Best Motorcycle Tires: Great Choices for the Best Handling and Performance
These top motorcycle tires are essential for safe, performance-driven riding
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PUBLISHED ON July 22, 2019
Tires are one of the most critical elements on a motorcycle. They provide grip and comfort and heavily contribute to the overall performance of your bike. With the wrong tires, not only will your ride be less pleasant, but it can also be unsafe. This buying guide will help you find the best motorcycle tires on the market for your riding style.
- Best OverallDunlop American Elite Front Motorcycle TiresSummarySummaryThese are replacement tires for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They have a long-wearing compound in the center of the tread and a lateral-grip compound in each shoulder.ProsProsThis tire is grippy, handles and wears well in both rain or shine, and provides both a smooth ride and great traction.ConsConsThe tire may be narrower than the original Dunlop tires on your bike. They're made only for Harley-Davidsons, and in very rare instances, may have a weak spot.
- Best ValueMichelin Pilot Power 2CT Motorcycle TireSummarySummaryThis tire is for sport bikers who ride both on the road and the track. A 20 percent rubber mix on the edges of the tread provides enhanced cornering grip.ProsProsThis tire gives you the confidence to make turns at steeper lean angles. It makes your bike feel lighter, transitions very well and lasts longer than some other brands.ConsConsThis tire may not perform as well when braking on bumpy surfaces and in quick transitions. It may also turn slower than other track tires.
- Honorable MentionPirelli Diablo Rosso III TiresSummarySummaryPirelli Diablo Rosso III tires are for sport riding and have a racing profile designed for agile response and quick turn-in and transitions.ProsProsThese tires are quick and precise in turns and make the bike feel nimble. They are incredibly stable at a high lean angle and handle well at high speeds.ConsConsThe tires are a little slippery until they're broken in, and they may only last a few thousand miles. They may also not be suitable for all-year riding in certain climates.
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Benefits of Motorcycle Tires
- Safety: Riding a motorcycle with worn-out, cracked, or defective tires can be very dangerous. They're susceptible to failure, which can result in deadly consequences for you and your passenger.
- Performance: When you buy a motorcycle, you may not get the best motorcycle tire brand or even a tire model with performance in mind. Regardless of your riding style, you’ll want the best tires that will efficiently and effectively get you where you need to go.
Types of Motorcycle Tires
If you ride a sportbike, you need a tire that's agile and super grippy but also street legal (so racing slicks are not an option). The best sportbike tires for the street are typically radial in construction for better heat dissipation. They have a wide tread pattern and are low profile, making them ideal for tight handling.
If you frequently ride long distances, you will need the best motorcycle tires for touring. They have a flatter profile than sportbike tires to enable stability in straight lines. The rubber is a harder compound, which makes these tires last longer but also gives them slightly less grip. Bigger touring bikes often have high-profile, bias-ply tires, which are necessary to support the bike's weight. The advantage to bias-ply tires is they handle bumps better.
Large cruisers typically use high-profile tires for overall comfort, while smaller cruisers may lean towards sportier tires for better performance. What's most important is stability and traction on both wet and dry surfaces. In general, it comes down to preference and what type of riding you do. You should also check with your manufacturer to see what types of tires work best.
If you're an adventure rider, you need tires that will work on the pavement as well as mud and ice. The tire you choose must be very versatile and have the ability to provide a smooth ride on asphalt but a deep enough tread for off-roading. It should be comfortable on long stretches of highway and also be able to support moderately heavy loads.
Dual-sport tires are knobby and intended for gripping various types of terrain. They have a lot of traction and are ideal for off-road riding. If you plan on climbing sandy or dirt hills, opt for dual-sport tires. These tires are not intended for long trips on the highway because they're loud, uncomfortable, and not that great at cornering.
Off-Road and Motocross Tires
If you solely ride off-road, opt for motocross tires that are very knobby and have superior traction in the dirt. These tires have tread that wraps around the sides for optimum grip. Some motocross tires are designed for soft terrain (tall with spaced-out knobs), while others are for hard terrain (low with tightly-spaced knobs).
Bridgestone Tire Co., Ltd. was established in Japan in 1931. The company is the largest manufacturer of tires in the world and operates 81 production facilities in 24 countries. One top product is the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21.
Pirelli was founded in Milan, Italy, in 1872 by Giovanni Battista Pirelli. The company manufactures tires for cars, motorcycles, and bicycles, and operates in 160 countries. One of its popular products is the Pirelli Angel ST Rear Street Sport Touring Motorcycle Tire.
Continental is a German automotive manufacturing company specializing in tires, brake systems, and powertrain and chassis components. The company was founded in 1871 as a rubber manufacturer. One popular product is the Continental ContiMotion Sport/Touring Motorcycle Tire.
Michelin is a French tire manufacturer based in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. It is the second-largest tire manufacturer in the world. The company traces its roots back to 1889 when it was a rubber factory. Two recommended products are the Michelin Commander II Rear Motorcycle Tire and the Michelin Pilot Power 2CT Motorcycle Tire.
Metzeler is a German motorcycle tire manufacturer that was founded in 1863 in Munich. The company strives to be on the leading edge of technical innovation with an eye on superior quality and performance. One top product is the Metzeler ME888 Marathon Ultra Front Tire
Motorcycle Tire Pricing
- Less than $50: You can spend very little on motorcycle tires, but it's not a good idea. Even the best cheap motorcycle tires won't be very high in quality and are more likely to fail over a shorter period of time.
- $75-$125: You can get a good, high-quality motorcycle tire within this moderately low price range. This is one area on your bike in which you won’t want to sacrifice safety and handling for price.
- Over $125: The best grip motorcycle tires are used by sport bikes and racers and tend to be the most expensive. They feature superior tread and gripping ability, so expect to pay more for those with advanced performance capabilities.
Tread and Pattern
The part of the tire that makes contact with the road is called the tread. The pattern is made up of the grooves and channels that cut into the tread. On-street tires, for example, the pattern is intended to direct the water away from the tire so it doesn't lose grip. Racing slicks, on the other hand, have no pattern and are 100 percent tread. In contrast, the aggressive tread is used on off-road tires.
The size of a tire can vary depending on what type of motorcycle you have and the type of riding you do. For optimum performance, choose tires that are the same size as the OEM ones. Even if you want wider tires for more grip, be sure to check with the manufacturer to make sure a slightly larger tire won't compromise safety and performance.
Bias-Ply Versus Radial
Radial tires have steel belts that run at a 90-degree angle to the tread's centerline. They are more rigid and have better traction than bias-ply tires but don't last as long. In contrast, bias-ply tires have nylon belts that run at a 30 to 45-degree angle to the tread's centerline. They provide a softer ride and are better at carrying heavier loads.
Tube Versus Tubeless
Tubeless tires are stiffer, stronger, and run cooler. They are better for performance, and if they're punctured, they deflate slower than tube tires, enabling you to control the motorcycle better. They are also more comfortable for riding. Tube tires tend to be less expensive and are common on vintage bikes with spoked wheels.
- High Mileage: If you want to save a little bit of money, choose a tire brand that will go the distance. These tires are typically constructed with harder compounds, so they tend to provide a little less grip. More expensive brands may use multiple compounds to deal with this issue.
- Speed Rating: How fast do you ride? Tires are rated for the speeds they can accommodate. An H rating means the tire has a maximum speed of 130 mph, V indicates 149 mph, while W indicates a top speed of 168 mph.
Best Motorcycle Tire Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Dunlop American Elite Front Motorcycle Tires
These multi-tread rear tires are the only replacement tires for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They are designed, made, and tested in America and are built with a long-wearing rubber compound in the center of the tread and lateral-grip compound in each shoulder to maximize cornering performance. They provide even tread wear and quiet operation in both wet and dry conditions and are H-rated for speeds up to 130 mph.
This is a great tire for a reasonable price. It's grippy and doesn't track road imperfections like some competing products. It handles and wears well in both rain or shine, providing both a smooth ride and great traction. It has great mileage, and there have been some reports that the tire lasts much longer than 20,000 miles.
One potential downside is the tire may be narrower than the original Dunlop tires on your bike. If you want a wider tire, you will need to choose another product. Also, they're made specifically for Harley-Davidsons, and in very rare circumstances, they may have a weak spot or wear unevenly.
Best Value: Michelin Pilot Power 2CT Motorcycle Tire
The Michelin Pilot Power 2CT tires are geared towards sportbike owners who ride both on the road and the track. The tread provides excellent grip, handling, and acceleration on wet surfaces. A 20 percent rubber mix on the edges of the tread results in enhanced cornering grip. It also has a lean angle of 51.2 degrees as demonstrated on Michelin's dry test track.
This tire is stiff in the middle and sticky on the sides, giving you the confidence to make turns at steeper lean angles. It sticks to the street like glue and does so very quickly without having to wait for the heat to build up. The tire makes your bike feel lighter, it transitions very well, and it lasts longer than some other brands without sacrificing performance on curvy roads.
One downside is that if you use this tire on the track with a big bike versus a smaller bike, it may not work as well when braking. It also doesn't perform as well when braking on bumpy surfaces and in quick transitions. In addition, it may turn slower than other track tires.
Honorable Mention: Pirelli Diablo Rosso III Tires
Pirelli Diablo Rosso III Tires are for sport riding and have a racing profile designed for agile response and quick turn-in and transitions. They are W-rated for speeds over 168 mph and have a large contact patch for adherence. High-performance silica compounds improve grip across a wide range of temperatures. Also, the bi-compound design offers full grip from a mid-lean angle.
These tires will hold a line all day long and are quick and precise in turns. They stick to the road, provide a lot of control, and make the bike feel nimble. They are incredibly stable at a high lean angle and handle well at high speeds. Once they're warmed up, they have excellent grip, and the tread life is great. In addition, low-speed handling is comfortable and transitions are smooth.
One issue is the tires are a little slippery until they're broken in, and they may only last a few thousand miles before you need to replace them. They may also not be suitable for all-year riding in certain climates.
- Check the product date of the tire to make sure it's "fresh." The longer a tire sits, the more likely it is to dry out.
- Increase tire pressure by 10 percent for better traction on wet surfaces. If you're not sure what the pressure is supposed to be, there should be a sticker on your bike.
- Improper alignment can cause problems with handling and prematurely wear your tires. If you have a chain or belt drive, you can check the position of the tires yourself.
- Visually inspect your tires before you take your bike for a ride. When on the road, avoid potholes, sharp objects, and curbs to keep your tires in good working condition.
- In general, it takes about 100 miles to break in a set of tires. This will create an optimal grip. After you break in the tires, be sure to check the pressure.
- If you race your motorcycle, consider getting a tire warmer. Similar to an electric blanket, they warm the rubber on your tires on track day to the level of operating temperatures.
Q: How long do motorcycle tires last?
A: Generally, the best-rated motorcycle tires should last around 20,000 miles. But, if you put a lot of wear and tear on your bike, you may need to replace the tires sooner. A sportbike tire wears out significantly sooner.
Q: When should I replace my motorcycle tires?
A: First, check to see if your tire has a wear bar. If it is flush with the tread, it's time to replace it. Also, look for cracks, ruptures, cuts, or pressure loss that may affect performance and safety.
Q: What size of motorcycle tires do I need?
A: Check the numbers and letters on the sidewall of the tire. The first number indicates the tire's width in its widest section, and the second number is the aspect ratio between the height and the width of the tire. Next, to the aspect ratio, you may see an R or B, which means radial or bias ply. The third number is the rim diameter, and the last number is the load index. The final letter is the speed rating.
Q: Can I repair my motorcycle tires?
A: You can repair a tube type of tire by patching or replacing the inner tube. Most experts discourage people from repairing tubeless tires; however, there are external plugs for emergency situations and kits for more permanent repairs.
Q: Can a rear tire be used on the front of my motorcycle?
A: No. Most motorcycle tires are specifically made for either the front or the rear. The best rear motorcycle tire will not work as well in the front because it has different characteristics. For example, the front one may be designed for more responsive steering, while the rear may be designed for better traction. There are exceptions with some vintage bikes and dual-sport tires, which can be interchangeable.
Q: Can I use racing tires on the street?
A: You could, but they are made for riding fast on the track and don't have any tread on them. Just a little bit of dirt on the road may cause a problem, and they won't work at all on wet surfaces.
Our pick for the best motorcycle tire is Dunlop’s American Elite Front Motorcycle Tires. They are quiet and provide even tread wear on both wet and dry surfaces. They are also very grippy and have great mileage.
For a less-expensive option, consider the Michelin Pilot Power 2CT Motorcycle Tire.