December 12, 2016 | By Jeff King
If you take care of your tires, they'll take care of you.
There's an awful lot riding on your motorcycle tires. Poorly maintained tires compromise the bike's handling and your safety to a degree that can't be overstated. So making sure they're in good condition is one of the most important pre-ride checks you should be performing before you turn on the ignition. Fortunately, it's a job that's quick, easy and requires nothing more than a tire pressure gauge and a Lincoln head penny.
All tire maintenance starts with a thorough visual inspection of your tires and wheels. The first thing you'll want to examine is the tread depth. Those serpentine channels and cutouts in your tire aren’t just for style you know; they are there for performance reasons. A bald tire can throw you down the road faster than a blink of the eye, especially if the road is a little wet. Worn tires are also more prone to puncture. So unless you enjoy the peace and tranquility of waiting for tow trucks, you best pay attention to the condition of your tires.
MEASURING TREAD DEPTH
The tire on the left is new, and the wear bar is almost invisible. As the tire wears, the wear bars become vastly more apparent. The bars are located not only in the middle of your tread, but along the edges as well. Although most tires show most of their wear in the center tread, check your edges too ... where you depend on grip for corning. As a rule, once the tread reaches the wear bar, the tire is shot and should be replaced before the next ride.
Check both of your tires! Rear tires are the drive wheel, so they wear out at roughly twice the rate of the front. But your tread depth is equally important on the front tire as well. The mileage and wear rate can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the type of tire can be a factor. Touring tires have a harder compound to increase their mileage, where sport tires will sacrifice longevity for performance (softer tires = sticky tires). How you ride also affects wear rates as well. As a general rule, you can expect 5.000 - 7,000 miles out of a rear tire, and much more out of the front.
As an alternative to locating the wear bars, you can also measure the tread depth. Normally a tire is considered worn out when the tread depth is 2/32 of inch deep.
There are several types of tire tread gauges on the market, fancy digital models and tried and tested old school analog versions (Well hey, they will never run out of batteries).
Obviously, these gauges will provide a degree of accuracy the following method lacks, but there is good value in a GO or NO GO indication of your treads depth.
Insert the head of a Lincoln penny into the tread. If the tread still covers the part of President Lincoln’s head, you are good to go. When the tread is shallow enough that you can see Lincoln’s entire head, it’s time for a new tire.
Besides inspecting the tread depth, inspect the tire for any foreign objects, slashes in the thread, cracking or budging of the sidewalls. Any cracking in the tire tread or sidewall indicates that this tire is way past its freshness date. As rubber gets old, it hardens and cracks from the stress, providing much less grip than the tread depth would indicate. If you find something wrong with your tire, take comfort that your found the problem in your driveway and not at 65 mph on the interstate or during a knee dragging turn.
Always maintain the motorcycle manufacturer's recommended air pressure in both tires. This is an important requirement for tire safety, performance and mileage. For accurate readings, measure your tires inflation when cold. Yes, your tire has tire pressures stamped on the sidewall of the tire, but these numbers are there only to define maximum loads ... these are in no way recommended tires pressures for your specific bike! Your motorcycle owner’s manual will tell you the recommended cold inflation pressures.
Correct tire pressures provide the largest contact patch and the maximum amount of grip to the road. Riding on tires with too little air pressure is dangerous. Underinflated tires build excessive heat which can accelerate wear and dramatically reduce the life of the tire.
Overinflated tires decrease the contact patch of the tire, and tend to reduce the amount grip available to the rider.
Adding tire inspection to your pre-flight checklist provides an extra margin of safety, reliability and will help you get the most out of your tires.
If you’d like to get some 'hands on' experience on this procedure, Moto Republic offers private one-on-one instruction on tire inspections or any maintance task you want to learn more about! We offer $25 tire changing certifications that will open your eyes as to just what goes into the construction of a tire to keep you safe. We encourage you to come on in and get your service on!
Check out our current Workshop and Class listings at Moto-Republic.com.
Visit Moto Republic [+] | Moto Republic Social Media
DISCLAIMER: The methods in this article are guidelines, provided and performed by a trained mechanic. If you are not comfortable performing routine maintenance on your bike, it is recommended you get a trained mechanic to complete these and more difficult tasks on your bike.
BACK TO CURRENT COLUMNS
Master Links & Chain Breaking
Chains and Sprockets: R & R
Switched Accessory Wiring
Drive Chain Clean, Lube & Adjust
Tool Guide for the Home Motorcycle Mechanic – Part 2
Tool Guide for the Home Motorcycle Mechanic – Part 1
Tire Inspection & Maintenance
The Cold Hard Facts about your Cooling System
Clutch Cable Free Play Adjustment
Hydraulic Brake System Maintenance
Belt Drive Adjustment & Care
Charging System Inspection