When it comes to motorcycle tyres, we always have several unanswered questions…

  • I feel my tyre does not offer sufficient grip. I wish to upgrade. Which one should I buy?
  • I am not able to find a tyre as per the size specified by company. Which other size/spec tyre should fit without disrupting my bike dynamics?
  • What is a soft compound tyre? What are the other tyre types?
  • How to repair a puncture ?

This series of articles is our effort to answer most of the questions that you may have regarding motorcycle tyres.

First of all, let us know the types of tyres.

Tyres can be broadly classified into four varieties:

  1. Tube type tyre
  2. Tubeless tyre
  3. Bias tyres
  4. Radial tyres

Tube Type Tyre

  • Inner liner is not designed to retain the air as tube performs this function
  • Inner liner is designed to perform the function of protecting casing plies from tube abrasion
  • The inflated tube ensures bead seating in this case and therefore Tube Type wheel rims in most cases do not have a hump design.

Tubeless Tyre

  • Inner liner is designed mainly to retain the air.
  • Bead is designed to air-lock tyre-rim assembly including holding the tyre on the rim.
  • In case of external penetration, the inner liner clings on to the external object thereby preventing pressure loss.

Caution: Never fit a tube-type tyre as tubeless one as some components of the tyres are designed to perform differently.

Bias Vs Radial Tyre

Bias tyre is made up by stacking rubber piles diagonally on each other. This structure is uniform and so sidewall and crown of the tyre have similar properties. A bias tyre is able to withstand a heavy load as its sidewalls are more rigid.

In Radial tyre, casing plies are placed from bead to bead in radial direction and crown area is made up by placing additional crown plies. Therefore the sidewall and crown have different characteristics.

A radial tyre has the following advantages over a bias tyre:

  • Better handling and grip as sidewall flexing is not transmitted to the tread.
  • Lower fuel consumption due to stabilised tread so less heat build up
  • Better comfort due to flexible sidewall.

What does soft / hard / dual compound motorcycle tyre mean

Standard Tyres

Standard tyres are made up of harder compound rubbers which increases the tyre’s life. These types of tyres compromises on the handling and cornering capability, however it is mostly not noticeable at the city speeds. The tread on these tyres are designed to have maximum grip while reducing road noise and enables adequate dispersion of water on rainy roads.

Performance Tyres

The performance tyres are made up of soft compound rubber. These tyres are designed to give maximum grip at high speeds during dry climate conditions. These tyres enhance handling, performance and cornering capacity.

However, these tyres wear out faster due to their soft compounds. They also do not work very well in the rains because; the dispersion of water from under the tyres is less.

To clarify this point a bit more- let us take an example of KTM Duke 200 & 390. Both these motorcycles have identical rim sizes (Front is 110/70/R17 & Rear is 150/60/R17) . Duke 200 comes fitted with MRF FC1 (front) & C1 (rear). Duke 390 comes equipped with Metzeler sporetec M5.

Duke 200 tyre is standard tyre. Cost of MRF FC1 & C1 pair is about Rs.6,300/- They last about 25-26,000 km and Duke 390 tyre is performance tyre. Cost is about Rs.15,000/-. They last about 8-10,000 km.

Some more examples of performance tyres are Yamaha R15 tyre: MRF Revz-S, Yamaha R1 tyres: Pirelli Supercorsa etc.

Dual Compound Tyres

To address the gap between standard and performance tyre, companies have launched dual compound tyres like Michelin Pilot Road II / III / IV. As the name suggests, these tyres are made up of two types of rubber compounds; hard rubber in the centre and soft rubber near edge of tyres.

Since most of us do maximum riding with bike straight up, the hard rubber compound in the centre provides adequate grip and long life. You lean your bike in a corner and the soft compound on the sides helps by sticking better in the corners.

Off Road Tyres (Also known as button tyres)

These types of tyres are generally used on off-roading vehicles. The rubber in these tyres is neither soft compound nor hard compound, but somewhere in between. These tyres have enormous stout of tread so it can provide a great grip on sand and wet mud. The side walls on these tyres are stiff so the tyre can adapt to uneven surfaces and potholes.

One drawback of these tyres is that make a lot of noise and wear out quickly when ridden on normal roads. So it becomes really important to take care of them while riding.

Tips to obtain maximum performance from your Tyres:

  • To give the best performance and optimal grip, tyres need to be at the correct operating temperature.
  • During the first few km of each ride, ride at moderate speeds and lean angles. Avoid harsh acceleration and braking until the tyre is at full working temperature.
  • Ideally both the tyres; front and rear should be of the same company and same series.

Know your motorcycle’s tyre pressure:

  • fuel tank. Please follow the recommended pressure.
  • Check tyre pressure at least once every fortnight when the tyre is cold (a tyre that has not run for at least 2 hours or a tyre that has run for less than 3 km on slow speed)
  • After checking the tyre pressure, replace the valve cap. It acts as secondary air seal and also protects valve core against dust.

Some technical jargon

A modern age Tubeless radial tyre is typically made of –

  1. Airtight synthetic rubber liner – Most modern tubeless tires are constructed with a virtually impermeable butyl rubber liner. This liner replaces the old inner tubes.
  2. Carcass ply – The carcass ply is made from thin textile fiber cables bonded into the rubber. These fiber cables are largely responsible for determining the strength of the tire.
  3. Beads – The beads are responsible for clamping the tire firmly against the rim of the wheel.
  4. Sidewall – In addition to giving the tire its height, the sidewall protects the tire against impacts with curbs and other objects. The sidewall also contains all the markings which tell you the important information about the tire, such as speed rating, load rating, and tire dimensions.
  5. Crown Plies – Crown plies provide the rigid base for the tread which allows for good gas mileage. The plies also provide centrifugal and lateral rigidity to the tire, while also allowing the tire to flex sufficiently for a comfortable ride.
  6. Tread – The tread is designed to provide traction in a variety of conditions. Good tread design also resists wear, abrasion, and heat.

You may find it easier to understand looking at the image below.


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