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Should You Replace Both Motorcycle Tires At The Same Time?

The normal line of thought is that if one motorcycle tire needs replacing, then so does the other, which does seem rational on the surface of it. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or you just bought your first bike, you might be wondering if you should replace both motorcycle tires at the same time.

You should not replace both motorcycle tires at the same time because they do not wear out at the same pace. Invariably, the rear motorcycle tire wears out much faster and creates the mistaken assumption that the front tire is equally worn out and needs replacement.

Replacing both motorcycle tires at the same time is usually a waste of money, as the front tire normally still has life left in it. Below, we take a look at the easy ways to find out if a motorcycle tire is worn and how to tell when it needs to be replaced.

Do Front And Rear Motorcycle Tires Wear Out At The Same Rate?

Front and rear motorcycle tires do not wear out at the same rate because most of the weight of the motorcycle and rider is carried by the rear tire. The power output from the engine is connected to the rear wheel. Both of these factors combine to wear down the rear tire faster than the front.

In comparison, the front tire does not carry as much weight, which leads to more durability as it wears down more slowly. It often needs to be replaced after two rear tire changes, meaning that it wears down half as fast. Motorcycle manufacturers ship bikes from the factory with different types of tires and sometimes different brands.

The normal street bike ships with a radial front tire, which provides excellent traction and lasts a long time as long as the rider takes care of it. The rear wheel usually has an all-weather tire that can be used in most conditions and provides traction with durability. Both tires have different treads, will take different loads, and they are going to wear down at different rates.

Do You Need To Replace Both Motorcycle Tires At The Same Time?

You do not need to replace both motorcycle tires at the same time. A quick visual inspection of both tires will reveal if a tire is worn out or if it still has life in it. The chances are high that even if the rear tire is worn out, the front tire still has some tread left on it.

Any cuts or cracks in the rubber indicate that the tire needs to be changed. If the motorcycle has not been used for a long time and the tires are more than five years old, then both tires need to be changed, even if they are not worn out, as they are likely to have lost traction. Rubber does deteriorate over time, affecting the steering and braking as well. 

KEY POINTS

• Your motorcycle’s tires are unlikely to wear out at the same rate

• This is because the rear tire has more weight on it and it’s where the power from the engine goes

• This means you normally won’t have to replace both motorcycle tires at the same time

How To Know When To Replace Your Motorcycle Tires

Tire manufacturers recommend that a tire needs to be replaced if it is over 5 years old. The tire may not exhibit any external signs of deterioration, but it likely doesn’t provide as much grip on the road as when it was new. Generally, a close visual inspection of the tire will reveal if it needs to be replaced. Cracks in the tire or the sidewall are a clear indication that the rubber has hardened.

If you see cracks, you can be sure that the tire isn’t going to provide the same grip that it used to and needs to be replaced. Of course, the most common tell-tale sign of a tire needing replacement is when it is bald or when the tread has become so thin that it is difficult to see. Tires have a date printed on the sidewall as a four-digit number that shows the month and year it was made.

Tires come with a tread wear indicator (TWI) printed within the tire grooves. When the tread wears down to the level of the TWI letters, it means that the tire needs to be replaced. Other symptoms of worn tires are increased braking distance and skidding on sudden braking. 

NOTE: Any bulges in the sidewall are a sign that something is wrong and can result in a tire blowout – change these tires immediately.

Tread wear can also be visually spotted by inspecting the tire surface. If the tread thickness is 1/16th inch (1.6 mm) or less, it needs to be changed as soon as possible. Uneven tire wear or excessive wear on one side of the tire can happen when the bike suspension is faulty, or the wheel is not correctly balanced.

How To Keep Your Tires Good Even If You Ride On Bad Roads

Tires that are looked after do not need to be replaced as frequently, which can result in saving a good amount of money over time. If you are using your bike regularly on bad roads, your tires will accumulate small gravel pieces that get stuck between the treads. The small stones do no harm to the tire but can create uneven tire wear patterns and affect tire traction.

Every few days, take some time to inspect the tire condition and remove these stones by levering them out with a small screwdriver or hard stick. Some of the larger stones will get embedded deeply and are difficult to remove. If left as they are, they can even make a small hole in the tire as it gets pressed deeper into the rubber during the course of regular travel.

Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is an important component of riding safely. An under-inflated tire does not have the same traction and wears down faster because of the increased surface area in contact with the road. Over-inflating your tires causes a loss of traction with a difference in handling, while the center portion of the tire will also wear faster. 

Ensure that the tire pressure is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications by performing regular pressure checks for optimal performance and to prevent excessive wear. The wrong tire pressure can affect the bike’s handling and increase the braking distance. Tubeless tires don’t need pressure checks but have their own set of problems that are detailed in the next section.

Replace your motorcycle tires when:

  • You notice bulges in the sidewalls
  • The tread is less than 1/16th of an inch (1.6 mm)
  • You see cracks or other form of damage to the tire
  • The tire is more than 5 years old

Types Of Motorcycle Tires

Tubeless Tires

Tubeless tires have become very popular and common as they offer a number of advantages. The constant need to check tire pressure is removed, and the risk of a flat tire is greatly reduced, although it is still there. The tire uses liquid sealant to keep the tire fixed to the rim. The tires are more expensive and need a tubeless-ready rim.

The big plus point of these tires is that they are puncture resistant as the liquid sealant seals any holes in the tire caused by a nail or pointed object while the bike is still moving. Even though these tires require less pressure, they are more comfortable with improved traction on any surface, including mud, snow, and wet roads.

Tubeless tires have become popular very fast and are now the default tire used on many street bikes as they are fitted before being shipped from the factory.

Tubular Tires

Tubular tires are glued to the rim of the wheel so that the need for a tube is removed. These tires are more puncture resistant than others as there is no tube and the chance of a hole developing in the much thicker tire is small. They are not as good as tubeless tires but have the same advantage in that the correct tire pressure is inbuilt.

These tires are lighter and preferred for racing but are equally good for the weekend rider on a sports bike. In the event of a puncture, they are difficult to repair, but they provide excellent grip on most surfaces, making them the second best choice after tubeless tires for racing.

Clincher Tires

Clincher tires use a tube with a casing fitted inside the tire. The tube sits between the tire and rim, and air is pumped into it. Pressure is still a concern, and they are more prone to puncture, but they still remain the most popular tire in use. If a puncture occurs, the repair is simple, and if necessary, the tube can be replaced.

The tubes are cheap, and maintenance is easy, making them a good choice for weekend riders. The drawback of tube pressure still exists though with the necessity of constant pressure checks.

Dirt Bike Tires

Dirt bike tires are designed for use on dirt roads or mountain trails. They have distinctive thick treads to maintain their grip on slippery surfaces. As they are also tubeless tires, they have the same benefits, with the added advantage of being wider than normal tires. Their tread thickness gives them added protection against punctures but they’re slow on normal roads.

Final Thoughts

You do not have to replace both motorcycle tires at the same time, as the rear tire will often need to be replaced sooner than the front tire. This is due to the uneven wear that occurs, with the rear tires taking the bulk of the damage, while the front tires only need to be replaced half as often.