Your motorcycle tires offer you much-needed road grip. Their tasks are extremely important to your road safety and riding pleasure. Therefore, managing your tire pressure and keeping your tires properly inflated will not only prevent premature tire wear but ensure that you get the best traction and performance on any road surface. With that, it’s understandable as a rider, how important checking and managing your motorcycle tire pressure is.
What you Need to Check and Manage Your Tire Pressure
- A tire pressure gauge
- The tire inflation specifications for your motorcycle and the tire you’re using.
- A bicycle tire air pump or an air compressor (compressed air stations can be found at some gas stations)
NOTE: A tire pressure gauge that reads in the right pressure range and in units you can work with (North America = PSI / EU = bar). Many professional gauges can measure both. The pen type gauges with a sliding plastic post are inexpensive and give a reasonably accurate reading.
The tire pressure specifications for your motorcycle will be listed in your motorcycle’s owner’s manual/shop manual. If you don’t have one you can check with a mechanic or read the specs on the side wall of your chosen brand’s tire as well for minimum and maximum load. Every tire brand has its own unique compound and variations.
Over-inflating tires will cause premature wear and may damage the tire itself and the tire rim. Over-inflation may also reduce your available traction. Where under-inflating will cause premature or uneven wear or cause overheating which may impact negatively on your traction and handling in corners.
A bicycle tire pump works perfectly when needing to add air and is considerably less expensive than an air compressor. Furthermore, it’s portable and requires no electricity. A tire pump is an essential for your motorcycle tool kit. Of course you an also use the gas station pumps when relevant but always check with your gauge after.
TIP: Be sure to use your OWN, PERSONAL tire pressure gauge after you fill your tires with air. Service station pump gauges are famously inaccurate. Furthermore, your gauge should be the only one you use to make sure correct measure. Every gauge is metered uniquely.
Checking Your Motorcycle Tire Pressure
It’s best to check your motorcycle tire pressure when your tires are cold. Tires will increase in pressure as they gain heat.
- Find the valve stem poking up on the inner surface of your wheel rim. You may have to roll your bike forward and backwards until you can easily access the valve stem. You should find that your valve stem has a cap (which protects the valve from dirt, debris and damage) and you will have to unscrew it turning counter-clockwise (to the left) to remove the cap.
- Once you have the valve stem cap off, you can see the end of the valve. Check that it’s clean, and then place your tire pressure gauge over the end of the valve, lining it up carefully before pressing down onto the valve stem.
- Be sure your gauge has been reset to zero or the slider rule has been retracted. If you hear a hissing noise or feel escaping air, you have not achieved a good seal with you gauge, and you won’t get a correct reading.
- Remove the gauge and try again. If you hear no sounds of escaping air, you have applied the gauge correctly. Most gauges will hold their reading after you have removed them from the valve. If you are using a slider-type be careful not to bump the end of the gauge before you read the pressure indicated.
- Once you know what air pressure is in your tire, you can adjust accordingly to achieve the specified pressure. If you are adding air it’s always easy to add a little too much and deflate to meet proper pressure. But do add air especially bit by bit and then check again until you have the right pressure in your tyre.
- If you need to remove air, you can press down on the pin in the centre of the valve stem with your thumbnail or often tyre pressure gauges have a small deflating nub on the opposite end. Once you’re satisfied with the pressure replace the valve stem cap.
Checking tire pressure on the rear wheel is a little more challenging due to the presence of your ‘final drive’ (chain/shaft/belt); discs from your rear braking system. If your bike has a centre-stand you’ll find it very useful for this task.
Repeat the process above for the rear tyre. Remember to replace the valve stem cap (to a clean valve stem) when you’re done. If your hands are dirty, once you’re done the back wheel, it’s probably time to wash your bike.
While you’re checking the tire pressure on both tires, spend the time also to give your tires a visual inspection. Look for: tread depth, signs of uneven wear or scalloping, discolouration or bluing; signs of age such as fine cracks in the treads, and any signs of puncture damage. If you do discover something like a nail or a screw in your tire, but the tire is still holding pressure, don’t remove it! The safest option might be to trailer your bike but depending on the situation but you may be lucky enough (with a quick check of pressure) to ride it to the nearest dealership for service. If you remove the object in the tire it might go flat right away and make it harder to put onto a trailer or require special towing accommodations. If you notice any unusual wear or colour to your tyre, it’s a good idea to check with your dealership or mechanic for advice.
Peace of Mind
This procedure may seem time-consuming at first, but it’s essential that checking your tire pressure become as important as checking if your helmet’s been fastened before riding away. The procedure will get quicker as you become more familiar with the process.
Carefully monitoring your tires will help make sure your tires last their full lifespan and you will be more likely to notice a problem before it becomes serious.