How to Choose Tires for a Motorcycle

Are you looking to replace your old motorcycle tires but don’t know how to choose tires for a motorcycle? The market has all kinds of tires available, and choosing the right one is important. Because different tires are made to achieve different purposes. Some of them are suitable for paved roads, while others are suitable for off-road conditions

This comprehensive guide will decode the different aspects associated with different motorcycle tires. Going through them will allow you to find the right pair for your bike.

Let’s find out the right tire.

How to Read Motorcycle Tire Size?

Read Motorcycle Tire Size

Find those numbers on your tires confusing? Reading motorcycle tire size is the first thing that you need to do in the process of how to choose tires for a motorcycle. Most people don’t know what tire sizes their bikes have, but how do you find the tire sizes!

There are commonly three different formats available for street sizing when it comes to sizes. There is metric sizing, alphanumeric, and inch sizing. Inch sizing is most used for dirt bikes, while alphanumeric sizing is there for cruisers. Metric sizing is common for all other bikes.

To find the size of your bike tires, you need to get on the ground and see if your bike has aftermarket wheels. In such a case, the tires’ actual size will be different from what is given in the owner’s manual. If your bike is fully stock, then you can see your owner’s manual or your bike’s online data spec sheet.

Here are the three bike tires size formats that you will find on the market,

●     Metric (180/70R-16)

Here, 180 is the tire width in millimeters, 70 is the aspect ratio or the sidewall height, which is 70% of the width of the tire (126mm), 16 is the rim size and is in inches, while the “R” represents the type of tire which will be either R (radial) or B (Bias-ply).

●     Alphanumeric (MU85B16)

Here, MU stands for 140mm and is the width of your tire. For this, you will have to use a Street Tire Size Conversions Chart for reference. After that, the “85” is the aspect ratio or the sidewall height, which is 85% of the tire’s width. “B” or “R” means bias-ply or radial, and “16” stands for rim diameter.

●     Numeric (5.00-16)

In this scenario, the first number is 5.00, which is the tire width given in inches. The second number is the rim diameter which is also in inches. The first number can go from 2.75 to 6.00, and you can refer to the Street Tire Conversion Chart in this case.

Basic Tire Construction Terms

The following four are the most basic terminologies that you need to understand if you don’t know how to choose tires for a motorcycle.


Tire Tread

Tread refers to the portion of your bike’s tire which gets in contact with the surface of the road. Some other terms associated with it are tread depth which means the distance of the tread surface to the bottoms of those grooves on your tires.

Tread radius is another term that means the curvature of the tread arc throughout the tread. The tread-wearing indicators are the raised areas within the grooves that start to even out when the tread surface begins to wear out to 2/32-inch tread depth.


Bead refers to the area of the mounted tires that is right next to the wheel. Another term is the bead filler which is a rubber extrusion in the same area, and it ensures smoother contouring. The bead seat is where the tire rests, and it seals on the inside of the tire rims.


It is the overall framework of the tire. It’s the most important part of a tire and refers to all the layers made up of a tire cord where the internal air pressure, shock, and weight are absorbed. There are carcass piles, and fabric piles coated with rubber and have cords running from bead to bead.


Tire Sidewall

The sidewall is the side of the tire right between the rim bead and the tread shoulder. A sidewall rollover is a condition that occurs when you hard corner your bike and the sidewall begins to rub the underneath road surface.

What Size Tube Do I Need?

If you don’t know how to choose tires for a motorcycle, you can use the following table for cross-referencing your tube sizing correctly.

Front Tires


Rear Tires


How to Know If Motorcycle Tires Need a Replacement?

Tire replacement

For a tire over 10 years old, you need to replace it as soon as possible, even if its tread looks great.

You need to check and see if you have tread, then it needs to be around 1/32-inch to 2/32-inch in tread depth according to the state and federal regulations.

Moreover, you need to look for any defects in your tire. You might see some cracks along the sidewalls. Many tires also come with wear indicators that are cast right into the tread grooves. If there is a raised rubber segment, it means your tires have worn out and need replacement.

Consider the age of the tire you are using. You need to think how far your tires are from 5 years old. There is a date code imprinted on these tires, and you need to look at the last 4 digits, which will be like “4315”. It means the 43rd week of the year 2015, which is slightly over 5 years old.

Tube vs. tubeless tires – How to choose tires for a motorcycle

Tube vs. tubeless: which one to choose? It’s a pretty common question that most people ask. Tubed tires come with a rim, tube, and tire compared to a tubeless tire that only has a rim and the tire.

Tubeless tires are getting popular because they run cooler, reduce weight, and come in a wide range of profiles. Tubeless tires can handle punctures well and don’t go out flat instantly. Whereas if a tubed tire takes a nail at high speed (80-90 mph), the tube will deflate instantly.

If your bike comes with spokes, then you need to fix a tube on it. But if there are cast, mag, billet, or forged wheels, you should go for tubeless tires. But there are a few exceptions. BMW tubeless wheels have their spokes on the rim’s outside. Yamaha has Super Tenere wheels that have their spokes running to the center band slightly on the outside.

There are chances that uneven tire pressure might exist with a tube that can make your bike wobble, especially if you are riding at high speeds.

Radial vs. Bias Ply: Which One is Better for Motorcycles?

Bias-ply tires are the old-schools. They are suitable for touring and heavy cruisers as you are going to load up your bike.

These tires are made of cord layers laid down from one bead to another and go right across the tire. These layers are made of rayon, polyester, or nylon, and they are pretty stiff from sidewalls. It means they can bear plenty of weight, but they also tend to get hot and are a lot less elegant.

Radial tires joined the market later. These tires are more elegant and allow good high-speed performance.

The cords and layers here are made of steel, and they go through the tires radially. The belt layers are stacked right into the tread area. These layers can dissipate heat pretty quickly.

Which Tire is Best for Different Purposes?

If you don’t know how to choose tires for a motorcycle, make a choice based specifically on your purpose. You need to go for the tires according to the type of bike you have. You can’t just go for highway tires on your trail bike.

This is something you just can’t pull off even if you think about it because the rim and frame fittings are completely different, and these tires will prove to be worthless in such conditions. Here are four broad categories that you need to consider:

Touring/cruiser tires

Bias-ply tires are designed to be durable and robust, and they can conveniently hold heavier bikes to ensure long mileage and drive exceptional traction even in wet conditions. They come with stiff sidewalls and can handle heavier loads. These tires also come with more tread depth as compared to most other tires.

City Commuting

Radial tires are best for streets and are designed for paved surfaces. The tires are slightly stiffer in terms of sidewalls, and you can use them for running errands and daily commuting. These tires don’t get too hot, and they are not made for heavy loads. But they can certainly handle some speed.


Radial tubeless tires are very similar to the city commuter’s tires, but they are slightly stiffer inside the walls. These tires are slightly larger and are made for bigger bikes. Highway tires can ensure superior grips even in wet conditions, but they tend to get hot at times.


Bias-ply and tube tires come with sifter sidewalls, and they ensure better road grips on uneven surfaces. They also feature thicker tread that ensures better grip on various terrains.


What’s the right motorcycle tire pressure?

Street motorcycles typically have a 28 PSI to 40 PSI range of tire pressure. Your bike might have a label on it that will tell you what should be the ideal tire pressure for different loads and conditions. Tire pressure is going to be on the lighter side when more traction is required. For heavier loads, go for high pressure.

Is it okay to mix tire brands on a motorcycle?

Most tire manufacturers state that you shouldn’t mix and match tire brands on the same motorcycle. Different brands have different tire valves, and their performance can significantly vary in various road and weather conditions. But there’s no harm; you can use different brand’s tires.

Should I replace both motorcycle tires at the same time?

No, because the function of one tire doesn’t affect the other. Your rear wheel will wear out twice as fast as your front wheel because of your motorcycles’ overall function.

Do the front and rear motorcycle tires have to match?

Even from the same brand, front and rear tires are completely different from one another in terms of width and tread pattern. However, their diameters might be slightly the same.

How often should you change tires on a motorcycle?

Generally, you need to change your tires after every ten years. You might have to change them earlier than that if you use your bike a lot. Even if the tires look good, if they are older than ten years, then replace them.

Do larger tires ride better?

Larger tires are better when it comes to traction, but they are not recommended to use with commuting bikes. These bigger tires also come with high price tags, so buying and maintenance will cost you more.

Why are rear tires bigger than the front in a motorcycle?

Motor or engine drives the rear end tire in your bike and forces it in a forward direction. The downward force on the rear tire from the motor needs to be much more than the front tire. A bigger tire on the rear end can handle more body weight, and it also ensures more actions for better power transfer.


Your ride will be more comfortable if you know how to choose tires for a motorcycle. You need to know what type of bike you are using and what your riding style is. You also need to consider the conditions in which you are going to ride more often.

Your bike’s owner manual has all the information. But if you don’t have the manual, don’t worry. The tires have all the information printed on them. You can interpret the printed info and understand which type of tires you should go for. Going for the right type of tires will significantly improve your bike’s performance and ride experience.