How to tell if your motorcycle tires are worn.

Motorcycle rear tire

As with any motorcycle, tire condition will greatly affect your safety and your bike’s performance, so replacing your tires regularly is not only important but essential for your safety.

But, how do you know when your motorcycle tires are worn? You should develop the habit of doing monthly inspects to determine the tires wear indicators, tread wear, tire age, and tire condition to determine if your motorcycle tires need replacing.

I’m seeing wires on my motorcycle tires, what should I do?

We are going to hit this one on the head straight away. If your tires are showing wires stop riding immediately, your tire will not perform adequately and is in danger of blowing out.

Tread Wear

Sometimes simply looking at the tread down the centre of the tire will immediately tell you that the tires are ready to be replaced. Visible metal cords or threads showing through the tread is the most obvious sign that it’s time to replace them.

If you can see small curvy lines that look a bit like wrinkles running down the center portion of the tire, this is a sign that the cord is just below the surface. This is another indicator that it’s time to replace the tires.

Often a tire will have most of its wear down the center, especially if the majority of your riding is commuting, or freeway riding.

If you see any metal mesh showing, that’s a clear sign that your tires are toast. While that’s pretty obvious, there are other more subtle signs to look for on the tread. Sometime the tires doesn’t show wear right at the wear indicators, but the tread is worn all the way down to the metal weave underneath. This is the easiest visual indicator that your tires are finished.

Check the Wear Indicators

All new tires will be designed with some type of wear indicator, a small bar of tread that is raised slightly higher than the tire’s lowest point. When the tread has worn down even with this bar, the tire is ready to be replaced.

If you are finding it hard to locate your wear indicator lookout for little bumps at the bottom of the main grooves. If the depth of the rubber remaining reduces below the level of these indicators (1.5mm), the tire has reached its legal wear limit and must be replaced.

Often you can get a few more miles, maybe a couple hundred, after this point, but keep in mind that as the tire is coming to the end of its life, and will need to be changed fairly quickly.

Tire Age

When it comes to your motorcycle tires age it is important that you are abiding to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Even if you left your tires off your bike, sitting in the garage the material of the tires is still breaking down. That is why you should never exceed the maximum manufacturer’s tire age recommendations.

The average motorcycle tires last for 5 to 10 years, but according to most manufacturers, riders should expect their tires to last until the 6th year of frequent use. Of course, environmental factors, usage, build quality, type of rubber, and usage vs the intended purpose of the tire all play a factor in the aging process of a tire.

To locate the manufactures date code (such as in the photo below) have a lllook for a 4 digit part of the DOT code on the sidewall of your motorcycle tire.

The first 2 numbers indicate the week and the last 2 numbers indicate the year (following 2000). So in the example below, the manufacture recommends that you do not use this tire beyond the 35th week of 2007.


Cracks and Dry Rot

Put simply dry rot is characterized by cracks in the tire rubber, usually seen on the sidewall. All dry rot really is is the decay of your tire through regularly exposed to harmful substances and conditions.

Dry Rot compromises your safety

Dry rot is extremely harmful to your motorcycle and your overall motorcycle safety. Dry rot allows air to escape the tire, if you notice that it is impossible to fully inflate your tire, it might be dry rot!

Dry rot will also express itself as unnatural rubber expansion while driving. Tires with dry rot are known to develop leaks, holes and blowouts. This can cause mid-ride separation of tread and tire making it extremely dangerous.

With motorcycle deaths, 28 times more likely than other fatal crashes (Source: Forbes) dry rot is just not worth brushing over.

What can be done about dry rot?

It is important to say that there is no way of repairing cracks or dry rot on a motorcycle tire. My recommendation is to check for dry rot twice a year or so and if you find some on your tires get them changed immediately.

Tire Damage

Tire damage by cuts and tears are actually the most unlikely causes of needing to replace your tires, however, it does need to be mentioned. The most common things that can cause tire damage is over and under-inflation of your tires. By over or under inflating your tires you’re exposing them to an increased risk of being damaged by sharp objects.

Tire Cupping

Tire cupping is an odd and uneven wear pattern on your tires due to bouncing motion on your wheels. Tire cupping is often irregular in where it shows up on the wheel and will interfere with the tires ability to have proper contact with the road. Tire cupping will normally appear on one side of the tire only. Some slight cupping over time is normal and is due to low tire pressure. The best thing you can do is increase the tire pressure by about 2psi.

It is also important to mention here that depending on the your habits, how much you lean into corners or stay upright this can also change the amount of uneven wear on your tires. There is no right or wrong here, you just need to understand your habits as a rider and how this can affect your motorcycle.

Not sure how much wear is too much?

When evaluating your motorcycles tires it is important that you take a more catious than blazay approach. Often times we forget that there are only a few milimeters of tread that hold the shinny side up and the rubber side down.

If you’re still not sure, pop into your local garage and ask the question.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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