Tips on Motorcycle Tire Maintenance

April 14, 2009 by: MCg

Motorcycle Tires

THE MOST IMPORTANT MOTORBIKE MAINTENANCE YOU CAN PERFORM

Even if you are not mechanically inclined, routinely checking the pressure of your motorcycle tires is something that needs to be included as part of your riding experience.

You can have your local dealer handle most of the other service items for your bike, but you need to check your own air pressure.

In brief, underinflated tires can result in higher tire temperatures while riding, which can overstress the tires and eventually cause them to fail. They also result in reduced cornering and handling characteristics for your bike. As well, underinflated tires increase fuel consumption.

Riding with overinflated tires results in a harder ride, as well as accelerated tire wear in the center of the contact patch.

To get an accurate reading of your tires’ pressure, check them while they are cold, before you go for a ride. You’ll also need an accurate tire gauge to ensure you get the correct pressure. Carry a tire pressure gauge at all times on your bike so you can check the pressure out on the road. For example, if you get suspicious of your tires after riding over severe potholes, or through broken glass, and yet you don’t see or hear a leak, the tire pressure gauge will tell you what’s really going on (after the tires have cooled, perhaps while enjoying lunch).

I’ve also experienced a tire leak from a brand-new tire with a new valve core (where the air goes into the tire). Either there was something wrong with the valve, or more likely, the mechanic did not correctly install it with the new tire. In other words, even after you have just had new tires installed, it’s wise to monitor the tire pressure closely to ensure nothing is awry.

If your routine pressure monitoring indicates a slow leak (for example, you lose 5 pounds of air pressure every 3 days), inspect the tire to see if you can isolate a minor puncture, crack, bulge or blister of some sort.

A simple tire tip to check for leaks is to pour water over the tire and look for air bubbles. This is even more effective if the tire is off the bike and placed in a trough of water. Either way, use any bubbles to trace back to the source of the leak.

A good rule of thumb is that if a puncture is in the tread area it may be repaired, but that’s if there is no other damage. (Classic example would be a puncture from a nail). Otherwise, the tire needs to be replaced. (An example of that would be a very sharp rock nicking and cutting a sidewall while leaned over into a turn).

By the way, there may be times when the surface conditions can benefit from lower tire pressure. For example, if you are on a street bike, but you encounter a loose sandy and/or loose gravel road, you can lower your tire pressure to give you a wider footprint (contact patch) and more traction for traveling a lower speeds. But once you get back on pavement, you should look for a service station right away (unless you are carrying a pump or compressed air cartridges), to get your tire pressure back up to normal before you get up to highway speeds.

Use your bike’s owner’s manual as the standard reference for tire pressure. However, if you are riding at higher speeds, and/or fully-loaded with a passenger, that would be a good time to inflate your tires to the maximum rating designated on the sides of your tires, which are determined by the tire manufacturer (not the bike manufacturer).

And you shouldn’t inflate your tires beyond the maximum load indicated on your tires’ sidewalls.

As a related note, you would be wise to be aware of the entire maximum load capacity for your bike, and not overload your bike with too much gear. This would be more relevant to touring riders, and particularly touring-camping bikers.

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