Motorcycle tires play a significant role in the safety of the vehicle.
Motorcycle tires are to motorcycles just as any tire is to its specific vehicle: the pinnacle of driver safety. They are the only point of contact between the motorcycle and the road. From tire purchase to maintenance, drivers should take each step with the proper knowledge and vigilance to ensure a safe driving vehicle.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) educates consumers on motorcycle tire specifications, typically printed directly on the tire wall. It is generally recommended that consumers understand how to read these specifications before purchasing or maintaining their tires.
Tire size indicates not only the size of the tire, but also the rim on which it is intended to fit. Tire size is represented as a set of two numbers. The first is a metric measurement that denotes the tires width. The second expresses the tire rims diameter in inches. These two numbers begin the series of data printed on the tire wall.
Speed and construction indicators appear next on the tire wall. The speed rating system expresses the greatest speed a tire can withstand for the recommended weight capacity. The letter following tells of the tires casting construction.
Load and pressure codes appear next. Load is the weight the tire is able to handle safely when properly inflated. Pressure is the maximum amount of air pressure recommended.
Rotation marks tell the driver the proper direction to mount the tire. Modern era motorcycle tire treads are so specially designed and meant to perform different functions that they typically only mount in one direction and should not be rotated between front and back like many car tires. Balance marks provide a guide for pre-balanced manufacturer tires and indicate how to line up the valve stem.
Other useful information imprinted on the tire wall includes the born on date, tread wear markers and any other spelled-out information, such as tubeless tires or tube type.
Proper tire inflation and knowing when to replace tires are the two most important safety and maintenance tips a driver can follow. Drivers should become familiar with the tire manufacturers recommendation for inflation of air pressure. Manufacturer recommendations are based on load capacity, which includes the driver and any passengers or cargo. Pressure may need to be adjusted as capacity fluctuates. Motorcycle tire manufacturers suggest examining tire air pressure weekly, although many tire experts recommend checking before each ride. Improper tire inflation may result in poor handling and improper wear and tear.
If the deep tire grooves are worn to the point of the built-in motorcycle tread wear bars or if the tires are punctured, cracked, blistered or otherwise show signs of age or uneven wear, tires should be replaced. The tire will not provide acceptable traction at this point.
The U.S. Department of Transportations National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (DOT's NHTSA) suggests that reputable motorcycle tire dealers will only sell consumers a matched set of tires in which the treads complement each other. Ideally, tires should be of matching make and model.