Maintaining proper tire pressure is crucial for safe and comfortable riding. Different riding conditions often require unique tire pressures. Always take some time to have your tires regularly checked and maintained. This will help avoid unwanted accidents and increase the lifespan of your tires.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about motorcycle tire pressure and proper tire maintenance to keep your tires at peak performance.
Motorcycle Tire Air Pressure And Standard Units
When measuring the air pressure of motorcycle tires, there are three standard units to keep in mind. These are psi, bar, and kPa.
PSI means pound per square inch. Bar refers to atmospheric pressure at sea level, and kPa stands for kilopascals (1000 pascals). You can convert values among the three units with a simple online conversion tool. We recommend using Onlineconversion.
The right unit for your tire inflation depends largely on where you ride, your tires’ factory area, and what standard they use to manufacture, but you’ll find PSI is the most commonly used unit.
How Important Is Motorcycle Tire PSI?
Considering that tires are the only thing between you and the road, it’s important that you properly maintain them and keep an eye on the PSI levels regularly.
Tires are responsible for proper throttle, handling, and brake input to the ground. This is why most experts recommend a weekly check-up for regular riders. If you ride occasionally, check them before leaving for a tour.
Now, this begs the question, how much tire PSI is enough pressure for my needs? If you don’t have an answer, we’ve got you covered.
What’s The Normal PSI For Motorcycle Tires?
Most riders would say that you should keep the air pressure according to the rating stamped on the sidewall. But this actually isn’t all right. The rating is usually the maximum pressure the tire can accommodate, which isn’t always best. More on this later.
The best way to know what your tire PSI should be is through the motorcycle’s operating manual.
Adjusting the PSI According To The Road
One way to prolong the life of tires is to adjust their PSI according to the roads that you intend to ride on. So here are some tips on that.
- On-Road: In this situation, sticking with the user’s manual is the best policy. But if you’re an avid rider and roam all day on your bike, dropping the PSI slightly can help with speed and handling.
- Off-Road: With bumps, stones, nails, and other debris when you’re riding off-road, normal PSI can damage your tires and bike. There’s also a risk of tire damage if you go below the average ratings. The best practice is to experiment with what works best in your situation. Also, don’t forget to refill your tires when you’re back on the road.
- Track: Here, the recommended PSI is 30 for both tires. Keeping an eye on tire wear is essential. While track riding, your bike’s tires should be well-scrubbed, if they’re not, you can reduce the air pressure.
The Risks Of Underinflation In Tires
Underinflated tires mean more contact with the road than necessary. This can lead to sidewall flexion, overheating, and a heavy load, causing the tire to burst.
Worse still, under-inflation can also cause braking failures, unpredictability in tire wear, increased fuel consumption, and total tire failure.
The Risks Of Overinflation In Tires
On the other hand, over-inflating tires can result in very little rubber contact with the road. This leads to a lack of control, rough rides, and uneven wear.
Overinflation can also cause tires to wear down in the middle. This is because the tire’s center bulges and absorbs pressure and wear, rather than having it distributed to more of the tire. Also, too-hard tires can reduce your bike’s ability to absorb road bumps. This impairs your ability to adjust and increases the risk of accidents.
Should you buy a PSI gauge?
Why should I buy a PSI gauge when I could just use the ones available at the gas stations? Well, most gauges at gas stations aren’t fine-tuned and will almost always give an inaccurate reading.
A few PSI can make a difference, so it’s best to spend an extra couple bucks for your peace of mind. Another reason to have one handy is that when checking tire pressure, you have to make sure your tires are cold. This is because heat from the sun or the road actually increases your tire’s PSI. Checking the PSI when the tires are warm will give a higher, inaccurate level.
The best times to check your tires are in the morning before you ride, and 30 minutes after you’ve ridden it. Give it time to cool.
How To Check Motorcycle Tire Pressure
There are plenty of ways to know if your tires have the right pressure level or not. Some of these require a bit of instinct and judgment from your end while others are more sophisticated.
Let’s take a look at them.
The Old School Squeeze
A quick squeeze to the sidewalls of your tires is the oldest trick in the book. If you can pinch your sidewall easily, then you’ve lost pressure in your tire.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with squeezing, we recommend filling in your tire to its correct PSI and then practicing on that. The more familiar you are with your tire’s optimal PSI, the easier it’ll be to squeeze and know when it’s over or underinflated.
If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, getting a pressure gauge is a good choice. They come in analog or digital variations.
Both have their pros and cons, but generally, analog gauges are cheaper while digital gauges are more accurate. Just remember the ideal PSI range for your tires to avoid over or under-inflation.
Most tires have the max pressure on their sidewall, but the best way to know is through your bike’s manual.
A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is the latest innovation to hit the market. It provides you with real-time pressure assessments as well as safety alerts about your tires. It makes use of sensors that are installed externally on the tire valve or internally around the rim. This eliminates the need to manually check the pressure using your hands or a pressure gauge. If there is a 25 percent reduction in tire pressure, the TPMS will send a signal to your dash or your smartphone.
Tire Inspection: When and What to Check
It’s always a great practice to visually inspect your tires every once in a while.
Generally, your tires will lose around one PSI per month after filling them. So checking them every month can help to make sure they maintain the right pressure.
This inspection should also include looking at the tire tread depth, unpredictable wear, cracks in treads, or any signs of punctures or flats.
Tire Wear Consideration
In terms of the lifespan of tires, they generally don’t last for more than 10 years. If you have tires that have given you five years of riding, you should visit your mechanic to find out how much longer they will last.
You should also be aware of signs like a ruffled ride or noise coming from the tires during a ride to know that it’s time to visit a dealership. Read this if you’re looking to know more about tire wear and how long motorcycle tires last.
Should I Reduce Pressure In Wet Weather?
In weather conditions where the road gets wet, you need maximum traction for friction otherwise your tires may get slippery causing you to lose control.
To avoid that, you can reduce the pressure by a few PSIs. This will increase the size of the tire’s contact patch on the road. Lower pressure means a lot more tire touching the road, which improves the grip.