Find out how to protect your motorbike tyres and stay safe on the road.
Repairing your tyres if they get damaged can be costly, but most standard policies won’t accept claims for this.
In general, motorbike insurance won’t cover tyre damage that’s caused by braking, punctures, cuts or if your tyre bursts.
If your policy doesn’t cover tyres but you want financial protection in case they suddenly need repairing or replacing, you can either:
Take out standalone tyre insurance - This means you can make a claim for your tyres without affecting your motorcycle insurance no-claims bonus
Get motorbike breakdown cover – Provides roadside help for punctures and changing tyres. You can usually add this as an optional extra to your insurance policy or purchase separate cover
All motorcycle tyres will experience wear and tear, but paying attention to the right signs will tell you when it’s time to replace them:
Tread depth - The tyres on your motorbike need to provide you with good grip on the roads to give you better control of the bike. If your tyres are worn and don’t have the legal minimum 1mm tread depth, or are getting close to it, you need to replace them
Signs of wear - Check your tyre condition once a week and tyre pressure once a fortnight. Look for unusual or uneven wear, checking for cuts and objects stuck in the rubber. If they’re losing pressure, damaged, or visibly worn, you’ll need to repair or replace the tyres
Tyre age - Once your bike’s tyres are more than five years old, they should be checked annually by a mechanic. And because the quality of rubber degrades over time, all tyres should be replaced after 10 years, even if they still look in good condition
Type of tyre - Your bike should have the legally required tyres and ones recommended for its motorcycle category. To provide optimal performance, you should have tyres with the same tread pattern on both the front and back wheel
It’s important to know the age of your tyres as their quality and safety will decline over time, even if they haven’t had much use.
The easiest way to check this is to find the tyres DOT (Department of Transport) code.
All tyres made after 2000 have this written on one of the tyre sidewalls - the last four digits of the code will tell you the production date.
The first two numbers show the week the tyre was made and the last two tell you the year.
The tread on your tyres isn’t just decorative, it also provides essential grip and makes your bike much safer and more enjoyable to ride.
For tyres to be legal on motorcycles that are 50cc or over, they must have:
Most tyres have tread depth indicators, also known as tyre wear indicators, on their grooves.
These small areas are raised to a 1mm tread depth, so as soon as your tyre wears down to near these markers you should replace your tyres.
If you get caught riding with illegal tyres, you can face a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence per tyre.
And, if you’re involved in an accident and have worn tyres, your insurance claim could be invalid.
You should check your tyre pressure every two weeks when the tyres are cold - the rule of thumb is to do this when your bike hasn’t been on the road for at least two hours.
Your motorcycle’s handbook will tell you the recommended air pressure. What pressure you’ll need will depend on your tyres and the load you’re likely to carry.
The pressure in your tyres will affect their lifespan and can also affect the handling of your bike, so it’s important to get it right.
If the pressure’s too low, your tyres can overheat and get damaged more easily. Whereas if you over-inflate your tyres, they’re more likely to wear unevenly and affect the bike’s performance.
Different seasons come with different riding challenges, so while it isn’t a legal requirement in the UK, changing your tyres during colder and wetter months can be a good idea.
Some bike owners choose to change their tyres in winter to help improve their bike’s performance and safety.
A tyre that’s better suited for winter will typically have deeper tread patterns to help with traction and will provide more grip than you need in warmer and drier conditions.
If you check the tyre manufacturer’s website, you can usually find advice on which tyres work best for different situations.
The string of numbers on your bike tyre’s sidewall provides important information about your tyres to help you choose the right ones when they need replacing.
For example, the typical markings for a motorcycle tyre could read:
120/70 ZR 17 M/C (58W)
The first section of numbers, which here is 120, tells you the inflated tyre is 120 milimetres from sidewall to sidewall. The wider the tyre, the more surface area it will cover and so the better the grip, although this can make it harder to turn a corner
The number after the slash is the height of the tyre as a percentage of the tyre width. So, in this case, the profile height is 70% of the tyre’s 120mm width. This would make the tyre height 84mm
The Z is the speed rating of the tyre and the R tells you the tyre has a radial construction, which is the most common type of tyre construction for the road and is seen on most modern sports tyres
The 17 is the tyre’s diameter, so here it means the tyre will fit on to a 17-inch rim
M/C means this tyre is only designed to be used on motorcycles
The last bit of information, 58W, is the maximum weight the tyre can carry and the top speed it can do when it’s fully inflated and loaded. 58 is the load index and W is the speed index - these can be interpreted using special index tables