How To Read Motorcycle Tire Sizes

Take a look at your motorcycle tires and you will notice various markings on their exterior. These markings include numerals and alphanumerals, which communicate the tire’s specific size. The specified size consequently influences the performance and safety of your motorbike.

Motorcycle Tire Sizing

Your motorcycle tires feature certain markings on their sidewalls and these markings portray the width, rim diameter, and aspect ratio. These dimensions are often expressed in alpha numerals such as 120/70/ZR17. Here is a breakdown of what these codes mean;

First Number

Let us take a motorcycle tire whose size is marked as 120/70/ZR17. The leading number, which is 120 in this case, connotes how wide your tire is. The universal tire width measurement unit is millimeters and it takes into account pressurized tires.

Tires with a bigger width may feel a little bit heavier but they provide you with comparatively better grip. This translates into a better cornering experience. Tires with a smaller width are generally lighter and they enhance maneuverability.

Second Number

Ideally, the subsequent number connotes your tire’s aspect ratio. This ratio is typically expressed as a percentage and it represents the height of your motorcycle tire about its width.

For instance, if your motorcycle tire has an aspect ratio of 80% and a width of 120, this translates into a sidewall that is 96 millimeters high. Lower aspect ratios translate into tires with relatively shorter sidewalls and this has the advantage of better handling.

Third Number

The number following the aspect ratio or the third number portrays the circumference of your motorcycle tire. As per the aforementioned example, 17 is the tire’s rim diameter. The rim diameter is generally expressed in inches and it determines the size of the wheel rim you can mount your tire onto.

Alphanumeric Numbers

In certain motorcycle tires, the tire size is expressed in alphanumeric characters such as MH 90 17. However, this does not mean that their sizes are different from that of other motorcycle cycles. The letter may refer to different aspects such as the type of tire.

If your tire is marked, MH 90 17, 90 represents its breadth while 17 represents its rim diameter. Letters may also represent the construction type. For instance, in a tire marked 120/70/ZR17, the R means that your tire has a radial construction configuration.

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Markings on Motorcycle Tires

Motorcycle tires feature numerous and distinct markings on their sidewalls. These markings communicate essential information meant to help you establish the tire’s specifications as well as compatible wheel rims.

Tire Size

Tire size is the primary motorcycle tire marking and it indicates the specific size of your tire. Tire size can be expressed in numbers or a combination of numbers and letters as explained earlier. Essential aspects such as the tire’s width and rim size are expressed in this marking.

Tire Type

In addition to the motorcycle tire size, the tire type is also expressed on your tire’s markings. Motorcycle tires are primarily classified depending on their construction type. In a tire marked as 120/70/ZR17, the letter “R” indicates that your tire features a radial construction.

Speed Rating

In most motorcycle tires, the speed rating is marked near the end of your tire’s sidewall. This rating is expressed using varying letters and it indicates the maximum speed your tire can accommodate safely. Surpassing this rating can result in burst-up tires, whenever you overspeed.

Motorcycle Tire Markings Chart
Motorcycle Tire Markings Chart

The most common speed ratings marked on motorcycle tires include:

Letter Speed Rating (MPH)
J 62
K 68
L 75
M 81
Q 99
R 106
S 112
H 130
V 149
W 168
Y 186

 

Tube Type

To help you determine whether your motorcycle tire needs an inner tube to function, tires are often marked as TT or TL. If your tire features the markings TT, this means that you must use it with a tube. However, if your tire features the markings TL, you can put it to use without an inner tube.

Load Index

Certain motorcycle tires are also imprinted with the maximum load capacity and this is designed to caution you against overloading. The load rating is commonly found on the sidewalls of rear motorcycle tires and it typically ranges from 50 to 125 kgs. For safe operation, you should pick a tire with a load index that matches your expected load demands.

Direction Arrows

You may also find direction arrows imprinted on the tire’s sidewall. The purpose of these rotation arrows is to help you mount the tire properly. Proper tire installation consequently ensures you have the ideal riding experience.

Date

It is not surprising to find a date inscribed on your motorcycle tire sidewall as DOT followed by a number. This date represents the date your tire was manufactured. In most tires, the date is expressed as a four-digit number, for instance, 3523. This means that the motorcycle tire was manufactured on the 35th week of 2023.

Brand

Certain motorcycle tire manufacturers also imprint their brand logos, colors, or catch phrases on the sidewalls of their tires. This branding information is meant to promote their brand and it helps you identify tires produced by your preferred manufacturer.

Choosing the Ideal Motorcycle Tire Size

Using motorcycle tires that are correctly sized does not only guarantee your safety but it also elevates your riding experience. Here is an explanation of essential factors you should deliberate on when choosing the perfect tire size.

Your Motorcycle

The type of your motorbike and how you intend to use it should be the primary informants of your decision. If you own a sporty bike and intend to use it for racing, you should opt for tires with a comparatively larger width to boost stability and grip. You should also refer to your bike’s manual to better understand the perfect tire size for your bike.

Aspect Ratio

If you intend to use your motorcycle for sporting adventures, you should consider procuring tires with a relatively lower aspect ratio. This is because a lower aspect ratio translates into shorter sidewalls, which consequently translate into better handling.

Width

If your use demands greater grip, a motorcycle tire with a relatively bigger width would be perfect. However, if you prioritize handling, slightly thin tires would be perfect. To determine the width of a tire, look at the first number on the tire’s sizing code.

Speed Rating

You must consider the speed rating of motorcycle tires before making a purchase. This is because the speed index determines how fast you can ride without risking tire bursts up. Check for the speed rating, often inscribed using letters like H, W, and Y, on the tire’s sidewalls before making a purchase.

Motorcycle Tire Dimensions
Motorcycle Tire Dimensions

Cost

Depending on the type, manufacturer, and tire specifications, motorcycle tires may be slapped with varying price tags. When purchasing a tire, you must factor in its respective cost about the unique advantages it yields.

Weather Conditions

If you are buying motorcycle tires for use on wet surfaces, it is advisable to procure tires with greater width for elevated traction. If your riding environment is dry, tires with comparatively shorter breadth can work perfectly.

Expected Load Capacity

How many people or loads do you intend to carry on your motorcycle at ago? Establishing the maximum load capacity, you expect to operate on will help you settle on the perfect tire size. Check out the specified load index imprinted on different tires.

Construction Type

Motorcycle tires are typically manufactured in varying configurations and the construction type is often indicated using letters. For example, a tire with an “R” marking features radial construction and this makes the tire ideal for certain riding styles.

Why You Should Select the Perfect Motorcycle Tire Size

Using rightly-sized tires on your motorcycle offers numerous rewards such as:

  • Compatibility: First, using right-sized tires ensures that your tires perfectly fit your motorcycle’s wheel rims.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: A well-fitting motorcycle tire also makes your bike aesthetically pleasing.
  • Enhanced Safety: Using correctly sized tires on your motorcycle ensures that you have a great grip and keeps your bike stable. This minimizes the risk of accidents by averting slipping on wet road surfaces.
  • Better Handling: With rightly-sized tires, you can easily control your motorbike on slippery roads or when cornering. Handling a bike with incorrect tire sizes while speeding can be quite challenging.
  • Enhanced Bike Performance: Mounting fitting tires on your bike improves how your motorcycle interacts with the road thereby enhancing its performance. It boosts braking and acceleration.
  • Extended Tire Life: If you rely on perfectly fitting tires, you are less likely to replace your tires prematurely. This is because there is a lower risk of wear and tear.
  • Legal Compliance: Certain local laws demand that you use certain types of tires and complying with these laws saves you hefty fines.

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Consequences of Using Incorrectly-Sized Motorcycle Tires

It is recommended that you use fitting tires on your motorcycle at all times. Failure to do so presents numerous consequences which include:

  • Safety Risks: If your tires are slightly bigger or smaller, your chances of having an accident are quite high. This is because improperly sized tires offer less grip and traction.
  • Compromised Ride Experience: When using unfitting tires, you are likely to have an unpleasant riding experience compared to when using fitting tires. This is because of the reduced handling capabilities, sluggish acceleration, and poor traction.
  • Legal Implications: Using unfitting tires on your motorcycle can land you in some serious trouble with the law. For instance, using prohibited tire types can get your bike impounded by the local authorities.
  • Poor Acceleration: If your bike is using unfitting tires, you will experience challenges when trying to accelerate due to reduced responsiveness.

At KARMAN, we help you get the right sizes of motorcycle tires depending on unique terrain requirements.

More Resources:

Types of Motorcycle Tires – Source: KARMAN

Motorcycle Tires – Source: WIKIPEDIA

One Stop Solution Wheels & Tires Manufacturing

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