How Long do Motorcycle Tires Last?
The making of a good set of motorcycle tires is a precise science that involves mixing various chemicals into rubber compounds and curing at somewhat precise temperatures. This results in a set of tires that doesn’t just surround your bike’s rims and provide traction on the road — a good mixture can enhance your bike’s performance and make all the difference between a comfortable ride and a life-threatening situation.
However, the lifespan of a set of tires isn’t something that’s governed by hard and exact rules but rather a result of an equation with several variables. This includes how much your ride your bike, in what weather conditions you ride it, and your riding style itself. Aggressive riders will wear out their bike’s tires more quickly than those that ride more consciously.
By the same reasoning, those who ride frequently will undoubtedly go through more sets of tires than an average weekend rider. Due to these reasons, it’s almost impossible to give a definitive number to say how long motorcycle tires last or how many miles you can expect out of them. However, with that said, there are some distinctions between different tire types and their life expectancies, making rough estimates the best possible metric of longevity.
Motorcycle Tire Age
We already know that motorcycle tires wear out when used; the thick rubber threads are slowly worn out each time you hit the road. But the rubber on your bike doesn’t last long if you ride less. Sure, an everyday commuter will wear out his tires faster than a weekend rider, but that doesn’t stop the rubber’s natural decay.
Just like all materials, rubber oxidizes and becomes harder and more brittle as a result, which significantly reduces its traction and other performance factors. That’s why all tires get dated before leaving the manufacturing floor, and this process sets their lifespan in motion. The tire dating method is somewhat confusing, as the date is actually inscribed into the Tire Identification Number found on the sidewall, with the last four digits being the week and year of manufacturing.
Industry insiders frequently advise against using motorcycle tires that are more than five years old, even if they’re not worn out yet. However, the brand-new tires you buy could also be a couple of years old. This usually isn’t a problem, though, as they’re safe to use as long as they’ve been stored properly (shielded from the elements, including cold).
The tire manufacturer’s usual state is that you can ride on their tires until they’re ten years old, which conflicts with statements given by industry insiders. So, which one is it? Well, considering that there are too many variables involved, if your bike tires still look good after five years from their make date, have them inspected each year by a tire specialist. It’s important to remember that bike tires, even when stored properly, never last longer than ten years.
Bike tires are divided into three basic categories — sports, street, and touring tires — and each of these tire categories is made using a different rubber compound or variable rubber proportions. This effect’s their performance under specific circumstances and determines their hardness and longevity.
Tires like Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II or Michelin Power 5 — both of which can be obtained at RevZilla at a discounted price — are sports tires, which means they’re made of a soft rubber compound. They offer incredible grip and performance, allowing you to make sharper corners even in wet terrain.
The downside of soft-compound tires is a greater wear coefficient, which means that these don’t last very long. Depending on riding frequency and style, you can expect anywhere from less than 1,000 miles to approx. 6,000 miles out of sports tires. If you’re a gentle rider, you could conceivably get up to 8,000 miles, but that’s just wishful thinking in most cases.
Street tires are a bit different, as they’re made of a slightly harder compound that sacrifices some performance for longevity. Continental Road Attack 3 and Michelin Road 5 Trail, despite the latter’s very aggressive look, are better suited for stop-start riding during city commutes, which would undoubtedly burn through sports tires very fast.
Street tires strike a fantastic balance between performance and longevity, and depending on your riding habits; you can expect them to last anywhere between 5,000 miles up to 12,000. This number can go up to 15,000 if you’re a gentle rider.
Lastly, we have touring tires, and Dunlop Roadsmart 3 and Continental Trail Attack 3 sets are the perfect examples of this category. They’re made out of a harder compound that allows more longevity for the long haul. This is done at the expense of performance, in terms of taking sharp turns or aggressive riding.
The harder compound is also designed to absorb the heat generated by contact with the road over longer periods, and since they take longer to heat up, their performance improves once they reach operating temperature. You can expect these to last you some 8,000 miles at the very least and up to 18,000 miles on the open road. But they’re really not designed for stop-start city riding.
When to Change the Motorcycle Tires
Taking the previously mentioned 5-to-10-years rule into consideration, there are several other indicators signaling that the time for a change of tires has come. For example, many manufacturers have their own tread wear indicators, and when the tread has worn down to the indicated level, your tires are worn out and deemed unfit for riding.
But there are other signs, too. For example, when the tires are aging out, they usually develop cracks on the sidewalls or treads. Some tires even develop fractures in their thread, which are a telltale sign that you need new hoops. Punctures are also a problem. A massive puncture will prevent you from riding, but smaller ones can be pluggable. All tire repairs should be treated as temporary fixes, and you should order a new pair of tires if the existing pair was punctured.
Ultimately, it’s always a good idea to inspect your tires periodically, and if you’re a daily commuter, make this into a routine, like a part of your pre-ride bike safety inspection. Also, storing them in a cool, dry, moderately ventilated area that’s protected from the sun — like your garage — is also a good idea if you choose not to ride in the colder months of the year.
About THE AUTHOR
Russ currently owns a Yamaha FZ6N and KTM RC 390. When it comes to vintage bikes, his favorite motorcycle is the feisty BMW R32. He also holds a particular interest in the LAMS segment and triple cylinders. Himself a riding enthusiast, Russ has had experience with racetracks from around the world including Willow Springs Raceway in California and the Imola Circuit in Italy.Read More About Russ Crowley