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How to know when it’s time to re-tire

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June 14, 2012 by Rider Newsletter Staff

We’ve talked about tires before and there’s a reason we’re talking about them again. They are, without a doubt, the most important safety-related motorcycle maintenance item. Most of the time, if you’re driving a car, a flat tire is a hassle and an expense. On a motorcycle, a tire failure can be catastrophic. Recently, we discussed tire inflation and general maintenance. Now, we’ll discuss how to tell when you need new tires and touch on some factors to consider when replacing them.

Signs of Wear

Often, you can tell your tires are on their last legs just by ride characteristics. Your bike simply doesn’t feel right. If cornering is less sure and the back end is sliding around, even a little, stop and check your tires carefully. Road tires with severely worn tread do not hold the road and are far more susceptible to road trash, nails and other sharp objects.

There are several ways to spot tires that need to be replaced, but a couple stand out. First, tires have built in wear indicators. Generally, these are bars that begin to show up as the tires near the end of their useful lives. If you can see the bars, it’s time to start shopping. A good old fashioned test that still works involves the use of a penny. The top of Abe Lincoln’s head is around 1/32 of an inch from the edge of every penny you own. Put the coin into the space between two treads with Abe upside down and, if Lincoln needs a haircut, you need new tires. In other words, if you can see the top of Abe’s head, you better be sure you’re wearing a good helmet on yours.

Interesting Facts about Tires

OK, you may not find tires fascinating, but they ARE important, so keep reading. There are a few things that set motorcycle tires apart from automobile tires, or at least MOST automobile tires. First, motorcycle tires are designed for either the front or the back. It is absolutely critical to get this right. As you might expect, the tires have different jobs to do and must be designed with that in mind. Also, motorcycle tires roll only one way. Most tires have arrows to let you know which direction they are designed to turn. Get this wrong, and you’ll end up with an odd ride, fast wearing tread or both.

Motorcycle tires are also designed for specific types of riding and rated for maximum speeds. You should buy tires that match the kind of riding you expect to do and fall within the speed range of your bike. Many motorcyclists make the mistake of assuming it is best to buy tires with the fastest possible speed rating. While there may appear to be some logic in that theory, the truth is, tires that are rated for higher maximum speeds may not provide optimal performance in other areas, such as fuel economy, ride quality or wear resistance. To get the best tires for your machine, stick within the speed ratings of the tires provided by the manufacturer.

More to Know

There’s a lot more to know about selecting, buying and maintaining motorcycle tires and we’ll be covering additional tire-related subjects in future installments, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, get out and ride. Go the distance and have a great summer. And, when you’re heading out, take a USA Trailer Store tow-along with you. Not only will you be on the road enjoying your bike, but you’ll have all the stuff you need right there with you. That’s why we do what we do.

So. Keep your head up and your tires down. We’ll see you on the road!

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