Tire pressure is important for any wheeled vehicle, but it’s especially critical for a motorcycle. That’s because you only have two points of contact with the road. If one of your tires loses grip or has a blowout, you’re left with one wheel — and the results are usually scary.
It’s not just those who race their motorcycles at the track who need to be concerned with proper tire pressure, either. Highway, street, and even low-speed riding in town is safer and more fun when you have your tires inflated properly for the type of riding you do.
At Design Corse, our customers aren’t just casual motorcycle fans. They are a serious bunch of Ducati and MV Agusta performance junkies who want to get the most out of their bikes. A big component of the acceleration, handling and braking of your motorcycle comes down to your tire pressure — of course, you need to start with the right tires that are adapted to where and how you do your riding. There are tires designed for maximum grip at the track, comfort for long distance riding or optimal city and street riding.
Once you have your tires, it’s time to focus on your motorcycle’s tire pressure.
Small Tire Pressure Adjustments Can Make All the Difference
With most cars, you set the tire pressure and leave it at that. It’s important to check once in a while, but few people adjust their car’s tire pressure for different seasons or driving conditions. This isn’t the case with motorcycles. You need to constantly check your front and rear tire pressures for safety, but you should also adjust the pressure for varying temperatures, road and track surfaces and adherence requirements.
The reason for this is that as you ride, friction of your tires on the road create heat and expand the air inside. This increases your tire pressure. If you have over-inflated your tires when they are cold, they will become even more inflated once they heat up. This greatly affects the adherence and stability of a motorcycle tire because when over-inflated, you’re reducing the width of the contact strip. The contact strip around your tires’ circumference is all that keeps you connected to the road or track, so it needs to be optimized.
In the same respect, under-inflating your tires can be a problem, too. Taken to the extreme, under-inflated motorcycle tires get soft and unstable and could even allow the tire to pull off the rim. The result is at the very least a ruined tire and rim, but there could also be a nasty fall and damage to you and your motorcycle. Underinflated tires also create more heat because of the additional rubber-on-road friction and will wear out faster.
Setting the Right Tire Pressure
Always start by checking the tire pressure recommendations from the manufacturer. Top motorcycle tire manufacturers put a lot of design, engineering and testing into their tires, and they know what they’re talking about. If you aren’t pushing your machine to the limits, simply following the manufacturer set tire pressures is the way to go. One thing to keep in mind, though, is there are often different pressure recommendations for hot and cool weather.
If you’re interested in maximizing your motorcycle tire pressures for your riding style and environmental conditions, follow these guidelines:
A slightly lower tire pressure (several psi below the suggested pressure) allows the tire to spread more, increasing the width of the contact patch and providing extra grip.
A slightly higher tire pressure (several psi above the suggested limit) will create a harder-riding tire that some find suitable for longer distances or when carrying extra weight (like a passenger).
It is never a good idea to exceed the tire pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire. This is different from the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. The sidewall maximum pressure is the absolute limit that should not be exceeded for safety and wear reasons. The recommended pressure will always be lower than this maximum value, which gives you a little leeway to optimize your pressures for your preferences.
Choose a simple tire gauge. It only takes a minute to check your tire pressure, so opt for a simple yet reliable analog gauge. There are many digital motorcycle tire pressure gauges on the market, but their accuracy and durability varies greatly. For us, nothing beats a simple, easy-to-transport dial gauge that won’t let you down because of dead batteries, a broken display or an inaccurate reading.
If there is one thing to remember when it comes to your motorcycle tire pressure, it’s to check often and check cold. You can check when your tires are hot as well, but it’s the cold reading that is the reference point for manufactures’ recommendations and sidewall ratings.
Try adjusting up and down a few psi — without going over the max pressure that’s on the sidewall — and do a few laps or miles to see how your motorcycle responds. This is the best way to find the optimal tire pressures that suit you, your Ducati or MV Agusta and your favorite stretch of road or track!
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