Best Motorcycle Tires
There's more to tires than being black and round
Once upon a time, many generations ago, motorcycle tires were in limited supply. You wanted them black, round, and capable of holding air. Well, the technology has changed to the point that there is no universal best motorcycle tire. Rather, the motorcycle tire industry developed the capability to create carcasses and tread compounds to handle very specific conditions. Hence, we have the fragmentation of the motorcycle tire market. Let’s take a look at the differing categories, but if you want to jump straight ahead to your type of motorcycle, click on the link at the top of each section.
Cruisers are long, low, and heavy and need tires that can handle that weight. Naturally, cruising riders value stability and are not looking for lightning-quick turn in. Instead, they’re looking to harness the low-end torque off the line – frequently from a large, wide swath of rubber. Although cruising riders hate to get their shiny bikes dirty, wet road grip is extremely important. The look of the tread is extremely important to cruiser owners, too. It needs to look tough, wear like steel, and help out the often travel-limited rear suspension in absorbing bumps. Finally, no class of motorcycles has a wider variety of sizes. How does a 27-inch front wheel sound? Or how about pairing a 300-series rear tire with one of those huge fronts? Click here to find some of the best cruiser tires.
Touring tires often have to handle big, heavy (well-packed) motorcycles over the long haul with two adults along for the ride. Then add in high speeds straight up and down on the interstate for hundreds of miles without stopping. Oh, and these riders typically don’t let rain slow them down, either. As if that weren’t enough, touring bikes like the Honda Gold Wing Tour and the BMW K1600GTL have pretty remarkable cornering abilities. Sounds like a challenging type of tire to us, but the tire manufacturers have delivered tires that resist wear while still providing tons of grip. Along the way, they don’t interact with rain grooves. Learn more about the best touring tires here.
Sport-touring riders make tremendous demands from their tires. First, they want them to handle like a sport tire, with quick steering and high amounts of grip. Then they insist that the tires be capable of surviving long stints of interstate cruising without squaring off. Additionally, like touring tires, sport-touring tires need to provide exceptional rain handling. Because of their near-universal capabilities, sport-touring tires also make a great choice for daily riders who rack up the urban mileage but still like to get out of town on the weekends. Sport-touring tires are probably the most commonly bought tires by street bike riders. To make your decision easier, we’ve outlined a selection of the best sport-touring tires here.
The current generation of sportbike tires brings cornering performance that would have been expected from racing rubber not too long ago. A sportbike tire needs to be able to handle the output of 200-hp hypersports while still warming up quickly to give street riders the cornering grip they crave. Additionally, quick steering is a hallmark of sport riding, and sportbike tires frequently get used on track days where riders expect grip at maximum lean while still providing stability under high-speed acceleration and deceleration. While they clearly favor grip over longevity, sportbike tires have made great strides in recent years as far as getting useful street mileage out of a set. If you live for the canyons and the track, these are the tires for you. Find what we think are the best sportbike tires here.
With adventure bikes growing in popularity, adventure tires have been undergoing a bit of a renaissance in recent years. The jobs that owners of adventure bikes expect them to handle vary widely, and the types of tires, naturally, fall into two subcategories. Many adventure bikes never turn a wheel off of pavement – save for maybe the occasional trip down a dirt road to a campground. That’s okay, the tire manufacturers have these riders covered with tires which have compounds closely resembling their sport-touring counterparts but, in this case, they are mated to a blockier tread design for fire road use. Then there are the hardy souls who take their fully-loaded, 800-pound adventure bike out to the middle of nowhere, following single track. These bikes are supported by tires that look more like straight-up dirt tires than street tires, think the famed Continental TKC80. Click here to learn more about the best adventure motorcycle tires.
While we don’t have a specific buyer’s guide for dirtbike tires (UPDATE: Check the link above for the all-new dirtbike tire guide), people who like to do it in the dirt know that off-road surfaces come in a variety of forms, from sand and rock, to loam and slop. Consequently, the tire manufacturers have created tires with characteristics designed to acquaint them to a specific kind of terra. Here you’ll find different carcass constructions, tire compounds, and knob configurations. While there are only a few wheel sizes for most full-sized dirtbikes, the differences in use and terrain make for a dizzying amount of options for those in the market.
Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.
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