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When we think of performance motorcycles, we think engines, right? Surely the engine, containing anywhere up to just over 200 bhp, is the most important aspect of what makes a motorcycle perform well? Well, whilst important, in our opinion your tires (or tyres for the Brits) are the single most important aspect of any two-wheeled machine.
Think of it is this way. There are two contact points keeping you in touch with the road at any one time and they are the black rubber circles wrapped around your wheels.
Your motorcycle will roll out of the factory fitted with whatever tires the manufacturer will provide the ideal level of grip, comfort, durability and overall performance. Unfortunately, they don’t always get it right and cheaper smaller engine bikes can come fitted with tires that are barely acceptable.
Thankfully, you’re free to upgrade your tires at will which is what we suggest that you do as soon as you wear them out. The tire you choose to fit will be entirely up to you but clearly some perform better than others. As with most things in life, it’s a compromise between affordability and performance as well as taking into account exactly what you use your bike for.
Here we’ve reviewed several models of tires to give you a helping hand when it comes to replacing your current set. We’ve broken them down into suitable categories which we feel represents what most people typically use their motorcycle for. Simply find your desired category and go from there!
Welcome to our round-up and review of the best motorcycle tires on the market.
Best Motorcycle Tires
Best Overall – Michelin Pilot Road 4
If you own any motorcycle that is predominantly used for general street riding then these are the tires for you. What Michelin has produced here is a tire that is suited to typical wet surfaces and dry conditions that you are going to encounter during 90% of your street riding. That includes heavy torrential rain and the hottest of summers.
You might even recognize the tread pattern and there’s a reason behind that. The Pilot Road 4 is the single most popular road-biased tire currently available on the market and will remain so until we finally get our hands on the Michelin Road 5.
This isn’t the best performing tire in any single area on the market but it is the one that 99% of riders need. It’s well priced, performs well, is durable, and even has a decent looking tread pattern that gives excellent grip at any lean angle.
If you ride come rain or shine in a variety of conditions and own a street biased road bike, these are for you.
Best High-Performance Sports Tire – Metzeler M7RR
This is the tire for all of you street Rossi’ and road warriors out there. What we mean by that is these tires are the fastest tires you can possibly fit a road-biased bike that will still perform in cool and wet conditions.
Check the tread patterns and you will see what we mean. You’re sacrificing a small amount of wet weather performance but gaining so much dry performance that some of you might even prefer these over the Pilot Road 4.
If you ride a BMW S1000RR, Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, Suzuki GSX-R100, or Aprilia Tuono and you ride it fast, these should be next on your list. In fact, if you ride any bike quickly and push its limits on the road then you should give these tires a good look.
Metzeler claims that they have paid close attention to longevity with this tire, and whilst we haven’t completely worn out a set, many users are reporting that an M7RR rear tire will last at least 5000 miles under very spirited riding and high speeds. You can’t say fairer than that.
Best for Long-Range Touring – Metzeler Roadtec 01
Those of us who ride big touring bikes such as the Ducati Multistrada and the BMW R1200GS are usually only interested in two things; comfort and performance. You see, big bikes like these are designed to munch mile after mile comfortably and quickly. They are styled as adventure bikes but most of us will never take them onto any surfaces more challenging than a patch of wet grass or gravel – it is for this reason that you’ll see most fitted with a road-biased touring tire.
Luckily, Metzeler has just the ticket with their Roadtec 01. Now you probably haven’t heard of them but Metzeler is a German tire manufacturer and makes some of the best tires in the business. Better even than some of the big names you’ll be more familiar with.
The Roadtec 01 is what Metzeler describe as their Sports Touring Tyre and we wouldn’t disagree. The name of the game here is a fast and dependable performance. A Ducati Multistrada 1200 has 160 bhp on tap and we know how they’re ridden – their owners want a tire that can keep up when the throttle is pulled back and maximum power is applied as well as when the rain comes. This tire excels at both.
They’re well priced, offering great value for money and come in a range of the most popular tire sizes. If you’re all for a smooth ride over long distances, these are the tires for you.
We will be honest and say that the Michelin Pilot Road 4 is very similar in nature, with these Metzelers just pipping them to the post with wet weather performance, hence their touring suitability.
Best High-Performance Track Tire – Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP
If you’re a track day hero then the Diablo SuperCorsa is one of the best track tires on the market.
Look at the tread pattern. This gem from Pirelli is meant for one thing and one thing only; traveling as fast as possible. These tires are designed as an out and out track tire, capable of providing the best dry tarmac performance possible and that they do. To get the most out of them on track we would suggest that you buy a set of tire warmers.
What you are going to lose out on is four-season suitability since these tires only work with lots of heat on them. If you consistently ride in cold temperatures then you’re going to find the performance of these tires to be much lower than a Roadtec 01 or a Pilot Road 4, and the reason is simple. In cold weather, it just isn’t possible to get the heat into this tire compound that it needs to really stick to the road which makes it suitable for only the hottest of climates.
If you live in a cold environment that also sees a lot of rainfall then don’t even think about it as these will be slipping and spinning up on you with the slightest throttle input. Dry and hot only guys.
If you can make use of them then they will turn in under speed and accelerate out of corners with maximum traction with the same if not better performance than the best tires out there.
Best Budget Option – Continental ContiMotion
With the onset of low priced premium tires from the world’s best tire manufacturers, you no longer have to put up with ditchfinders or low-quality remolds.
The ContiMotion is available as a front tire and rear tire set in a range of sizes for an affordable price. Better yet, these are actually a very good pair of tires and are deserving of being fitted to your bike if you’re on a budget.
Yes, they’re not as cutting edge as some of the other tires on test here but they’re also not as expensive. This particular model is coming up to a few years old now but can still hold its own against many newer offerings with many people swearing by them and fitting them to bikes such as the Honda CBR600RR. If that isn’t a testament of quality we don’t know what is.
The tread pattern is aggressive but these tires are far more adept at clearing water and providing excellent grip on wet surfaces than you might otherwise think. They repeatedly came top of group tests when they were new and it shows.
If you can find these in your size and you ride a touring, naked, or sports bike and you want a decent budget tire offering, make sure you take a look at the ContiMotion.
Best Motocross Off-Road Tire – Bridgestone M403/M404
Off-road riding can have a variety of different meanings. This catch-all term could refer to anything from hitting a few trails to all-out mud-based warfare. The problem is that there are several motocross tires available on the market and each of them is geared to a particular surface or activity.
The M403 range of tires uses an all-new compound and will work on a much wider range of soils, including hard surface riding which would typically see softer tires suffer fast wear and tear, and degrade much more quickly. With that in mind, it is still preferable to avoid tarmac and concrete altogether with such a dirt biased tire to avoid any undesirable handling traits.
Bridgestone refers to these as an intermediate tire, suitable for track conditions, and are in fact the choice of a few professional motocross riders as well. Bridgestone has made good use of the trickle-down effect here with the technology of their most advanced tires making their way down the range into these cheaper models.
These tires are a downright steal. If you race competitively we would suggest you purchase a few and keep them on hand for when you need a spare set of tires. If you are a competitive racer then we also suggest that you look into the other models in the Bridgestone range to see whether there is a tire that may be a little more specifically tuned to your needs.
Best Cruiser Motorcycle Tire – Michelin Commander II
If you ride a cruiser, whether that be an Indian or Harley Davidson motorcycle, you will know all about the Michelin Commander II.
These tires are considered to be the best cruiser tire on the market and for good reason. What you’re getting is a combination of surefootedness, performance where it matters, and longevity.
Looking at the tread pattern, there isn’t really anything that makes these tires stand out from the other options available on the market. You’re getting several sipes, arranged in a directional fashion, designed to clear water as effectively as possible but not much else. But that’s okay because you wouldn’t want anything more from these tires.
The profile of the Commander II is wide and squat and is the perfect platform to absorb the weight of even the largest cruisers. Confidence under cornering, braking, and accelerating are terms you’re going to become familiar with after a day spent with these tires fitted to any suitable bike.
The Michelin Commander II isn’t the cheapest cruiser tire available but it is the best, beating even the well regarded Metzeler Z6. And when you’re able to get up to 20,000 miles from a rear tire, why would you look elsewhere?
Best Ultra-High-Performance Road Tire – Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
You read that correctly – Rosso III. Not Rosso II but III. Yes, they’re finally here.
This is the tire that they’ve been developing in conjunction with the World Superbike Championship (WSBK).
The Rosso III differs from the SuperCorsa in that it has been designed as a road-biased tire rather than an out and out track tire. That means it’s going to perform well in wet and cool weather conditions. It’s also going to last far longer.
The tire is referred to as a 100% silica compound with varying levels of grip featured throughout the profile of the tire. The point here is that the corners or edges of the tire are much softer and grippier than the middle which is exactly what you want. When you’re knee down in those twisties and country roads, these tires are going to come through for you.
The split rubber compound gives you a great compromise between traction and mileage where you need them most. In effect, you have a medium grip tire in a straight line and regular cornering, but when you’re scraping pegs, you have the traction of a racing slick.
This tire goes head to head with the Metzeler M7RR. We’ve essentially thrown these in as a curveball but the choice is yours.
How to Choose High-Quality Motorcycle Tires
Consider yourselves informed! Tires are updated every three years or so but the tires reviewed here currently represent the pinnacle of motoring. If you can’t afford the more expensive tires on test, go for one of the budget options. Whatever you do, stay away from lesser-known manufacturers who really don’t have anything to offer. Continental, Michelin, Metzeler, Dunlop and even Yokohama should be at the top of your list.
You should also ensure that the tire sizes you buy match the recommended specifications for your bike as well as conform to the correct speed rating.
If you enjoyed this article and wish to learn more about motorcycle accessories, consider investing in a motorcycle dolly and checking out our motorcycle dolly buying guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will motorcycle tires last?
Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer to the question of how long motorcycle tires will last. The average tread life of motorcycle tires depends on many different factors, including riding style, riding conditions, type of tire, tire pressure and more! However, very rough ballpark figures are 3,700 miles (6,000 km) for the front tire and 1,800 miles (2,900 km) for the rear tire. In terms of age, tires should be used for no more than 5 years, regardless of mileage.
Should you replace motorcycle tires in pairs?
It is often unnecessary to replace both tires at the same time. Since rear tires and front tires wear at different rates, it is often only necessary to change one, as long as the unchanged tire is in good condition and has sufficient tread remaining.
Do motorcycle tires need to be balanced?
Yes, for a smooth ride, motorcycle tires should be balanced whenever you have new ones fitted, or if the balancing weights fall off an already fitted tire. Rebalancing may also be advisable if you notice a tire wearing unevenly.
Do new motorcycle tires need to be broken in?
Yes, new tires should be broken in for a period of time before riding aggressively on them. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid a dangerous situation since it can take a period of gentler riding to wear in the tires to their maximum grip.
Why do motorcycle tires wear out so fast?
Motorcycle tires need to be made of softer rubber to provide more grip than car tires. Excellent grip is essential for motorbike tires, to avoid losing traction, resulting in dangerous accidents. However, softer rubber wears faster and hence motorcycle tires wear out relatively quickly when compared to tires of other vehicles.
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Last update on 2020-12-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API