What’s the Difference between Front & Rear Motorcycle Tires?

Unlike car tires, motorcycle tires actually need to be different for the front and the rear of the bike. Front and rear motorcycle tires are specially engineered to accomplish specific goals depending on the location of the tire and its purpose in your bike’s overall performance.

Rear motorcycle tires are responsible for certain bike functions, such as:
  • Power The rear tire has a flatter profile, to provide the majority of the acceleration and stability for your bike, and wouldn’t handle as well if put on the front.
  • Weight The rear tire carries the majority of the weight of the bike, calling for special design elements to keep you upright & safe at all times.
  • Lean Since the rear tire does not turn, it is subject to the lean of the motorcycle. This requires a sturdier tire with a flatter profile to accommodate this requirement.

Front motorcycle tires have specific characteristics, as well as limitations, including:
  • Braking The front tire provides up to 80% of the braking power for your motorcycle. It’s shaped to provide this, rather than acceleration like the rear tire
  • Turning The most obvious function of the front tire is turning right & left. A front tire is more triangular shaped for better handling. You would notice this if you were to try to put a rear tire on the front, as they aren’t shaped for turning and you’d have a hard time turning your bike properly.
  • Tread Because the front tire’s main purpose is braking, the tread isn’t going to be as thick. This would become very obvious if you were to run a front tire on the rear of your motorcycle. You would notice that the tread would wear down very quickly due to the thinner tread on a front-specific tire.

To compare the characteristics of a front versus a rear tire, take a look at this side-by-side picture of the Shinko 230 Tour Master front and rear motorcycle tires. You can also tell a very distinct difference in size, shape, and overall design in the Avon Storm 2 Ultra. If you take a look at the Metzeler Sportec M-3front tire versus the rear, you’ll see that they even have distinctly different treads for their specialized jobs.

It is also very important that your tires be mounted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for rotation direction. There is an arrow on the sidewall of each tire, indicating the proper direction of rotation. This is just as important as purchasing the correct front and rear tires, because the tires are shaped and weighted in accordance with the recommended rotation direction. It may be tempting to run a tire backward, but your tire will not only wear unevenly, your bike will not perform at its best if you are running a tire backward. The only exception to this rule is if a tire includes both directional arrows and is specifically marked as a dual-rotation tire.

Even though there is a price difference between a front and rear tire, and you may be tempted to put two front tires on your bike, you’ll want to take into consideration all of the special features that front motorcycle tires have versus rear motorcycle tires. If you have any questions at all about the specs of a front tire versus a rear, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 888-326-7801 and we’d be happy to offer our expert advice. As always, orders over $99.99 ship for free and orders placed by 3 pm CST ship the same day!


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