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Sportbike Tire Pressures
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Sportbike Tire Pressures

This is an article that talks about running tire pressures that are different from what the tire manufacturer recommends. I am not a tire engineer. I have played around with different tire pressures on my sportbikes. Sometimes I get improvements in tire performance. Most times I don't.

I'm a weekend warrior. I ride the back country roads and sometimes take the interstate highway home. I don't ride at night and I slow down during those frequent Florida showers. I love group rides. I attend as many as I can. Sometimes I ride fast and hard. Other times I'm just poking along. I'm a sportbike rider.

Tire Pressure Gauges:

Everyone has at least one of these handy tools. We know that keeping track of tire pressure can actually save us fuel mileage in our personal cars and trucks. Low tire pressures waste gas and high pressures may cause excessive tread wear in the middle of the tread. High tire pressures cause a rough ride, but they tend to sharpen up the cornering response on the street when you're driving your cage.

Everyone doesn't know that inexpensive tire pressure gauges can read as much as 8 PSI different from the next air pressure gauge. The coin operated air pressure gauge and pump at the local gas station may also be inaccurate. If you are really concerned about an accurate pressure reading, you may want to buy a quality gauge. Plan on spending forty bucks or more. It's like your expensive set of tools if you're a professional mechanic. Quality tools aren't cheap.

Why in the world would a sportbike rider change the recommended tire pressures?

Good question. OEM tires equipped on modern sportbikes are very good quality. They grip well and they last a reasonably long time. The tire manufacturers make the tire to the bike manufacturers specifications. We know when it comes time to replace the tires, we will buy aftermarket tires. Aftermarket is almost always better than OEM.

The recommended tire pressures are marked on the tire sidewall along with the load range, the speed rating, place of manufacture and date of manufacture. There is probably a direction of travel arrow on the sportbike tire also. Most riders think tire engineers are pretty smart people.

We still like to try different pressures on the street to see if we can get more grip out of our tires. We especially like to lower the rear tire pressure. We lower the front tire pressure too, but not as much as the rear. Standard pressure for sportbike tires falls into the range of 36 PSI for the front tire and 42 PSI for the rear tire.

I used to be on the bandwagon running low tire pressures on the street. I tried 33/32, 33/33, 34/35. 34/36. I played around a little. I often ride aggressively on those Sunday group rides. I seldom ride corners at track speeds when street riding, though. Public street surfaces just aren't consistent enough and there are too many blind corners. I look through the trees and fences, but it's just not the same as the track.

Do you have rain grooves in the roads where you ride?

We do here in Florida. I've ridden in Cali and they are all over the place on the freeways out there. I found my front tire hunting when cornering on these rain grooved roads when I ran low front tire pressures. This is not very confidence inspiring when I'm leaned way over on an off ramp and the front tire starts to wash out a little.

I found that when I increased my front tire pressure to the recommended tire pressure of 36 PSI, the hunting vanished. So now I run 36 at the front.

I never ride 2-up so I really don't need to run 42 PSI at the rear. I drop 2 or 3 PSI from the recommended rear tire pressure. This works perfectly for me. I'm at 39 or 40PSi at the rear. Play around with your street tire pressures. You'll find what works for you.

Tire Pressures at the Track.

There are no general rules here. Do you run hypersport street tires or DOT race tires. Do you run the Pirelli track-day slicks? I've found Michelin recommends very low pressure for their power one line of tires at the track. Pirelli pressures can vary quite a lot depending on which tire you choose to run. The rosso corsas run great at 34/34. They show very little wear and they don't ball up very much like Bridgestones.

I want to try some Supercorsa SPs. They are supposed to be the hot ticket right now. I probably won't get to the track until next year, though. My buddy loves his Michelins at the track. Another friend likes Bridgestones. I like the stones because the price is right. I found the stones wear fast, though. There's a photo of a Bridgestone R10 DOT rear after a session at the track. The tire is at 30PSI hot at the end of the session.

My best street riding buddy swears by the Dunlop Q2s. The Q2s are always available online for great prices. I guess what I'm saying is to ask around at your local track and find out what the best pressures are to run. Talk to the control riders and the guy who is changing tires in the pits. If you use tire warmers, you can really control your pressures better between sessions.

What about nitrogen in motorcycle tires?

Here we go. Some riders swear by nitrogen in tires. OK, if it floats your boat buy some nitrogen. The theory is that running pure nitrogen causes the pressure in the tires to remain constant for a longer period of time. The gas doesn't leak out as fast as air does. Tires are supposed to last longer. I think there's a couple other reasons..

I'm just joe average rider, but I really don't see enough advantage here to actually spend money to get my tires filled with pure nitrogen. How many nitrogen filling stations have you seen close to your house? Or in the areas where you ride. I don't have any within 20 miles. It's not practical for me personally. Maybe it is for you.

Since regular air is made up of 79 to 80% nitrogen anyway, are the benefits really that great by replacing that last 20% with pure nitrogen? If I lived next to a nitrogen filling station, I would probably run nitrogen in my vehicles. I don't so I won't.


I've given you some ideas about sportbike tire pressures. I've told you about what works and what doesn't work for me. This stuff may not work for you at all or you maybe perfectly happy with running 36/42. Don't change your tire pressures on your cruiser or chopper unless you talk with an expert. You can find all the info you need online and it's free.

Street Talk

Sounds good. I'm shocked there are no comments here. Good job.

  about 8 years ago
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