harley-Davidson is known for doing this on some models.
However, any bike that prioritizes precise handling and high speed – basically any sport bike – should have radials all the way. If you’re in the middle – on a sport touring bike, for example – you might be able to go with bias-plys or radials, depending what your riding style is and what you expect from your tires. If you can’t decide, just ask us.
Can I ride on a plugged tire?
For this one, we’re definitely going to recommend that you do not do it for any longer than absolutely necessary.
There is so much riding on your tires – at any given time, you and your entire bike are only being held upright by two tiny patches of rubber – that you absolutely should not ride on a tire that has had its structural integrity compromised. Plugging kits are a lifesaver when you need to get back on the road in a pinch, but they are a short term fix, and a plugged tire should be replaced as soon as possible.
This is what a plugged tire looks like. Plugs do great as a short term repair to finish a ride and make it home, but they should be replaced as soon as possible thereafter.
With that said, we have heard from customers that say they’ve ridden thousands of miles on plugged tires without a problem. It is possible that this is the case? Sure. But will we recommend doing it? Absolutely not.
Can I use an unmounted tire that’s a few years old?
This is a tricky one, because it has a lot less to do with a tire’s age, and a lot more with how it’s been stored.
First of all, there is a reason tires can age without ever even being used, and it is a process called outgassing. This happens when a tire heats up, and some of the chemicals that give the tire compound its pliability actually turn into gases and escape. This happens every time a tire heats up and cools back down (called a heat cycle) and over time, it makes the tire become harder and less grippy.
This happens naturally over time, as a tire gets ridden on day after day. When a tire is stored properly – indoors, in a cool, stable climate – it will not heat cycle until it gets mounted, and you actually start using it. The problem comes when it is stored incorrectly – outside in the sun, or in a hot warehouse, for example – and it happens to go through heat cycles while its in storage. In this case, a tire that’s only a year old may have gone through hundreds of heat cycles already, before you ever even receive it.
How do you know if this has happened to a tire or not? Well, you can check the date code on a tire to see how old it is (see diagram below) but unfortunately, that won’t tell you anything about how it was stored. A three year-old tire that’s been properly stored can be in better shape than a one year-old tire that hasn’t. So the best way to prevent this problem is buying a tire from a retailer that turns over a high volume of tires (like, ahem, BikeBandit!) to make sure you’re always getting fresh stock!
The date code shown here, “1411,” means “Week 14 of 2011.” Every new tire has a date code like this, and they all read the same way.
Do you have more tire questions? Leave them in the comments below and we promise we’ll answer every one!