Can I Use A Rear Motorcycle Tire On The Front?


Tires on a motorcycle are a vital part of it’s function. It’s also a huge safety component for the rider since the tires separate the rider from the road. That’s why any alterations to motorcycle tires should be seriously considered before executing.

A common question motorcyclists have is whether or not it’s possible to use a rear motorcycle tire on the front. Whether it be because of looks, budget, or they’re just plain curious, it’s a questions that should be understood for the future reference of any motorcyclist.

Can I use a rear motorcycle tire on the front? It is possible to use a rear motorcycle tire on the front if the tire does not specify it is solely for rear use only and it is the exact same size the manufacturer says is needed for the front. A rear motorcycle tire should not be used on the front if it says “rear use only,” even if it is close to the right size the front needs.

Motorcycle tires are something that shouldn’t be switched around or changed on a whim. This article can help explain in further depth about when it’s okay to use a rear tire on the front and when it becomes a safety hazard.

Using A Rear Tire On The Front

There is a difference between the front and rear tire of a motorcycle and each of them serves a separate function. Putting on the wrong size of tires could mean less control on the rider’s part.

Most tires will specify which wheel it should be mounted on the bike. Such specifications will say something like “rear use only” or “front use only” and indications like this should never be ignored. You should never put a “rear use only” tire on the front of the motorcycle.

With that being said, there are a few situations where it is possible to put a rear tire on the front of a motorcycle. There are some tires out there that are more commonly used as the rear tire, but it does not specify that it should be used as such. With no specification indicated, it’s possible to use that tire on the front of the motorcycle as long as it is the same exact size the manufacturer states the front of the motorcycle needs.

For example, let’s say you have a Honda CB750 that has a 20″ rear rim and a 21″ front rim. That rear tire on the CB750 might fit on the front of a CB550 because it has a 20″ front rim, it’s the right specs and size, and the manufacturer didn’t state it was specifically for the rear tire. This may be more economic for the rider because it could be a cheaper option.

There are all sorts of different tire sizes out there. You usually shop tires by either the front or rear because rear tires are usually much fatter. That’s why rear tires normally don’t fit on the front at all. But if you happen to have a motorcycle that calls for a fat front tire as well, it may be possible to use the rear tire on the front if the size is right and doesn’t specify it’s for rear use only.

Though it’s rare, there are a few motorcycles out there that call for the same size of tires for both the front and the rear. Again, as long as the tires you are using do not specify which side of the motorcycle it needs to be on, these tires can be interchangeable.

Why You Should Abide By “Rear Use Only”

As I had mentioned before, tires are an extremely important part to a motorcycle not only because it provides a way for the motorcycle to pull forward, but it’s also a safety measure for the rider. Changing up the tires against the manufacturer recommendation is a dangerous move.

There is a difference between the functionality of the front and rear tire of a motorcycle (which we will get into later). Though they have similarities in what they do for the motorcycle, the way they’re created and engineered separately makes it possible for a motorcycle rider to have the best control possible while riding.

Manufacturers don’t specify “rear use only” to annoy us motorcyclists. They have that specification for a reason and should be abided by all riders. The engineers behind these tires know and understand the mechanics and physics that go behind the tires of a motorcycle. They don’t want to be held liable for possible injuries in which they know is a possibility if they don’t put that label on there.

If a tire does not say whether or not it’s specific for use in the front or the rear of a motorcycle, it’s likely done on purpose from the manufacturer. This is when it’s safe to put what’s normally designated as a rear tire in the front as long as it’s the correct size.

The Difference Between Front And Rear Tires And Why It Matters

You may have noticed there is a difference in looks between a front and rear tire of a motorcycle. When you’re thinking about using the rear tire for the front, it’s important you understand what the functionality of each tire serves so you have a better understanding of what you’re doing.

The front tire of a motorcycle is usually bigger, meaning it has a larger diameter compared to the rear tire. They’re generally a little skinnier as well. The front tire’s main function is to take the initial impact of any bumps or holes in the road and also aides in the steering mechanism. The size of it was engineered to give the motorcycle better stability.

The rear tire of a motorcycle is usually smaller compared to the front tire and is also usually wider. The main function of this tire is to provide traction and power for the motorcycle since the engine is connected to it through the chain and sprockets. The wideness of the tire means there’s more surface area touching the road.

With the forces of these two tires working together, it creates a safe and efficient way to travel on a motorcycle. And this is why it’s dangerous to use a back tire on the front when it specifies it’s only for the back. The wide and smaller size won’t be able to take as good of an impact and may make steering a littler harder. See my other article here to learn more about the differences between a front and rear motorcycle tire.

Can I Use A Leftover Rear Tire As A Spare For The Front?

So let’s say you have an extra tire meant to be used on the rear of the motorcycle. But something happens to the front tire and you don’t have the money to replace it so you wonder if you can temporarily use this spare back tire on the front until you have the cash to get the right type of tire.

So in other words, can you use a leftover rear tire as a spare for the front tire? This all depends on the spare that you have. Again, you can only use it on the front if it specifically does not indicate it is for “rear use only” and it is the exact size the manufacturer states is needed on the front.

Any other specs outside of that should not be used as a spare on a motorcycle. Even if the size is “so close” or “almost the same size.” You should put nothing but exactly what the manufacturer recommends on your motorcycle tire rims.

But what harm can come from using the wrong size of tire on the front just for a few days? Well, you may get lucky and not have any harm done at all. But you have to remember that all it takes is a few seconds of dire circumstances for an accident to happen on the motorcycle which is something that can be caused by the wrong size of tire.

If you don’t have the cash to buy the right size of tire your motorcycle needs, simply don’t ride your motorcycle until the right tire can be installed.

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