Everything you need to know about tires on your motorcycle!
A lot of riders still don’t know the details that are important when choosing a new tire or to check the quality of the existing one. There are a lot of marks on a tire, but what do they mean? Experts know that tires are subjected to many standards under legal basis and the marks on tires have a very important and particular meaning.
So what do numbers and letters on tires actually mean?
Tire dimensions – the example below shows a classic marking on a tire. Let’s start from the left:
– Number 130 tells us the width of a tire in millimetres
– Number 90 tells us the height of a tire in relation to its width in percentage. In our case, this means 90% of 130 millimetres, which is, in this case, the height of 117 millimetres.
– The next number (16) tells us the size of the rim, expressed in inches (16 inches – 1 inch = 25,4mm)
– Following number (67) tells us about the load index. This code tells us how much load can a tire bare at the factory recommended air pressure. In our case, the load index is marked with 67 and according to the chart below, a tire can bare 307 kg (677 lbs) of the load.
– The last mark, the letter H, tells us the speed class. Different speed classes are marked with letters from E to (Y) and it defines the maximum speed, where it is still safe to ride with that particular tire. In our case, the mark »H« tells us that this specific tire is safe to ride up to 210 km/h
Is a wider tire better and more reliable?
The majority of riders ask themselves the same question at some point. I often hear that a wider rear tire looks awesome and a lot of riders would like to put a wider tire on their bike. Would this make your ride easier, better, safer?
It might seem logical that a wider tire allows more grip… well, let’s think again about the pros and cons. There is a reason why the motorcycle manufacturers recommend a specific size of tires for specific models of motorcycles.
The first restriction is the motorcycle itself. If you would put a wider tire on your motorcycle than recommended, it may rub against the chain or the frame of your motorcycle and I’m sure no rider would like that.
The second restriction is the one we rarely hear and would need to be expressed more often. A wider tire doesn’t give you necessarily more grip, safety and comfort. A narrower tire allows an easier handling which makes the rider more agile with his motorcycle while cornering on your favourite road. This is also the reason why less powerful and smaller motorcycles come with narrower tires in most cases since it allows more comfort and is safer when taking into consideration the weight and power of the motorcycle. A wider tire rarely offers a better performance. Not only is it heavier, it results also in bigger traction and air resistance which results in higher gas consumption.
When you will be considering putting a wider tire on your motorcycle, reconsider all pros and cons and only then decide if you are willing to put a wider tire on your motorcycle.
Can I insert a tube into a tubeless tire?
Of course, you can! It is also advised to do so in some cases, since by doing that we add an extra layer of safety into the tire. But be carefull, this will increase the weight of the tire and will result in a increased temperature of the tire, in some cases even more than someone would like. This is why we add a tube into a tire when going to ride off – road on more adventurous roads, where it is your last wish to end up with a flat one. The biggest advantages of a tube in a tire come to light at lower speeds and when riding on unpaved roads where the traction with the asphalt isn’t of essential meaning.
Can I use a different type of tires in front and in the back?
Every rider has his own riding style and it often happens that the rear tire wears out sooner than the front one. What is the best thing to do in such case? Should we change only the rear tire, should I change both at the same time? Can I add a different type of a tire from a different manufacturer with different tire properties in the back than I have already in the front?
There is no special rule but it is recommended to change the tires in pairs, so the front and the rear one at the same time. If the rear tire wears out earlier than the front one, it is most appropriate to change it with the same type of tire from the same manufacturer, so the tires’ characteristics match. If that is not possible for any reason, maybe the specific type of tire isn’t produced anymore or you got a much better deal for a different tire, it is advised to use a softer tire in the back than the one in front. The front tire is meant for handling and braking and the rear tire for accelerating and braking with the engine (and the rear brake) and if the balance breaks down between the two tires, it can easily happen that one of the tires starts to slip during the ride. And if this happens, it is better that the rear tire slips a bit than the front one since it is a lot easier to control the slip of the rear tire than the front one.
How do I know when I need to change the tire?
In the past few years, the quality of tires increased a lot, especially due to new composites and new technology used for making them and therefore it is harder to tell if the tire needs to be changed even if it doesn’t look worn out.
The law stipulates that each tire must have a stamped number on the edge in which week and which years it has been produced (TTLL). The picture below shows how this looks on the tire itself. Four numbers are printed in the ellipse box. The tire on the picture was produced in the 30th week of 2011.
We recommend that if your tire is older than 5 years, have it checked by a professional, but if it is older than 10 years, it is advisable to replace it, since the tire has no longer the characteristics that it had at the time of production.
So, when to replace a tire?
Simply when the tire profile is no longer visible or your tire is too old.
Now to conclude on less serious note – Do you know what »chicken strips« are?