A Guide to Motorcycle Tires Part 3 (Final)
The first part of this guide shed some light on the crucial importance of choosing the most appropriate tires for your plans or riding style, while the second episode insisted on more technical details such as the mileage-wear equation or the radial/ply bias and the heat, speed rating or size matters. Now, a few more words before you spend your money.
Balancing and air pressure affect tire wear
Tires wear out even when not riding aggressively. It's their very nature – should they not wear, the grip would go down the drain and you don't have to be a tire specialist to figure this out: a quick test with a pencil and an eraser will be more than enough.
Yet, there are several factors which can dramatically accelerate the wear, with the wrong tire pressure being the most common (and overlooked). Running with under-inflated tires is probably the biggest cause for uneven tire wear. As the pressure is lower than the specified one, the tire changes a bit its shape and the contact patch gets bigger. But what could seem like a nice feature in the first place comes with two major downsizes.
First of all, running with low pressure puts unnecessary stress on the sidewalls of the tire. Always remember that it's the air inside the tire which holds the bike and not the tire itself. Wobbly walls account for bad and imprecise steering, while “kneading” the rubber way more than running at normal pressure would... and that's not to a tire's liking.
Then, the modified shape of the low-pressure tire will have you running on the external portions of the tread and crown, wearing them excessively and creating a jagged profile when you'll inflate the tire to the normal p.s.i. The center of the tread will be higher than the outer portions.
Since the rims must be taken off the motorcycle in order to mount new tires, the ones carrying out this operation should also be able to balance the whole thing once more. Improper wheel alignment after the rear rim has been put back in its place or after a chain slack adjustment has been made can negatively affect both riding comfort and safety. A quick visual inspection before a longer ride is most advisable: just take a look at the rims (for missing weights), uneven tire wear, excessive cracks at the base of the tread profile.
Another important thing when it comes to traveling in different states or countries: if you are not running with new tires, maybe you should check for the legal tread wear in those countries, just to stay out of trouble. These limits can vary quite a lot and your money could very well be spent in other ways, most of them much more pleasant and fruitful than paying a fine.
Where do I buy?
Well, that might sometimes be a tricky question, since pretty much anyone would be at least tempted to answer differently. While some people would never buy tires online, some did so and were quite happy with the entire business. Far from trying to give a definitive advice as to where the tires should be bought from, let's see about the pros and cons of each course.
Once you've decided which tires you'll be installing on your bike, you might go the online shopping way. It's the easiest way to buy things, and in most cases it is also 100% safe, with all the return policies and all. Finding nifty online deals is not too hard, and you have a huge pool to fish in for rebates, special offers and so on.
Due to the fact that online shops operate at lower costs than normal shops, the prices may be significantly lower; nevertheless, if the shipping is not included and you're buying from the other side of a large country (like the US), you might see yourself ending up paying even more that you'd have forked out in a store in your town.
Another thing you should definitely be considering is the fact that actual shops that sell tires will make you a nice offer which includes free mounting, whereas the virtual retailers will leave this to your own decision. In a nice scenario, a large online tire retailer might (just might) give you a rebate or even a free mounting coupon in an agreed workshop... which might be at a hefty distance from your home.
And one more thing: when buying from a dealer allows you to discuss freely with the tire specialist and moreover will grant you the opportunity to see what you're about to buy before you actually spend your cash. There are many people who have changed their decision at the last moment after talking face-to-face with the retailer's representative and checking the other existing offers
On mounting and warranty
Warranty is one thing you should not take lightly. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when a tire is manufactured and some of them might pass unnoticed by the quality assurance check; guess what, you can end up with such a tire on your bike and find yourself in trouble... or even worse. And if it happens, you'd be glad the tires are covered by a warranty and you kept the papers.
The first thing of interest is learning what kind of warranty is being offered: the manufacturer's warranty of the store-bought one. While most manufacturers guarantee for their products, you should know that not all the tires are covered by the same terms. The warranty may vary according to numerous aspects such as tire age, mileage or type of damage triggering the warranty claim. To be on the safe side, never be afraid or shy to ask all these details, as they will work in your favor in the end.
When it comes to mounting the new tires on a bike, the lucky guys have probably received a voucher in a nearby shop. The rest of you will have to install the new “shoes” in a local shop (and pay the hourly rate) or will have to mount them yourselves (for free) and possibly forfeit your warranty. As stated above, buying your new tires from a city store usually comes with free in-shop mounting and no warranty-related worries.
With online-bought tires, many, if not even most, shops might not honor any warranty claims, even if you had your tires mounted by them. At best, they'll cover for the mounting operation itself.
Now, before you decide where you'll buy your tires, it may be a good idea to scan for shops in your area, find out their rates and policies and only then proceed. There is no right or wrong way to do things as long as you're aware of all these details.
Hopefully, this guide on choosing new tires for the bike has helped the new riders understand better the dos and don’ts and has made them a tad wiser. Ride well and ride safe, rain or shine!
For more on motorcycle tires, please read the following:
A Guide to Motorcycle Tires Part 1
A Guide to Motorcycle Tires Part 2.