In all ways bikers
take their motorcycles more to the extreme than the average motorist.
There is also bigger variety available to the biker who wants to
replace his tyres. For this reason, selecting the correct tyres
for you motorbike is more involved and should only be undertaken
after a lot of research. Fortunately the Internet has a lot to offer
from input from manufacturers and bikers themselves.
Generally tyres five
different characteristics i.e. their grip in the dry, their grip
in the wet, off road handling, tyre noise and expected kilometres.
A common misconception
about tyres is that the deeper the tread, the better the tyre will
grip the road. This is incorrect. It is the rubber that is exposed
to a good surface that keeps the vehicle controllable. The deep
tread is simply somewhere for the water/mud/sand/crud to go when
the tyre travels on a imperfect surface. If there were no tread,
the crud would come between the good surface and the tyre. The vehicle
would cease to be in contact with the road and the result would
be loss of control (aquaplaning in the case of water)
and Soft Rubber
Tyres are always a
compromise between the ability to grip the road and longevity. The
softer and more sticky the rubber compound the better it grips but
it will not last more than a few thousand kilometres. The harder
the compound, the less it grips but the longer it will last.
Tyre pressure too is
a compromise. The lower the pressure, the better the tyre is able
to flow into the dimples in the road surface. At speed however the
friction generated causes dangerous levels of heat. Under inflated
tyres are also prone to punctures and shortened life span. Only
under inflate when travelling over loose desert/beach sand (reduce
pressure by 30% for tubeless and 40% for tubed)
Over inflated tyres
do not grip as well due to their lack of flexibility. Only over-inflate
when covering very rough terrain with large rocks and stones (Increase
Top of Page **
patterns and design
There is a huge variation
in tyre patterns and design.
Broadly tyres divide
into road, enduro (trail) and off-road (scrambler). You do not take
slick track tyres off-road and aggressive off-road tyres stay exactly
there i.e. off road!. Enduro types are an attempt to make a tyre
with reasonable characteristics of both but must not be pushed to
the extreme in either environment as they are in all ways a compromise
between two incompatible extremes.
Within these three
categories tyres are again divided into hard and soft compounds.
Hard, giving longevity and soft, offering extra traction but fewer
The maximum speed rating
and maximum load bearing characteristics differs from tyre to tyre
as does width, profile and tread pattern
On the extreme end
of the road tyre spectrum there are the fat, smooth, slick tyres
for sportbikes capable of more than 200km. These road/track tyres
place maximum rubber onto the road surface and have only the smallest
treads to funnel away small amounts of water that may be on the
road. Track tyres are made of a softer compound than their road
should take special note of the 'Maximum Load Rating'
and 'Maximum Speed Rating under Load' of their selected
tyre before putting a passenger on the pillion seat.
The tread in a sport
touring tyre is wider, deeper and there is more of it. The compound
is harder and the maximum load rating is higher.
Cruiser tyres have
a higher maximum load rating to cope with the biker size of the
Off road tyres vary.
On the one extreme the separate blocks of rubber are big. The
more aggressive the tyre looks the more suited it is to very rough
conditions but the poorer the performance on hard, wet road surfaces.
One of the reasons for this is the small amount of rubber
that actually comes into contact with the road surface. They are
also noisy and affect the top-end speed due to the increase in
road friction (therefore going 200km on a breakfast run is not
The wider and bigger
the tread between the blocks of rubber, the more suited it is
to thick muddy conditions. The more closely packed the blocks
of rubber are, the more suited it is for sand and gravel.
Top of Page **
Somewhere in the
middle between road and off road tyres comes the trail tyre with
large flat blocks of rubber closely packed together in order to
get more rubber onto the road. They offer reasonable performance
on road and off road. They are not too noisy and the rubber compound
is not too soft.
choosing a tyre
Even when you have chosen
the right type of tyre there are still a number of ratings that
apply. Explore these in detail with your dealer.
Will the tyre fit
your particular rim?
Can the width of
the tyre be accommodated by your motorcycle frame?
What is the maximum
speed rating for the tyre?
How is the maximum
speed affected by having a pillion passenger or by heavy touring
What is the maximum
load for the tyre?
What is the recommended
and maximum tyre pressure?
How does the tread
width and tread depth compare with comparable tyres by other
Is the tyre essentially
a soft or hard rubber compound?
Is the tyre a radial
or a bias ply tyre?
tyres that one fits are either tubeless or tubed. This is dictated
by the construction of the wheel rims in the first place and the
tyre itself in the second and the nature of the riding you do. Naturally,
rims with wire spokes that go right through the rim need tubes while
alloy rims that are cast as a single unit can accept tubeless tyres.
Tubed tyres and their associated spokes rims are hardier e.g. one
can deflate the tyre to a greater extent when travelling over thick
desert sand. They can also tackle tough off road conditions with
stones, rocks and potholes as the spokes wheels can handle this
type of abuse better than alloy wheels.
tyres are seldom speed rated over 200km per hour as they generate
more heat than their tubeless counterparts.
tyres and their light alloy rims are not well suited to tough conditions
as they loose their shape and the tubeless tyres can no longer seal
themselves against the rim. One of the big advantages of tubeless
tyres is the ease of repair when one has a puncture as the tyre
can stay on the rim during the repair process (naturally this does
not apply to side wall punctures). They are also safer at high speeds
and can be speed rated in excess of 300km per hour.
tyre has a series of rates e.g. speed, load etc. How to read them
is a big topic. For a full explanation of tyre ratings see the Bridgestone
web site at Bridgestone.com. The site Sidcupmotorcycletyres.co.uk
is a site where bikers give their feedback on various tyres. (See
links page for both of these sites)
tyres come in pairs - the particular model has a front wheel version
and a partnering back wheel tyre to go with it.
within each type of tyre the name of the game is compromise. In
fact the only time you will really know whether your tyres suit
your overall needs is when the ‘tacky hits the track/road/trail’
so to speak! Guys who own dual sport motorbikes may even find that
you will have to purchase two sets of tyres e.g. one set for town
use and one for their annual trek into the bush or desert.
the Bridgestone range of tyres here are examples of the different
Dual Sport (Enduro)
Serious Off Road Tyre
Thick Mud Tyre