Tires are one of the most essential components of your motorcycle for both rider enjoyment and for safety. Since tires are the only parts of your motorcycle that should touch the ground, your safety through corners, rain, and dirt is entrusted upon on a small rubber contact patch—so it better be good. Despite this, riders can often go wrong when it comes to tire maintenance and replacement. Using a tire that is worn down can pose a real safety hazard to the rider and everyone else around him.
If you’re second-guessing the condition of your tires, you’re doing yourself a big favor by thinking a bit more critically about one of the most important parts of your motorcycle. Without further ado, here’s all you will need to know about assessing your tire’s condition for a timely replacement.
Worn out tires
Tires that are worn out over time can significantly reduce grip in both dry and wet conditions and will greatly reduce the amount of control a rider may have for accelerating, braking, and cornering. Tire wear can be broken down into three main classifications: general tire wear, squared-off tires, and tire cupping or scalloping.
General tire wear
One of the most common conditions of tire wear is when a tire is used over time such that the tire grooves are almost at the same level as the rest of the tire contact patch. This can be easily measured by locating your tire’s tread wear indicator on the grooves. If your tire’s outer surface is near or at the same level as your tread wear indicator, it’s time to swap out those tires. If in case you cannot locate your tread wear indicator, the depth of the groove must not be less than about 1mm when measured against the outer surface.
A squared-off tire can be easily identified by inspecting the tread wear of your tire, which is typically found on motorcycles that run a lot of highway miles. If the center portion of your tire is flatter than the sides of your tire, you’ve got yourself a squared-off tire. Running a squared-off tire can be dangerous because of unpredictable grip when going through corners and will pose a big safety risk. If you’ve got a squared-off tire, it will be best to replace your set as soon as possible.
Cupped or scalloped tires
In contrast to squared-off tires, cupped or scalloped tires present uneven tread wear between the left and right portions of the tire. If the left portion of your tire seems to be more worn out than the right portion of the tire, or vice versa, you’ve got a cupped or scalloped tire. This kind of tread pattern will also provide very unpredictable and unsafe riding conditions through straight lines and corners, and is also a symptom of a faulty suspension setup. If you’ve found this kind of tire wear on your motorcycle, find time to replace your tires and have your suspension inspected and repaired when possible.
Your tire’s manufacture date can be found on the sidewall, typically indicated by a 4-digit number that specifies the week and year of your tire’s manufacture date. 5 years is the typical lifespan of a tire, and tires that exceed the age of 5 years should not be used anymore. This is because oils and other compounds found in the tire's compound can evaporate and deteriorate over time. Even if your tire looks fresh, it will be best to find a newer set of rubber for your motorcycle if it is approaching or has exceeded the 5-year limit.
Riding out a damaged tire can be one of the more dangerous things a rider can do since this can lead to catastrophic failure on the road. Tire damage typically presents itself in the form of small or large cracks on the tread or sidewall, rubber peeling away on the sidewall, or other forms of damage that can’t be repaired by a simple vulcanizing job. If you’ve got any of these symptoms on your tire, do yourself a favor and replace these tires immediately. Do not attempt to ride on damaged tires since the tire can deteriorate quickly and spontaneously on the road.
If you’ve found that your tire has any of the symptoms above, it will be best to replace your tire as soon as possible. Make sure to find a tire that is within the manufacturer’s recommended specification and a brand and model that you can personally trust for your own riding style and journey.