Motorcycle tires don’t last forever, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out, but they can also last a lot longer in storage than you might think.
How long do motorcycle tires last? There are a lot of variables in play but as a general guide you should expect to get 3700 miles from the front tire and 1800 from the rear tire or 5 years from the manufacturing date, whichever comes first.
A common myth is that a motorcycle tire will go stale and be of no use after a set amount of time. Well that isn’t strictly true, providing they are stored appropriately in the right conditions.
We will get into all that plus how many miles you can expect out of your tires and more in this article, let’s get to it.
How Often Should You Replace Motorcycle Tires?
It isn’t easy to guess how often your motorcycle tires will need replacing, there are so many factors involved that change the tires lifespan including storage conditions, mileage, weather conditions, riding style, speed and weight/power of the motorcycle.
The general consensus is somewhere between 5 to 7 years, with anything after 5 years to be closely monitored for any signs of wear and tear.
We will get into how to properly inspect your tires yourself a little later on.
However, certainly after 5 years you should have a professional mechanic check them out to ensure they are safe to ride with.
It is a good idea to service your motorcycle annually anyway with a mechanic and your tires can be checked as part of that process.
If you have had the same set of tires for a few years and are planning a big trip it is worth having them looked at too.
With average use, 5 years is a good lifespan to set your tires, that is 5 seasons they will have endured; pushing them too far just isn’t worth the risk that riding with worn/aging tires carries.
If you are riding every day, commuting to work, or taking big touring trips regularly then you need to factor this into your tires lifespan, they will need replacing sooner and will show the signs of age and wear to indicate this.
Do Motorcycle Tires Have A Use By Date?
Yes but not officially and it isn’t necessarily the be all and end all.
On the sidewall of the tire will be a date of manufacture, following the acronym DOT there will be a series of numbers but the ones that apply are the last 4 digits in the series.
This four digit number tells you the age of the tire. The first 2 tell you the week they were produced and the second 2 tell you the year, for example ‘2520’.
This would convert the date of manufacture to the 25th week of 2020.
If your tire is a year or two old and you are buying from a reputable dealer then you have nothing to worry about, the tires will have been stored sufficiently and won’t have started to age.
Motorcycle tire manufacturers generally agree that 5 years is a reasonable expiration date.
How Long Do Motorcycle Tires Last in Storage?
The problem is that the rubber components used for the tires deteriorate over time, the speed of this increases with use and when exposed to the elements like water and the sun.
When exposed to the elements, the rubber compounds oxidize and this causes the tires to harden, making them brittle and unsuitable for riding.
If your motorcycle tires are stored in a dry cool space away from any detrimental weather then they will last a little longer until they are put to use and start to expire more quickly.
However, if the date of manufacture on your tires states they are around 3 years old, then you should take this into account when you do fit them, tire replacement is likely to be well before you have had a full 5 year riding lifespan out of them.
So the date of manufacture and 5 year recommendation for replacements should be taken into account whether your tires have been stored or used, using the two pieces of information together as well as diligently inspecting your tires will keep you safe.
Should You Always Replace Both Tires?
No. You do not always need to replace both motorcycle tires, as they function differently and will wear out at different times.
The rear motorcycle tire actually wears out quicker than the front, so you will find that needs changing on a more regular basis.
The two occasions where you may want to replace both tires at the same time are the following:
- You have bought a new motorcycle and the date stamp on the tires states they are 5 years old. While you may get some miles out of them, in this instance it is worth changing both tires together.
- If you change to a new brand of tire, having two matching tires from the same brand will ensure your handling isn’t compromised.
How Many Miles Do Motorcycle Tires Last?
There are many variables that will affect how many miles tires will run for before needing to be replaced.
The average number that many agree on is the front tire lasting 3,700 miles while the rear will do 1,800.
However, these figures should be taken as a guide only.
The type of bike you ride, the size of the bike, road surfaces all affect how quickly a tire will wear down.
Out on smooth highways for hundreds of miles will impact your tires differently than if you mainly thunder around on dirt and gravel roads.
Tire pressures can also affect the mileage you will get, being just slightly high or low on your pressures may cause your tires to suffer.
The type of motorcycle you ride has an impact on the longevity of the tires that it is equipped with.
Cruiser and touring tires are built to withstand heavy weight and endure high mileage; they tend to be thicker, wider and generally more beefed up.
Sportsbike tires on the other hand optimize the way the motorcycle handles and steers, everything is about precision and speed, so longevity isn’t a priority.
How to Read Motorcycle Sizes
So you have come to the time where you are going to replace your tires, what size do you need?
Well, fortunately the sidewalls of your current set of tires will have all the information you need to figure that out.
Michelin has a great guide on how to read the information on your tires, be sure to take a look here.
You will likely see some numbers formatted like the following:
120/70 12-51 S
- 120 indicates the width of the tyre (in millimeters)
- 70 indicates the aspect ratio (between height and width
- 12 is the rim size (in inches
- 51 refers to the speed rating
- S refers to the type of construction
Once you have this information you will be able to search for the correct size replacement tires across different manufacturers.
Many will have the facility for you to just enter your motorcycle model and year which will in turn give you potential tire options.
Inspecting a Motorcycle Tire
Knowing how to properly inspect your tires is priceless knowledge that will help keep you safe and your motorcycle in the best condition.
Here we have broken down in sections some of the key things to check and how to do so.
Tire tread is what will keep you glued to the ground and push away any water, in the process.
Good grip is essential for safe motorcycling, and tread is what gives you that grip. Therefore if your tread wears down too much, your tires are then unsafe and dangerous to ride with.
6-8mm of tread is considered to be a good amount.
Most countries will have a legal tread limit that tires are not allowed to go below as this would be considered unsafe, be sure to check your Government’s transport website for details.
Tread patterns can become uneven when you ride, if you log a lot of highway miles on the straight you may find your rear tire gets flattened off and this can make cornering feel a bit lumpy.
You want your tires to maintain the shape they had when you first got them, if you find they are misshapen then it is time to replace them.
Unlike with a car, external defects on motorcycle tires can be pretty easy to spot. If there is a bulge or a crevice in the tire wall or even the tread pattern, then this runs the risk of the tire being unfit for purpose.
If you run your hand around the tire you can usually feel if something doesn’t seem quite right or in keeping with the shape of the rest of the tire.
When out on your motorcycle you may notice some vibrating, pulsating or your handling might be off forcing you to one side or the other, this could be down to your tires having a defect and you should head to a mechanic to have them check it out.
As we have covered, the general rule is 5 years from the date of manufacture, with some exceptions to this.
If you stay on top of your tire inspections then you can safely extend this time period.
The sun is your tires enemy, and when it shines on the rubber it can cause cracks down the sidewalls.
Once you start noticing cracks, it is time for the professionals to take a look and likely time to replace the tires.
Loss of Tire Pressure
When riding you may notice that your tires keep deflating, you will feel it in the way the bike handles.
However, checking your pressures regularly is good practice regardless and you can keep on top of it then.
If there are no punctures then it may mean the bead has worn and it is time to replace the tire.
Keep on top of your tire pressures, make sure that you are not over-inflating them or under-inflating as both are damaging in the long run and can change the way your motorcycle runs.
I have the recommended tire pressure wrote on my shed wall so I see it every time I wheel the bike out to remind me to check.
You should always check for any cuts or punctures on your tires, as they can lead to the tire blowing out, the consequences of which can be pretty bad.
Some punctures can be repaired, but it should be noted you had a puncture in that tire, as you should consider replacing the tire sooner than you would without having had a puncture.
As you have learned, there just isn’t a simple answer as to how long motorcycle tires last.
It all comes down to tire maintenance, staying on top of your inspections and using common sense to acknowledge the way you ride and the mileage you cover along with the manufacturing date.
If you take care of your tires like you do the rest of your bike, then they will take care of you.