Where Rubber Meets The Road
One thing motorcycle enthusiasts love to do is customize their ride…
The motorcycle customization market has exploded in recent years, as newer generations of riders don’t want to ride a bike that blends in to the crowd, they want a bike that stands out and shows their individuality. When it comes to customization the options are endless, from simple bolt-on enhancements to custom pieces that require an almost complete overhaul of the bike.
But what about when it comes to the tires?
When it comes to motorcycle tires, manufacturers put a lot of thought behind what size tire gets ultimately put on the bike, as well as what material it’s made of. Unlike experimenting with different tire sizes on a car or truck, deviating from stock size tires on a motorcycle can have a wide range of consequences. The slightest deviation from OEM tires can have small effects, from bad gas mileage or excessive tire wear, to big ones like injury or even death.
You might be wondering at this point, well why is it so different?
When manufacturers decide to equip a bike with a certain size tire, they carefully consider the capabilities of the bike along with weight and other factors. The top considerations being acceleration, cornering grip and clearance. Motorcycle tires need clearance in many dimensions. A tire that is too wide can rub a swingarm, chain, or other parts. A tire that is too large in circumference will change gearing ratios and speedometer readouts, and can also contact fenders or swingarms.
Changing tire sizes will affect ‘unsprung’ weight.
Unsprung weight refers to the components of a motorcycle that are not supported by the suspension system. The brakes, wheels, and tires make up the ‘unsprung’ weight, and any changes to these will affect handling and cornering abilities, for better or worse. Even if there is tight clearance when mounting a tire, keep in mind it can still cause problems as tires “grow” when they pick up speed. Temperature and gravitational forces can cause a spinning tire to be measurably bigger than one at rest.
As long as you stick to the stock size tire that your motorcycle was designed to use, you’re good to go.
That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment at all, as the same size tire can be made of different materials. Depending on your motorcycle, you may still have a choice of sport tires, designed to provide maximum grip at the expense of tread life, touring tires designed for maximum mileage, or sport-touring tires that strive to provide the best of both. For adventure bikes, you can choose between tires that are intended as 80-20 (80 percent street use, 20 percent off road) or 60-40 or whatever combination suits your needs. The main thing to remember though, is when out on the road, safety is king. To ensure a smooth and safe ride, stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations and use stock size tires for replacements.