We motorcyclists are often concerned about tyre grip - some are even obsessed with it. It is a fair consideration, since our safety and enjoyment depends on the interaction of two small patches (footprint) of rubber with the road surface.
Unfortunately we then take the inflation pressure for granted after we have mounted a set of grippiest tyres. We have come across riders who grossly over-inflated their tyres so that they can "feel" what the tyres are doing. An under-inflated or over-inflated tyre can cause various issues, so here are several tips about tyre pressure.
We start with under-inflation as it is the most common occurrence. When a tyre is under-inflated:
- Its footprint expands, putting subjecting more surface area to friction.
- Increased rolling resistance - bike feels lethargic when accelerating and turning.
- Tyre overheats.
- Increased wear and/or uneven wear.
- Increased fuel consumption.
- Wobbly handling.
- Increased comfort (to a certain degree).
- Increasing chances of bending the wheel, as there is less air to cushion against shock.
- Overly easy to lose speed when closing the throttle and/or braking.
When a tyre is over-inflated:
- Its footprint reduces, making its contact patch smaller.
- Reduced rolling resistance.
- Bike feels unstable and flighty as the tyres bounce over road irregularities rather than conforming and absorbing them.
- Increased wear in the centre portion of the tyre.
- Reduced fuel consumption.
- Easy to lose traction especially on slippery roads.
- Easy to lose traction during aggressive braking and downshifting.
- More difficult to lose speed when off throttle.
Check your tyre pressures regularly
We should check our tyre pressures at least twice a week, and everyday if we are touring. Checking regularly means spotting a potential early and not getting surprised when you are riding.
Check and inflate while the tyres are cold
Check the inflation pressure before you start riding and inflate at the service station closest to you. The pressure in a fully warmed up tyre will be higher and that gives you the wrong reading.
Have your own tyre pressure gauge
Invest in a good, reliable pressure gauge. Never rely on the service station's tyre pump. We have experienced by up to 40 kPa higher than the indicated pressure.
What inflation pressure should I use?
Stick to the manufacturer's recommended specifications when you are riding on the road. You may reduce by 20 to 35 kPa on the track, depending on the surface temperature. You may go lower for off-road riding, but do not go so low that there is not enough pressure to avoid rocks or tree roots banging up your wheels.
NEVER inflate to or over the indicated maximum pressure allowed for your tyre. The maximum inflation pressure is printed on the sidewalls of your tyres.