Motorcycle Tyre Guide - Get a Grip, Literally!

Choosing the right motorcycle tyre is absolutely pivotal to your riding experience. While it's tempting to gloss over the details, especially when the options are endless and tyre technology is advancing at breakneck speed, we've done the homework for you. Remember, the right motorcycle tyre can elevate your ride to new heights, while the wrong one could, quite literally, let you down. So let's avoid any tyre-related faux pas, shall we?

why to ride a motorcycle

Riding Style: The Heart of the Matter

When it comes to choosing a motorcycle tyre, it all starts with you - your riding style, to be precise. Forget what your mate Dave says; this is a decision only you can make. So, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you the type to ride long distances or do you prefer short, exhilarating sprints? Your choice of tyre hinges on this. Do you ride aggressively? How often do you actually ride? Do you lean a lot or ride mostly on straight line? And let's not forget the terrain and weather conditions you'll encounter. Answering these questions is the first step to understanding which motorcycle tyre will serve you best.

Motorcycle Tyre Compounds: It's All About Balance

When it comes to motorcycle tyre materials, you're essentially choosing between soft, medium, and hard compounds. No choice is perfect; it's all a balancing act between grip and longevity. Soft compounds might give you that sweet, sweet grip, but don't expect them to last forever. On the flip side, hard compounds are in it for the long haul, but they're not going to give you the sort of grip that'll make you feel like Spider-Man.

Now, you might hear the term 'sticky' compound and think that's just what you need. Hold your horses! These are racing tyres, designed to operate under extreme traction and at high temperatures. On a typical road, you'll never get them hot enough to unlock their full potential. Not to mention, they wear out quicker than you can say 'pit stop'.

For everyday riding, you're looking for something that offers solid grip at more moderate temperatures. These tend to be road or sport-touring tyres. And don't worry, even with harder compounds, skilled riders can still get their knee down - just ask any seasoned biker.

why to ride a motorcycle

Tyre Profiles: Shape Matters, No Kidding!

The profile of your motorcycle tyre plays a massive role in how your bike behaves on the road. If you opt for a pointy profile, you'll find your bike dives into corners like it's on a mission. They offer excellent grip when you're leaning, thanks to a larger contact patch. However, they might make you feel a bit wobbly when you're riding in a straight line.

The profile of your motorcycle tyre plays a massive role in how your bike behaves on the road. If you opt for a pointy profile, you'll find your bike dives into corners like it's on a mission. They offer excellent grip when you're leaning, thanks to a larger contact patch. However, they might make you feel a bit wobbly when you're riding in a straight line.

Sport Touring Tyres: The Jack-of-All-Trades

If you're into sport touring, you'll want a motorcycle tyre that's as versatile as your interests. These tyres aim to offer a snug, confident feel across a range of weather conditions. Durability is key here, so you'll often find them leaning towards harder compounds. But don't worry, they're designed to grip well at the moderate temperatures you'll typically encounter off the racetrack.

Many sport touring tyres feature a dual compound: a harder centre for mileage and a softer edge for grip. Remember, the ideal tyre shouldn't just match your bike's specs but should also align with your riding style, offering a consistent feel in a variety of situations.

You might think it's a small detail, but even the tread pattern can make a difference. Some are designed to absorb shocks and reduce vibrations, keeping you comfortable on those long rides. And if you're one to always scrutinise speed ratings, rest assured, most sport touring tyres offer more than you'll likely ever need. For the specifics, just check out the tyre code.

"Ready to dig deeper? Browse through our handpicked selections of the best motorcycle sport touring tyres from industry heavyweights like Bridgestone, Metzeler, Michelin, and Dunlop.

How Tyres Age: It's More Than Just Mileage

You might think a tyre only ages when it's on the road, but the truth is, the ageing process kicks off the moment it leaves the factory. Factors like exposure to air, sunlight, and heat work tirelessly to break down the rubber compound, whether the tyre is spinning on your bike or gathering dust on a shelf.

When you do hit the road, the tyre heats up and the rubber softens, allowing it to grip the surface better. However, the repeated heating and cooling lead to a phenomenon known as outgassing. Simply put, parts of the tyre transform into gas and escape, altering the tyre's chemical composition. Over time, this makes the tyre less flexible, diminishing its ability to grip the road.

Here's a tip: if you only take your bike out a few times a year, you might want to opt for a softer compound. This could offer better performance and more confidence in your tyres. And remember, it's generally a good idea to steer clear of tyres that are more than five years old, regardless of how much they've been used.

Tyre Pressure: Not Just Hot Air

When it comes to tyre pressure, the manufacturer knows best. Always start with their guidelines, but know that there are occasions when you might deviate a smidgen. For example, if you're taking your bike to the track, you could consider lowering the pressure by about 10 PSI. Why? Because track conditions will heat up your tyres, which in turn increases the internal pressure. But remember, that's a special case.

Now, the effects of tyre pressure aren't to be taken lightly. An under-inflated tyre may offer more grip due to a larger contact patch but at the cost of stability and increased wear. On the flip side, over-inflation changes the tyre's profile, leading to less traction and quicker wear.

For those keen on delving into the ever-controversial topic of using nitrogen in motorcycle tyres, stay tuned.

Cracking the Code

How to Read a Motorcycle Tyre's Age

Determining your tyre's age isn't exactly an episode of 'Sherlock'. All you need to do is check out the four-digit manufacture code stamped onto the sidewall. In this code, the first two digits indicate the week it was made, and the last two digits represent the year. In the example below, '1422' would mean the tyre was produced in the 14th week of 2022. Easy-peasy.

why to ride a motorcycle

As we touched upon earlier, it's wise to steer clear of tyres older than five years due to the ongoing degradation of the rubber compounds. So keep an eye on those digits; they're more important than you might think!

Speed Symbol: What It Really Means

The Speed Symbol is a handy little character that tells you the tyre's maximum speed capacity when carrying a load up to its Load Index. This is all according to the specs provided by the tyre manufacturer, mind you.

You'll find the Speed Rating in the table here. Bear in mind, these speeds are based on tyres in tip-top condition, inflated just so, and used within their designated load range on the proper size rim. The speeds listed are the tyre's top speed capabilities, not your everyday cruising speeds. For tyres with V, ZR or W, you might push the envelope on speed but you'll need to lighten the load a bit.

Remember, all speed limits we're talking about are subject to your local road laws, so keep it on the straight and narrow!

Speed Rating
Type km/h mph
L 120 75
P 150 93
S 180 112
T 190 118
H 210 130
V 240 149
ZR >240 >149
W 270 169
Y 300 187

Load Index

Tyres have a load index that indicates the maximum weight they can safely carry when properly inflated. This information, often found on the tyre's sidewall as an alphanumeric code, is crucial for motorcyclists who often travel with heavy loads. For example, a tyre with a load index of "73" has a load capacity of 805 pounds or 365 kilograms, see table below.

To calculate the total weight your bike can carry, you'd need to add the load capacities from both tyres together. The rear tyre typically has a higher load capacity than the front. However, this doesn't give you the full picture; you also need to consider your bike's overall weight capacity as provided by the manufacturer. This total weight includes the bike itself, rider, passenger, and any accessories or luggage.

Load Index - kg
LI kg LI kg LI kg LI kg LI kg LI kg
49 185 57 230 65 290 73 365 81 462 89 580
50 190 58 236 66 300 74 375 82 475 90 600
51 195 59 243 67 307 75 387 83 487 91 615
52 200 60 250 68 315 76 400 84 500 92 630
53 206 61 257 69 325 77 412 85 515 93 650
54 212 62 265 70 335 78 425 86 530 94 670
55 218 63 272 71 345 79 437 87 545 95 690
56 224 64 280 72 355 80 450 88 560 96 710
Load Index - lbs
LI lbs LI lbs LI lbs LI lbs LI lbs LI lbs
49 408 57 507 65 639 73 805 81 1019 89 1279
50 419 58 520 66 661 74 827 82 1047 90 1323
51 430 59 536 67 677 75 853 83 1074 91 1355
52 441 60 551 68 694 76 882 84 1102 92 1389
53 454 61 567 69 716 77 908 85 1135 93 1433
54 467 62 584 70 739 78 837 86 1168 94 1477
55 481 63 600 71 761 79 963 87 1201 95 1521
56 494 64 617 72 783 80 992 88 1235 96 1565

In Conclusion: Your Tyres, Your Ride

When it comes to motorcycle tyres, one size definitely doesn't fit all. Make sure to pick a set that aligns with your unique riding style and preferences. Keep an eye out for the latest releases; tyre technology is ever-evolving, and you might just find something that revolutionises your ride. While advice from fellow bikers can be valuable, remember that what works for them might not be the best fit for you.

Regularly check your tyre pressure, and for those hungry for more, delve into our in-depth reviews from leading manufacturers like Bridgestone, Metzeler, Michelin, and Dunlop.

Ready to get rolling? Discover the best sport touring motorcycle tyres that suit your needs.

The above article may include affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no extra cost to you.

Return to Motorcycle Sport Touring → Home Page
riding techniques

Fun Facts

Did you know that honey never spoils? Archaeologists have found pots of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 3,000 years old and still perfectly edible. Quite the sweet discovery, isn't it?

Did you know?

Did you know that the first speeding ticket ever issued to a motor vehicle driver was to a motorcyclist? Back in 1896, a British chap named Walter Arnold was caught tearing through the streets of Kent at a "breakneck" speed of 8 mph. The speed limit at that time was a leisurely 2 mph. He was chased by a policeman on a bicycle and was fined a shilling.

Tip of the week:

Visualize before you ride

Listen to the traffic report, preview your route, visualize potential obstacles, be prepared. It takes more eviromental managment to ride well on a road than to ride well on a track.

Joke of the week

Why did the scarecrow win an award?

Because he was outstanding in his field!

Best Deals on Sport Touring Tyres

'New year, new me'? How about 'New season, new tyres'?

Now's the perfect time to give your bike the grip it deserves! Don't miss out on unbeatable deals from:

Best Deals on Adventure Touring Tyres

'New year, new me'? How about 'New season, new tyres'?

Now's the perfect time to give your bike the grip it deserves! Don't miss out on unbeatable deals from:

Photo of the week

best riding roads

Reading List:

The Essentials of Motorcycle Luggage

Ever geared up for a motorcycle tour and found yourself puzzled about where to put all those essentials? Welcome to the life of a touring enthusiast. But fear not, because the gods of motorcycling foresaw this dilemma: Enter motorcycle luggage. Not just any old bag, but the kind tailored for those who believe a week-long journey with just a toothbrush and a dream is, well, unrealistic. Join us as we unpack the art and science of equipping your ride with the perfect storage. Because let's be honest, your majestic steed deserves more than bungee cords and prayers to hold onto your worldly (touring) possessions!

motorcycle luggage
Helmet 101: The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to hitting the open road, there's one piece of gear that's non-negotiable: your helmet. Think of it as your noggin's knight in shining armour—quite literally. This Must Read Helmet Guide is your golden ticket to understanding what makes a helmet tick, why it's your best mate on the tarmac, and how to pick the one that fits you like a glove. After all, what's between your ears is priceless, so let's make sure it's well-protected.

motorcycle rider on a road
Two Wheels & Tents

Ever considered trading that stuffy hotel room for the grand embrace of Mother Nature? We're talking motorcycle camping, the quintessential BikeBreathe experience that mingles the thrill of the open road with the serenity of a starry night. This is where your bike isn't just a vehicle but a passport to more authentic experiences, places where the air is fresher and the connection to your surroundings is direct. Pack your gear and your sense of wonder; we're about to delve into an experience that goes beyond the ride to connect you with the natural world. Who's ready to give 'roughing it' a whole new meaning?

motorcyle touring hard luggage