Performance Technic Tip: most bikes are running the wrong tyre pressure
Performance Technic is the new technical facility in Kyalami, run by the same team behind the phenomenally successful Fire It Up and Bike Buyers. Every Tuesday they will be providing some technical know-how that could make your biking life a better and easier one. Today, we explain how most motorcycles on the road today are running the wrong tyre pressures and the dangers that lie therein.
A study in America showed that 40% of all motorcycles were running the wrong tyre pressure. We suspect that in South Africa it’s far worse. It’s sort of how we role – in the States, people are very conscientious of things like tyres, fluids, well-being and safety on the road. In SA, we sort give the tyre a kick, scheme “ja, everything is lekker“, and we head off for the day.
That’s how we roll.
The lackadaisical approach causes many issues, a large section has to do with rider safety, and another to do with the tyre wear. The air within the tyre serves the function of acting as a sort of airbag for the bike, whereby it allows the tyre to flex and cushions the motorcycle. That’s the simple explanation.
Tyre flex is important because it helps the tyre generate heat. Heat is essential because tyres are designed to run a certain temperature, and a tyre running too hard will firstly wear the middle of the tyre very quickly, will feel bumpy and will not let the tyre get up to temperature.
Tyre pressure that is too low is far more common. The tyre will very likely leak air very slowly, either very through the valve or through the bead when the bike hits bumps. It happens slowly, so you might not notice a very gradual change in the handling of the bike. The steering becomes more difficult, the bike feels sluggish when turning into corners, it might feel restricted under acceleration, it could wobble through bends and in drastic cases, under hard acceleration, the rear wheel could slip within the tyre because there is not enough pressure on the bead. It affects the wear of the tyre too, giving it a layered look with uneven wear.
We notice it at The Bike Show. Most of the bikes we ride are demo units that go through a strict checklist before we receive them, so the tyre pressure is always correct, and we get used to the feeling of the right pressure. Sometimes, we are asked to ride friends’ bikes, and almost every time we immediately get a sluggish feeling through the bars that is indicative of low tyre pressure.
Almost every time.
Tyre pressures should be checked at least every two weeks. Pressure gauges from garages are usually inaccurate from anywhere between 5% and 20%. However, it’s better to check at a garage than not at all. For decent accuracy, buy a tyre pressure gauge from your local dealer.
The correct pressure depends on the model of motorcycle and the type of riding. The pressure for the model will either be found somewhere on the bike or in the owners manual. You should measure the tyre pressure before you set off, or shortly afterwards, while the tyre is still cold. Checking it halfway through a long ride, while the tyre is warm will give an elevated pressure.
People run lower pressures when riding off-road or around a race track. Lower pressure for off-road offers better grip but runs a higher risk of getting punctures that tend to ruin your day more than slipping a little more. Track riders often run pressures as low as 1.1 bar, but this is only when running proper track tyres and with tyre warmers. These pressures will not work on road tyres that were not designed for it. Rather go with the recommended pressure.
Performance Technic Contacts:
Tel: 010 880 2849