MOTORCYCLE TIRE GUIDE - Motorcycle Safety Foundation

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MOTORCYCLETIRE GUIDEWhat riders need to knowabout street motorcycle tires

The information in this booklet represents the collective knowledge of a number of motorcycle tiremanufacturers, the U.S Tire Manufacturers Association, and Motorcycle Industry Council staff and isintended to be a useful resource for motorcyclists. This booklet, however, cannot cover every possibleexample or aspect of tire usage. Consult the appropriate motorcycle or tire manufacturer for issues notaddressed in this booklet.

INTRODUCTIONNever underestimate the importance of having good,properly inflated tireson your motorcycle.The small contactpatches providedby the front and reartires are the motorcycle’s only source oftraction. Deteriorationof your tires’ conditioncan jeopardize thiscontact patch andbring a good ride to aquick end.Safe riding depends on selecting the right tires, inspecting andmaintaining them, and replacing them as necessary.INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCEInflation PressureIt’s all about inflation, inflation, inflation. Proper air pressure is criticalfor tire performance and tire life. Under-inflation or overloading cancause heavy steering, irregular wear, and internal damage due to overflexing, and can cause the tire to separate from the rim. Over-inflationcan reduce the contact area (and therefore available traction), and canmake the motorcycle react harshly to bumps. Check the air pressurewith a gauge when the tires are cold (at least three hours since thelast ride), as part of your pre-ride “T-CLOCS” inspection (T-CLOCSMotorcycle Tire Guide1

Tire PressuresLOADTIRE PRESSURE (COLD)FRONTREARPSIkPaPSIkPaSolo rider3624836248Rider and passenger3624840276MOUNTTYPESIZEOPTION 1OPTION 2frontradial-ply, tubeless120/70 ZR17Brand X - FBrand Y - Frearradial-ply, tubeless190/50 ZR17Brand X - RBrand Y - Rpage 22 SpecificationsSample Owner’s Manualmeans Tires and Wheels,Controls, Lights, Oil,Chassis, and Stands; seepage 14 for a completeMSF T-CLOCS checklist),and adjust it according toyour motorcycle’s owner’smanual or the tire information label on the chainguard, frame or swingarm.There may be two sets ofrecommendations for tire pressure (as well as suspension settings): onefor solo riding and one for riding with a passenger and/or cargo. Do notexceed the maximum inflation pressure listed on the tire’s sidewall. Andnever exceed the motorcycle’s or tire’s load limit (combined weight ofoperator, passenger, cargo, and accessories), since that can cause tirefailure. (Refer to the Load Limit Calculator on page 17.)At a minimum, check your tires’ cold inflation pressures at least once aweek and before long trips. Visually inspect tires for surface conditionsbefore each ride. However, be aware that it is impossible to determineproper inflation by appearance alone. An accurate pressure gauge isneeded, even if your motorcycle is equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System that gives specific pressure readouts.Regularly inspect the tire tread depth to ensure that adequate treadremains. Tires have small wear bars molded into the tread grooves.When the tread is worn down to the level of the wear bars (indicating1/32 inches of tread remaining), the wear bars become exposed and thetire should be replaced. Some tire manufacturers recommend replacingthe tire when there are 2/32 or 3/32 inches of tread remaining, beforethe wear bars are exposed. Although it may look like there is a sufficient2Motorcycle Tire Guide

New TireWorn TireThe circled areas show how the wear bars appear on a new tire and on a completely worn-out tire.amount, it may not be enough tomaintain traction in wet conditions.The deep grooves in new tires helpchannel water away from the contactpatch, and worn tires are thinnerand easier to puncture. For a quickcheck, if you insert a penny intoa groove in the center of your tire,2/32 of an inch is right at the top ofLincoln’s head.In addition to tread depth, glanceover the tires’ surface for anyevidence of uneven wear, cuts,embedded objects, bulges, orsidewall cracking.Heat Cycles and Tire AgeThis photograph shows how water issqueezed from the path of a tire.Every time you ride, the tires gothrough a “heat cycle” as they go from ambient to operating temperature and back down again. Each successive heat cycle slowly hardensthe tread. Also, chemical reactions over time may cause the rubberto harden, even with nonuse. Whether through heat cycles or aging,the tire’s surface becomes less spongy and less able to interlock withthe protrusions and pores in the road surface, thereby decreasingmaximum traction capability. (If you have an old tire and a new tire, youcan press your fingernail into the surfaces of each to see the differencein how they react.) So, tires eventually have to be replaced, even if theyhave plenty of tread left. However, tires don’t have an “expiration date,”since operating conditions, storage conditions, exposure to sunlight,number of heat cycles, and wear are the primary factors that determineMotorcycle Tire Guide3

their usable tread life. Consult your motorcycle service professional ortire manufacturer for guidelines. We recommend against buying usedtires; you don’t know how many heat cycles they’ve gone through. Thisalso means that when you buy a used motorcycle, you should thoroughlyinspect the tires, and replace them if their condition is questionable.CleaningTo clean your sidewalls, use a mild soap solution and rinse off withplain water. Do not use chemical cleaners or protectants, as they maydegrade the rubber, causing cracks in the sidewalls, and spread to thecontact patch, causing loss of traction.StorageIf you’ll be storing your motorcycle for more than a month, and it hasa center stand, set the bike on its center stand to raise the rear tire offthe ground and use blocks under the frame or fork to lift the front tireslightly off the ground. If it doesn’t have a center stand, periodically rollthe bike forward or backward a few inches so the tires don’t develop flatspots in the tread. Store the motorcycle in a dry, well-ventilated area,away from electric motors and generators, and ensure the tires do notcome in contact with petroleum-based products or solvents.THE RIDERubber is harder when it’s cold than when warmed up. Motorcycletires are designed to provide maximum traction at specific temperatures. Riding moderately for the first few miles on the street will allowyour tires to come up to proper operating temperature. Don’t take thefreeway on-ramp near your home at maximum lean angle and corneringspeed before your tires come up to temperature. Tire temperature isso important that professional racers actually use electric tire blankets4Motorcycle Tire Guide

to preheat the tires so they’ll have maximum grip when the green flagdrops out on the track.SELECTING A TIREYour motorcycle was designed to work in harmony with a limitedselection of tires. The owner’s manual and tire information label willspecify tire size, construction (radial or bias, tube-type or tubeless), loadrange, and service description (load index and speed symbol), and mayidentify the brand installed as original equipment. In addition, tires arespecifically designed for use only on the front or rear wheel – becauseeach tire has a different function – and the front and rear tires shouldmatch each other by being from the same brand and model line. Tiresmust also be mounted so the sidewall directional arrows correspond tothe direction of travel.Motorcycle dealerships can recommend a variety of types withinbrands that best match your motorcycle and style of riding, whethercommuting, touring, sport riding, or on- and off-road adventure riding.Some tires even use two different rubber compounds in the tread: aharder compound in the center for extra life when riding in a straightline and a softer compound on the outer edges for extra traction whileleaning through turns. Note, too, that different tread patterns can makea difference in how your bike handles. For example, some patterns willresist tracking on the rain grooves that are cut into some highways.It is unsafe to install passenger car tires on motorcycle rims. The flattread profile of a car tire is incompatible with the dynamics of a vehiclethat leans as it corners. Plus, motorcycle tires and rims are designedwith a different bead seat area than passenger car tires and rims.Ignoring this fact may cause inflation pressure loss while riding or thebeads to break with explosive force resulting in possible serious injuryor death.Motorcycle Tire Guide5

TIRE SIDEWALL INFORMATIONEvery street-legal tire sold in the U.S. will have a Department ofTransportation (DOT) tire identification number (TIN) on the sidewall.The TIN begins with the letters “DOT” and ends with a four-digit datecode. The four digits represent the week and year of production. Forexample, a date code of “4510” in the first photo means the tire wasproduced in the 45th week of 2010.The sidewall will alsohave a code indicatingthe size, plus a loadindex and a speedsymbol as shown inthese examples.The examples use metricdesignations. The firstnumber is the nominalsection width, in millimeters: 160 mm in thesecond photo, 120 mmin the third. The secondnumber is the aspect ratio(ratio of section height tosection width) which isa percentage, so for the160/60 the section heightis 60 percent of thesection width, or 96 mm;for the 120/80 the sectionheight is 80 percent ofthe section width, whichalso happens to be 96mm. Some tires use letteror inch designationsinstead of millimeters, asshown in the Cross-Reference Chart on page 9.In the second photo the “R” means radial-ply construction. In the thirdthe “-” means bias construction. A “B” would mean bias-belted.Next is rim diameter, in inches: 17 in the second photo, 18 in the third.The “M/C” means the tire was designed for motorcycles.6Motorcycle Tire Guide

The next set of characters indicates load index and speed symbol. The“69” and “62” indicate the maximum load the tire can carry (see LoadIndex Rating chart below) at the speed indicated by the speed symbols“(W)” and “H,” respectively (see Speed Symbol chart on the next page).In the chart, note that the W in parentheses has a different rating than aW without parentheses. Also note that tires with a “W” or “(W)” speedsymbol are identified by a “Z” before the construction code in the tiresize designation.Load Index 571761/34552441/20072783/355Motorcycle Tire Guide7

180/65B1665%Height of the tireis 65% of the Width(Aspect Ratio is thepercentage of height to width)16” Rim180mmRim is 16 inches in DiameterTire is 180mm WideReplacement tires must match or exceed the speed rating specified inthe owner’s manual and tire information label to maintain motorcyclespeed and handling capabilities. However, tire speed ratings donot imply that any particular motorcycle can be safely ridden at themaximum speed for which the tire is rated. Consult the motorcyclemanufacturer or tire manufacturer for recommendations.Speed Symbol ChartSpeed SymbolP93 mph150 km/hQ99 mph160 km/hR106 mph170 km/hS112 mph180 km/hT118 mph190 km/hU124 mph200 km/hH130 mph210 km/hV149 mph240 km/hW168 mph270 km/h(W)more than 168 mphmore than 270 km/hExamples:Tire Designation160/70-17 M/C 72H160/60ZR17 MC 72W160/60ZR17 M/C (72W)8Maximum SpeedMaximum Speed130 mph (210 km/h)168 mph (270 km/h)Above 168 mph (270 km/h); consult the tire and motorcycle manufacturers forthe maximum rated speed.Motorcycle Tire Guide

Cross-Reference Chart for Popular Tire Sizes*FRONT TIRESMetricAlpha NumericInch80/90MH902.50 to 2.7590/90MJ902.75 to 3.00100/90MM903.25 to 3.50110/90MN903.75 to 4.00120/80–4.25 to 4.50120/90MR904.25 to 4.50130/90MT905.00 to 5.10MetricAlpha NumericInchREAR TIRES110/90MP854.00 to 4.25120/90MR904.50 to 4.75130/80–5.00 to 5.10130/90MT905.00 to 5.10140/80–5.50 to 6.00140/90MU85/MU905.50 to 6.00150/80MV856.00 to 6.25150/90MV856.00 to 6.25160/80–6.80 to 7.00180/55–7.00 to 7.25200/60–7.90 to 8.00230/50–9.50*Be aware of speed ratings, load index and dimensional differenceswhen comparing tires with different size nomenclatures. Forrecommendations or additional information, consult the tire ormotorcycle manufacturer.Motorcycle Tire Guide9

NEW TIRE INSTALLATION AND PRECAUTIONSTires should be replaced andbalanced by a professionalmechanic. Professionals have the righttools to prevent damage to the bead ofthe tire which must seat firmly againstthe rim to provide an airtight seal, andthey have equipment that can performdynamic, high-speed balancing toguard against wheel vibration. Installa new tube every time a tube-type tireis replaced. If equipped with a rubberrim band, replace it with an equivalentband. For a tubeless rim, replace therubber valve stem, or replace the valvecore and rubber grommet in a metal valve assembly. For motorcyclesequipped with a TPMS, consult the owner’s manual or TPMS manufacturer for service recommendations.Certain Harley-Davidson motorcycles use spoked, tubeless-typerims identified as “MTM” which require a rim seal for proper tire-to-rimfitment. Consult your owner’s manual.Take it easy on new tires for your first 100 miles. The tire’s surface willbe a bit smooth and needs to be “scuffed in” for maximum grip. Also, itscross-section shape will be more round than a worn tire, which likely hasflattened out over time in the central tread area. This wear happens sogradually that you likely won’t notice how sluggish (relatively speaking)your bike’s handling has become until your first ride with new tires. Thefresh tires may respond more quickly to cornering input, and during thisbreak-in period you may have to re-adjust to this “restored” feeling.10Motorcycle Tire Guide

HOW MOTORCYCLE TIRES WORKBecause a motorcycle is a single-track vehicle and leans as it turns,motorcycle tires are quite different than car tires. Whereas car tireshave a fairly flatprofile and acontact patchthat varies littlein size or shape,motorcycle tireshave a U-shapedprofile and acontact patchthat changessize and shapeCGCFduring cornering.MotorcycleLeantires are alsoAnglerelatively narrow,which makestheir grippingWTLcapability(“traction”) alimited commodity.Plus, this limited amount of traction is divided up among multiple forcescreated when braking, cornering, and accelerating. The more you leanin a corner, for example, the less traction is available for braking; thequicker you accelerate, the less traction is available for turning. If anyone of these actions uses an excessive share of available traction, youmight lose control of the motorcycle. For more information on howmotorcyclists can manage braking, cornering, and acceleration forces,please read the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Guide to MotorcyclingExcellence (Second Edition), or any number of in-depth books on theart and science ofmotorcycling.Poor TractionGood TractionTraction can bethought of asthe mechanicaladhesionbetween tiresand road surface.Lateral ForceLateral ForceInflexibleFlexibleMotorcycle Tire Guide11

Predictable traction is essential in all riding situations, especiallycornering. To enable this connection to transmit as much force aspossible, it is necessary for the tire’s rubber surface to interlock atthe microscopic level with the protrusions and pores of the road. Thatmeans there must be sufficient tread thickness, and it must be flexibleto provide adequate traction.There are several ways in which the adhesion between rubber and roadcan be compromised: The tire surface has lost its elasticity, because of coldtemperatures, aging, or other factors The asphalt or concrete has been “polished” down and madesmooth by automobile and truck tires The interface between tire and road is “lubricated” or obstructedby any number of substances: rainwater, engine oil, leaves, gravel,sand, dirt, etc.SUDDEN AIR LOSS AND TIRE REPAIRFortunately, sudden air loss is uncommon and generally preventableby maintaining proper air pressure. Sudden air loss may occur dueto a puncture, overloading, under-inflation, impact, etc. Sudden air lossmay occur without warning and can induce panic even in experiencedriders. The symptoms may include vibration or sluggish handling. If asudden air loss should occur, keep a firm grip on the handlebars, steersmoothly, and gently ease off the throttle. Avoid downshifting or hardbraking, as these actions can upset the now-unstable chassis. If trafficpermits, slow gradually and move off to the side of the road. If you mustbrake, limit your braking to the wheel with the good tire. Applying thebrake to the wheel with the bad tire can cause the tire to separate fromthe rim, leading to a loss of control.If a tire is punctured, it might be possible to repair it. However, repairsshould be considered a temporary measure at best, and speedsshould be kept low. Repairs to the sidewall are not permitted. Some tiremanufacturers do not recommend repairing motorcycle tires or usingliquid sealants. If permissible, repairs should be limited to a combinationplug/patch repair of tread punctures no larger than 1/4” in diameter on ademounted tire. Never perform an exterior repair and never use an innertube as a substitute for a proper repair. Speeds should not exceed 50mph for the first 24 hours after the repair, and the repaired tire shouldnever be used over 80 mph (not recommended to exceed the legal speedlimit in any event). Remember, motorcycle tires experience tremendoussideways forces and deformation when cornering. For detailedinformation on repairing your tire, contact the specific tire manufacturer.12Motorcycle Tire Guide

CONCLUSIONBuy the right tires, have them professionally installed, maintainproper air pressure, inspect them regularly, don’t ride over sharpobjects, and avoid slick surfaces. Treat your tires well and they’ll treatyou to many miles of safe, comfortable riding.Danger lurks beyond the wear bars. Once the rubber is gone,so is your tire’s ability to grip the road.Motorcycle Tire Guide13

MSF T-CLOCSSM Pre-Ride Inspection ChecklistT-CLOCSWHAT TOITEMCHECKT-TIRES & WHEELSTiresConditionAir ONTROLSLevers andPedalCablesValve lampTail lamp/brake lampTurn signalsMirrorsLenses &ReflectorsWiringWHAT TO LOOK FORCHECK-OFFTread depth, wear, weathering, cracking, evenly seated, bulges,embedded objects.Check when cold, adjust to recommended pressure, consideringtotal load.Bent, broken, missing, tension, check at top of wheel: “ring” OK — “thud” loose spokeCracks, dents.Out of round/true 5mm. Spin wheel, index against stationarypointer.Grab top and bottom of tire and flex: No freeplay (click) betweenhub and axle, no growl when spinning.Cracked, cut or torn, excessive grease on outside, reddish-brownaround outside.Damaged, missing.Each brake alone keeps bike from arleftFrontrightRearrightBroken, bent, cracked, mounts tight, ball ends on handlebarlevers, proper adjustment.Lubricated.Fraying, kinks, lubrication: ends and interior.No interference or pulling at steering head, suspension, no sharpangles, wire supports in place.Cuts, cracks, leaks, bulges, chafing, deterioration.No interference or pulling at steering head, suspension, no sharpangles, hose supports in place.Moves freely, snaps closed, no revving when handlebars areturned.ConditionVent onTerminals clean and tight, electrolyte level, held down securely.Not kinked, routed properly, not plugged.Cracks, reflector, mounting and adjustment system.Height and right/left.Hi beam/low beam operation.Cracks, clean and tight.Activates upon front brake/rear brake application.Flashes correctly.ConditionAimConditionCracks, clean, tight mounts and swivel joints.Adjust when seated on bike.Cracked, broken, securely mounted, excessive condensation.ConditionRoutingFraying, chafing, insulation.Pinched, no interference or pulling at steering head or suspension,wire looms and ties in place, connectors tight, clean.continued on next page14Motorcycle Tire Guide

MSF T-CLOCSSM Pre-Ride Inspection ChecklistT-CLOCSITEMO-OILLevelsLeaksWHAT TOCHECKEngine OilHypoid Gear Oil,Shaft DriveHydraulic FluidCoolantFuelEngine OilHypoid Gear Oil,Shaft DriveHydraulic adBearingsSwingarmBushings/BearingsSuspensionFront ForksRear Shock(s)Chain orBeltFastenersS-STANDSCenterstandSide standWHAT TO LOOK FORCHECK-OFFCheck level per owner’s manual.Transmission, rear drive, shaft.Brakes, clutch, reservoir or sight glass.Reservoir and/or coolant recovery tank — check only when cool.Tank or gauge.Gaskets, housings, seals.Gaskets, seals, breathers.Hoses, master cylinders, calipers.Radiator, hoses, tanks, fittings, pipes.Lines, fuel valve, carbs.Cracks at gussets, accessory mounts, look for paint lifting.No detent or tight spots through full travel, raise front wheel,check for play by pulling/pushing forks.Raise rear wheel, check for play by pushing/pulling otter PinsSmooth travel, equal air pressure/damping, anti-dive settings.Smooth travel, equal pre-load/air pressure/damping settings,linkage moves freely and is lubricated.Check at tightest point.Side plates when hot. Note: do not lubricate belts.Teeth not hooked, securely mounted.Tight, missing bolts, nuts.Broken, missing.Broken, , bent.Springs in place, tension to hold position.Cracks, bent (safety cut-out switch or pad equipped).Springs in place, tension to hold position.LeftRightLeftRightT-CLOCS checklist used by permission of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.Motorcycle Tire Guide15

Tire Replacement LogFRONTrecommended pressure: PSI solo riding; PSI with passenger/cargooriginal tire size: load index: speed ed pressure: PSI solo riding; PSI with passenger/cargooriginal tire size: load index: speed adingBrandMotorcycle Tire GuideModelSize

Load Limit CalculatorAVAILABLE LOAD CAPACITY1. Enter GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).Check owner’s manual or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate.1. lbs.2. Enter dry weight of motorcycle.Check owner’s manual.minus 2. lbs.3. Average weight of fluids (gas and oil).minus 3. 40 lbs.4. Available load capacity of your motorcycle.(Line 1 - Line 2 - Line 3)4. lbs.LOADING OF YOUR MOTORCYCLE5. Enter total weight of rider and passenger.Include helmets, boots and clothing.5. lbs.6. Enter weight of accessories.Accessories you have added, including chrome, windshield,saddlebags, etc.7. Enter weight of any cargo/luggage you are carrying.8. This is the load you are adding to your motorcycle.(Line 5 Line 6 Line 7)plus 6. lbs.plus 7. lbs.8. lbs.If line 8 is greater than line 4, YOUR MOTORCYCLE IS OVERLOADED.Overloading your motorcycle could lead to tire failure, accident, injury or death.Motorcycle Tire Guide17

Tire Tips Maintain proper air pressureRegularly inspect your tiresBuy the right tires for your bikeHave your tires professionally installedAvoid sharp objects and slick surfaces2 Jenner, Suite 150Irvine, California 92618mic.org1400 K Street, NW, Suite 900Washington, DC 20005ustires.org 2019 Motorcycle Industry Council11/2019

Motorcycle Tire Guide 2 means Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, and Stands; see page 14 for a complete MSF T-CLOCS checklist), and adjust it according to your motorcycle’s owner’s manual or the tire infor-mation label on the chain

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