If you are like most riders, the only time you pay attention to your motorcycle tyres is when they have visibly gone bald.
You need to know that tyre condition plays a big part in your motorbike performance. And it directly affects your safety while riding on Singapore roads.
The last thing you want is to get a skid, or worse, crash, simply because you didn’t pay attention to your tyre conditions. Think about the potential insurance claims and premium hikes.
In this blog, we want to share the essential knowledge that you need to understand tyres and tyre maintenance to ensure you always get a good and safe ride out of them.
Know the tyre structure
Maintenance won’t make sense if you don’t know how the tyre is built. Here are four basics of the tyre anatomy.
The tread is the most obvious part of the tyre. It is the patterned outer rubber layer that meets the road surface. The different patterns are designed for different types of use. As a rule of thumb, the smoother treads are designed for street rides and the rougher, chunkier ones are for off-roading.
Beneath the tread is the carcass layer. It forms the “flesh” of the tyres. This part is made up of steel or fibre cords that run from one side of the tyre to the other. The fibres are placed in bands and are positioned in either one of two patterns – radial or bias ply.
Tyre designs originally started off with a bias ply where the bands are placed at an angle. Radial ply is a later innovation where the bands run directly across from one side of the wheel to the other (i.e., from bead to bead).
The bead is the part where the tyre clings to the metal wheel. It is strengthened with steel cords so that the tyre fits perfectly onto the wheel. This prevents slipping as the wheels turn and leakage of air in tubeless tyres.
The sidewall is the part that carries the whole load of the motorcycle, including yours and your pillion’s weight. You will also find codes imprinted on the sides. They hold a lot of information about the tyre make called tyre designation. They are two types of coding system – metric and alphanumeric.
Assuming that most riders in Singapore rely on the workshop people to help us choose the right tyre, we will not go too much into the details. Here is a quick look at what information the codes hold.
Here are the maintenance tips
1. Radial tyres are better for your street bikes
By the virtue of its design, radial plies are better in dealing with the heat stresses of riding on the road. This means that your tyre will last longer because the ply makes it more flexible compared to the bias ply. It flexes more to produce better contact with the road.
Bias ply tends to be stiffer. So they are better suited for bigger bikes like cruisers. Its rigidity helps the tyre support the greater weight of such bikes. Given that you most likely own a lighter motorcycle, radial tyres are probably what your bike needs.
Most importantly, do not mix radial and bias ply between the front and rear tyres, unless your bike manufacturer recommends it. Mixing ply can seriously affect your bike performance.
Also, do not switch from one ply to the other at the next tyre change. In fact, you are also advised not to use front and back tyres of the same ply but of different manufacturers. You never know how a small difference can negatively affect your bike performance.
Be on the safe side. Stick to what your manual tells you to do. Your life on the road depends on it.
2. Tyre pressure makes a big difference
When was the last time you checked your tyre pressure? Probably too long ago.
You must know that when the tyres are not at the right pressure, be it too high or too low, it can seriously affect the longevity of your tyres. You can tell that your tyres have been underinflated when the sides of the tread are worn out more than the middle. On the other hand, when the middle seems more worn than the sides, then your tyres have been in an overinflated state.
Your bike manual will tell you what pressures the tyres are designed for. Note that the front and back tyres are usually pegged at different pressures. Consider buying a good tyre gauge because a few PSI difference can impact the handling of your motorbike. You can buy a reasonably priced gauge online nowadays. And you can always download your motorcycle manual if you don’t have it.
Your manual usually states a maximum pressure for increased load use. Never run on maximum pressure for daily solo riding. It does not give you additional benefits and only works towards getting your tyres worn out faster. That means more money flying out of your pockets!
Ideally, you should be checking the pressure on a daily basis especially if you ride your bikes extensively. At least, commit to a weekly checking routine.
3. Rapid pressure loss is an indicator
If you are checking your tyre pressure regularly and notice that it is dropping too quickly over the week, you know that there must be some leakage. So it is time to replace the tyres.
4. Don’t wait till they go bald
Riders typically wait till their tyres go bald before changing them. That can be a dangerous habit. The right time to replace should be when there is about 1.59mm (2/32” or 0.063 inches) tread remaining all around the tyre.
5. Know the age of your tyre
Your tyres are not meant to last forever, obviously. Keep in mind that the tyre is mainly made up rubber, which is an organic material. Even with limited use, expect the tyres to deteriorate over time.
The lifespan of your tyre is about five to seven years from the date of manufacture. Look for this date on the sidewall. It is indicated in a four-digit code in the WWYY format. For example, 2304 means that the tyre was manufactured in the 23rd week of 2004. Similarly, 0313 means the tyre was produced in the 3rd week of 2013.
6. Change them in sets
When the rear tyre wears out faster than the front, it seems common sense that you change just the rear tyre. But this is not true. Both tyres have gone through the same stresses and rigours of road riding. So even if your front tyre looks fine, it is actually up for change.
You may not know this, but your front tyre plays a bigger part in you not falling than your rear tyre. So always change in complete sets.
7. Take note of that odd feeling
Does your bike feel odd for no reason when riding? That odd sensation of pushing and vibrating could be an indication that your tyre needs changing.
More tips on the side:
- Don’t put on a tubeless tire if your bike is meant for tubed ones. It is bound to leak air.
- If you are a street rider, don’t waste your money on race compound tyres. With all that stoppings at traffic lights, you will never get the best out of those race tyres.
- Don’t put a tyre with more traction (i.e., stickier) at the rear than the front. It will create an imbalance of traction between the front and the back, which could proof to be too much for the front tyre.
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