From dirt bikes to cruisers to sports bikes, there’s one thing that they all have in common that determines the ride – motorcycle tire pressure. Regardless of the bike, tires transmit every throttle, steer, and brake input to the ground. While inflating our tires is something we try to stay on top of, around 50% of all the bikes on the road have underinflated tires. Uninflated/Over inflated tires can cause:
- Poor handling
- Loss of fuel economy
- Poor braking performance
- Excess heat
- Uneven tire wear
- And worse!
The “Right” Motorcycle Tire Pressure
When adjusting to the right tire pressure, following the owner’s manual is important to an extent. Tire pressure is something that should be adjusted depending on your riding conditions. If you are a performance rider on track or in the dirt, the idea of dropping your PSI a few pounds when riding hard isn’t a new concept. It softens the tire, which expands the contact patch and gives a better grip.
Riding with a heavy load means you need to bump up your tire pressure. The difference in your bike with or without fully loaded saddlebags, a hefty rider, or equally hefty passenger can mean a few hundred pounds – this situation also calls for proper adjustment to your motorcycle’s suspension.
Be cautious about not overloading your tires. This can lead to tire failure, which can be catastrophic on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, people do this all too often and it leads to accidents. Keep this in mind – for every 1 PSI a tire is underinflated, it’s carrying capacity drops by about 20 pounds per tire.
- Don’t be afraid to adjust your tire pressure up or down by a few PSI based on riding conditions and load accommodation.
What to Know About Motorcycle Tire Pressure
Tire pressure can be easily adjusted. It’s one of the most crucial parts to your bike, yet the majority of riders are guilty of neglecting it. Even if we check it regularly, you can still skip adjusting it. Tire pressure has a huge effect on the handling of your vehicle, which is why it’s so important. Here are some things to remember about your motorcycle tire pressure.
Check Pressure Regularly
Read your manufacturers guide to know for sure, but most manufacturers suggest checking once a week or even every day. Factors to consider are:
- How often do you ride it?
- In what kind of weather?
- How are you using it?
Most of the time, once a week is fine. If you’re on a long trip with varying road conditions and loads on the bike, you may want to boost it up to even twice a day.
Check Tires When Cold
The suggested pressure that’s listed in your owner’s manual is for cold tire pressures. Heating up your tired by riding on them can increase your tire pressure by 10% or more. The MSF recommends waiting three hours from your last ride before attempting to measure a correct cold pressure. Use your judgement, though – sometimes 20 minutes or more is fine.
Use a High-Quality Gauge
Gauges at the gas stations can sometimes be off by up to 30 PSI. As mentioned, even a variance in a few PSIs can alter your motorcycles handling and braking abilities. Even a high-quality gauge isn’t too expensive.
Worst Case Scenarios
What can happen if your tire is under inflated? The tire could ultimately come off the rim if there isn’t enough pressure to force the bead into the wheel. More than likely, you’ll experience sluggish, unstable handling, and slow steering. These can still damage your wheel, especially riding off-road. Underinflation can lead to things like: poor handling, loss of fuel economy, poor braking performance, excess heat, uneven tire wear.
If it’s over inflated, the size of the contact patch is reduced, and the ride worsens. Too much pressure can cause the tire to overheat and reduce traction. Over inflation is more uncomfortable than hazardous. Both are bad, but underinflation is worse.
Adjusting the PSI
Adjust your PSI based on:
- On-Road: It’s safer to stick to the manufacturer recommended pressures. Even if you spend all day riding and messing around, dropping the pressure will slow down the steering.
- Off-Track: If you’re on road rubber, start your PSI at 30 for front and rear. Monitor the tire wear. They should look scrubbed and, if the sides of the tread begin to marble, reduce the pressures a few PSI.
- Off–Road: While lower pressures mean more traction for off-roading, you could be compromising yourself and the bike. You could cause potential damage to your rims or the pinch flats because the tube is getting “pinched” between the tire and rim. Experiment to see what works for you. Don’t forget to pump them back up when you go back on the road.