How long do motorcycle tires last?
Whether you just bought a bike or your tires are looking a little warn. I break down how long you can expect motorcycle tires to last.
After I purchase my motorcycle, I knew I had to replace the tires. There was no tread left in the center of the tire and it would be unsafe to drive it on the road.
There is a range of factors that lead to motorcycle tire wear but this did get me thinking about how long motorcycle tires last.
In short motorcycle tires, last 5 years for casual riders, and aggressive riders can expect tires to last between 2-3 years. Federal law requires at least a 2/32" of tread depth.
Types of Motorcycle Tires
Cruiser/Touring: This category will encompass the majority of riders. As cruiser and touring tires and created for heavy bikes to deliver long mileage with great traction on dry and wet weather conditions. These tires can be found on cruisers like Harley-Davidson Softail to the Kawasaki Vulcan.
Sport/Performance: In this category, there is a subset of names, including super sport and hyper-sport tires. These tires are made for lightweight performance bikes. These bikes are made to aggressively corner and the tires are made of lightweight components to allow excellent grip in these conditions.
Sport-Touring: These tires are a mixed blend between performance and touring tires. They are made to deliver the best of both worlds. To provide good traction and support for long-distance trips. These tires can be found on bikes like the Yamaha FZ-10 or the BMW 1200RT. Some sport touring tires have been specially constructed for long miles and have lasted as long as 20,000 miles.
Dual Sport/ADV: ADV is short for Adventure bike which is also called a dual sport. That is because these bikes are street legal on and off-road. Unlike most dirtbikes, these motorcycles can legally be written on the main roads. To do this is require a special blend of tires that is a mix between a dirtbike tire and a touring tire. These tires often come with a recommended percentage such as 70/30 or 70% offroad and 30% on-road. These tires can be found on bikes like the KTM 1290 or the Honda African twin.
Due to the vast differences and needs in tires, for this article, we will focus primarily on Cruiser/Touring tires as this makes up the majority of motorcycle riders.
How do tires age?
Tires can wear down by various methods. Some come from using the tire as anticipated and some come from mother nature when the tire is not being used. We are going to break down each method of how a motorcycle tire can wear down.
Normal Use: Motorcycle tires wear down every time the tire is used. When the rubber meets the road (pun intended) the weight of the motorcycle and the rider pushes down on the tire. This weight forces the tire to push into the pavement. When you apply the gas and the motor kicks in, the tire begins to turn.
This motion creates friction between the tire and the road. The tire grooves (treads) allow the traction that is needed to keep the bike level. Every time the tire rotates and the treads connect with the pavement friction is generated which produces heat. This voluntary transaction between the tire and the road slowly and incrementally removes the rubber on the tire, wearing it down.
Defects: This can cause your motorcycle tire to wear prematurely. Although they are rare, manufacturers of motorcycle tires can and have put out faulty tires. Take this recall notice from Dunlop tire (Dunlop Recall).
There were only a handful of affected tires but these tires were susceptible to "tread chunking". Tread chunking is when large pieces of the tire tread fall off during normal use. This can cause affect steering and handling and could lead to an accident.
Age: The age of the tire can determine if the tire needs to be replaced due to wear by age. Tire manufacturers rate the life of the tire between 4-6 years of the Date Code (Born on date). If your tire is past these dates are considered the end of life from the manufacturers and it is highly recommended to replace these tires.
Michelin: All MICHELIN® tires4 (both replacement and original equipment) come with a limited warranty for treadwear, as well as a limited warranty which covers defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the original usable tread, or for 6 years from date of purchase, whichever occurs first. (source)
Bridgestone: If, before wearing down to 1/32 inch (0.8mm) of remaining original tread depth (i.e., worn down to the top of the built-in indicators in the tread grooves), and within 4 years from the date of purchase (proof of purchase required; without proof of purchase, then 4 years from the date of manufacture - referenced by the last four digits of the DOT number) (source)
Metzeler: Tires worn beyond the last 1 mm (1/32”) of tread depth or The warranty will be four years from the DOT date. (source)
Wear problems with tires
Motorcycle tires can wear unevenly and this can lead to a tire having to be replaced prematurely. Motorcycle tires tend to have three common causes of premature wear. We are going to dive into what those are and how to recognize them.
Underinflation: Occurs when a tire is not correctly inflated to the manufactures PSI settings on the tire wall. This can cause tires to wear more on the outside tread than on the inside tread. This also reduces fuel efficiency as it creates more drag on the tire.
Side note: If you are wanting to always keep your tires at an accurate tire pressure. We would highly recommend the AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge (get it here on Amazon). It is portable and always gives a quick and accurate digital readout of your tire pressure.
Overinflation: Occurs when a tire is inflated over the manufacturer's PSI settings on the tire wall. The tire pressure should never exceed the maximum PSI pressure rating stated on the tire. Overinflated tires can lead to the inside tread wearing out faster than the outside tread. This is typically noticeable by a strip down the center of the tire.
Ride Style: Your ride style can determine how your motorcycle tire wears. If you have ever heard the term "Chicken strip" it is referring to the unused portion on the sides of a motorcycle tire. Motorcycle street tires are rounded making the high point on the center and the side the low points.
Since motorcycles lean with the bike to steer, they are using the whole service of the rounded tire. If a motorcycle is only used on freeways or to go in a straight line from A to B, this can prematurely wear out the center of the tire.
To wear out a street motorcycle tire the ride needs to use the whole surface of the tire. This can only be accomplished when a rider is leaning into turns to get the bike at an angle to use the side portions of the tire.
When should I replace my Motorcycle Tires?
Knowing what to look for will help in diagnosing if you need new tires for your motorcycle. There will be many factors that go into how a tire is worn, we spoke of a few above. Other factors to take into account are how or where your motorcycle is stored or your suspension. Tires that are stored outside or have worn out suspension are more susceptible to premature wear. Here are the things to looks for when you are wondering whether or not to replace your tire.
Tread Depth: This is the most typical way of determining if it is time to replace your tires. Most motorcycle tire manufacturers place what is called a "wear bar" into the tire. These "wear bars" are usually inside the channel of the thread and look like a rubber bridge inside the thread channel. These "wear bars" are set to be 2/32" deep indicating if your tire wears down to that bar then it is time to get new tires.
There is also another trick called the "penny" trick. Take any old penny that you have and turn it upside down so that Abraham Lincoln's head is sticking straight down. From the top of a penny to the top of Abraham Lincoln's head is 2/32" deep. So when you are eye level with your tire and you stick the penny in the threads, Abraham's head should disappear into the threads. If you can see his hair then there is a good chance your tires don't have enough tread and it is time to get some new ones.
Age: As discussed earlier manufacturers have warranties on the life of their tires from 4-6 years. Some experts suggest that the tire is dead after five years from the manufactures date. This is a recommendation and it ultimately is up to you if you want to use a tire that is older than five years.
Cracks: The sun can do some damage to the rubber of tires. Here in California, we have a constant battle with the sun and its harsh exposer. If your tire has been kept out in the sun, check it for cracks on the sidewall. Ensure that there is no damage to the integrity of the tire before you ride it.
Cuts or punctures: If you notice any slashes or cuts in your tire, it may be time to replace them. Road hazards can happen at any time and this can include getting a piece of glass or a nail in your tire. Some holes can be repaired as long as they are not in the sidewall, however, most slices or long cuts won't be able to be repaired. Even if there is no air leaking, a slice can lead to "tread chucking" which can cause injury.
Loss of pressure/Inflation: You should be checking your tire pressure before each ride that you go on. If you are noticing that your tire pressure is dropping often then this may be a sign of a loose or wearing bead. The bead is the piece of the motorcycle tire that holds the pressure against the rim and allows it to inflate.
If you have an under or over-inflated tire but have gone on multiple rides without checking your tire pressure then you may have some unnecessary damage. Your tire can wear pre-maturely if it is over or under-inflated, wearing the tire unevenly.
Conclusion: I hope this information was helpful for those looking to see if it is time to replace their motorcycle tires. Whether you are wearing out your old tires or you just put new tires on, have fun and ride safe!
I grew up working on my own cars and motorcycles and 15 years later I love still getting my hands dirty.