As your trusty Harley sits in the garage waiting for a warm spell to goad you into venturing out and having some fun, have you given any thought to the tires on your bike? I don't mean just having a look at the tread, but actually going out into the garage and taking a serious look at your tires? There's more to learn than you might imagine.
Tires are the most important item on your bike. Period. It’s not the chrome, the pipes, or the sound system. None of those items will leave you stranded on a dark, lonely road but your tires will, if you don't take care of them. Let's discuss some specifics of tires.
Motorcycle tires, when new, have a nice rounded arc to them. That way, when you lean over in a turn you've got roughly the same contact patch between tire and road as you do when you're straight up and down. Most of the miles we put on our bikes are done riding straight up. The center of the tire, especially the rear tire, tends to square off and become almost like a car tire in that there is no longer an arc. Now when you lean over in a curve, the tire is up on a corner edge (think of a 90-degree corner) and your bike gets a little wiggly and may wallow a bit in the corner. The flatter the middle of your tire is, the worse this phenomenon will become. I've seen tires in the past that were almost bald in the very center but had lots of tread on the edges.
Another issue when tires get worn in the center is the sipes (the cut-outs in the tread). They are essentially gone, thereby reducing the ability to channel water out from under the tire. When you hit wet pavement, especially if it rains rather hard, you're really raising your chances of hydroplaning on the liquid. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires aren't actually touching the road but riding on a very thin layer of water. This is very dangerous.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Consider installing a TPMS to monitor real time air pressure in your motorcycle tires. Maintaing correct air pressure in your tires at all times is good for your overall riding experience and increases the tire life. Over or under inflated tires will cause your motorcycle to handle and break poorly. Make sure you pick a quality product based on your riding style, conditions and motorcycle category. A bad or cheaply built TPMS can display wrong tire pressure and if used incorrectly can malfunction.
Having tires with a nice round contour to them, adequate sipe-depth and a reliable TPMS is essential to having a fun, safe ride. Now that you know how important tires are to your safety, don't you think you should consider replacing them prior to riding season? Schedule an appointment with the service department at your local dealership or bike shop and get some new shoes for your baby. Don't skimp on the most important thing on your bike. The tires are the place where the rubber, literally, meets the road.
Guest post by Stan Simmerson
Raleigh HOG Safety Officer