Besides the occasional touchdown with your right or left foot, your motorcycle tyres are the only point of contact between the road and your machine. With this in mind, it’s vital that you choose a set of tyres that best reflect your bike and your style of riding. And this of course varies greatly with each and every one of us.
Fitting your bike with the perfect tyres will completely transform your riding experience, resulting in improved safety, handling and performance. Below, we’ll look at the different categories of tyres to help you decide which one is most suited to you.
Track/slick tyres are for high-performance riding and are designed specifically for shredding it on a track. The tyres are designed with treadless or nearly-treadless rubber, which is perfect when you’re dropping your bike into corners in the sunshine, but your ride could become pretty lethal with just the tiniest drop of rain.
These tyres allow riders to gracefully carve up corners thanks to their high crown and arch which allows them to flip side to side with ease. But with this high-performance, stability is compromised, which is why manufacturers recommend – and the authorities insist – that they’re kept solely for track riding.
Choosing the right off-road tyre for your bike completely depends on your street/off-road balance. Generally speaking, off-road tyres have deep, knobbly treads that allow for optimum grip and the expulsion of dirt when riding across off-road surfaces such as sand, gravel and mud. Because they are designed to cope with uneven terrain, off-road tyres are much more unstable on flat road surfaces.
If you ride 100% off-road, then your choice is relatively simple, although there are still plenty of options in the 100% off-road market. However, when you ride both, you need to make sure you have a tyre that suits both riding styles. Manufacturers regularly display off-road tyres with a percentage marking – i.e. 40% off-road, 60% street. The main difference in off-road tyre variants is the tread. If you’re primarily riding off-road, you’ll want tyres with deep, spaced lugs, whereas road riding will require tyres with shallow and tightly-packed lugs.
This is also the only category where tubeless tyres are still relatively popular. The ease that a tubeless tyre can be repaired in the event of a puncture in comparison to a tubed tyre, and the remote and puncture-inducing terrain over which these tyres are often used, makes them an obvious choice.
For the majority of us, a set of decent street tyres is all we need. There are, of course, different types of street tyres which depend on your riding style, and they cover all types of bike, from cruisers and tourers to sport tourers and super sport. Large tourer and cruiser street tyres are generally formed from harder compounds and may employ bias carcass construction to ensure a stiff tyre wall to carry the weight. A radial carcass might be used instead to provide a more comfortable ride but at the expense of some of that rigidity. Tyres for tourers use compounds that offer better grip at lower temperatures, which makes them suitable for riding in all weather conditions.
On the other hand, when you start adding the word ‘sport’ into the mix, things start to change. Tyres for sport tourers and sport bikes offer higher speed and better cornering performance but, with the use of softer compounds, are usually shorter lived. Sport touring tyres are perfect for longer distance touring and are at their best when hitting straights. Sport street tyres are suitable for the more aggressive riders that enjoy carving up corners as they provide great traction.