OK, I know, checking a motorcycle’s tire pressure is super easy. All you do is take out your handy tire gauge and apply it correctly to the wheel’s valve stem. Well, yes…and no. Tire manufacturers recommend that you check your bike’s air pressure when the rubber is cold – meaning at ambient temperature. If you’ve ridden your bike in the last few hours or have parked it in the sun, where the tires can absorb heat, the pressure will read artificially high.

Tire Pressure Gauge

Be certain that your tire gauge is accurate. Compare it to one at your local shop or tire dealership.

Yes, we know that racers often check tire pressure immediately after they leave the track, but they’re actually using the pressure rise they’re getting out of their tire as a barometer for estimating the tire’s temperature and whether they’re leaving potential traction on the table.

Street riders have different needs. First, the air pressure helps the tire carcass maintain the proper profile, making for predictable handling in the varied environments encountered out in the real world. Second, proper air pressure helps keep the tires from overheating and cooking the life out of the rubber compounds. (A quick FYI, race bikes typically run lower tire pressures than street tires.) Third, your bike will get better gas mileage and longer tire life with proper inflation. Finally, both over- and under-inflated tires are more prone to failure than those using the correct air pressure.

Tire Tread Check

Take the time for a quick scan of your tire treads for possible punctures.

So, before you ride your bike, check the tires’ pressure with an accurate gauge. Also, if you need to move your bike to get the valve stem to an easier place to use the gauge, take advantage of the movement to examine the tire’s tread for any sharp pokie things (a technical term) that could – or may have already – cause(ed) a leak. If it turns out that your tires do need air, an inexpensive bicycle pump can take care of upping the pressure a couple pounds without you even breaking a sweat.

  • Cecil-T

    Definitely keep a close eye on your pressures. More notes:
    – Don’t check your pressure unless you are able to add pressure (have air available)
    – Every time you check it, you will lose a little
    – The longer the hose on your guage the more you will lose when checking. Keep a small guage handy with no hose (digital or even pen-style) to keep the effect to a minimum. The kind of guage shown in the article’s photo is very accurate but will lose some air to pressurize the hose.
    – TPMS is awesome – there are various systems available for any bike (review opportunity?)

  • Nick Laskaris

    How about giving us temperature compensation graph? What is cold – It’s 20C according to BMW who have installed a fancy temperature compensated measuring system on my bike.

  • Todd

    How about how to read the tire and how much to inflate or deflate depending on what the tire recommends? Pretty poor explanation on how to Properly check tire pressure.

    • GrumpyCat

      Ditto. I still don’t know what they were trying to say beyond the obvious, “check your tire pressures.”

  • Rich

    Every time I check the pressure on my touring cruiser rear tire, I curse myself for buying the bike, and the engineers who hide that tiny valve stem so that it only accessible or visible from the rear 20% of the bike and only from the prone position….that’s often as twice a week….

  • BlueStrada

    Great information… We have found that our http://www.WheelJockey.com tools are very helpful in getting the valve stem in the right place and inspecting the tire for debris at the same time. Undiscovered debris riding around in the tire can make for scary surprises when it ‘lets you down’.