How to choose your motorcycle tires

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How to choose your motorcycle tires

Tire choices on a motorcycle are probably one of the hardest subjects to tackle.

 

Not only is there a wide range of choices, but as the bikes themselves, tires are a very personal choice that may go beyond logic or common sense.



Just around the office, we can easily find that although some tires are loved by all to some degree, like the BT’s or the TCK80’s, it is also easy to see that some opinions over the same tire go on complete sides of the spectrum.



With this in mind, it’s easy enough to understand that if for experienced riders the topic still sparks discord, for a newcomer it can be downright overwhelming.

That usually results in us, newcomers, asking around and accepting the general answer for “what is the best tire for me”, without fully understanding the why of the solution.

So, let's try and shed some light on how you can find the right tire for yourself. 

Although you can use any tire that fits your rim, there is always enough coherency on most bike/tire combos for us to be able to talk about types of tires.



This means that we will most likely end up fitting an off-road fully knobby tire on a KTM EXC, instead of on a BMW R1200GS, or be advised not to use a track designed Diablo Superbike Slick tire on our daily commuter R6 instead of an all-rounded Continental Sports Attack 3.

 

We do not mean by this that you are not allowed to use a specific tire you want just because it's not standard on your bike.

I know I’ve personally used many 100% enduro off road tires on my F800GS and XT600’s, instead of the "common choices" but I knew what to expect, and that makes all the difference.

 

When you are new to motorcycles and guide yourself by others opinions instead of learning about tires and trying different ones out, you will always be getting surprised by the bike/tire handling, and on a bike, that may mean a crash!

So, the first step is, as we discussed, to know what kind of tires are of everyday use on your bike.

Again, being the common ones doesn’t mean they are the only or the right ones, but it gives you a starting point.



After that, you need to know what you use your bike for.



Dual sport and adventure bikes are an excellent base for this example as they can go from gnarly off road to the smoothest highways in a heartbeat.

What makes a perfect tire for those bikes?



For Joe Biker the answer might be a pure 50-50 that allows him to do a bit of everything, for Dirtbike Jane, on the other hand, it can be an 80% off road and 20% road mix tire.



Now the real question, where do you stand on that spectrum?

Because if you ask any of them, they will swear this or that tire is the best one for that bike, but only seldom will they explain what use they give their bike, or ask you how you use yours.



Do a self-audit. Be blunt and clear on your needs.

If you use your bike for weekend rides on the road, choose a tire for that, don’t make your choice thinking about that world trip you might do in 10 years or pick a tire because "it looks great on the bike".



The tire you choose now is the tire you will use now, not in the future and definitely not just for pictures.

Of course, if you are in fact going on that trip, get the “trip” tire a bit before so you can get acquainted with it before hitting the open road, but on a general note, get the tire you need, not the one you wish to use one day.



Find common issues.



It is as easy to find praise to tires, as it is to see trash talk on them.

Make your survey and group the answers.

 Take out all the gibberish, and keep the hard notes.

If five out of ten people complain that a specific tire has no traction in the wet, that is hard data.

If they complain the tire sucks “because they didn’t like it”, well, that is hardly any data you can work with.



Let’s give a clear example.

The Heidenau K60 tire is a revered dual sports workhorse. However, it’s well known that it is not the safest or most stable in the wet.



If I live and ride in the sunny Australian outback where rain and wet roads are not a big issue, then that tire might be perfect for what I do.



If I move to a country where rain and sunny days are shuffled like a deck of cards, then it may not be the best choice if I want to keep some wet floor traction and drivability.



Putting things in perspective by using hard data and a good self-audit, will always produce good results.



At this time you have a tire, now the real fun begins. Time to find out how it feels to you!

As bikers, we all have different feedbacks from the bike, that includes the tires.



Some people prefer low pressure and squishy tires, some people prefer rock hard compounds, almost plastic like tires – for reasons that are beyond me – but still, works for them, and who are we to judge.



This may lead to you loving a tire that is not one of regular use on your bike and that most people don’t like.



But if that is the one that makes you feel safer and in control of your bike, than you made the right choice!



With tires, trial and error, testing over and over different tires and different compromises is something we will do the rest of our biker’s life.

What is essential, is that you are doing it by and for yourself, and not resting on everyone else’s tests.



It’s your bike. It’s your tires. It’s your safety!


See our infographic


How to choose your motorcycle tires


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