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3rd Edition 2018 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 06:00

Tires for motorcycles, care and feeding.

columnist David PocockSo, how many folk REALLY LOOK at their tires?  How often do you look at them?  What are you looking for?

Possibly the most important part of a bike, safety wise, are the tires.  Think about it, these are the sole contact between the road and the bike, they are how we stop, start and go around corners.  If the tires are too soft or too hard, the bike handles VERY poorly if the tires are too worn they will not grip the road in wet conditions and are prone to going flat.  If you are using the wrong kind of tire for your bike that too will contribute to poor performance.  On a bike the contact patch is so much smaller than for a car or truck so therefore it is that much more important to us the rider.

Here are some things to watch for.

Age of the tire.  How do we know what the age of the tire is?  Look on the side wall of the tire there will be a code which on one side of the tire will start with DOT and have at least 12 characters after the DOT, the last set of numbers are the ones which will tell you the date (on the other side of the tire the code will only be the date code).  Since 2000 the last set fo numbers will be four numbers, the first two numbers will tell you in which week of the year the tire was made, the last two will designate the year.  So for example 3412, this tire was made in the 34th week of 2012.  Hopefully you are not riding on tires made before 2000.  Tires that are too old are too hard and will not grip the road.  Likewise the age of the tire will affect the warranty, manufacturers will warranty a tire for five years from the date of manufacture and/or four years from the date of purchase (side note: here is yet another reason to keep your receipts).


Tire air pressure.  There are notations on your bike and in the owners manual which will tell you the air pressures you should run.  Typically these are different pressures front and back and will also be different for differing ride conditions, whether riding two-up, high speed, or regular riding.  A word of caution here, until you are familiar with your bike and how it handles follow these guide lines exactly, and even after that follow these fairly closely.  Too little air will lead to very poor handling and the possibility that your tire might come off the rim under sever conditions, like a hard corner.  Too high a pressure will lead to early failure of the tire and also premature wear.

Tire/wheel balance.  As important as wheel balance is on a car, consider that on a bike it is even more so on a bike.  A rear tire that is out of balance will contribute to sever fatigue in the rider and be bad for the general handling amongst other problems.  If the front tire/wheel is out of balance this can be a much more dangerous problem, steering will be hard in minor cases and almost impossible in the extreme.  If the front tire is unbalanced there will be “speed wobble” which can easily upset the bike even at lower speeds.

Tread condition.  When tires are made there is a “wear bar” moulded in, this bar will show when the tire has reached what the manufacturer feels is the limit of safe remaining tread on the tire.  When you see the “wear bar”, get the tire replaced because any further wear will just be dangerous to you and others.  When you are on your new tires be cautious for the first 100 or so km. because, in that first little layer of rubber will be some remnants of “mould release compound”.  This “mould release compound” is a very slippery substance that is sprayed into the mould just before the rubber is injected so that the tire will not stick to the mould, which makes for poor to low traction till it has been worn off.  If it has or is raining when you go to pick your bike up after a tire change to new tires, consider putting of picking your bike up till conditions are dry.

As always, you the rider, are responsible check you tire pressures everyday you ride, and have a good look at the condition of the tires at least once a week, look for gouges, slices, bulges, chunks missing from the tread or anything else that “doesn’t look quite right”.  The life you save will probably be your own.

Ride safe, we would rather talk to you than about you.

Last modified on Thursday, 29 May 2014 17:44
David Pocock

David Pocock lives in Southern Alberta and has been riding for more years than he really wants to admit.  His first motorcycle was a Kawasaki 55  and since then has owned and riden a number of diverse brands such as Triumph, BSA and yes even a Harley or two.  David has riden in such diverse places as the UK, Puerto Rico, and much of North America with the farthest North being somewhere around Slave Lake and as the farthest South, Mexico City.
When asked why he would write for Busted Knuckle chronicles, David's best answer is, "Why not share some of the fun and maybe cause some conversation amongst my brothers and sisters of the road?"

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