Motorcycle Tyres 101 – what you should know

A quick guide to motorcycle tyres and how you should choose the right ones.

If you didn’t know, those little black hoops that make it all happen are called tyres. These are important as they literally make the difference between life and death when on a motorcycle. But which motorcycle tyres should you go for?

Production motorcycles come fitted with the latest road tyres to suit the bike’s intended use. Tyres are expensive, which means you don’t want to be changing them unnecessarily, so unless you’re converting your bike into a track weapon you might as well wear them out first.

But when the time comes for a change, think carefully about what to go for; don’t go for the ‘stickiest’ race compound just because your buddy who races thinks they’re the best for the job.

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Each tyre is tailored for it’s specific purpose. A track tyre may have the softest compound, but these tyres only work when they reach their optimum temperature. A track tyre is chemically designed to work at constant, high temperatures reached by the extreme pace of track riding, and is rarely achieved on the road.

And because it’s designed to live at high temperatures, the compound will also take longer to reach its peak. Use these tyres on the road and, no matter how fast you ride, you’ll be forced to slow for traffic and tolls.

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And every time you stop, the tyres will cool off and take ages to warm up again. Not only grip will suffer, but the tyres will wear quickly, shred with cold tearing and, because they’re not resistant to heat cycles, the compound will deteriorate quickly.

Instead, a sporty road tyre will warm up fast and maintain its temperature, and the Silica in its compound will ensure grip in cool and damp conditions too. This leaves you with lots of grip and longevity.

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Racing slicks have a radical profile and a flexible sidewall designed to work on highly tuned race chassis, so don’t be tempted to try them on a track day. If you really need slicks, try some that have a more road profile that are suited to road bikes.

Over the years, both Michelin and Metzeler have also come out with grippy road legal tyres which work well on track. Remember, they only work well on a dry track (where they belong), and the fact that they have a sharper profile for quicker turn-in compared to the rounder, more stable road tyre.

A sporty road and track tyre will provide you with ideal performance in most road and track situations. If you ride purely on the road and want longevity, then road tyres should be the perfect choice.

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Tyre pressures are also very important. Incorrect pressures and worn or squared-off tyres will affect handling. Always run with the manufacturers recommended pressure and replace the tyres before they reach an advanced level of baldness. Note: It’s actually cheaper to replace your tyres than a new bike.

The right tyre for the job makes all the difference, so be honest with yourself about the tyres you need. Safe riding folks.

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