Motorcycle tire safety tips

under-inflated motorcycle tire

The number one dangerous condition I have found when servicing customer’s bikes over the years is an under inflated tire!

Can you identify the hazardous condition in the picture to the right? If you did not identify an issue, don’t feel bad - most won’t. This tire was under inflated by more than 50%! The reason this is so dangerous is because it is not visually apparent.

Cracked motorcycle tire sidewall

Tires don’t like excessive heat. Running under inflated generates much more heat and load on the sidewalls. Add gear, a passenger, or a trailer and things get much worse, much quicker. Tire pressure is greatly affected by temperature. As a matter of fact, tire pressure can decrease by 10 pounds overnight if the temperature drops drastically. Plus, tires lose air naturally. Always check your tire pressure even if there was not a temperature drop. Conversely, if the day warms up significantly, you may need to bleed some air out as pressure will increase due to the temperature change and heat generated during your ride.

worn motorcycle tire

Have the tire checked for age (yes, they have a born on date, just like your favorite beer). Due to external conditions, tire composition changes over time. Always do a visual and look for checking and cracking all over the tire. The tire on the right is well past its useful service life due to wear. If you see any adverse conditions, don’t ride it!

Read your owner’s manual, buy a good tire gauge, and check your tires frequently. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself have a tech check them. Most good techs will check your tires at no charge.

Lastly, new tires inspire confidence and allow you to feel more in sync with the twisties, but new tires are slippery at first. Give them time to break in. Cold roads and cold tires are slick too!

Be safe and enjoy your season of riding!


Woody Graves

About the author:
John "Woody" Graves is one of those "been there, done that" motorcycle enthusiasts. Enthusiast is actually an understatement; it’s his passion and way of life. Woody’s passion dates back to 1971 when he started motocross racing. Since then he’s dedicated his life to restoring, fabricating, and repairing motorcycles. Today, Woody owns and operates his own motorcycle shop in Waukesha, WI. He’s also still racing and a promoter of the Midwest Vintage MX series. With five decades of experience working on his own bikes, building race bikes, and servicing customer’s bikes, he has the knowledge to help you enjoy your ride and stay safe on the road.

This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.
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