By Justin James
Tires are one of the hardest working components on a motorcycle or any vehicle really. Questionable tire conditions can place limits on your riding ability, experience and safety. A good tire inspection only takes a few minutes. If you are unsure of what to look for, feel free to use this edition of Tinker Talk to guide you.
Date Code: The date code is a 4-digit number that can be found on the sidewall of a tire. This corresponds to the date the tire was manufactured, the first two digits being month, the last two digits being year. Most tires have a recommended service life of five years. Consider replacing anything older, regardless of mileage. Refer to Photo A.
Air Pressure: Tire pressure should be checked on a weekly basis at minimum. This will allow you to catch any slow leaks. Check the tires when cold and ensure they are at the appropriate setting for your model of bike. There is no hard number for acceptable loss of pressure over a given time. There are many factors that can lead to a slow leak (valve stem, wheel imperfections, etc.). On my bikes I go looking for problems any time I notice a loss of 2 PSI over a week. Keep in mind that temperature will affect the pressure reading. You should always try to record tire pressure at consistent temperatures. Refer to Photo B.
Tread Depth: Some tires have wear indicators embedded into the tread. Once a tire wears flush to these indicators there is 1mm of tread remaining. Personally, I don’t like to wait until my tires are at the wear bar. A very inexpensive tread depth gauge can be purchased at any auto parts house. Having one of these tools will allow you to get an accurate measurement of your tread any time you wish. I prefer to measure my tread every 500 miles. Once my tread is at 1/16” (1.58 mm), I’m taking my girl shoe shopping. Refer to photo C.
Overall Condition: Check for cracking, blistering, flat spots, punctures and cupping. If any of these conditions are present, you should consider replacing the tire. Refer to Photo D.
If you are unable to perform your own inspection that is ok. Many independent shops and dealership service departments will do it for you at little to no charge. Either way, just make sure your tires get adequately inspected every now and then.
Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat
-Justin James (follow more of my Tinker shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)