It goes without saying that our tires are by far the most important component of our motorcycles. After all, it’s solely through the tires that our motorcycles make contact with the road, and if you really think about it, tires have a much bigger job than simply keeping us rubber side down and shiny side up.

As it would turn out, tires are also responsible for communicating to the rider. By communication, I mean relaying feedback such as when cornering, riding through uneven terrain, and braking, to the rider. Indeed, there are tons of tires out there for all sorts of riders, but at the end of the day, they’re our first line of defense when it comes to staying safe, and of course having fun, when out riding our bikes. With that being said, maintaining tires is easily one of the most overlooked when it comes to both cars and bikes. Quite frankly, it’s ironic that this is the case, given just how important a role our tires play when it comes to safety.

The numbers don’t lie, as the UK’s National Motorcycle Council recently shared a report that up to 29 percent of motorcycles don’t pass their MOTs (roadworthiness inspections) simply because of their tires. That’s quite a surprising figure, however, if you put it in the context of the real world, it’s not all that hard to believe. I mean, how many times have you come across a fellow rider whose tires are so bald they could be mistaken for racing slicks? Too many times to ignore, I assume.

With that being said, we thought it timely to update this article, as technology continues to evolve and tires become more advanced, more performance-focused, and of course, safer. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts when it comes to motorbike rubber.

Check them every time you ride

The Dos and Don'ts Of Motorcycle Tires

No matter where in the world you’re from, chances are you’re familiar with T-CLOCS. Indeed, there’s a reason why the “T” is first and why it stands for tires. Your tires are the very first thing you should look at before swinging a leg over your bike and going for a ride – no matter how near or short your ride will be. Take a look at them from afar; are they drooping or taut? Do you see any deformities, rips, damage, or nails or debris poking out?

If your bike’s been sitting a while, say a week or two, it’s imperative that you check the tire pressure and top it up according to your manufacturer’s specifications. On top of that, if you plan on going on a long ride, it may be a good idea to invest in a new set of rubber if your tires are close to their wear indicators or close to their expiry date. For reference, it’s generally understood that tires have a service life of five to seven years. Personally, I tend to lean to the shorter side of the spectrum, but I’ve never had a set of tires last longer than one year given the mileage I cover.

Don’t ignore seemingly minor damage

The Dos and Don'ts Of Motorcycle Tires

Tires are built pretty tough and can withstand some pretty serious abuse. However, they’re not immune to the rigors of the open road. Over time, our tires can accumulate seemingly minor damage which, when added up, could cause some serious problems down the road. For instance, if you notice that there’s a tiny bump on your sidewall, that’s an obvious sign that it’s time to replace your tire. Bumps on the sidewall or other parts of the tire may start small, but they’ll grow over time, as the plies within the rubber continue to give out.

If you see any cuts on on the tread or sidewall – even if the tire isn’t leaking any air just yet – it might be a good idea to assume that it’s toast. Gashes and cuts, especially ones that cause layers of rubber to peel off and reveal the inner ply, drastically compromise the structural integrity of the tire. Last but not least, don’t ignore uneven wear on your tire. While not necessarily the fault of the tire itself, it could point to more serious issues with your bike, such as front and rear wheel alignment. Of course, it could also just be as simple as realigning your rear wheel chain adjusters.

Clean them as you would the rest of your bike

The Dos and Don'ts Of Motorcycle Tires

As is the case with most things on our bikes, dirt does a good job of hiding damage. This is especially true with tires, as a tire caked up in mud could be hiding some gnarly damage. As such, when cleaning your bike, take the extra time to give your tires a good clean. If you have an adventure bike with dual-sport rubber, we recommend putting in the elbow grease and scrubbing all the dirt away from the treads. That way, you can give your tire a thorough inspection to see if it incurred any damage on your latest ride.

Apart from making it easier to spot damage, clean tires last longer, too. As we rack up the miles on our bikes, our tires are exposed to all sorts of harsh chemicals on the road. From road salt to various oils and lubricants scattered all over the place, to brake dust, all these can accelerate wear on the finish and durability of our tires. Scrubbing all these contaminants off can help increase your tires’ service life, thereby saving you a few bucks in the process. Plus, a clean bike doesn’t really look clean if it’s got dirty tires, right?

Balance your wheels after changing tires

Wobbly Wheels Suck - How To Balance Motorcycle Tires

Based on personal experience, I’ve witnessed a lot of riders forgo balancing their wheels after having new tires installed. I’ll admit, I was once one of those riders, and it took a sketchy speed wobble on my Yamaha MT-10 to change that. As it would turn out, tires and wheels aren’t 100-percent balanced, no matter how fancy your wheel is or how expensive your tire is. Having a balanced wheel not only makes for a safer ride at higher speeds, but also makes everything smoother, more compliant, and more synergistic.

Forbidden beef jerky – not so forbidden after all


Tire experts will say that rope plugs, also known as forbidden beef jerky, or bacon strips, are an absolute no-no. However, those who’ve covered any distance at all will generally have positive experiences with rope plugs, especially when used as an emergency repair to get you home. Personally, I’ve used rope plugs on multiple occasions without bothering to replace the tire until it was due for replacement due to wear. For the record, I’ve never had a rope plug fail on a motorcycle tire, but I have had it fail on my pickup truck’s all-terrain tires.

With that being said, the best way to repair a tire puncture is with a cold patch. Indeed, this method is far more expensive and time-consuming, as you need to take the wheel off your bike, unmount the tire, clean it up, stick the patch on, and wait for the glue to dry, then do everything in reverse just to get your bike road-worthy again. Nevertheless, it’s a surefire way to repair your tire in a safe, long-lasting way. As for the forbidden beef jerky, it’s an essential part of your on-the-go toolkit, but it might be a good idea to use it for emergency repairs simply to get you home.

Never use a car tire on your bike (obviously)

The last point on our list is very commonsensical, and there’ve been tons of demonstrations that prove why it’s a bad idea to put a car tire on any motorcycle. Bikes need to lean when they turn, and a car tire’s square profile simply isn’t cut out for this job. Darksiding (also known as putting a car tire on a bike) might be tempting as a cheap and easy fix for someone desperately needing to get back on the road, but it’s certainly best to avoid it at all costs.

Darksiding aside, the same is true when it comes to fitting bigger or smaller tire sizes than those recommended by the manufacturer. Most mid-size sportbikes and naked bikes will come equipped with a 180-section rear tire. While you could technically slap on a chunky 200 tire onto the rim, performance would suffer dramatically as the tire’s contact patch is actually reduced due to it having to contort at such a stretched angle. It’s generally agreed upon that you can upsize to the next bigger size – in this case a 190. Nevertheless, it’s always best to stick to your stock tire sizes.

Common sense rings true

The Dos and Don'ts Of Motorcycle Tires

As is the case with most things in life, common sense is a vital element when it comes to motorcycle tires. Obviously, doing silly things to your tires (such as filling them up with water or expanding foam) is never a good idea unless you’re doing it for laughs. It goes without saying that if something feels wrong with your bike as you’re riding, there’s a good chance that your tires have something to do with it, so be sure to keep a good eye on your rubber every time you ride.

There you have it, a few things that you should keep in mind when it comes to motorcycle tires. I’m more than certain that I’ve missed out on a bunch of other important stuff, so feel free to share your insights on all things motorcycle tires in the comments. Until then, happy riding!

This article was originally published on July 18, 2013 and updated in January 2024.

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