Find the Best Tire Pressure For Your Motorcycle | American Sport Touring (2023)

Tire pressure might well be the most approachable yet neglected part of your motorcycle suspension. Full-on suspension tuning is a daunting and complex undertaking for all but the most avid rider. But any rider can readily adjust tire pressure to suite their riding style and road conditions.

In this article we’ll take a look at how tire pressure affects handling and safety; how to determine the right tire pressure for the way you ride; and we’ll cap it off with a few tips to keep those tires pumped up.

Tire Pressure and Ride Quality

Road racers, motocrossers, and even street riders use tire pressure to make small adjustments to their suspensions in an effort to fine tune handling characteristics to the particular riding conditions at hand. Even if one can’t detect a difference in rideability, making the right small changes will at least take some worry about tire grip off the table.

Actual air pressure in a tire at any given moment is a function of tire temperature. That is, as a tire warms up and cools down, air pressure correspondingly goes up and down. Consequently, any discussion of one must consider the other. MotoGP teams take this concept to the extreme. They invest significant time and effort to measure and maintain optimal settings to yield the best lap times on a given track and ambient air temperature combination. Most street riders can dial it back a bit, but still should understand this aspect of motorcycle performance.

Find the Best Tire Pressure For Your Motorcycle | American Sport Touring (1)

Tire inflation at the extremes, too high or too low, is noticeable to experienced riders and a good reason to stop for an adjustment. Too much tire pressure may make a bike feel more agile but also increases ride harshness and tire wear. Aggressive riders who really bring up tire temps may find their tires go from grippy to slippery.

On the other hand, too little air pressure leads to sluggish handling causing the bike to feel like it wants to wander. In contrast to over inflated tires, under inflated tires may grip better on unpaved roads and on other low traction surfaces. Dirt riders for example tend to prefer the handling characteristics of softer tires.

(Video) Choose the best touring tyres | Two-up pressures, wet weather & scrubbing in

Riding in the rain is another consideration. The siping grooves in underinflated tires are less effective in wet conditions increasing the danger of hydroplaning and losing contact with the road. (Unsolicited trivia – In 1923 John F. Sipe invented and patented the idea of cutting grooves in shoes for better traction, Goodyear made the idea work for tires.) And like over inflated tires, tires with too little air pressure also wear faster on the outer area of the contact patch rather than the center.

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Start With The Motorcycle Manufacturer Recommendation

Indeed, finding and maintaining optimal tire pressures is an important part of getting the best from your motorcycle suspension. Performance, confident handling, fuel economy, tire wear, and most importantly rider safety all depend on having the right amount of air in the tires.

So what tire pressure is best for your motorcycle and the way you ride?

The right place to start is with the recommended tire pressures found in your owner’s manual and shown on a placard attached to the motorcycle frame. These recommendations always apply to cold tires.

Find the Best Tire Pressure For Your Motorcycle | American Sport Touring (2)

Some manufacturers give a single recommendation regardless of load, while others provide a second recommendation for two-up riding. For example, BMW recommends 42 PSI front and rear in all cases on the 789 pound BMW K1600GT. Yamaha on the other hand gives two recommendations for the 642 pound FJR; 36 front and rear when unloaded, and a bump-up to 42 PSI on the rear when riding two-up or with luggage.

(Video) Contact Patch: Recommended Motorcycle Tire Pressures are Wrong

You can see from these recommendations that motorcycle weight alone is not a particularly good guide to determine tire pressure settings. Factory engineers develop their recommendations with an understanding of the complete suspension package.

It’s natural to ask if the recommendation from the manufacturer is right for every rider and road. The short answer is almost always yes. These settings were determined by factory engineers to yield the best performance, comfort, and tire wear for typical riding scenarios.

If however you conclude adjustments are needed after giving the factory settings a fair trial, consider the trade-offs carefully before making changes and for your safety be sure to stay under the max PSI specified for the tire itself.

Understanding the Tire Maker Max PSI

Let’s take a short detour at this point to explain tire maker max PSI and what it means to you. The max PSI value for any tire can be found on the tire sidewall. This is not the recommended tire pressure to use for your motorcycle or any motorcycle for that matter. Instead, the value represents the maximum cold tire pressure that the tire can safely handle regardless of motorcycle, load, or riding style. If you are running tires designed for your motorcycle this value is always at or above the motorcycle maker’s recommended tire pressure, so not a problem. If somehow the recommended tire pressure for your motorcycle is greater than the max PSI specified on the tire itself you have the wrong tires. Don’t exceed the max PSI specified by the tire maker.

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Finding the Right Tire Pressure For How You Ride

Let’s come back to finding the optimal tire pressure for you. A singular factor when deciding how much air to put in your tires, if you deviate from the manufacture recommendation, is to consider how and where you ride. Fast riders on well paved roads may want a little more air to increase stability at speed and improve handling. Riders who find themselves on low traction surfaces may elect to take a little air off. But for virtually everyone else factory settings are still the best option.

(Video) What Tyre Pressure Settings Should I Run On My Motorbike

Determining the right setting for any combination of motorcycle, tire, road surface, and riding style requires some experimentation. A popular approach is what’s referred to as the 10/20 rule which simply says the difference between front and rear cold and warmed tire pressure should be 10% and 20% respectively. Here’s how to use it.

Start by setting cold tire pressures to the factory recommended setting. Then warm-up the tires by taking a 20- or 30-minute ride on roads that are typical for you. Now measure the warmed-up tire pressures. If the warm tire pressure is less than 10% higher at the front and 20% higher at the rear, then let the tires cool down (which can take 2 to 3 hours) and release a little pressure. Slightly lower tire inflation allows additional flexing and generates more heat. Measure and make a note of the new lower cold tire pressure setting. Repeat the warm-up and re-measure until warmed-up front and rear tire pressures are within 10% and 20% of cold pressures. Your last cold tire pressure measurement is the optimal tire pressure for your motorcycle and your riding style.

Here’s an example using a typical front tire…

Do This…Front Tire Reading…Means…
Starting by measuring and recording cold tire pressure 36 PSIThe tire is at the recommended level
Ride 20 or 30 minutes to warm the tires Tires are warm up to typical levels for your riding style
Measure and record warm tire pressure 38 PSILess than a 10% increase means the tire is not generating enough friction to fully warm-up
Allow the tires cool (for about 2 or 3 hours ) then bleed off a small amount of pressure and re-measure 35 PSIThis lower pressure will let the tire generate more heat and therefore more pressure; make a note of the new cold tire setting
Take another warm-up ride and another warm tire pressure measurement 38.5 PSIDone! Warmed up pressure is now about 10% higher than cold; use the last cold measurement (35 PSI) as your target cold tire pressure

Check and Adjust Tire Pressure Often

Tires naturally leak a little air over time, consequently it’s important to regularly check and top up the air as needed. For riders who ride frequently a check every other week is about right. For long distance touring riders, check before setting out and then periodically along the tour. The important thing is to get in the habit of regularly checking tire pressure.

A reliable tire gauge is a must-have in every tool kit. There are any number to choose from featuring all sorts of designs. A gauge with a flexible air hose and a built-in bleeder valve is the easiest to use. The flex hose makes squeezing between brake rotors and rims to reach the valve stem much easier, particularly on the front wheel.

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Use a Quality Tire Gauge

We looked at a number of tire gauges and found gauges from JACO are well made and a great value. JACO earned their place as the #1 selling brand worldwide by using high quality materials, calibrating each gauge at their in-house facility, and adding unique features like glow in the dark scales for low-light use, swivel connectors, and proprietary HybridFlex hosing. Prices are reasonable too, with models ranging from $20 all the way up to $40, all with a lifetime warranty.

(Video) Get the RIGHT sportsbike tyres | Road, track, pressures & compounds

Read more about choosing a tire gauge in the article How to Pick the Right Tire Gauge.

Find the Best Tire Pressure For Your Motorcycle | American Sport Touring (4)

How to Check and Set Tire Pressure

Make sure the tire is cold, meaning it has been standing for 2 to 3 hours, before checking pressure. Add air as needed to bring the level up to the manufacturer recommendation or to the setting that works best for you. Bleed off a little if a cold tire is over filled; (don’t bleed air from a warm tire as the result may be an underinflated tire).

Its good practice to also inspect the tires for any external damage such as scrapes, cuts and gouges, or bubbled areas.

If you find a tire is consistently under-inflated it’s a good idea to have a tire shop take a closer look. There may be unseen damage to the tire or wheel.

Get the Most From Every Ride

Motorcycling comes with risks; some are beyond a rider’s control. But risks caused by over or underinflated tires are something every rider can minimize while maximizing performance and tire life.

Find the Best Tire Pressure For Your Motorcycle | American Sport Touring (5)
(Video) Motorcycle Tire Pressure and Why It’s Important! | MC GARAGE

Take the time to find the right tire pressure for you, carry a quality tire gauge, and monitor and adjust pressures regularly. Getting in the habit of checking and adjusting tire pressure is the easiest way to ensure you get the best performance and handling your motorcycle can deliver.

References & Resources

Useful Links

SiteLink
Michelin motorcycle tire basicshttps://www.michelin-training.net/courses/motorcycle_tire_basics/english/ipad/index.html
Dunlop motorcycle tires Care & Maintenancehttps://www.dunlopmotorcycletires.com/about/care/
Pirelli on the technology behind motorcycle tireshttps://www.pirelli.com/tires/en-us/motorcycle/all-about-tires/all-about-tires
Bridgestone’s guide for proper motorcycle tire inflationhttps://www.bridgestonemotorcycletires.com/en-us/tips-and-support/bridgestones-guide-for-proper-inflation-of-motorcycle-tires
JACO tire pressure gaugeshttps://jacosuperiorproducts.com/collections/tire-pressure-gauges

FAQs

What is the best tire pressure for motorcycle? ›

Motorcycle tires, however, should be inflated between 28 and 40 psi. You should never exceed this number. The manufacturer of the motorcycle will recommend a maximum tire pressure that should be sufficient for your riding style and load.

How do I know what psi my bike tires should be? ›

Every tire has a recommended psi printed on its side close to where it touches the rim. This is usually written as a range (for instance, "90 to 115 psi") since there are reasons why you'd want to be on the higher or lower end, which we'll get into shortly.

What psi should dual sport tires be? ›

18-20 PSI/1.241 – 1.37 bar

This PSI range is suggested for dual-sport 50/50 and 80/20 style riding.

Is 40 psi good for bike tires? ›

Most mountain bike tires are rated for 25-50 PSI. Road tires are usually 80-120 PSI. Gravel tires are often 40-80 PSI. While they are a good starting point, those ranges are too broad and conservative for most riders.

Is it better to have higher or lower tire pressure? ›

So, when filling your tires, the recommended tire pressure is the best compromise between handling, comfort, fuel economy and safety. But it's certainly fine to go over the recommended inflation by a psi or two. And going over is always better than going under.

What tire pressure is best for speed? ›

In our example shown below, the vehicle manufacturer's recommended 35 psi for a 225/45R17 91W Standard Load tire installed on a vehicle initially rises in 1.5 psi increments for every 10 km/h (6.2 mph) increase in speed until the inflation pressures max out with an increase of 7.5 psi when the vehicle's top speed has ...

What is the correct tire pressure of front and rear tire of a motorcycle? ›

If so, what is the ideal pressure for motorcycle tyres? The most common manufacturer pressure recommendations are 2.5 kgf/cm2 for the front wheel and 2.9 kgf/cm2 for the back. These are ideal pressures for travelling at high speeds on fast roadways and with the maximum allowed load.

How do I know if my bike tires are over inflated? ›

As a rule of thumb, when you sit on your bike and clip in, you should visibly see a slight bulge in the tires. If not, drop the pressure 5 psi per tire and try again. Repeat until you get the bulge.

Is 40 psi good tire pressure? ›

Specifically, the level of 40 psi can be suitable for passenger cars or sports cars. But this is too high for small cars with a recommendation below 35 psi, while 40 psi is too low for large trucks. The recommended level for the tires of famous sports cars and passenger cars is between 32 -40 psi.

Is 80 psi too high for bike tires? ›

Pump it up.

Proper tire pressure lets your bike roll quickly, ride smoothly, and avoid flats. Narrow tires need more air pressure than wide ones: Road tires typically require 80 to 130 psi (pounds per square inch); mountain bike tires, 25 to 35 psi; and hybrid tires, 40 to 70 psi.

Is 50 psi too much for tires? ›

Press. 340 kPa ( 50 PSI)”. This means that the tire will safely carry up to 1477 lbs. and can be safely inflated up to 300 kPa (Kilopascal) or 50 psi (pounds per square inch).

Does higher tire pressure increase speed bike? ›

Very high tyre pressures might feel fast, but they're not. Once you go past a certain point, adding more air to your tyres actually decreases grip, increases high-frequency vibrations and causes extra muscular fatigue. All of these things slow you down.

Is 42 tire pressure too high? ›

“Recommended cold tire pressure is in vehicle manual and on tire label. It's usually 30 psi for small, 36 psi for medium, and 42 psi for large car.”

What does 44 psi mean on a tire? ›

The 44 psi shown on the tire sidewall is the pressure at which the tire will safely support its maximum load rating. This is not the carmaker's recommended operational tire pressure for that specific vehicle.

What happens if tire pressure is too high? ›

Tire Damage and Wear

Excessive air pressure can also distort the shape of the tire, leading to decreased traction and increased wear and tear down the center of the tire. Depending on the circumstances, repeatedly overinflated tires could wear out more quickly.

What is the best tire pressure? ›

Most passenger cars will recommend 32 psi to 35 psi in the tires when they're cold. The reason you check tire pressure when they're cold is that as tires roll along the road, friction between them and the road generates heat, increasing both the temperature and the air pressure.

Is it better to over inflate or Underinflate tires? ›

Under-inflated tires are just as dangerous and costly. Like over-inflated tires, under-inflated tires also cause blowouts. When a tire is under-inflated, more of the tire's surface area touches the road. This increases friction, which increases heat and leads to advanced wear.

What is the exact tire pressure for? ›

On newer cars, the recommended pressure is most commonly listed on a sticker INSIDE the driver's door. If there's no sticker on the door, you can usually find the specs in the owner's manual. Most passenger cars will recommend 32 to 35 psi in the tires when they're cold.

Does higher tire pressure give more grip? ›

The Hoosier recommendation is that a higher pressure may give a little more maximum grip, but will require greater sensitivity to drive. The peak tyre grip will drop off more sharply. You can see this drop off in any tyre data you look at.

Does lower tire pressure give smoother ride? ›

A lower tire pressure makes the tire softer, meaning a smoother ride. This is a technique used by some who feel their suspension is too harsh. By decreasing tire pressure, it compensates for stiff suspension slightly. Lower tire pressure increases the contact patch with the driving surface.

Should rear tire pressure be higher than front? ›

Tyre pressures are normally higher in the front than the rear, to compensate for the extra weight of the engine and transmission, especially on front-wheel-drive cars.

How much air should be in a motorcycle tire pump? ›

The optimal air pressure for motorcycle tyres is 29 psi for front-tyre, to 33 psi for rear-tyre (2.0 bar to 2.3 bar).

Should front and rear bike tire pressure be the same? ›

Rider's position on the bike also means that the rear wheel carries about 60-70% of the total weight. Therefore, make sure you run the front tire pressure lower than the rear tire pressure. It should be around 2-3 PSI less, but it also depends on your position, discipline and riding style.

What happens if you over inflate a tire by 2 psi? ›

Tires will wear out prematurely. Overinflated tires round out on the tread section and cause the center to wear down significantly faster than the outer edges. This could cause them to last only half as long as they typically would. Overinflation can cause loss of traction.

What does an out of balance motorcycle tire feel like? ›

An imbalance tire feels like a wobbly steering. Tires will also show an uneven and faster tread wear. Out of balance tires show scalloped or cupped wear pattern or a bulge on the sidewall. One common symptom for vehicles with imbalanced tires is poor fuel economy.

How long should bike tires stay inflated? ›

High pressure road bike tires should be pumped up at least once a week, hybrid tires every two weeks, and mountain bike tires at least every two to three weeks. Why do I have to pump my tires so often? Bike tires hold only a small amount of air, but under a great deal of pressure.

How do I know if my tire has too much air? ›

It's almost impossible to tell if a tire is under-inflated or over-inflated simply by looking at it. Use a quality tire gauge and if necessary, adjust the air pressure as indicated by the owner's manual or the vehicle tire placard (usually found on the driver's side door jamb).

What is the 4 PSI rule? ›

Ideally, they should be about 4psi above the cold pressure. If the pressure is more than 4psi above the cold pressure, you should add more air. That is because there is too much friction, which builds up more heat than desirable. Conversely, if they are less than 4psi above cold pressure, the cold pressure is too high.

Is 70 psi too high? ›

Normal psi for a home pipe system is between 30 and 80 psi. While you don't want the psi to be too low, it violates code to be above 80. Instead, you should aim for a psi that's between 60 and 70.

What psi is too high to drive on? ›

While you should always stay within this range, you should also never be below 20 PSI, or over 50 PSI, or you risk serious tire damage (more so than with standard overinflated or underinflated tires to a lesser degree). Your car may have different ideal tire pressures for the front and rear axles.

Is 80 psi normal for tires? ›

A common air pressure for one these would be 55 front, 80 rear, or 75 front and rear, or like the example above, 50 front and 65 rear. Since weight capacity is a simple function of air pressure times air volume, the higher pressure is necessary to enable these vechicles to do their job.

What happens if motorcycle tires are overinflated? ›

Overinflation is more uncomfortable than hazardous and your tire will end up wearing quickly and consistently where there is continual harsh tire-to-pavement contact. Check your tires frequently with a good quality gauge.

Which tire wears out faster on a bike? ›

For most road models, this occurs in the range of 1,500 to 3,000 miles for rear tires, which wear much more quickly than fronts because 60% or more of your weight is on that tire (the lighter you are, the longer your tires will wear). Front tires usually run for upwards of 2 to 4,000 miles.

Does tire pressure affect top speed? ›

Tire Pressure & Impedance

The amount of rolling resistance impacts your speed. In a lab, as you increase tire pressure, your rolling resistance decreases. (Great!) However, on pavement, your rolling resistance decreases to a point and then drastically spikes, which makes you slower.

Is it OK to fill tires to max PSI? ›

What happens if you inflate your tires to the max PSI? Your tires' max PSI almost always exceeds the recommended pressure. It isn't advisable to fill your tire to this pressure for everyday driving. At max PSI, your car does not handle as well, braking is impaired, and you could risk dangerous blowouts.

Is 35 psi good for bike tires? ›

Pump it up.

Proper tire pressure lets your bike roll quickly, ride smoothly, and avoid flats. Narrow tires need more air pressure than wide ones: Road tires typically require 80 to 130 psi (pounds per square inch); mountain bike tires, 25 to 35 psi; and hybrid tires, 40 to 70 psi.

Is 40 a normal tire pressure? ›

Normal tire pressure is usually between 32~40 psi(pounds per square inch) when they are cold. So make sure you check your tire pressure after a long stay and usually, you can do it in the early morning.

How do you know if your motorcycle has too much air? ›

The excessive air will cause the mixture to burn a lot hotter than normal.
  1. The first sign you'll have of a motorcycle running lean is if you are having a rough idle. ...
  2. Alongside running with a rough idle, a motorcycle running lean will also act a little sluggish when you take it out for a ride.

What happens if PSI is too high? ›

Overinflated Tires Wear Out Your Tires Faster & Unevenly

Uneven tire wear can also be the result of overinflation. When your tires have too much air it causes the center of the tread to bow out and wear first. Because of this you will need new tires more often and have a less than comfortable ride.

How do I know if my tire pressure is too high? ›

A tire bulges in the center of the tread when you overinflate it. The only part of the tire touching the road is a small, skinny patch down the middle. In theory, "this should mean less rolling resistance and increased mileage," notes Popular Mechanics.

Is 42 psi too high? ›

“Recommended cold tire pressure is in vehicle manual and on tire label. It's usually 30 psi for small, 36 psi for medium, and 42 psi for large car.”

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