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Your customers want more than recommendations. They want to learn, know, and understand.

Your customers want more than recommendations. They want to learn, know, and understand.

Your store probably sells all kinds of cool stuff for the moto enthusiast. Gear, apparel, helmets – how this stuff looks, feels, and performs matters to your customer. Tires are no different – your customer wants to feel good about what they are putting on their bike. The more you understand about what motorcycle tires are and how they work, the more confidence customers will have in your expert advice and recommendations.

Cool but Critical

For most people, buying tires for their cars is a distressed purchase: something is wrong, so it’s time for new shoes on the car. For many motorcyclists, tire buying is an opportunity to enhance their ride. It’s part of the culture, part of achieving a look or style for their bike. It’s also performance-driven – customers want the right tire for how they ride. Riders know how important tires are for performance and safety. Tires are part of the whole package for customers excited about motorcycles.

Everything about the motorcycle and rider comes down to one credit card sized patch of contact with the road. That’s it – that’s where performance, handling, and safety are realized.

The contact patch is only about the size of a credit card.

Blacktop Brilliance

In this course, we want to give you a baseline understanding of motorcycle tires – some of the basic technology and terminology involved. Some of your customers will really benefit from what you know, and some of your customers will come in knowing more than you do about tires. All of them will appreciate being able to talk to you about finding the right solutions for their needs – and that starts with knowledge.

Construction

There are two types of motorycle tires:

Radial Tires

Enable riders to reach higher speeds and ensure consistency of performance – think lighter and faster.

radial ply tire
radial tires on a sporty bike

Bias-ply construction

Are reinforced with textile cords that criss-cross inside the tire. Bias-ply construction is generally more suitable for heavy road bikes.

bias ply tire
bias play tires on a road bike

With the exception of the plies, much of the rest of the construction between radial and bias-ply tires is similar. The different parts of the tire all contribute different functions, working together to handle loads, steering, transmitting forces, responding to and absorbing shocks – often under extreme conditions.

Never mix radial and bias-ply tires unless specifically recommended by the manufacturer of the motorcycle!

Let's explore a motorcycle tire. Click each to learn more about that part of a tire's construction.

Let's explore a motorcycle tire. Tap each to learn more about that part of a tire's construction.

Let's explore a motorcycle tire. Examine the tire cutout below, then tap the corresponding buttons below it to learn more about that part of a tire's construction.

Tire cutaway for mobile devices

Tap top open, tap again to close.

1. Bead Wires

Are metal wires that make up the inner circumference of a tire. They hold the tire to the wheel.

2. Inner Tire Liner

There is no inner tube in tubeless motorcycle tires – instead, a thin layer of Butyl rubber included on the inside of the tire acts as a tube that "holds air".

3. Casing Ply

Provides reinforcement around the entire tire and is attached to the bead wires. Together with the Sidewall the Casing Ply contributes to maintaining tire shape and absorbing deformations.

On Bias Ply tires, the Cross Ply is reinforced with textile cords at an angle of less than 65 degrees in relation to the direction of the wheel.

4. Bead Area

Is where the tire fits tightly to the rim, held by inflation pressure and the clamping of the bead wire. It's airtight, and transmits the bike's driving and braking torques.

5. Crown Ply

Underneath the tread, the crown of the tire is made of up of rubber coated textile cord fabrics that form strong bracing to resist deformations caused by speed and load, and to protect other parts of the tire from damage. Think of the crown ply as primarily adding strength and protection.

6. Tread

The tread is the part that is in contact with the ground. It is grooved with tread patterns to provide grip, and is made of a special rubber. The tread is an area of innovation for tire manufacturers; different rubber compounds, tread designs and technologies differentiate tires and performance. Think of the tread as the part of the tire that provides grip.

7. Sidewalls

Link the tread with the bead area. They absorb deformations and contribute to a tire's strength, shape, and feedback.

Sipes

Thin slits across the surface of the tread, called Sipes, improve traction, especially in wet conditions. Motorcycle tires did not use Sipes in their tread pattern until Michelin's X-Sipe Technology (XST) was launched. Found exclusively in the MICHELIN® Pilot Road 3, these sipes help replicate a dry road surface despite the presence of any residual water film by increasing the drainage capacity of the tread, then generating pressure at the edge of the sipe blade to help break up the water film.

Sipes
Indicators

Wear bar Indicators

Michelin motorcycle tires have wear indicators that aid in determining the remaining usable life of tire. Locate the running Michelin Man on the sidewall of the tire to find the wear bar indicators across the tread pattern. Smooth sections appear in the tread grooves, across the tread, when the remaining tread depth is only .8mm (1/32 inch). The minimum legal tread depth, in some states, is more than the federally mandated 1/32" (0.8mm). Please consult your state's Department of Transportation regarding tread depth minimums for motorcycle tires.

Directional Indicators

Many Michelin motorcycle tires are directional, i.e., the tires must be installed in a specified rotating direction. Directional tires are marked with an arrow molded into the sidewall and tread shoulder indicating the correct direction of rotation.

When you have an understanding of the different parts of a tire’s construction, you realize the important relationships between those parts.

The tread might be the most obvious part of a tire to your customer, but help them understand how the parts they can’t see are equally as important to a tire’s performance.

Understanding Sidewall Information

The technical characteristics of a tire are marked on its sidewalls. The sidewall acts as a veritable “ID Card” for the tire, and tells you and your customer a lot about the tire.

Explore a motorcycle tire sidewall. Roll over each to learn more about what the markings mean.

Explore a motorcycle tire sidewall. Tap each to learn more about what the markings mean.

A common misunderstanding is the maximum tire inflation pressure and maximum load marking on the tire sidewall. It is not the recommended tire inflation pressure. Instead it is the maximum weight that the tire is designed to support at the maximum cold inflation pressure. Consult the motorcycle owner's manual or placard on the motorcycle to determine the manufacturer specified tire air pressure for the motorcycle.
A common misunderstanding is the maximum tire inflation pressure and maximum load marking on the tire sidewall. It is not the recommended tire inflation pressure. Instead it is the maximum weight that the tire is designed to support at the maximum cold inflation pressure. Consult the motorcycle owner's manual or placard on the motorcycle to determine the manufacturer specified tire air pressure for the motorcycle.

From concepts to concrete

All that speed and power underneath a rider meets the road through a small contact patch on the tire – tires are very important! You've learned what tires are made of, now let's discuss some ways your customers can get the most from their tires.

Selection

It’s important you and your customer understand some basics in choosing a tire – like how do they ride? A tire with a steering/triangular profile, like the MICHELIN® Pilot® Power 2CT, offers responsiveness, and steering accuracy of trajectory – think quick and nimble. A touring or round profile tire, like the MICHELIN® Commander® II, provides a gradual lean angle – ideal for comfortable road biking.

A great place to start with any customer is by looking at their original equipment. The tires that came on their bike have characteristics (size, tread pattern, loading index, speed rating, etc.) that were selected by the vehicle manufacturer and tire manufacturer.

Selection of motorcycles

Inflation

Inflation and air pressure are critical to a tire’s performance. If air pressure is too high the ride will be rough, safety can be compromised, and the tire experiences increased wear. Too low, and the tire will perform sluggishly and get hot. The motorcycle manufacturer has specific guidelines to follow for just how much inflation is required. Only the motorcycle manufacturer should recommend tire pressure for their motorcycle. Do not rely on the tire manufacturers, blogs, forums or even friends for recommendations.

It’s important to understand that as a tire is in motion, the air inside heats up. As air heats up, it expands. This means the tire pressure of a cold tire – a tire not used for 2 hours or that has run for less than 2 miles at low speed – is lower than a hot tire. This means decisions about tire inflation should consider if the tire is hot or cold. Tire pressure should only be checked when “cold”. Never bleed air pressure from a “hot” tire as this can lead to low air pressure when the tire cools.

Run-In

When your customer gets their new tires out on their bike, they should “run-in” the new tires by riding at moderate speeds and gradually increasing the lean angle for 60 miles. The fundamental reason for this period of run-in is to ensure the rider “gets used to” the feel and performance of a new tire as it can differ dramatically from the performance and handling of a used tire. In addition, each time the motorcycle is used, they should travel a few miles at moderate speeds to bring the tires up to operating temperature. This will help the tires obtain optimum grip.

Motorcycles on the road

What comes around...

What comes around...

You now have a solid understanding of the basic concepts and construction of tires, as well as the importance of sidewall marking and tips you can share with customers to get the most from their new tires.

Remember – your customers are looking for more than just your recommendation, they’re interested in knowledge – help them understand how their tires work, and they’ll respect your expert advice. That’s the kind of relationship that will bring them back to you whenever they have service, gear, or tire needs.

Inner Tire Liner

There is no inner tube in tubeless motorcycle tires – instead, a thin layer of Butyl rubber included on the inside of the tire acts as a tube that "holds air".

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Bead Wires

Are metal wires that make up the inner circumference of a tire. They hold the tire to the wheel.

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Casing Ply

Provides reinforcement around the entire tire and is attached to the bead wires. Together with the Sidewall the Casing Ply contributes to maintaining tire shape and absorbing deformations.

On Bias Ply tires, the Cross Ply is reinforced with textile cords at an angle of less than 65 degrees in relation to the direction of the wheel.

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Bead Area

Is where the tire fits tightly to the rim, held by inflation pressure and the clamping of the bead wire. It’s airtight, and transmits the bike’s driving and braking torques.

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Crown Ply

Underneath the tread, the crown of the tire is made of up of rubber coated textile cord fabrics that form strong bracing to resist deformations caused by speed and load, and to protect other parts of the tire from damage. Think of the crown ply as primarily adding strength and protection.

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Tread

The tread is the part that is in contact with the ground. It is grooved with tread patterns to provide grip, and is made of a special rubber.

The tread is an area of innovation for tire manufacturers; different rubber compounds, tread designs and technologies differentiate tires and performance. Think of the tread as the part of the tire that provides grip.

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Sidewalls

Link the tread with the bead area. They absorb deformations and contribute to a tire’s strength, shape, and feedback.

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Load Index

Load Index
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Speed Ratings

Speed Ratings
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