We invest a lot in our bikes, so we naturally want to make sure every part stays in excellent working condition, the tires included. No one really wants to pull the trigger on replacement tires before it’s actually necessary though, so a thorough understanding of motorcycle tire life is absolutely essential.
Here we’ll go over everything you need to know about your ride’s tires. We’ll go over how to tell the difference between a worn motorcycle tire that’s definitely due for replacement and a tire that still has quite few miles left in it. We’ll cover common causes of premature tire wear and much more as well.
Tire Wear Indicators: What Are They and What Do They Mean?
Just about every consumer tire out there comes attached to what’s known as a tire wear indicator (or TWI for short). To find yours, look your motorcycle tire tread over carefully. You should see a little rubber nub inside one of the grooves; that’s your TWI. If you’re having trouble locating it, check the sidewall for either the actual letters “TWI” or a small triangle, as it’s sure to be nearby.
Next, assess the distance between the TWI and the contact surface of your tire tread. Is the tire worn all the way down to the point where it’s flush with the wear indicator or is there still some distance to spare? When it’s at the same level as the TWI, it’s time for a replacement.
Tire Age: How Much Does It Matter?
Wear indicators on tires aren’t the only factors to keep in mind when assessing a tire’s integrity. Exposure to the elements and the simple passage of time definitely affect a tire’s integrity as well, even if a bike isn’t ridden very often, so you’ll want to keep track of how old your tires are. How much does a given tire’s age really matter though, and how old is too old?
Since there’s no reliable way to tell how much the tire’s been affected by factors above and beyond simply riding your bike, it’s critical that you keep careful track of each tire’s age. You can count on a tire to stay good and sound for six years or so. Any tire older than that really ought to be replaced as soon as possible, whether or not the actual tread shows much wear.
Keep in mind that the clock starts ticking on your tire’s life span at the manufacture date, not the date you bought it or placed it on your machine. Every tire has what’s known as a DOT code on its sidewall, and among other things, that code can tell you down to the week when your tire was manufactured. Look for four numbers within the DOT that are separated from the rest of the data it contains. The first two numerals represent the week of the year of manufacture while the last two indicate the year itself. Keep track of how far out you are from that date at any given time, and you’ll never have to simply guess at the age of your tires again.
Understanding Tire Wear Patterns
During the process of inspecting your motorcycle tire tread, you’ll almost definitely notice that some areas of the tire seem more worn than others. In particular, a lot of bikers notice that their tires almost always show less wear on the right side than the left. Some of that has to do with the types of roads you ride on most often, as well as your riding style, up to and including any personal quirks you might have about how you handle your bike.
Also, left turns made from intersections simply take longer than right turns because of where you have to position yourself within the lanes to complete them. It may not seem like a lot of extra distance ridden, but it definitely adds up over time and leads to a greater degree of wear on a tire’s left side. (Riders in countries where you drive on the left side of the road tend to wear out their tires’ right sides due to the same phenomenon.)
Motorcycle Tires vs the Elements
There are additional factors that can affect motorcycle tire life as well, including extreme wear and tear due to the elements. For instance, sun rot can cause your tires to tear or form cracks, which should be obvious signs that a tire isn’t in tip-top condition anymore. Sometimes prolonged exposure to heat or extreme weather conditions of any kind can cause similar issues.
Depending on where you live and the conditions under which you usually ride, weather-related or elemental wear may actually effect your motorcycle tire tread to a greater degree than actual use. That said, it really is best to replace your tires if there’s any uncertainty as to whether they’ve been affected by extreme temperatures, climate, or anything similar.
Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure
Your bike’s tires are designed to perform at their best when they’re properly inflated, so beware of overinflation and underinflation. Both affect the amount of actual rubber coming into contact with the road at any given time, so they can definitely affect motorcycle tire wear patterns.
Generally speaking, it’s always best to follow the tire manufacturer’s guidelines as far as what your tire pressure should be. However, you should also consider whether or not you’re placing more weight on your tires than usual for any reason (e.g. an extra passenger or an unusually heavy item on board). Don’t simply inflate your tires to the maximum psi indicated in on their sidewalls, as this is the maximum, as opposed to the optimal tire pressure.
At the end of the day, the state of your bike’s tires affects a lot about your riding experience, up to and including safety. Always know the wear state of your tread, as well as keep records as to each tire’s age and last date of inspection. Take the guesswork out of replacing yours as needed by shopping BikeBandit.com’s extensive selection of motorcycle tires when it’s time for an upgrade.