Motorcycle Tire Maintenance to Prevent Blowouts
One of the many terrifying things that can happen while riding a motorcycle on the street is a blowout. The sudden loss of tire pressure almost instantly makes it difficult to maneuver your bike, and you can only hope to maintain control until you are pulled to the side of the road. The potential for an injurious wreck is high, but most blowouts can be prevented with proper motorcycle tire maintenance.
Surviving a Blowout
Before focusing on how to prevent a blowout it is prudent to explain what to do if you experience a blowout. This is very rare if you engage in proper maintenance, but it can happen to anyone.
The first thing you must do no matter how much panic you are feeling is don’t make any sudden movements! Don’t brake hard, and try to maintain your direction with all your strength. Gradually ease off the throttle and smoothly steer to the side of the road. Braking or downshifting can cause you to lose control and crash.
Believe it or not, the best thing to do is to remain as calm as possible and maintain control of your bike. Easier said than done, but this is how people survive blowouts without injuries to themselves or their bikes.
Motorcycle Tires 101
Now that you understand a bit about what not to do if you experience a blowout, it is time to take a look at motorcycle tires. Motorcycle tires are very different from their 4-wheeled vehicle counterparts.
First, they are shaped differently. Motorcycle tires aren’t flat on the surface but rather U-shaped. This is because the two-wheeled nature of motorcycles requires the motorcycle to lean when cornering, and a flat-surfaced tire would not allow this.
Secondly, there is much less tire surface area touching the road when driving on two-wheels. This makes tires an essential safety component when riding. The quality of motorcycle tires along with proper maintenance is essential to being able to drive safely on the road. Of course, this is essential on four-wheeled vehicles too. You can have much more trouble when you are on two.
Regularly Inspecting Your Motorcycle Tires
The first part of motorcycle tire maintenance is regular inspection. Every time people get ready to ride, they should give their tires a quick but earnest look. Do they look properly inflated with minimal wear? New riders should check their tire pressure with an actual gauge everyday that they ride. If riding regularly, the experienced rider may reduce this to a weekly event.
PSI – Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is one of the most important aspects of tire maintenance aside from replacing tires when they are worn or damaged. Too much pressure will make for a rough ride and limit traction. Too little pressure, and your bike will be difficult to steer. Not having enough pressure can also cause your tires to separate.
The proper tire pressure will depend on manufacturer guidelines. Manufacturers place a chart somewhere on the bike to use as a reference. The chart recommends certain tires and how many pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure to use in that tire. The chart typically gives two numbers for each tire type. One of the numbers is for riding solo. The other is for riding with a passenger, which requires an elevated PSI for safe riding. Invest in a good tire gauge to ensure you are getting accurate tire pressure readings.
Manufacturers place the tire/PSI recommendations chart in multiple locations. It may be under the seat, inside the trunk, on the front fork tubes, or on the swing arm. The owner’s manual may also have this information.
Recognizing Motorcycle Tire Wear
Adjusting your PSI correctly improves handling, but recognizing motorcycle tire wear is critical to avoid a blowout. When tires are brand new, they aren’t at their maximum grip. It takes about 100 miles to wear them enough to improve grip. Riding on new tires should be done carefully with no major leans or fast corners.
After the tires are broken in, the rubber slowly starts to deteriorate. This is caused by use but also by chemicals (gas and oil) absorbed by the road that aids in rubber deterioration.
When looking for tire wear, you should inspect the tire for knots, punctures, and cracks. The tread depth should also be examined. Many people use the penny test. If you stick a penny in the tread, and it reaches at or above Lincoln’s head, then you have enough tread to safely continue riding.
If your tires are easily recognized as “bare” or worn to the built-in tread, it is time for a change. Don’t risk a high speed blowout because of tires that are overdue for a change.
Properly Storing Motorcycle Tires
The way that you store your tires will contribute to wear. If they are stored in the sunlight, they may become dry and cracked. They may get dry rot if stored for too long on one surface.
If the bike is not being ridden for over a month, the tires should not rest on a surface. Instead, raise the bike on the center stand, and raise the front tire up with a block. This will help to avoid any rotting.
Lastly, you should not use old tires. There is a DOT serial number on each tire, and the four digit code at the end states the year in which it was manufactured. 5 years old is the general rule for keeping tires, but they can last longer with proper maintenance.
Lastly, if you are washing your tires prior to or following storage, make sure to use a mild detergent instead of harsh chemicals. Harsh chemicals will degrade the integrity of the rubber.
Riding for Motorcycle Tire Safety
It may seem odd to ride your bike for tire safety when there are many hazards out on the road. However, if your tires aren’t in good shape, it is a primary hazard.
Riding for tire safety means steering clear of shoulders and medians where debris could be. This helps to avoid punctures and other things that may be on the side of the road. A four-wheeled automobile can handle a puncture and a blowout with minimal incident in most cases. However, a blown tire on a motorcycle can be catastrophic.
Use a Pro for Motorcycle Tire Installation and Repair
When you replace your tires, make sure a professional replaces them. Professionals know how to install the tire without ruining the bead of the tire. They will also balance the wheel using a machine that can do it better than any DIY project. A proper balance will prevent your tires from wearing unevenly, and it will make for a smoother ride on the open road.
Tires are important in any vehicle, but on a motorcycle, they are the difference between a safe and potentially deadly ride. If you aren’t maintaining and inspecting your tires, every ride could be your last. With proper maintenance, you can ride peacefully knowing that the two tires beneath you are going to get you where you want to go.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident and have questions about a potential personal injury lawsuit, contact The Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz for a consult. You’ll speak to an actual lawyer right away who can offer legal advice about your case.