Which Type of Moto Tire is Best?
By Midwest Traction on March 5, 2018
Tires: expensive circles that keep you rolling. You may not think about them as much as other parts of your bike, but they’re one of the most important features to pay attention to because they are what separate you from the road, they control the motion, they are what can keep you safe or put you at risk. Tires are important. How much do you know about yours?
Triangles feature the center tread in the lowest position with steeper slopes toward the shoulder. This profile is great for turns, as it allows more of the contact patch during lean, but is not good for straight line driving. Best application: racing.
Round profiles are best for pretty much everyone else. They don’t have as much grip on leans but are stable for straight line driving.
These features affect handling, wear, braking, and roll. The designs refer to how the internal belts and cords are arranged under the tread.
Bias Vs Bias Belted
These are not the same construction. Tricky, right? Bias belted tires have more reinforcement than a regular bias ply tire.
Both feature diagonal cords that go across the tire in a criss-cross pattern. Bias tires are typically softer, more compliant, and have a lower price tag. They can handle higher loads than their radial cousins.
These cords run perpendicular across the tire at a 90* angle from bead to bead. Radial tires typically last longer because they run cooler. They’re stiffer, so they provide a feeling of responsiveness and their lower aspect ratio results in less flexibility.
Front Vs Rear
Typically, front and rear tires will be different sizes. Why? Each is designed for a different performance purpose. Rear tires control power, acceleration, and stability. To get that, you want more contact, more sturdiness, and less resistance, which means these tires will be fatter and flatter. Front tires are designed to steer, turn, and bear the brunt of the brake force. You’ll notice that some tires have similarly designed sipes, but opposing directions when mounted.
Why do they do this?
Rear tires carry most of the bike’s weight to keep you upright and stable. In order to do that, you need traction, which decreases on wet surfaces. By positioning the sipes with the widest end toward the center, it helps to usher large amounts of water on contact, making way for more tread to connect to the concrete.
Front tires generate up to 80% of your stopping power, so having a more triangular shape is better for handling on turns and a thinner tread provides better feel.
Pay attention to rotation direction when mounting.
Check the Tire Manufacturing Date
Tires come with a 4 digit “code” indicating when the tire was made. For example, a tire marked “1208” was made the 12th week of 2008.
Why does this matter?
Rubber is an organic substance that ages over time and is influenced by heat. If a tire has been outgassed, it becomes brittle.
When a tire undergoes heating and cooling repeatedly, parts of the tire undergo a chemical process that transforms them into gas. As this happens, elasticity is lost. In the olden days, tires were “baked” in the sun to harden them for flat track racing. While an outgassed tire is technically stable, it will not have the flexibility or stickiness of a new tire. You’ll want to vet where your products are stored. Our warehouse is window-less, so sunning our tires is not a process we adhere to. If you’re looking to get the most out of your tire, you’ll want to pay attention to how long it may have been sitting.
Why You Don't Want to Use Racing Tires on the Street
Technically, you can use DOT-approved race tires on the street, but there isn’t much point. Street driving requires stops, traffic, and abiding my speed limitations. Racing tires are designed for optimal performance at maximum speeds as this heats the rubber to its most pliable form, which isn’t achievable in street circumstances.
Further, race tires are designed to be used a few times before being discarded. The higher speed you run these tires at, the more quickly they wear, making them less predictable and less safe.
A word of caution: Some racers sell their tires as take-offs. These are used tires that are being sold instead of discarded. The problem is that you cannot be certain of their quality. Grip, tread, performance, and life are all compromised.
A better alternative? Touring tires! These provide long life, perform well across a range of speeds and provide predictable wear.
Replacing Your Tires
Regardless of the performance tire you choose, it’s highly recommended you replace them in sets (not including extenuating circumstances (one gets a flat)). If you’ve had both tires on the bike for the same amount of time, and one is down to the wear bar and the other isn’t, it’s a good idea to replace both anyway. The tread may look fine, but it’s likely the performance is starting to go on this tire, too. Uneven wear can lead to cupping which causes poor handling and affects stability. While we’re talking about it, always run your tires at the recommended PSI. Maximizing the inflation wears the tire faster in the center and minimizes the contact patch.
When Should You Plug a Tire?
You should only plug a tire in an emergency or when stranded and you need to get to a safe location. Plugging tires is not a way to bypass purchasing new tires. When you return to your destination, immediately order or purchase new tires. Riding on a plugged tire is unsafe and unpredictable. You only have two tires between you and the road. Choose tires you know you can trust.