Tech Tuesday: Proper Motorcycle Tire Maintenance
NEWS November 8, 2011
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Whether you’re switching back in turn 11 at your favorite track day or commuting to work on your bike, knowing how to properly maintain your tires is a necessity.
Properly maintained tires help to ensure your safety, and will also perform better and last longer, meaning you can spend your hard earned money on other upgrades.
Having under-inflated tires is the most common cause of improper tire wear and poor handling. Even if you’ve just purchased a brand new motorcycle, you should always check your tire pressure before each ride.
Q: Why is it important to maintain my motorcycle tire pressure?
A: Motorcycle tires must be more pliable than automobile tires in order to provide grip when bikes lean into turns. Though this capability benefits you when you’re dragging knees, it is important to have the right tire pressure for the type of riding you do. If you don’t have a gauge hidden in your motorcycle or tucked in your tank bag, you should think about getting one.
Q: What is the proper tire pressure?
A: The best advice you can get will come from a tire tech, who will know the specifics of your situation. If you’re at a track day, odds are that there will be a tire tech there to provide you with advice on what pressure to have in your tires. Generally, 30/30 psi. or 32/32 psi. are good starting points for a streetbike. Our advice is to talk to a tire professional, and then play with your tire pressures *in a safe margin* to see what fits your riding technique. Tire pressure and rider comfort are both very subjective, so the same pressure may not feel the same to two different riders. Pressure that is too low can result in sluggish handling and high tire temperatures. Pressure that is too high can result in worn-out center tread, reduced grip and a rougher-than-average ride. When you go back to riding on the street, make sure to bring your tire pressure back to the proper setting. Many people, including canyon carvers, think that by running a lower tire pressure will result in better performance. In reality, you're flexing your tire when it doesn't need to by not having enough air pressure in it, resulting in excessive tire wear.
Q: How do I make my tires last?
A: The best piece of advice you can have is to have the proper air pressure. When it comes to protecting the tire rubber itself, there are some very easy tips to help you get the most out of your rubber:
- Park your bike either inside a garage, in a shady area or cover it. Tires wear faster when exposed to sunlight, the elements and extreme temperatures.
- If you have to store tires, the best way to store them is by laying them on top of each other, parallel to the ground, and keeping them out of the sunlight, the elements and extreme temperatures.
- Don’t store your tires or motorcycle next to a refrigerator or electric motor. Electric motors put out traces of ozone which can accelerate aging on even the newest of tires.
- If your bike is being stored in a cold location, put your bike on its center stand or front/rear stands to take the weight off the tires while it sits.
Q: Can I use race "take-offs" on the street?
A: If a friend gives you a pair of their race “take-offs” to use on the street, keep in mind that those tires were on a racetrack, where people push their equipment to the limit, and tires tend to go through heat cycles more at a racetrack or a technical riding area than on the road. Also take into consideration that the operating temperature of race tires will rarely be reached under normal riding conditions on the street, causing poor grib and handling.
Tip: If you’re not planning on riding very much, or you have a short riding season, get some sticky tires like the Dunlop Sportmax Q2, but if you commute through multiple seasons and ride through it all, a sport-touring tire will better handle your riding needs, such as the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart.
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