Tires are literally where the rubber meets the road. A tire will have a greater impact on the handling of your motorcycle than any other single component. I’m surprised then at how little I hear about tires on wrenching boards compared to things like oil or spark plugs.
I’ve seen discussions in which guys adamantly defended one brand of oil over another. I remember the old cigarette commercial from decades ago that claimed their customers would rather fight than switch. The same goes for oil. There can be a real passion associated with oil selection.
While oil is important, it won’t likely make the difference in keeping the bike upright in a tight spot or out of the ditch. You will probably not go flying down a mountainside because of an oil failure. But the performance of a tire is often the difference between life and death.
Most of the posts about tires on the boards I frequent are about using a car tire. I’ll ignore that subject for this blog and focus only on brand loyalty. Also the boards I belong to are for cruisers. I’m not sure these observations hold true for sport bikes or dirt bikes.
Most tire-related posts begin with somebody about to change a tire and seeking advice. Most of the responses will be tentative compared to those for oil. Usually the suggestions will involve only a couple of brands. Rarely somebody will suggest changing to a different profile. And it seems to be a much smaller percentage of the members willing to join in the discussion. It seems a lot of guys simply haul their bike to the dealership for the tire “that goes on that bike.”
And that may well be the answer to my observation. Folks aren’t as passionate about something they don’t do themselves. Changing the tire on a big cruiser is no simple matter. It requires a lot of muscle, confidence and some fairly heavy-duty equipment. You’ve got to support the bike while the tire is off, break the bead on the old tire, wrestle it off the rim and the new one on. Then there is the issue of balancing the tire. If you’re not a believer in Dyna-beads, then you’ll need a tire balancer. It seems only a small percentage of cruisers are willing to take on those challenges. Many of those who do also ride dirt bikes on which there may be more willingness to do your own tire change, and that carries over to the other bike for these riders.
I’ve seen video posted showing people changing tires using things like garbage bags or ratchet straps to ease the procedure. The tires being changed in these videos are usually for sport bikes or dirt bikes, again leading me to think cruisers are less likely to venture off down this path.
All riders might benefit from an increased interest in tire technology. At the moment there seems little incentive for tire manufacturers to improve motorcycle tires. Too many folks simply let the dealer install a “recommended” tire every 10,000 miles or so. The same passion for oil, applied to tires, might generate enough consumer pressure to get manufacturers to produce motorcycle tires with increased life and more versatility in tread design and profile in the cruiser market. As cruisers, we ought to be more active in tire design. After all, we’ve got a lot riding on them.
－ Guy Wheatley