When To Change Motorcycle Tires

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Having a good set of tires on your bike is imperative for safe riding. But tires wear out, and how do you know when to change motorcycle tires?

Performing visual inspections of your tires is one of the best safety-riding practices of bike riding and bike maintenance. There are sure telltale signs that signal your tires' declining health, like puncture, aging, scalloping, low tread, crazing, flat spots, and bulges.

If your tire has any of these symptoms, it's time for a change. We discussed tires with tire specialists who took the time to explain each of the symptoms, what they actually are, and how they came to be. So without further ado, let's discuss when to change motorcycle tires.

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When to Change Your Bike Tires

Motorcycle tires are expendable goods; they'll eventually wear out even under the gentlest of riders, demanding a replacement. Here are a few unmistakable signs that tell you when to change motorcycle tires:

Punctures

Big tire manufacturers and dealerships will tell you that you shouldn't plug or patch your tires and that you should immediately purchase replacements. However, experience tire specialists will offer a different opinion, stating that it basically comes down to the puncture's location and the damage done.

If your tire has a puncture in its sidewall, no amount of rubber and adhesive could fix that. However, if the puncture is located on a contact patch area of the tire, you can easily have it fixed. Take your punctured tire to a tire specialist for a professional glue-up for the best results.

Low Thread

The minimum tread depth on motorcycle tires is approximately the same as with car tires — somewhere in the 1.5mm range. Experienced riders used all sorts of tricks to determine whether their rubber needed changing, most of which implied a reference point. In fact, they usually measured the tread depth using a penny or a dime.

Luckily, modern tires have tread indicators, little bumps located at the inside of your tire grooves. When the tread indicators become flush with the tire's surface, your tire is worn out, and it's time to acquire another one. Tires need adequate tread to operate and provide a good grip. If the thread gets too low, the tire won't be able to perform adequately.

Admittedly, you won't be prosecuted for having tires that have bitten extensively into the tread indicators; however, you should replace your tires before they become a safety issue.

Cracks and Crazing Patterns

Small scratches, cracks, and grooves on a tire's surface that develop over time are referred to as crazing. While these normally appear on a tire's sidewall, it's worth looking everywhere. Dry rot frequently results in crazing, which is particularly frequent in people who cannot ride during the winter. Crazing is a telltale indicator of slow leakage and imminent tire blowout.

If you see any cracking in your tires, replace them immediately. The lifespan of a tire cannot be predicted because it is unrelated to the date of manufacture. Even tires that have never been used or have just been used occasionally may have aging symptoms. Their longevity can be impacted by a variety of variables, including the weather, how they are stored and used, how much weight is on them, how fast they are going, how much pressure is in the tires, how they are maintained, how they are used, etc.

All tire manufacturers agree that you should check your tires regularly during every pre-riding inspection for any obvious exterior signs of aging or wear, such as deformations or cracks in the tread, on the shoulders, or sides. You should also have a professional inspect your tires so they can determine whether or not they need to be replaced.

After five years or more of use, tires need to be inspected annually by a qualified mechanic. If new tires are required, make sure to replace any original parts in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Even if they look to be in generally good condition and haven't yet hit their tread wear limit, tires that haven't been changed after ten years should be changed as a precaution.

Bulges are Bad

If your tire is growing a bump or a bubble, that's a sign of structural damage, so change the tire immediately. The internal air pressure causes the tire to bulge outwards when a section of it becomes weaker. It is not advised to drive your motorcycle to the repair because the bubbling area of the tire may be incredibly unstable. You can do the tire change yourself, purchase a bike trailer, or disconnect the wheel and bring it in separately.

Chicken Stripes and Scalloping

The wear pattern on our tires can reveal some riding behaviors that we all share. For example, you will experience what is known as a "chicken strip" along the middle of your tire if you ride more slowly and uprightly. This is essentially rude to indicate that the edges of your tire haven't seen much use, but the center has been worn flat.

Flat spots are a warning sign that a tire is nearing its end, so keep a lookout for them. Time expires when you can feel the chicken strip while riding or when it wears your tread down to the required depth. Even if you don't ride like a chicken, flat areas are still prone to occur, especially if you're a speedy rider that frequently uses the same lean angle.

Look for two flattened stripes on either edge of the tire if you're an aggressive rider, and you'll notice not one but two "chicken" stripes. It's imperative to remember that edge flattening is a red flag. Another type of flat spot is caused by letting a motorcycle sit idle in a garage for a long time. Your bike's tires will flatten where they come into contact with the ground if it isn't on stands throughout the winter. Once more, these flat areas show that it's time to get a new set.

Unidirectional rotation generates a wear pattern known as scalloping, which is also known as cupping. In this case, the leading edge of a tread shape has gotten dull while keeping a sharp tailing edge. As a result, the tread knobs tilt from low to high on a frequent basis. Extremely knobbly off-road and dual-sport tires commonly scallop. Scalloping in moderation is safe. However, it's time to change your rubber once you notice excessive road vibration.

Date of Manufacturing

Every tire has a manufacturing date printed on its side. To find it, look for a three- or four-digit number at the end of the DOT marks. Post-2000 tires will show the date as four numbers. Think about code 3717 as an example. This indicates that the tire was produced during the 37th week of 2017. It's really simple.

Tires made before 2000 often have three-digit born-on dates. According to the number 449, the tire was manufactured in the 44th week of 1999, 1989, 1979, etc. However, nearly all tires produced in the previous century have long since been recycled.

About THE AUTHOR

Russ Crowley

Russ Crowley

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