Two important areas of basic maintenance that I see many owners routinely neglect are their tires and brakes. Think about this for a moment. Of all the systems and parts on your bike, these two are right up there in importance with the front end and handlebars staying attached to the bike! The two areas given the most attention are the engine and finishes (paint and chrome).
To be honest, it’s easy to see why the engine, Carbon fiber helmet and paint/chrome get the most love. It has been hammered into us since birth to change the engine’s oil and filter regularly. And whenever the engine starts to pop, bog, miss overhead, whatever, we notice it right away. As for the pain and chrome, it’s what we’re looking at all the time, so we keep it shiny and clean. On the other hand, if the tires are rolling and the brakes are working, we tend to forget them. After all, they’re doing their job, right? And yet, routinely checking the condition of the tires and brake system is so easy to do and takes only a few minutes.
According to tire manufacturers, the main reason people don’t get all the miles they should out their tires is because they’re not properly inflated. Too little or too much tire pressure causes uneven wear and, more importantly, poor tire performance. Too much air pressure makes the center of the tire bulge, reducing the size of the tire’s contact patch, which is where the rubber meets the road, literally! You’ll know you’ve been running your tires with too much pressure if only the very center of the tire’s tread is wearing much faster than the surrounding tread. Of course, the far edges of the tread, the sections that only touch the pavement in a hard turn, are not part of this check.
Not enough pressure decreases the strength of the sidewalls, which reduces the tire’s ability to retain its shape in turns. The more aggressive the turn, or the lower the tire’s pressure (or both!), the more the tire is deformed. Of course, this negatively affects the tire’s ability to grip the road, which degrades your bike’s handling. Get into a corner a bit too fast, and you’ll really wish you had given a bit of attention to how much air was in those smelly rubber donuts that now control the fate of you and your motorcycle.
Don’t forget to also check for nails in the tread and right where the tire meets the rim of the wheel.
We’ll discuss your bike’s brake system next time, so stay tuned.
See you on the road.— Chris Maida
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