If you’re sprawled out mid-hill climb wondering to yourself “why can’t I make it up this SOB?” Or getting yarded on the start straight, watching that joe you usually beat every stinkin’ race motor past you, there’s a good chance those round rubber things we call tires are to blame. Now if you’re racing MotoGP, slicks are great! But at the motocross track or in single track, not so much.
Next time you glance down and see missing knobs, and exposed wire, it’s definitely time to get some new treads. Keep in mind, not just any old tire will do, and we’re going to tell you why.
Check out our Motorcycle Tire Guide to learn the ins and outs of what makes up a tire and how to read those sidewalls (very important). For now let’s get started on identifying what makes tires different. The number one differentiator of
By far, the most common tire and consequently ridding is intermediate. The majority of riders and racers alike will have great traction and handling from an intermediate tire. Designed to grip reasonably well in hard situations and hook up well in soft loamy conditions, intermediate tires are the best option for those who ride in multiple conditions.
• Extremely versatile, designed to work well in virtually every condition.
• Medium compound allows for durability
• Lack of grip in hard pack with wider spaced knobs, and can chunk with excessive hard pack riding
• Handling can be more vague in deep sand or loam
One thing to note is that you will see either “intermediate to hard” or “intermediate to soft” on a lot of tires. What this means is that they are designed to work in intermediate terrain but lean towards either soft or hard.
Now what makes a difference between soft or hard terrain tires you might ask? Let’s first take a deeper look into the terrain and see why certain types of dirt require a different tire. Soft terrain, as you can image, is essentially deep loam or sand. If you’ve ever been to the sand dunes, you’ll see paddle tires that scoop the sand and allow the bike to track. The same concept applies here. Soft terrain tires have taller knobs that dig into the soft surface. Another standout feature of the tread pattern are the widely spaced knobs. This allows the dirt to “clean” its self out and not get stuck in between the knobbies. Tire compounds are very important when it comes to traction. Soft terrain tires have a harder compound to help churn the soil and move you forward.
There are a couple options of soft terrain tires depending on your track conditions:
• Soft -Work great on sandy tracks but hold their own on tilled clay and harder sand bases.
• Sand-When it comes to a deep sand track, a pure sand (sometimes referred to as sand/mud) tire can work well. Go Youtube Southwick and you’ll see where these tires shine.
Like we mentioned above, there are a few intermediate-soft tires that work great in the soft, but are a bit more versatile and will perform decent on hard surfaces. Definitely worth keeping in mind.
Hardcore is really the best way to describe riders who ride these conditions. A little bit of dust and a sunbaked track or trail systems looks like a good time! What’s not a good time is thrashing your tires left right. If you’ve torn off a few too many knobs, then maybe you need to switch to a hard terrain tire.
Because there isn’t much soil to dig into, the game changes to “gripping” rather than scooping. Closer spaced knobs allow for more surface area and, you guessed it, more traction. Also, unlike the soft terrain tires, the compound of these hard terrain tires are soft. You would think you would need a stiffer tire, but in reality you want the opposite. You want the tire to flex forming and connecting around the surface.
Most desert racing or riding is on harder pack conditions, however a hard terrain motocross tire may not be the best option. Desert riding is often done at higher speeds, therefore the compound of the tires need to wear better over longer durations of riding. Additionally, sidewalls are beefed up to withstand collisions with rocks and other obstacles. Because of the higher demands, you’ll run a higher tire pressure than motocross (we’ll explain below).
Correct tire pressure can make all the world of difference, and is crucial for performance and durability. Always check your pressure before you go out and ride. Here are some quick recommendations:
Sand/Mud: 12 PSI front, 10 PSI rear
Intermediate: 12 PSI front, 13 PSI rear
Hard Pack: 11.5 PSI front, 11 PSI rear
Off Road Racing/Trial Riding: 13 PSI front, 14 PSI rear.
*Note that off road pressure is higher. This is because of the rocks, roots, logs and other obstacles that can pinch or puncture an under-inflated tube.
Get a Quality Gauge
Be sure to use a quality pressure gauge, as just 1 or 2 PSI can dramatically effect performance and lifespan of your tires.
Like anything, tires can only handle a certain level of abuse. It is important to frequently check the condition of your tires to prevent any accidents or failures out on the trail. Here are a few things to look for:
• Torn off knobs
• Cracking or tears at base of knobs (about to tear)
• Cuts or punctures
• Side wall cracks
• Worn off brake/accelerating edges
• Short knobbies
As we mentioned above, have the correct tire and tire pressure for your riding conditions are the best methods of making your tires last.
Lastly, if you see any of those signs of wear we mentioned above, it’s time for a change. Now for some, the thought of changing a tire makes them want to already start chucking tire irons across the garage. Having changed many-a-tire in our life time, we’ve found the easiest and most effective way.
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Tires are the link between you and the road. Make sure you have the correct tire for your bike and type of riding.