A great deal of emphasis is placed on tires in the world of racing, and there's a reason for that...performance and safety. When it comes down to these two factors affecting your life, I can't think of too many parts of a motorcycle that are more important than your tires. On that note, and as we start thinking "spring," here are a few points to consider next time you inspect your motorcycle and prepare for not just that first ride, but any ride:
• Never underestimate the importance of having good, properly inflated tires 100% of the time. INSPECT YOUR TIRES!!
• CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURES!!
o Over inflated tires can reduce your "traction patch" as well as affect the OVERALL performance, not to mention it will also cause for a bumpier rider.
o Under-inflated tires can result in slow or "sluggish" handling and "heavy steering," but more importantly it can cause a tire to over-flex, which can lead to internal structural damage and over-heating which can result in a tire failure, not to mention the loss in overall performance.
• CHECK YOUR THREAD DEPTH!
o A normal rule of thumb is to remember that tires have small wear bars molded into the thread groves. When the thread is worn down to the level of the wear bars, they become exposed and visible, and the tire should be replaced. This is when a tire has about 1/32" of thread remaining.
o Some manufacturers recommend replacement when there is 2/32" to 3/32" remaining, but to be sure, please consult your manual.
o There is an old trick about using a penny...if your thread is right at the top of Lincoln's head that tells you the thread is about 2/32" – time to replace the tire.
o However you elect to gauge your tire's thread it is important to do so often...and remember, if it looks worn, it is!
• BUYING TIRES:
o This something we all have done or will do one day, but watch out for "good deals," or buying tires from unknown sources. Just because a tire has never been mounted on a rim or used on a motorcycle doesn't mean it is in the same condition as when it left the factory. The components of a tire break down (degrade) eventually, and time can be one of the worst enemies.
o I would never recommend buying used tires because you run the risk of not knowing how many heat cycles it has been through.
o In addition, if you buy a used motorcycle, make sure you thoroughly inspect the tires for thread condition (wear) and equally as important, side wall condition.
• NEW TIRES:
o How do I know if I am really buying a "new" tire? It's easy...there is a (DOT) serial number molded into the sidewall (this applies to any tire) and to know how to read that is important.
o The serial number will begin with the letters "DOT" and end with a 4-digit date code.
o NOTE: If there are only (3) digits in the date code, it means the tire was made before the year 2000 – get rid of it!!
o The last (4) numbers represent the week the tire was made and the year. Hence, if the code says "DOTXXX3712" (for example) it means the tire was made the 37th week of 2012.
o The side wall will also have a numbers indicating size as well as a load and speed index. These tell how much weight the tire can handle and how fast it is rated for. Example: if you see "62H" it means the tire can support 582 pounds and 130mph (DOT has charts for these indexes).
• If you experience a tire failure / blow out, a possible patch or plug may work, but remember that this is only a temporary measure and speeds should be kept slow, and then replace the tire as soon as possible.
• Remember...The #1 most common mechanical failure on a motorcycle is the tires, so please remember to never become complacent. Always check the tires and tire pressures during your T-CLOCK inspection. When you go to replace them, make sure they are purchased and installed by a trusted, certified dealer...and one that quickly comes to mind would be Wolverine Harley Davidson!
Wolverine H.O.G. Chapter
Data for this article was provided by the MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council)