Motorcycle Tires Buying Guide

Is it time to buy new motorcycle tires? How do you even know when you need new tires? Unless you’re a pro racer who gets a fresh set of tires after every single race, you need to be aware of when it’s time to swap out your tires, and what you’re looking for in a new set of tires.

Many riders ignore the signals that their bike needs new tires. This is dangerous because the tires are the most important piece of equipment on your motorcycle, and the only thing standing between you and the asphalt (or track, or mud), so you want quality, and you want safety.

When is it Time for New Motorcycle Tires?

If you pay attention to the signals, you’ll be able to tell when it’s time for new tires. If the back end of your bike feels a little looser than normal, or something just doesn’t feel quite right, your first step is to check tread depth. Especially when riding in wet conditions, proper tread depth on your motorcycle tires is going to make the difference between a safe ride and a dangerous situation. You can visually inspect your tires to see if the tread is worn down to the built-in wear bars. If this is the case, there is only 1/32 inches of tread remaining, and your tires need to be replaced. Another easy way to test tread depth is to insert a penny into a groove in the center of your tire. You’re looking for 2/32 of an inch in tread depth, which is the distance from the edge of the penny to the top of Lincoln’s head. If your tread depth is less than that, it’s time to go tire shopping.

What Type of Tires to Choose?

First, determine the size of tires you have on your bike. The owner’s manual should specify the tire size, whether they are radial or bias construction, tube-type or tubeless, the load range, and speed index. Did you know you can also find out most of this information by looking on the tire itself? The diagrams below will explain more.

How to read a tire

Motorcycle tire sidewall

Size Types

Motorcycle tire sizing
Source: Avon Tires

Motorcycle Speed Ratings

Speed Symbol Max Speed Speed Symbol Max Speed Speed Symbol Max Speed
J 62 mph K 68 mph L 75 mph
M 81 mph N 87 mph P 93 mph
Q 99 mph R 106 mph S 112 mph
T 118 mph U 124 mph H 130 mph
V 149 mph W 168 mph Y 186 mph

Load Indexes (L.I.)

L.I. lbs.
33 254
34 260
36 276
37 282
38 291
39 300
40 309
41 320
42 331
43 342
44 353
45 364
46 375
47 386
48 397
L.I. lbs.
49 408
50 419
52 441
53 454
54 467
55 481
56 494
57 507
58 520
59 536
60 551
61 567
62 584
63 600
64 617
L.I. lbs.
65 639
66 661
68 694
69 716
70 739
71 761
72 783
73 805
74 827
75 853
76 882
77 908
78 937
79 963
80 992

After you’ve determined the size of your tires, you’ll want to figure out what type of rider you are. OEM tires are designed to perform in the normal, safe way that you’re used to with the factory tires on your bike. If you need specialized tires, keep these tips in mind:

Street tires have a wider profile, allowing for more contact with the road. All street-legal (DOT-Approved) motorcycle tires are speed rated for any posted speed limit nationwide. For a popular street tire, check out the Dunlop Sportmax Q2 or the Avon VPT Xtreme Super Sport.

If you’re interested in a racing tire, these have more of a triangular profile, for enhanced cornering capabilities. For great racing tires, check out the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC or the Michelin Power One 2CT.

Off-road tires are obviously going to have a much more aggressive tread, meaning you’ll want to keep them at a higher tread depth than 1/32 inch. For off-roading, try a Cheng Shin C755.

Check out our store for OEM replacement tires, racing tires, off-road tires, and more from top brands like Avon, Maxxis, and Dunlop. If you need our expert advice in choosing your new motorcycle tires, give us a call at 888-326-7801 and we’d be happy to assist you.


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