Sportbike Tire FAQ

Tires are always a hotly debated topic amongst sportbike riders.  Fierce brand loyalty, strong opinions and even occasional misinformation can make it hard for newer riders to get helpful information from the forums.  Nobody knows everything about tires but there’s definitely a common base of knowledge you should have when thinking about your bike’s buns.  Here are some frequently asked questions I get along with my answers.

Are old tires are bad?

Generally speaking, yes, but there isn’t an easy formula for determining tire life.  If you’re a new motorcycle rider and are looking at or have just bought a used bike, find out how old the tires are.  A bike that’s been sitting around for a few years might need new tires even if they have plenty of tread left.  Old rubber gets dry, cracks and loses grip over time.  A new set of tires could be a cheap insurance policy.

How often should I check tire pressure?

If there’s one thing most new riders neglect that they shouldn’t, it’s tire pressure.  It has huge effects on the way your bike handles, brakes and accelerates.  It’s so important to bike safety that you should check it every time you ride.  Invest in a good tire pressure gauge then contact your tire manufacturer to find out the proper PSI.  And don’t just look at your tire’s sidewall and inflate it to the maximum PSI; that’s way too high for day-to-day service.

Who makes the best tires?

The most I’ll share here is that there are certain brands everyone seems to trust; they also tend to score consistently higher in magazine comparisons.  Just keep in mind that many riders are very brand loyal when it comes to tires so this is an area where you’ll get some serious opinions.  In any case the brands I see the vast majority of sport riders using are (in alphabetical order) Bridgestone, Dunlop, Metzeler, Michelin and Pirelli.  Does that mean you should only buy tires from these makers?  Certainly not, but these are the ones you’ll see the most.

Can I use race tires on my street bike?  Aren’t they the best/stickiest?

They are the stickiest, but only within a narrow optimal temperature range (hot).  You won’t be able to get them that hot riding on the street, so they’ll never get as sticky as they would on the track.  Will they still work?  Of course they will; it’s not like they turn to ice away from the track.  But they’re very expensive and short-lived.  Stick with street or hybrid street/track tires – they’re designed to warm up at lower speeds, last a lot longer and are much cheaper.

Should I weave to warm my tires up?

No.  Weaving does nothing to heat up the tires and you may end up crashing your bike trying to do those quick turns on cold tires.  There’s only one scientific study I’ve seen on this and here it is (repost of Road Racing World article).

Are multi-compound tires better?

The tire manufacturer marketing departments sure want you to think so.  The idea is to place more durable rubber in the center of the tire so it lasts longer (since most people spend more time going straight), then use softer rubber in the shoulders for improved grip as you lean your bike into turns.  Personally I like the concept and have purchased multi-compound tires for my last 4 sets, but I don’t have enough tire knowledge to say they’re indisputably superior.  Let’s just say all of the major tire manufacturers use this technology in their most popular tires now.

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