Why Do Motorcycle Tires Cup? What Every Rider Should Know


Tires are one of the most important things on any vehicle in regard to performance and safety. If your tires start to wear and/or cup, the safety of your motorcycle is compromised.

Why do motorcycle tires cup? Motorcycle tires will cup due to the tire gripping the road as you make turns. This will cause an uneven wear that will be fairly noticeable. The sharper the turns you make and/or the harder you brake will make tires cup much faster.

Unfortunately, cupping is a lot harder to prevent on a motorcycle tire. Continue reading further and we will dive into what exactly cupping is, how to notice it, and how to prevent it.

Why Motorcycle Tires Cup

Your tires have a big responsibility. They are responsible for taking the power provided by the engine and drivetrain and using that to propel the vehicle forward. They are also what allows you to steer and continue on a straight course. Friction is what makes all of this possible.

Between the road and the tire, a constant friction force is present. This is what allows the vehicle to propel itself forward. As you ride over water or ice, that friction force will decrease and that is when you experience sliding or losing control. 

Your tires will wear over time due to this friction and they can wear in several different ways. Ideally, the tires will wear evenly over time allowing you to maximize the life of your tire. They also can wear unevenly due to several other things.

Depending on the way that you ride your motorcycle, you can wear the tires unevenly. If you have a spot where the tread is much higher on the outside, this may mean that you lean over onto that side a lot.

Also, if you brake while cornering a lot, you will notice a high spot on the outside of the tire in the rear. In addition, riding with underinflated or overinflated tires can result in excessive wear either to the center of the tire or towards the outside. 

If you own a motorcycle, you will almost for sure experience cupping of your tires at one point or another. A cupped tire is one that will have uneven patches of wear on them. Theses patches can be about 4 inches (give-or-take) wide. This happens as a result of your tires grabbing the road as you turn. In fact, this type of wear has nothing to do with your bike or it’s suspension. This is a result of your tires doing their job as they should.

As you go around a turn and lean with your bike, quite a large amount of forced is placed onto your tire. This is what causes cupping. The cupping will run along the thread itself. The really hard thing about dealing with tires cupping is there is not a ton that you can do to directly prevent it. Small changes in your driving habits can have some effect on it but ultimately this is the result of soft tires being exposed to extreme forces.

What Do Cupped Tires Look Like?

Recognizing cupped tires can be fairly simple. The signs of cupped tires can be fairly obvious as long as you are looking for them. The best way to look for cupped tires is to simply run your hand across the entire tire.

If there are sections where the tire has started to cup, this will be obvious. Remember that these sections are generally 3-5 inches wide so they should be fairly easy to recognize. You also will notice that the wear always happens along the thread and will show up in the side wear bands.

There actually is another sign of a cupped tire that is helpful to be aware of, especially if you are bad at checking your tires out regularly. When you are riding on a tire that has cupped and the wear is starting to get pretty bad, you will notice a noise and also a vibration from the tire as you head into a turn. This noise and vibration are a result of the cupped tire.

Are Cupped Motorcycle Tires Dangerous?

If you notice that you motorcycle tire has started cupping, is it safe to keep riding on it? As with most things, the answer is maybe for a little while but also maybe not.

The general rule here is that you should deal with the tire immediately. If you can, this is something that you should take care before riding around at all anymore. This is for your own safety. Though you technically can keep riding your motorcycle with cupped tires, the wear will continue to keep worsening and can quickly escalate. This can put you in quite a bit of danger as the rider.

This is another one of those things where it could only last you a few more miles or it could last you several hundred miles. Ultimately, your own life and safety is not worth the gamble. If you notice that your tires have started cupping, you will want to get this taken care of immediately.

Can You Fix Cupped Motorcycle Tires?

If you experience cupped tires on your motorcycle, what should you do? The best thing to do is to take your bike to a tire shop and have new tires installed. This can be painful especially if you have recently purchased the tires. This is the best and safest thing to do though; cupped motorcycle tires isn’t something you can fix yourself unless you can entirely replace the tire yourself.

As your tires are cupped, there is only so much that can be done to try to salvage them. There are places that will try to shave the tire thread to make it entirely even. Ultimately, you are just paying to have your tires worn down even more and will likely experience the same issue soon.

It is always best to just replace the tires entirely. This small cost will ensure your own safety and the safety of others on the road. It will also guarantee that you will be fine to ride again for quite a while without any tire issues. This is not something that you want to be cheap on.

Remember that your tires are the key to your bike’s traction. As they go bad or get worn, your ability to keep a straight course and to stay upright is greatly reduced. As the wear gets worse and worse, you then start to risk a blowout which could be catastrophic to you and your bike. If you notice that your tires have started cupping, just spend the extra money and get some new tires on your bike.

How To Prevent Cupped Tires

Preventing your tires from cupping on a motorcycle can be extremely difficult. There is only so much that you can do to try to prevent this from happening as it is a result of your tires gripping the road while turning.

The first thing that you can do to try to minimize this is to try to take it easier on your motorcycle while turning. Take turns slower and do not turn as sharply. Also, avoid braking hard while going into a turn. Doing these things can help reduce the risk of your tires starting to cup although it will not entirely remove the possibility that they will.

Another thing that you can do to help prevent cupping is to always keep your tire pressure at the manufacturer specified pressure. As the extreme forces are being applied to the tire, the tire will react differently with different air pressures in it. Frequently check your tires to make sure that they have the appropriate air pressure inside of them.

The last thing that you can do to try to prevent cupped tires is to buy better tires that will resist cupping more. Tires that uses a harder rubber compound will be better for this as they stay much more rigid. Another thing to consider is the actual tread. If you have a very square tread, it is much more likely to get high and low spots.

A triangular tread problem will help resolve this issue. Also, check online forums for some feedback on specific tire brands and models. Some tires are more notorious for cupping than others. See what others have used and how it has worked for them. None of these things will make your bike immune to cupped tires but they all can help reduce the likelihood that you will experience it.

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