Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I install a motorcycle tire?
    • Warm the tire you are planning to install in the sun. This is an important step because it will make the rubber more pliable and easier to install.
    • Remove valve core to let air out of the old tire.
    • Break the bead on the tire on both sides.
    • Remove one side of the tire and then the other.
    • Clean the rim of tire residue. Often there will be rubber that has transferred to the inside of the rim. Best to clean that so the tire seals against the rim.
    • Some tires have installation marks/dots. If you are unsure what the dots mean do an internet search. For example, Metzeler has one or two red dots that indicate the lightest part of the tire. Align the red dot(s) with the valve stem and/or the heaviest part of the rim.
    • Press one side of the tire down onto the rim. Use lube if needed to get one side of the tire on the rim.
    • Now comes the hard part, installing the final edge of the tire on the rim.
      • Only lube the part of the tire that you will need to force under the rim. You need an un-lubed part of the tire so it doesn’t rotate on the rim when trying to install.
      • Either ratchet strap the rim to the tire installer, or install some type of rim lock so the rim does not rotate when installing the new tire.
      • Lube both the rim, tire edge and the tool you are using to force the tire edge on the rim. Use either a soap solution or tire install lube.
      • Press as much of the tire as you can on the rim. In the middle of the part you pressed on the rim, force the edge of the tire into the middle of the rim as much as possible. Use blocks of wood to hold the tire edge in the middle of the wheel well, and use ratchet straps to push the edge of the tire into the wheel well. This will make it easier to get the last bit of the tire over the edge.
      • Start pressing more of the tire edge onto the rim. Block/strap in additional places to force the tire edge into the wheel well.
      • Eventually the tire should make it over the edge of the rim.
      • Remove any blocks, straps or rim locks.
    • You now need to seat the bead.
      • Put a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire and tighten. As you inflate the tire this will help force the tire pressure outwards and seat the bead on the rim.
      • Inflate the tire using a relatively strong compressor, watching the tire pressure. You should not exceed the max inflation pressure on the tire. The tire will pop when it seats correctly on the rim.
      • Once the tire/bead is seated on the rim install the valve core and inflate the tire to the recommended tire pressure.
      • If you are having trouble getting the bead to seat even using the strap and with the valve core out, it could be the compressor is not strong enough. You can also apply some soapy water to where the tire bead is touching the rim to help it slide into place. You can also bounce the tire, or apply downward pressure on spots where the tire may be leaking air.
    • Finally, you need to balance the wheel. Balance options include:
      • Spin Balancer – dynamic balancer, usually found in a motorcycle shop, somewhat expensive for an at-home setup.
      • Bubble Balancer – does not spin, tips in the direction of the imbalance.
      • Static Balancer – spins the tire, the imbalance point is either detected when the tire stops spinning with the heaviest part down.
      • Dyna Beads or Liquid/Sealant – settle in the appropriate parts of the tire to internally balance.
      • Most people who change their own tires either use a static balancer that spins the tire in an upright position or the balance beads/fluid. If using the static balancer, spin the wheel until is stops and add weights opposite to that point. Repeat.
    What type of lube should I use to install the tire?
    • Many people ask what type of lube to use. Tire manufacturers recommend:
      • Pirelli – “ALWAYS lubricate with approved tire mounting lubricant or mild vegetable oil or mild soap solution. Never use antifreeze, silicones or petroleum-base lubricants. This will damage the tire.”
      • Dunlop – “clean and lubricate beads without grease but using soapy water”
      • Metzeler – “Clean and lubricate bead with tire mounting lubricant or soapy water”
    • On the web there are some negative comments regarding soap as a tire install lubricant. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is used to make soap, but is not present in the final soap product if the soap is made correctly. NaOH can damage aluminum. However, the NaOH should get consumed in the soap making process. Some people refer to http://www.randakks.com/TechTip62.htm, but this should not happen if the soap was made correctly. Soap is also recommended by tire manufacturers as an install lubricant. If you are worried about soap damage then use tire mounting lubricant.
    • Tire mounting lubricant – many of the tire mounting lubricants contain soap as part of their Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
    • WD 40 – WD-40 is partly petroleum base oil (
    • Silicone spray – tire manufacturers don’t recommend using silicone.
    • Armor All Protectant Original – Arrmor All Protectant Original contains a 30-40% concentration of “non hazardous silicone emulsion” per the MSDS which is not recommended for tire install.
    • Pledge – Per the MSDS Pledge has “Naptha, petroleum, light alkylate” at a 5-10 weight percent as a component and petroleum is not recommended for tire install.
    When should I change my motorcycle tire?

    Most on-road tires have built-in tread wear indicators. When the tire is worn down to the indicators it is time to change the tire. For on-road tires, another way to check tread depth is stick a penny Lincoln head first into the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head then it is time to change the tire.

    For on-road and dirt bike tires, if either the front or rear starts to feel abnormally loose in corners this is another indication to check tread depth. Once the tire performance decreases below where you would like it, change the tire. When in doubt, change the tire.

    How often should I check my tires/wheels?
    You should check your tires and rims at least once a week. This includes a cold tire pressure check and a visual inspection of the tire. Some riders check their tire pressure before each ride.
    What tire pressure should I use?
    Generally keep the tire pressure at the motorcycle manufacturer’s suggested level as noted in the owner’s manual. If you are on the track, or riding off-road, then the tire pressure will likely be lower than the manufacturer’s suggested level. Proper pressure ensures correct handling and can improve gas mileage.
    What should I do if my tire is losing pressure?
    If you are losing tire pressure inspect the wheel and tire to see if you can determine the cause. Try and tighten the valve core and inspect the tire for cracks or punctures. If you can’t determine the cause, take it to the shop.
    Is an underinflated or overinflated motorcycle tire dangerous?
    Yes, an underinflated motorcycle tire can be dangerous. The tire can fail due to excessive heat. You can also get unusual wear patterns that can affect handling and require you to change the tire early. An overinflated tire is also dangerous. The tire can wear in the center, the ride will be harsher and the tire can be more easily punctured.
    What tire pressure should I use for a dirt bike, off road?
    The proper tire pressure for riding off road depends on the type of riding you will be doing. The general rule is 11-15 pounds for most conditions. If you are riding in rocky conditions at high speed you will want higher pressures to avoid damaging the rims. Check motorcycle forums specific to your type of bike for recommendations from riders. The proper pressure usually varies by tire and type of bike. If you are going to ride on the highway or streets for any length of time you will want to pack a pump and inflate the tires before you ride on the road.
    What is a rim/bead lock?
    A rim lock or bead lock is used on off road tires when you have a flat to lock the tire to the rim. If you have a badly damaged tire this is often the only way to get home with the bike.
    Do I need to balance my wheel/tire?
    All motorcycle tires/wheels should be balanced after a new tire is installed. If you are doing the tire install please check out the How to Install and Balance a Motorcycle Tire section of the site. Some people have started using Dyna Beads to “balance” the tire.
    Do I need to change out the front and rear tire at the same time?
    The general recommendation is to always change out the front and rear tire at the same time, ideally with the same manufacturer and type of tire. Practically, the front tire often wears much more slowly than the rear, so people might run one front to every two rear tire changes. In the end it is really up to each rider to decide what they feel comfortable with. Also, some motorcycle tire manufacturers design the front and rear tire to be used with each other, and have a tread pattern that handles optimally in the wet when the front and rear are paired together.
    Do motorcycle tires have directional arrows, and do they matter?
    Most on-road motorcycle tires have directional arrows, while off-road tires may or may not have directional arrows. Unlike car tires, most on-road motorcycle tires have a tread pattern that works best if run in a specific direction. If you notice that a tire has been mounted in the opposite direction have it changed to run in the correct direction.
    Can I mix bias and radial tires?
    It is safest to not mix bias and radial tires. You should either go all bias front/rear or all radial front/rear. Bias and radial tires are constructed differently. Also, it is best to stick with the type of tire the motorcycle was originally designed for. Some older motorcycles were designed with bias tires and it is best to stick with those on the bike.
    Does tread pattern matter?
    The tread pattern is the indentations or grooves that are molded into the outside of the tire. The tread pattern you pick for a tire should match the type of riding you will be doing. For a on-road tire, if you will be doing a lot of riding in the rain you want a tread pattern that will help evacuate the water where the tire meets the road. A tire with no grooves where the tire meets the road will not evacuate the water as well as one that does.
    What tire compound should I use for on-road use?
    The tire compound you want depends on the type of riding you do. If you want maximum mileage you will select a harder tire compound. If you want maximum stick you will select a softer tire compound. It is very difficult to compare tires across brands to determine which is best. You are better off checking within a general category of tire (e.g. sportbike, touring, sport touring) and then checking reviews within those.
    Should I purchase a dual or triple compound tire?
    Some tires are dual and even triple compound, with harder compounds in the middle transitioning to softer compounds toward the outside of the tire. The goal with dual/triple compound tires is to provide maximum mileage when riding straight up, and provide increased stick when the bike is leaned over. Whether a dual or triple compound tire is best depends on the riding you do. If you like to ride aggressive on the weekends, but also commute to work then a mixed compound tire has some advantages. If you ride primarily in the twisties then a single compound, sticky tire is probably best.
    What is the best tire compound for off road use?
    Unlike road tires, off road tires often specify the type of terrain they are best suited for. There are sand tires, soft/intermediate terrain tires, and other variations. The tire compound is often paired with different lug designs. While these categories provide some good guidelines, it is also worth reading reviews/summaries outside of the general tire categories. Sometimes there are tires that excel in sand, for example, that are not purpose-built sand tires.
    When should I replace my tubes?
    The general recommendation is to change the tube with each tire change. Make sure to match the tube with the tire size.
    What is load carrying capacity and why does it matter?
    Different tires come in different load carrying capacities. The load carrying capacity is molded on the side of the tire. When packing for a trip make sure to check the load carrying capacity of the tire as well as the motorcycle.
    What is the dark side and do I want to go there?
    The “dark side” or “dark siders” are those who install a car tire on their motorcycle rim. The main reason is to maximize mileage. The obvious concern is using a car tire that was not approved or tested on motorcycles, and running it on a motorcycle. This type of activity falls firmly in the do-at-your-own-risk category.
    Can I repair and ride on a motorcycle tire?
    There is much debate on whether to continue to ride on a repaired tire. In the end it is a personal decision. Some ride on a repaired tire with just a gummy worm type of fix, some internally patch and some replace the tire completely.
    How to repair a punctured tire on the road?
    It is important to have a tire repair kit and some type of inflation device on the bike. One of the most common repairs when on the road is to use a gummy worm type of fix. In brief:

    • Mark the repair spot. Once you remove the item that punctured the tire it can be difficult to find the spot needing repair.
    • Remove the object that punctured the tire.
    • Use a reaming tool to rough up the hole and make it large enough to accept the gummy repair strip.
    • Thread the gummy worm into the repair tool and coat with repair cement if provided in the repair kit.
    • Push and twist to get the worm inserted into the hole.
    • When inserted to the correct length twist and pull the repair tool back out. The worm should remain inside the tire.
    • Trim off the excess worm and refill the tire.
    • Wait a bit and check that air is holding. If OK, ride for a bit and check again.

    There are a number of portable compressors you can use (e.g. Slime) that run off the battery or plug into accessory outlets. You can also use a foot pump, regular bike tire pump or compressed air canisters.

    What impact does using a trailer have on my motorcycle tire?
    Using a trailer on a motorcycle can significantly change the load and change the tire wear on both the front and rear tire. Most tire manufacturers do not warrant tires on bikes fitted with trailers.
    What is the best way to break in new tires?
    Carefully! The best way to break in new tires is carefully. Often new tires are coated with a mold release compound or might have little pieces of rubber around the tire that look like skin tags. Until the mold release compound or excess rubber wears off the tires will handle more slippery than when they are broken in. For on-road tires, a good rule of thumb is to give the tires between 100-200 miles to break in. During this break in period ride more conservatively, stop/start less aggressively, etc. If you don’t ride a lot of twisties it can take a while for the sides of the tire to wear in, so be careful. For off road tires, ride conservatively until you get a feel for how the tire handles, and then ride normally.
    How do I read the information on the tire sidewall?
    One of the more common sidewall markings is metric. You might see sidewalls that look like the below.

    120/90ZR-17 or 120/90-17 67 ZR

    Label Description
    120 120 mm. Section width, the width of the tire in millimeters (mm), measured from sidewall to sidewall. Since this measure is affected by the width of the rim, the measurement is for the tire when it is on its intended rim size.
    90 90%. Aspect ratio, tells you the height of the tire, from the bead to the top of the tread. This is described as a percentage of the tire width. In our example, the aspect ratio is 90, so the tire’s height is 90 percent of its width. The smaller the aspect ratio, the wider the tire in relation to its height.
    ZR ZR. Speed Rating, tire can be ridden over 149 mph (240 km/h) for sustained periods of time. Most other speed ratings indicate a maximum sustained speed.
    17 17 inches. Rim diameter, this number specifies, in inches, the wheel rim diameter the tire is designed for. This is the diameter of the wheel in inches where the beads of the tire sit on the wheel. This measurement does not include the rim flange, so don’t measure from the outside of the rim.
    67 67 load index. The load index indicates how much load the tire can carry.

    Another sidewall marking pattern is alphabetical.

    M T 90 – 17 Load Range B

    Label Description
    M M = Motorcycle code.
    T T = Tire Width code.
    90 90%. Aspect ratio, tells you the height of the tire, from the bead to the top of the tread. This is described as a percentage of the tire width. In our example, the aspect ratio is 90, so the tire’s height is 90 percent of its width. The smaller the aspect ratio, the wider the tire in relation to its height.
    17 17 inches. Rim diameter, this number specifies, in inches, the wheel rim diameter the tire is designed for. This is the diameter of the wheel in inches where the beads of the tire sit on the wheel. This measurement does not include the rim flange, so don’t measure from the outside of the rim.
    Load Range B The load range indicates how much load the tire can carry.

    Another sidewall marking pattern is in inches.

    4.50 ZR 17 4PR

    Label Description
    4.50 4.50 inches. Section width, the width of the tire in inches, measured from sidewall to sidewall. Since this measure is affected by the width of the rim, the measurement is for the tire when it is on its intended rim size.
    ZR ZR. Speed Rating, tire can be ridden over 149 mph (240 km/h) for sustained periods of time. Most other speed ratings indicate a maximum sustained speed.
    17 17 inches. Rim diameter, this number specifies, in inches, the wheel rim diameter the tire is designed for. This is the diameter of the wheel in inches where the beads of the tire sit on the wheel. This measurement does not include the rim flange, so don’t measure from the outside of the rim.
    4PR 4PR – Casing Strength (Ply Rating). The casing strength or ply rating refers to the tire load index. The PR marking is now only applied by the Japanese standard (JATMA). The Japanese standard can be compared to the European standard as follows: 4PR = normal version, 6PR = reinforced version. The PR number does not refer to the number of plies in the tire.
    What is a tire speed rating and why does it matter?
    The tire speed rating indicates the maximum speed at which a motorcycle can be driven for sustained periods of time. Your motorcycle should have specific speed rated tires that are recommended and you should try and buy the motorcycle manufacturer recommended speed rated tires.

    Speed Rating Speed Category
    J Up to 62 mph (100 km/h)
    N Up to 87 mph (140 km/h)
    P Up to 93 mph (150 km/h)
    S Up to 112 mph (180 km/h)
    H Up to 130 mph (210 km/h)
    V (with service description) Up to 149 mph (240 km/h)
    W Up to 168 mph (270 km/h)
    Z (with service description) Over 149 mph (240 km/h)
    What is a load index and why does it matter?
    The load index indicates how much load the tire can carry at a given speed. If you exceed the load index you risk tire failure. To calculate your total load capacity you need to add the load from the front and rear tires together.

    Load Index Pounds Load Index Pounds Load Index Pounds Load Index Pounds
    33
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    254 49 408 65 639 81 1019
    34 260 50 419 66 661 82 1047
    35 267 51 430 67 677 83 1074
    36 276 52 441 68 694 84 1102
    37 282 53 454 69 716 85 1135
    38 291 54 467 70 739 86 1168
    39 300 55 481 71 761 87 1201
    40 309 56 494 72 783 88 1235
    41 320 57 507 73 805 89 1279
    42 331 58 520 74 827 90 1323
    43 342 59 536 75 853 91 1356
    44 353 60 551 76 882 92 1389
    45 364 61 567 77 908 93 1433
    46 375 62 584 78 937 94 1477
    47 386 63 600 79 963 95 1521
    48 397 64 617 80 992 96 1565

    A related measure is called the load range. The load range can be compared to the specific tire manufacturer chart to determine the correct tire to purchase.

    How can you convert Bridgestone Battlax Racing Slick tire sizes?
    The Bridgestone Battlax Racing Slicks use a different normenclature to identify their tires. For example, 90/80R-17 is a standard way to denote a tire. 90=section width in mm, 80=aspect ratio in %, 17=wheel diameter in inches. Bridgestone describes the same tire as 90/580-17. The 580 is the overall diameter. If you need to convert Bridgestone Battlax Racing Slicks you can use the following formula provided by Bridgestone to calculate the aspect ratio: aspect ratio=section height/section width, section height=overall diameter-wheel diameter/2. So, in this example the calculation would be: aspect ratio=((580mm-17inches)/2)/90mm=82, rounded down to 80.