No one wants to replace their tires sooner then they have to. Tires are expensive, and sometimes finding a shop that can properly replace or balance the tires can be difficult, but the motorcycle tire is not an item that you want to fall behind in maintenance of.
Tires are crucial towards the safe operation of a motorcycle, and learning proper maintenance and prevention is critical to a long and safe riding career.
So, what causes uneven tire wear on a motorcycle? Uneven tire wear on a motorcycle is caused by misalignment of the tires, improper inflation, and improper balance. Tire wear is normal if the bike is being ridden safely and regularly, but abnormal or uneven wear on tires is an indication that something other than the tires need to be fixed on the motorcycle.
Motorcycle tires need to be inspected and checked every time you hop on it for a ride. They don’t always need a full alignment or deep inspection, but the conditions of your tires should be a top priority when considering the safety of the motorcycle, after all, it’s your tires that provide the traction to both accelerate and stop and without them you might as well be on ice skates.
Reasons Why Tires Wear Unevenly
Staying safe on a motorcycle means not only making sure you are wearing proper protection, but it also means that you are making sure that your motorcycle is working properly. The tires on a motorcycle are an extension of ourselves, and understanding what leads to uneven tire wear is extremely important.
The alignment of your motorcycle has a lot to do with the wear that the tire undergoes. We’ve all heard of our cars needing to go to the shop to get an alignment maybe because the steering wheel isn’t straight, or maybe the car veers to the left or to the right.
The same should be noted for our motorcycle, but because there are only two wheels, the symptoms of a bad alignment on a bike might not be as noticeable as a car. The tires will always positively or negatively show the condition of the wheel alignment.
Another one of the most common reasons tires wear unevenly is due to improper inflation. We shouldn’t have to grab a tire gauge and measure our tires’ pressures every time we get on the bike, but we should always give the tires a visual inspection to make sure that they appear to be properly inflated.
When a tire is underinflated, the tire will show significant wear along the outside of tire face. This means that when you look at the tire from the front or back of the bike, not the side, you will notice that the center of the tire will have less wear then left and right of center. When the tire is worn the opposite meaning the center of the tire is much more worn then the left and right of center, your tire is overinflated.
The third most common reason tires can experience wear that is out of the ordinary is when the tire is improperly balanced. Tires and rims, as perfectly round and even as they appear, from the factory they are marked with indicators showing the heaviest spot, and the lightest spot.
The job of the person who is placing the tire on the rim is to align the marks to make sure that the heaviest spot on one is matched with the lightest spot of the other. In order to verify the balance of the tire, it is placed on a machine and spun, and the machine can indicate to the operator where, if anywhere, counter weights need to be placed.
Have you ever looked at the inside of the rim or even along the outside of the rim and notice tiny blocks attached? These blocks are what keep the tire rotating evenly, and prevents vibrations from being sent through the rest of the bike. The signs that your tires are out of balance is either strong vibrations, or patch wear all around the tire. Patch wear just means that the worn sections of the bike don’t look constant, with some worn spots being larger than the other.
Not only is uneven tire wear going to be something that you can visually inspect, uneven tire wear on a motorcycle will be felt, and we shouldn’t wait until we notice an uneven tire to diagnose the issue. Just like with all other aspects of rider safety and maintenance, there are ways that we can prevent these spots from happening in the first place.
How to Prevent Uneven Wear
The goal of maintenance on a motorcycle is to keep your bike safe and working properly. When maintenance is neglected, parts can break, and things can become expensive and unsafe. Replacing motorcycle tires isn’t cheap, so we should do everything that we can to keep our tires safe and healthy.
You can’t prevent tires from wearing out, and properly riding tires until they need to be replaced should be a badge of honor. It shows dedication and represents all the miles and smiles that you’ve had while on your bike, and in order to make sure your tires last as long as possible, you should follow these simple rules.
Similar to checking oil, checking the tire pressures on your bike should be a habit. As I mentioned earlier, proper tire inflation is key to making your tires last and preventing abnormal wear.
It’s hard to say exactly how often you should check the inflation of your tires, but checking them every time or every other time you are at a gas station filling up with gas is a good rule of thumb. The process to checking tire pressure is the same as on a car, but the pressures that you should be looking for are going to be different.
The best place to find the proper inflation numbers is going to be in the owner’s manual, which is commonly found under the seat of the bike. The inflation numbers might also be printed on a sticker that you can find on your frame or on your forks. If you’re missing the owner’s manual and you can’t find the sticker on the bike, you can probably hop on an internet forum that’s bike specific and go from there.
Generally, you’re going to have different pressures for the front and for the rear, and these pressures are going to be less than what is specified on the side wall of the tire. For example, on my 2006 Suzuki Vstrom DL1000, the front pressure recommendation is 33 and the rear is 36.
Another important step to preventing uneven tire wear is regularly checking to make sure that your bike’s chain is properly adjusted. Here in this article I won’t write about how to adjust a chain, but I will explain what aspects have the greatest affect on tire wear.
Adjusting the chain on a bike involves moving the rear tire either forward or backward on the swing arm, depending on what adjustment needs to be made. Setting the tire in place correctly has a huge impact on how the tire will wear.
When finalizing the adjustment, you should double check that the rear axle is sitting the exact same distance from the end of the swing arm on both the left and the right of the bike. An improper rear axle placement will cause the bike trouble in cornering, and have a severe impact on how the tire is worn.
Outside of these two things, tire maintenance has a lot to do with the riding conditions that tires are exposed to. Are the tires used for track riding? Are they on an adventure bike? Are these tires on a bike that you commute on? What items on the bike’s suspension geometry are adjustable? Would these adjustments affect the alignment and placement of the tire? These questions are important to have and research, because understanding the tires and your specific bike will help you to keep the tires in proper condition.
Is Uneven Tire Wear Dangerous?
As mention earlier, tires can be worn unevenly for several different reasons, some of those more serious than others. Riding a motorcycle that has a wheel incorrectly placed on a swing arm is much more dangerous when compared to a bike that has underinflated tires, but either way you look at it, riding on tires that are excessively worn is putting your life at risk.
Tires make the biggest impact on vehicle braking distance and maintaining even wear on a tire helps maintain a motorcycle’s safety. When a tire is worn unevenly, the rider can experience violent shaking at high speeds, and even jerky steering when cornering. Just one of these problems can directly put a rider’s life at risk, and any uneven tire wear should not be a problem you look at lightly.
Can You Fix Uneven Tires?
If you are properly checking your tires, you can be able to spot issues and fix them before you have to replace the tire, but if the uneven wear is obvious, even if it is simply because they were over/underinflated, it is never a bad idea to replace the tires.