Best Motorcycle Tires: Great Choices to Improve Handling and Performance
These top motorcycle tires are essential for safe, performance-driven riding.
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON April 25, 2021
If you're a biker, you know the importance of good tires. Old tires can be dangerous, so it's important that you replace them when needed. Plus, you get more performance from tires that are new and feature the latest technology. A good set of tires will get you where you're going safely and can also make the ride a lot more fun. If you're not sure which tires to choose for your ride, check out our list of the best motorcycle tires available.
These 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.
- Handles and wears well in both rain or shine
- Provides both a smooth ride and great traction
- May be narrower than the original Dunlop tires on your bike
- Made only for Harley-Davidsons
This 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.
- Gives you the confidence to make turns at steeper lean angles
- Makes your bike feel lighter
- Transitions very well
- Lasts longer than some other brands
- May not perform as well when braking on bumpy surfaces and in quick transitions
- May also turn slower than other track 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.
- Quick and precise in turns
- Make the bike feel nimble
- Incredibly stable at a high lean angle
- Handle well at high speeds
- A little slippery until they're broken in
- May 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.
- Confidence. Knowing your tires are new and reliable will boost confidence, ultimately making you a better motorcyclist.
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 pavement as well as sand and mud. The tire you choose must 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dunlop was founded by John Boyd Dunlop in Dublin, Ireland, in 1890. Currently owned by Goodyear, the company is known for producing high-performing tires for cars and motorcycles.
The Japanese-based company Shinko has been in business since the 1940s. After purchasing Yokohama Rubber Co. in 1998, Shinko started producing motorcycle tires and currently makes more than 200,000 motorcycle tires monthly.
Motorcycle Tire Pricing
- Less than $50: You can spend very little on motorcycle tires — and it's not a good idea. Even the best cheap motorcycle tires won't be 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.
- $125 and up: 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 Tires Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Check the tire production date. If a tire sits too long, it can start to degrade and dry out, which can be dangerous.
- If you plan on riding in wet conditions, increase the tire pressure by 10 percent. Make sure you double-check the pressure by looking on your bike, the tire, or online.
- Proper tire alignment is important. If they’re not aligned correctly, they will wear down quickly, and handling will be affected.
- Before taking a ride, visually inspect the whole bike as well as the tires. When riding, steer clear of potholes, curbs, and objects in the road that may puncture your tires.
- Break in your tires before riding at maximum performance. After around 100 miles, they will provide the best grip.
- If you take your bike to the track, it may be worth investing in a tire warmer. It warms the rubber to bring it up to operating temperatures.
Q: How long do motorcycle tires last?
The best-rated motorcycle tires typically have a 20,000-mile lifespan. However, if you are an aggressive rider, you may need to replace the tires more frequently. Sportbike tires have a shorter tread life than other types of tires.
Q: When should I replace my motorcycle tires?
Look for a wear bar on the tire. If it’s flush with the tread, then you need a new tire. Also, keep an eye out for cracks, cuts, ruptures, and other anomalies that may cause issues with performance or safety.
Q: What size of motorcycle tires do I need?
Look at the sidewall of your existing tires, and take note of the numbers and letters. The first number is the tire’s width. The second number is the aspect ratio between height and width. You will then see an R or a B, indicating “radial” or “bias ply.” The third number is the rim diameter, and the fourth number is the load index. The last letter is the speed rating.
Q: Can I repair my motorcycle tires?
If you have a tire with an inner tube, you can patch or replace it. If you have a tubeless tire, it’s better to replace it. However, you can use external plugs in an emergency or try a special kit for permanent repair.
Q: Can a rear tire be used on the front of my motorcycle?
Not really, no. Motorcycle tires are specifically made for either the front or the rear. 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?
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.