Motorcycle Tyres Buying Guide

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Motorcycle Tyres Buying Guide

The tyres on a motorcycle may be the single most important performance component on the bike. Tyres control the handling of a motorbike on the road, its speed, and its ability to brake well. For those who may be changing out tyres for the first time or who are new to motorbikes in general, the ins and outs of motorcycle tyres may be a bit of a mystery. There are several issues that consumers must always consider when purchasing new tyres for motorcycles, including tyre size, rim width, balance, and alignment. Before purchasing any motorcycle tyres, consumers should first make certain they understand the performance and size standards that define these accessories.

Once they understand these specs and how to match tyres to their bikes, consumers can leverage a few options when it comes to buying these critical items. Traditional, offline vendors offer some selection locally, but online retailers such as eBay may feature a wider variety of choices to consider as an alternative.

Buying Front vs. Rear Tyres

Sometimes one tyre may wear out before the other tyre on a motorcycle, especially with off-road motorbikes. The rear tyre can wear out twice as fast as the front one on those bikes. In these scenarios, consumers may only want to replace one tyre at a time, sometimes as a cost-saving measure. This can often cause problems for a motorbike. A front tyre that is brand new may affect handling, for example, if a rear tyre is slightly worn, and this could cause a bike to drive in an unstable manner. Generally speaking, it is best to change out both tyres on a motorcycle at one time to avoid any imbalance in the machine's performance.

Off-Road Considerations with Front and Rear Tyres

In off-road riding, matching a tyre set is not as essential as with street racing. On the road, the tyres must deal with much smoother surfaces and slick conditions when it rains, so having responsive treads on tyres and a well-balanced match are essential. With off-road vehicles, however, these motorcycles are often digging into rougher terrain with more purchase, and a perfect balance is not as essential. Many off-roaders choose to mix and match front and rear tyres for off-roading. Off-road tyres are also not always directional, meaning that they can be reversed to extend their use. Off-roaders who spend time on unidirectional courses, however, may want to consider new tyres instead of reversing a set.

Specs to Consider When Shopping for Motorcycle Tyres

When shopping for a motorcycle tyre or set of tyres, consumers should take several specifications carefully into consideration. These issues can affect the handling of a motorcycle and the performance life of a set of tyres.

Load-Carrying Capabilities

Motorcycles come with very specific load capacities that are indicated in the owners' manuals. When purchasing a tyre or set of tyres, consumers should ensure that they are purchasing tyres that are rated with the proper load-carrying capacities for their motorbikes. Maximum load figures for a tyre are typically listed on the sidewall of a tyre in moulded rubber. If a consumer regularly loads down a motorbike with gear or equipment for travel, this additional weight should be taken into account when purchasing tyres, as well.

Compounds, Constructions, and Tread Patterns on Motorcycle Tyres

Modern motorcycle tyres utilise a dynamic range of compounds and tread patterns. Getting the right match for a bike with both of these features is essential to maintaining a motorcycle's safety and performance.

Bias vs. Radial Tires

Bias tyres and radial tyres react very differently to the road. For this reason, tyres of either type must be matched with a motorbike's specific frame design, steering geometry, and suspension system. These different types of tyres address forces on the side and peripheral axes in very different ways and have various damping techniques, as well. In general, a motorcycle that is engineered to work with a bias tyre should always be matched with a bias tyre, and the same goes for radial motorbikes. Consumers should also be careful not to use radial tyres on the front wheels and then bias tyres on the back wheels. This type of mixing and matching only works on a very limited range of motorbikes and should only be tried when the motorcycle's manufacturer indicates that it is an approved choice for a motorcycle.

Tread Pattern

The tread of a tyre is the rubberized pattern on the exterior that grips the road. Treads can be either very smooth or textured and either soft or hard. Choosing the right tread for a motorcycle tyre depends on the applications and conditions in which a machine is used. When selecting treads, consumers should consider what conditions they ride in most often and where they use their motorbikes. In the UK, many riders may often find themselves riding in wet conditions. A tyre that is treadless and slick is not the best option for utilitarian riders who need to use machines for commuting. Street racers, on the other hand, may not mind sacrificing tread in order to have a tyre that glides across the road. The most all-purpose tyre is typically one with a light tread and a semi-hard compound base that allows it to perform in diverse conditions for a longer period of time.

Soft Compound vs. Hard Compound Tyres

Motorcycles used in street riding and racing typically work well with soft or hard tyres, but these two options deliver different performance advantages. A soft rubber on a tyre gives a rider real grip on the road, but awful mileage. A hard rubber does not get a solid grip on the road, but it can save a lot in petrol costs. Consumers should consider which performance advantage they prioritise when selecting a tyre or set of tyres.

Riders of off-road motorbikes can get very focussed on hard or soft compounds because it directly affects their motorbikes' performance capabilities on different off-road surfaces. Soft tyres respond well on hard and rocky terrains, while hard tyres dig in to spongy or wet surfaces. With the increase in popularity of 4-stroke motorcycles, many off-road bikers need to consider looking for 4-stroke tyres to enhance performance. A 2-stroke tyre can still perform on a 4-stroke motorbike,, but many consumers prefer to get as close a match as possible to enhance every aspect of performance.

Understanding Tyre Designations

Tyres can be sold with several different designations: metric, alphabetical, and imperial. Consumers in the market for motorcycle tyres should understand how each of these designation systems works and the symbols within each system.

Metric, Imperial, and Alphabetical Designations

Metric designations begin with two numerical values separated by a '/', followed by two more numerical values and an alphabetical rating. The following table indicates what each of these components represents on a tyre.

Metric Designation Part


First Number

Tire width, in mm

Second Number

Aspect ratio, in percentage

Third Number

Aspect ratio, in inches

Fourth Number

Load rating

Final Alphabetical Value

Speed rating

Tyres sold in the UK are often labelled with this designation system. Consumers looking online for tyres may also come across tyres labelled with an imperial designation system, as described in the following table.

Imperial Designation Part


First Numerical Value

Section width

First Alphabetical Value

Speed rating

Second Numerical Value

Rim diameter, in inches

Numerical 'PR' Value

Casing strength (ply rating)

Alphabetical designation systems are also sometimes used. These tyres are labelled with two initial alphabetical values, two numerical values, and a final alphabetical value.

Alphabetical Designation Part


First Alphabetical Value

Motorcycle code

Second Alphabetical Value

Tire width code

First Numerical Value

Aspect ratio, in percentage

Second Numerical Value

Rim diameter, in inches

Final Alphabetical Value

Load rating

Consumers shopping for motorcycle tyres should be prepared to encounter any one of these designation systems. When purchasing aftermarket tyres, consumers should carefully review a tyre manufacturer's specs and guidelines to ensure that a tyre is the right fit for a motorbike.

Safety and Performance Considerations for Motorcycle Tyres

The two most crucial factors in a tyre's performance are its alignment and balance. A properly balanced and aligned set of tyres helps ensure a stable and secure ride. Tyres that are not well-aligned and balanced may skid out, be hard to control, and incur a large amount of tyre wear too soon in the life of a tyre. For these reasons, it is important for consumers to get a motorbike's tyres aligned and balanced every time a new tyre or pair of tyres is purchased. Even something like adjusting the bike's chain can require realignment of the tyres. Performance and handling issues, such as cornering, steering, and mileage, can all be affected by poor alignment.

Buying Motorcycle Tyres on eBay

One of the largest catalogues of motorcycles on the market is available on the online retailer eBay.. This site aggregates multiple vendors to offer a very diverse collection of motorcycle tyres from which consumers can choose. When you first visit the site, you can find a search interface on any page on the site. Use this search box to run a search, using either a general term to get an overview of the marketplace or a specific term to zero in on exactly what you want. Experiment with different keyword terms and leverage the search suggestions eBay makes to find what you need.

Evaluating Sellers on eBay

One of the advantages of this site is that you can access a large catalogue and also communicate with and evaluate sellers with whom you come into contact. Communicating directly with a seller is a good way to confirm specs on a set of tyres and the compatibility with a specific motorbike. Evaluating a seller can be easily achieved on the site by reviewing a seller's feedback and looking through past listings that a seller has posted.


Finding the right set of tyres is essential to the performance of a motorcycle. When looking for tyres for a motorbike, a consumer should consider various factors, including the conditions in which a rider uses a motorcycle and whether or not he or she is a street or off-road rider. Issues such as tread, the compound base of a tyre, and whether or not a tyre is bias or radial can all affect the choice of a tyre.

Consumers should first ensure that they are getting these essential specs right when selecting tyres. Then they can look around for some of the better retail options when it comes to buying motorcycle tyres. On eBay, consumers can access a wide selection of tyres to find the right matches for their motorbikes. Consumers can also typically find and purchase sets of tyres for their motorcycles by visiting local tyre and automotive shops.

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