How to Check Motorcycle Tire Wear

Your motorcycle’s tires connect the bike’s power and handling to the road. 

When the tires wear out, you face both performance and safety issues. Nobody wants to change out tires too early due to the extra expense, but doing it too late poses risks. 

Knowing how to inspect the tires on a motorcycle can help you decide whether it’s the right time to change them out. Here’s how to check your motorcycle’s tires for wear.

Finding the Wear Indicators on a Motorcycle Tire

Today’s motorcycle tires are better engineered to provide indicators about when they’re worn. 

How to check motorcycle tread wear

A new tire usually starts with 5-6 millimeters of tread depth that shallows the grooves as the tire wears down. There are small bumps in the grooves of the tire tread that serve as wear indicators. When the tread surface is worn down to those bumps, there’s about 1mm of tread left, which means it’s time for a change. 

Honda motorcycle tire wear indicators

When to Change a Motorcycle Tire

You should change a tire before it reaches 1mm of depth, because once the tire is worn down to that level, the grooves are less effective at channeling water out from between the contact patch of the tire and the road. 

Motorcycle tire tread wear measuring

Two millimeters of tread depth is about as low as you should let it go. You don’t need a fancy measuring instrument or other tire tools to detect 2 millimeters of tread depth. Use a penny if you don’t have a measuring tool handy. 

Honda motorcycle tire inspection tread

The distance between the top of President Lincoln’s hair and the edge of the penny is about 2mms. Place your penny in the tire groove with Honest Abe headfirst. If you can see the top of his hairline sighting along the tire’s surface, then Lincoln says it’s time to make a change. 

Honda CBR tire tread inspection

Motorcycle Tire Wear

Tires on your machine can wear out in a number of ways. 

Honda motorcycle tire tread inspection

When kept on the machine too long, the tire will continue to wear all the way down to the cords, creating a dangerous situation. Other tires might exhibit an irregular wear pattern. This can be the result of many mechanical factors including a misaligned wheel, which can create an uncomfortable ride as a cupped feature develops on the tire tread. 

Motorcycle tire wear inspection

Motorcycle Tire Dry Rot

An overlooked issue when evaluating motorcycle tires is dry rot. Over time, a tire becomes less supple and can start to crack. It can make the tire more susceptible to blowouts or coming apart at the bead where the tire is tucked under the wheel. 

Honda CBR motorcycle tire tread wear

Fortunately, every manufacturer stamps a manufacture date on their tires, which can serve as an expiration date of sorts to give you guidance on when a tire's time is coming up. It's generally a four-number code: 

  • First two numbers: The week of the year
  • Last two numbers: The year itself

For example, "4907" indicates the tire was manufactured in the 49th week of 2007. 

Motorcycle tire inspection manufacture date

How Old is Too Old?

The industry standard for the lifespan of a motorcycle tire is six years, but five years is a better time to retire a tire. Higher performance tires with softer rubber compounds can degrade even quicker than that, so make sure you keep up with the maintenance, and check the tread depth on your tires often to keep your machine riding and handling safely.

Are the wear indicators telling you it’s time to change the tires on you motorcycle? Watch the videos above to see how to change the front tire on a Honda motorcycle and how to change the rear tire on a Honda motorcycle

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