When leaning into a sweeping bend at 60mph, the only thing keeping your motorcycle upright (in addition to gravity and centrifugal force) are two patches of rubber whose surface area is no larger than a wallet.
Your tires are tasked to control all your inputs regardless of road conditions, whether on triple-digit hot, below-freezing, sandy, wet, cracked, or otherwise perfect pavement.
Tires are one of the most critical components to your riding safety. Their ability to respond depends on whether they’re the correct tire for your motorcycle, condition, and pressure.
If there’s only one fact you glean from this, maintaining proper tire pressure is essential to your safety.
Tire pressure affects your motorcycle’s steering, grip, wear, rolling efficiency, and load-carry capabilities. For every 4psi of underinflation, you can lose up to 80 lbs of load-carrying capacity.
Underinflated tires wear unevenly, are more susceptible to a blowout, handle erratically, and are dangerous.
When your motorcycle is stored, temperature variation and use affect tire pressure, so checking pressure using a high-quality, calibrated gauge before each ride is critical.
Your owner’s manual specifies a range of pressure for each tire depending on the gross vehicle weight of the motorcycle as it will be ridden. You might need to use different pressure if you ride alone with no luggage versus being loaded with gear or a passenger.
Before inflating your tires, do a load-limit calculation to determine your motorcycle’s riding weight:
Now determine the heavy load you’re adding to the motorcycle:
You now have two critical pieces of information. The first is the load weight you’re adding to the motorcycle. If this number exceeds the available load capacity you determined in the first calculation, your motorcycle will be overloaded, a dangerous situation that must be avoided to maintain your safety.
Following the advice of the motorcycle manufacturer is one of the best ways to perform this task safely and effectively. You can use the owner’s manual. This manufacturer recommendation is important to pay attention to, as it considers the bike and rider's weight and what the motorcycle will be used for.
There are different maximum load capacity elements to think about here, such as that a touring motorcycle would likely have passengers and luggage and thus require higher tire pressure than, say, a sports bike.
If you can follow the bike manufacturer’s guide to help you, there will be a lot of benefits to this, and you will be able to improve things like safety, fuel economy, and wear & tear.
The second piece of information is the total riding weight of your motorcycle and, thus, the weight that determines the proper tire inflation pressure.
But what if you are missing the motorcycle owner’s manual or can’t access it? You are still able to find the inflation pressure recommendation by:
It's important to note that the tire maker's max psi is not the same as the motorcycle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.
Ultimately, the tire maker's max PSI is the maximum tire pressure listed on the tire sidewall. The tire maker's max psi is the maximum amount of air pressure that the tire can safely handle, but it does not necessarily provide the motorcycle's best ride quality or performance.
In contrast, the motorcycle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure is designed to provide optimal ride quality, safety, and performance for your motorcycle model based on factors such as weight and intended use.
On regular intervals, thoroughly inspect both tires of your motorcycle by rotating each slowly while checking for the following:
Understanding the best ways to check and set tire pressure on your motorcycle is hugely important. Here are some key ideas you can use that will help you make the most of this and ensure you are making the right decisions moving forward.
Yes, it is recommended that you check your motorcycle’s current tire pressure before every ride, and this is essential for ensuring you get the right balance and proper pressure before you ride.
Checking your tire tread is one of the best things you can do to improve the pressure in your tires. You can check this using either a depth gauge or a coin.
All tires on rims naturally lose air over time. This is due to the small size of the molecules that make up oxygen. These tiny molecules naturally migrate out of the tire over time. However, the rate of pressure loss can vary depending on the quality of the tire, as well as the temperature.
Air, which is roughly 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% miscellaneous gases expands with temperature like all gases resulting in a pressure increase with increasing temperature.
Moisture can slightly enhance the pressure change with temperature.
Using nitrogen in your tires is a common alternative to compressed air. Nitrogen is an inert gas that doesn’t react to your tire’s internal components. Nitrogen can help to lead to a more stable tire pressure, and weather and temperature changes are not likely to impact it.