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Unread 08-29-2013, 04:40 PM   #1
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Pressure Points: Understanding tire air management

Running the proper air pressure in your motorcycle tire is critical. With a relatively small contact patch, and just two wheels connecting you and your bike to the road, the wrong air pressure can have a large effect on safety, performance, tire life, fuel mileage and even the operation of other components, such as suspension or steering.

Few understand the hows and whys of tire air management better than tire manufacturers. We recently caught up with XXXXX from Michelin to discuss some of the finer points of maintaining your tires.

"Thanks to more than a century of tire technology research, Michelin engineers have found that there's a certain amount of deflection in the tire profile that's optimal for balancing road grip, handling, comfort and durability," XXXXX says. "That optimum deflection is based upon the tire's construction, the load -- including the weight of the driver and rider -- and the intended use of the motorcycle."

To achieve that optimum deflection, it's up to the motorcycles owners to make sure they keep their tires inflated correctly.

XXXXX says that during recent events, Michelin engineers checked the air pressure on participants' bikes and found that more than one-third of all motorcycles at these events had improperly inflated tires.

"We found that the front tire pressure was better maintained than the rear tire pressure," XXXXX says. "Most likely because it is frequently more difficult to access the rear tire inflation stem. But proper inflation in both tires is critical for keeping your motorcycle stable, upright and performing at its best."

Air pressure is particularly important during the peak travel seasons of late summer and early fall for several reasons: warmer temperatures, longer trips and more travel two-up and heavily loaded.

The below tips offer several suggestions for keeping your tires in top shape. They should give you a reasonable guide of where to start before getting ready to jump on, saddle up and enjoy your ride.

You want to…


Get out on the road more in the summer/early fall

Check your pressure when the weather changes

Also, it’s normal for tires to gradually lose air pressure by as much as one or two pounds per month.

Be safe on the road

Use motorcycle’s manufacturer’s recommended pressure

Correct tire pressure reduces the risk of tire damage or failure. The wrong tire pressure compromises braking, cornering and stability. Always use the motorcycle’s manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which can be found on the bike placard or in the owner’s manual.

Have a comfortable, smooth ride while maintaining grip, handling and feedback

Don’t over inflate or under inflate your tires

Over inflation means that less of the tire is actually in contact with the road, meaning there is less available grip. Over inflation also causes the tire to be too stiff, causing a harsh and unpleasant ride. Under inflation adds friction and heat by increasing the sidewall deflection and increasing the area of the tire that is in contact with the road. This excess friction and heat shortens the life of the tire.

Load up your bike for a long road trip

Know your vehicle weight and load

Riding an overloaded motorcycle is dangerous. Overloading causes excessive heat to build up in your tires, which can lead to tire failure. Be aware of the maximum load rating stamped on the sidewall of your tires, the maximum axle weight rating, and the maximum vehicle load capacity – and never exceed any of them.

Keep your tires rolling for a long time

Check for wear and proper inflation

Improper inflation can cause uneven tread wear, which will reduce tire longevity. Both over inflation and under inflation cause the tires to age prematurely.

Be a smart, responsible rider

Check your tire pressure regularly with a reliable gauge

Motorcycle tire manufacturers recommend checking pressure at least once every two weeks. Do not trust your eyes. It’s virtually impossible to determine if a tire is correctly inflated simply by looking at it.

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