Tyre pressure is important for any wheeled vehicle, but it’s especially critical for a motorcycle. That’s because you only have two points of contact with the road. If one of your tyres loses grip or has a blowout, you’re left with one wheel — and the results are usually scary.
It’s not just those who race their motorcycles at the track who need to be concerned with proper tyre pressure. Motorway, A and B roads, streets, lanes and even low-speed riding in town is safer and more fun when you have your tyres inflated properly for the type of riding you do.
A big component of the acceleration, handling and braking of your motorcycle comes down to your tyre pressure — of course, you need to start with the right tyres that are adapted to where and how you do your riding. There are tyres designed for maximum grip on the track, comfort for long distance riding or day to day riding.
Once you have your tyres, it’s time to focus on your motorcycle’s tyre pressure.
Small Tyre Pressure Adjustments Can Make All the Difference
With most cars, you set the tyre pressure and leave it at that. It’s important to check once in a while, but few people adjust their car’s tyre pressure for different seasons or driving conditions. This isn’t the case with motorcycles. You need to constantly check your front and rear tyre pressures for safety, but you should also adjust the pressure for varying temperatures, road and track surfaces and adherence requirements.
The reason for this is that as you ride, friction of your tyres on the road create heat and expand the air inside. This increases your tyre pressure. If you have over-inflated your tyres when they are cold, they will become even more inflated once they heat up. This greatly affects the adherence and stability of a motorcycle tyre because when over-inflated, you’re reducing the width of the contact strip. The contact strip around your tyre’s circumference is all that keeps you connected to the road or track, so it needs to be optimized.
In the same respect, under-inflating your tyres can be a problem, too. Taken to the extreme, under-inflated motorcycle tyres get soft and unstable and could even allow the tyre to pull off the rim. The result is at the very least a ruined tyre and rim, but there could also be a nasty fall and damage to you and your motorcycle. Under inflated tyres also create more heat because of the additional rubber-on-road friction and will wear out faster.
Setting the Right Tyre Pressure
Always start by checking the tyre pressure recommendations from the manufacturer. Top motorcycle tyre manufacturers put a lot of design, engineering and testing into their tyres, and they know what they’re talking about. If you aren’t pushing your machine to the limits, simply following the manufacturer set tyre pressures is the way to go. One thing to keep in mind, though, is there are often different pressure recommendations for hot and cool weather. If you’re interested in maximising your motorcycle tyre pressures for your riding style and environmental conditions, follow the following guidelines:-
A slightly lower tyre pressure
(several psi below the suggested pressure) allows the tyre to spread more, increasing the width of the contact patch and providing extra grip.
A slightly higher tyre pressure
(several psi above the suggested limit) will create a harder-riding tyre that some find suitable for longer distances or when carrying extra weight (like a passenger).
It's never a good idea to exceed the tyre pressure
indicated on the sidewall of the tyre. This is different from the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. The sidewall maximum pressure is the absolute limit that should not be exceeded for safety and wear reasons. The recommended pressure will always be lower than this maximum value, which gives you a little leeway to optimise your pressures for your preferences.
Choose a simple tyre gauge
It only takes a minute to check your tyre pressure, so opt for a simple yet reliable analogue gauge. There are many digital motorcycle tire pressure gauges on the market, but their accuracy and durability varies greatly. Nothing beats a simple, easy-to-transport dial gauge that won’t let you down because of dead batteries, a broken display or an inaccurate reading.
If there is one thing to remember when it comes to your motorcycle tyre pressure, it’s to check often and check cold. You can check when your tyres are hot as well, but it’s the cold reading that is the reference point for manufactures’ recommendations and sidewall ratings.
Try adjusting up and down a few psi — without going over the max pressure that’s on the sidewall — and do a few laps or miles to see how your motorcycle responds. This is the best way to find the optimal tyre pressures that suit you, your bike and your favourite stretch ……. or track!
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