Tires Ain’t Pretty
By Janis Perfetto
Years ago when I was growing up, a tire commercial in my area was quite popular and their tagline was, Tires Ain’t Pretty. They were trying to get the message through that even though tires are quite ugly, smelly, and not pretty, you still needed to spend some money on them. Tires are necessary! They get you from point A to point B, whether there are two, three, or four of them.
My father used to run out to my vehicle to check my tire pressure every time I’d try to make a quick get-a-way. After I was grown and had children of my own, he still did the same thing. In fact, he kept a pressure gauge in his shirt pocket where most men kept their pens. He was always prepared to check tire pressure! He would guilt me out by looking at my “precious cargo” sitting in their car seats in the back and say, “You have a lot riding on your tires,” and “take care of your tires, and they will take care of you.” So, with the respect for tires passed down to me, have you checked your tires lately?
Let’s talk tires, specifically motorcycle tires. There’s more to your tires than you might think. To be safe, selection, inspection, and maintenance of your tires are equally important. One of the top maintenance items is INFLATION! Motorcycle tire inflation is one of the most critical items on the list. Do you check your tire pressure every time you ride? I do! A friend and I were meeting at my house for a ride. She pulled in my driveway just as I was checking my pressure. She was quite the little skeptic and I even felt a little “nerdie” as she talked smack to me about checking my pressure. I asked her when she last checked her tires. She couldn’t remember. I checked them for her. Zero. What? Zero. She had zero pounds of pressure. She stopped all that smack talk. It’s not just YOU, the rider of your own motorcycle, that depends on properly maintained tires. It’s everyone you are riding with as well. It’s one of those things that could be considered “group safety.” Check your tires and your MOM to find the proper tire pressure for your motorcycle. My MOM? Yes, your MOM – Motorcycle Operating Manual.
Did you know that the contact area on a motorcycle is quite small and literally the only source of traction? Look at your tires. Those little squares or diamonds notched out on your tires are all that’s providing the most essential contact area for the traction your tires need to keep you rolling. Inflation is therefore the most essential element for those little squares or diamonds to keep the traction to its maximum. Over-inflate your tires and those little contact areas will not respond favorably to curves and bumps in the road, and will cause a rougher ride than you probably desire. Under inflated tires can negatively affect the handling of your motorcycle too. Either way, under or over, improperly inflated tires can cause damage, such as separation from the rim. Tire pressure should always be checked before you ride when your tires are still cool. Load limits are equally important to inflation. Be sure to follow the recommended load limit.
In addition to checking your tire pressure, visually check your tires every time you ride. Inspect the sidewalls for bulges or cracks, check for any foreign objects, and make sure there aren’t any worn patches or areas that might not be uniform with the rest of the tire. One tried and true method to check the grooves of your tires is to insert a penny in the center. Abe’s head should be higher than the top of the groove, which is 2/32 of an inch. Some tire manufacturers recommend a new set of tires when the tread is at or below 2/32, but specifically at 1/32. Get a penny and try it. How much tread do you have left? Wear bars are molded into the tread grooves. When those grooves start showing in the groove channel, you need to start thinking about a new set of tires. Once the wear bars become exposed, the tire is at its life limit. I’ve seen tires used beyond that limit and speaking about not being pretty, it’s an ugly thing to see metal where there was once tire. At that point, there is no more traction at all. Safety is now compromised, yours as well as the potential safety of anyone riding with you.
If you don’t ride very often and you don’t have a center stand, it’s a good practice to at least move your motorcycle around in the garage to keep it from resting on the same spot for a long period of time.
A few years ago, my good friend Marilyn Vershure and I were riding to the Texas Ride-In™. It was the Saturday before the Fourth of July, somewhere south of nowhere in Mississippi, and it was somewhere around 2 PM. You know, after most help can be found to fix a tire. I did a mirror check to see Marilyn pulling into a convenient store. Having just made a gas and drink stop minutes before, I couldn’t understand what in the world she was doing. I made the turn back to discover that her tire had gone flat. She just had her motorcycle serviced and had new tires. How could this happen? Better question, how can we get this fixed quickly to get back on the road? We weren’t having much luck getting that second question taken care of. Long story short, the ONLY help we could find was a lawn mower shop that also took care of motorcycle tires! Only in Mississippi! They sent a truck, loaded up her bike, and off we went to spend some time at the lawn mower shop. They not only had the tube for her tire, but they got it on and fixed pronto. The culprit? The tube was twisted inside the tire. Incorrectly installed from her reputable motorcycle Honda shop! The lawn mower shop made that call and fixed it. Make sure your tire people are good tire people.
See page 14…