How to Break in New Motorcycle Tires; Tips And Myths

how to break in new motorcycle tires

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It’s a no brainer; If you’re riding often and logging miles your motorcycle is going to need a new pair of tires.  Here are a few motorcycle tire break in tips every rider can use.

You took all those really cool trips and the time has come to put some new tires on your bike. In fact, I just recently bought a new set of Dunlop Elite 4 motorcycle tires to replace the Bridgestones I was riding on.

I was told very specifically by the mechanic about the break in period when I picked my motorcycle up and to use some caution until I hit around 500 miles.

Here’s what many riders take for granted (even me);

How to break in new motorcycle tires properly is just about as important as knowing when  to replace your motorcycle tires. When the rear end of the bike is trying to slide out from under you every other turn, it’s time!

Of course, when you get a new pair of motorcycle tires, you’ll have a new set of fresh rubber to keep you safe on the road.  Which helps eliminate those moments of panic when you started to feel that rear wheel break free for no good reason!

Dealing with inclement weather conditions can be dangerous at any time, let alone when your tires are going bald. Old tires affect a vehicle’s performance which means they affect your safety.

The tire buying process for motorcycles is similar to a car, but not quite the same. You go to the shop (or shop online these days), you buy new tires, you get them put on, and you get them balanced. With just about any vehicle there’s a period where you’re supposed to spend breaking in your tires, but with motorcycles this step is especially important.

Today we’ll talk about a few tips to help you how to break in your new motorcycle tires, let you know why it’s important to break them in, and tell you how to look out for a pair of tires that need to be replaced soon so you can stay safe on the road.

How to Break in New Motorcycle Tires

Motorcycle tires should be broken in over a period of up to 500 miles with slow accelerations and turns. This initial mileage roughs up the smooth area on the new rubber tires for a better grip on the roadway. Follow the tire manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations for break in periods. 

Breaking in new tires is an important step especially with motorcycles because the new rubber is usually pretty slick. It’s not slick with grease or oil, but it’s slick because it’s smooth, so allowing a break in period of easy riding for any motorcycle tire is going to ensure its performance.

A 100 miles is generally enough time to wear in the slick areas of the tire which of course increases the tires traction.

Breaking in Motorcycle Tires – An Opportunity!

When you start breaking in your tires, find a place to ride with some turns, and take it slow, but as you go along increase the intensity in small measurements. The goal is to rough up more  surface area (of the tire) with helps increase traction throughout the whole circumference of the tire, After you’ve cornered slowly for a while, start increasing the angle you lean in to make sure every part of the tire gets textured by the road.

It’s also important to use the break in period to get used to the way the new tires are going to feel on your motorcycle. Even if it’s a set of the same tires that you just had on they are new, so they’re going to handle differently then a pair of tires that had thousands of miles put on them.

Of course, if it’s a set of new tires you’ve never ridden with before because you wanted to upgrade after the last pair, then they’re definitely going to handle differently and not just because they’re new. It’s worth taking the extra time while you’re breaking in your new tires and getting used to how your ride feels.

To me, doing this initial cornering and taking things slow is a good opportunity to work on some basic fundamentals and break bad habits I may have developed.

I will practice riding in circles with objective to ride in as tight a circle as I can. If you going to ride in circles to break in your tires, just make you do it the same amount for the other side. Two times going left in a circle, then two times right etc.

Another method that I read about here is riding in slow figure eights. Again, an opportunity to work on leaning and counter steering.

Finding a good parking lot and doing a combination of these on a nice quiet Sunday morning can be a source of fun and relaxation (I’m weird like that). In our article about finding a place to practice riding your motorcycle I give you some ideas on how to find places you can practice safe and stay out off of streets and away from traffic.

Last but not least, keep in mind when your breaking in your tires is to make sure the tire has settled properly into place on the bike. This comes with the slow riding and all the factors of your weight on the bike and it pushing against the ground. Once the tires are properly set during the break in period it means your tire is a step closer to performing how it’s supposed to.

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Every Break in Period is a Bit Different

Different types of tires have different break in periods. Tires designed for touring are going to take longer to break in then softer tires designed for the track. Touring tires are made from harder rubber because they’re going to be used for those longer rides, so make sure to take adequate time to break in your new touring tires.

I would recommend that you get your tires broke in and get comfortable before you start riding two up again.

Should I sand paper new motorcycle tires?

I’ve heard other riders recommend using sandpaper to break in their new tires, but from everything I’ve watched and read it just doesn’t seem like its a good idea.  Call me old fashioned, but there’s no substitute for breaking in your tires on the road.

As I understand from the reading I’ve done, using a sander and sanding the tire isn’t the same as the forces exerted when you are riding. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time breaking in my motorcycle tires riding not working.

honda goldwing gl1800 in parking space

How Do You Know Motorcycle Tires Are Broke In?

You’ll know your tires are broken in when they have been roughed up evenly across the entire surface of the tire.

You’ll know it when you see it;

Your once smooth and shiny new tire will be scuffed up across the entire surface from one edge of the tire to the other. At least it will be if you did a thorough enough job taking some nice corners.

Dispelling A Motorcycle Tire Myth

A lot of riders think that there are slippery lubricants on your tires and that’s the reason that motorcycle tires need to be broken in. I see the accident attorneys salivating already…

Guess what?

This is no longer true and hasn’t been for years. There’s always one buddy, or brother of a friend (you know the guy!) that’ll tell you they put release agents on the tires to get them out of the mold, but NO major tire manufacturer does this for motorcycle tires.

Remember this;

The rider (you) aren’t riding the tire to break it in to remove lubricants off of the good rubber – You’re breaking in your tires because the new tire is smooth and has no texture to the rubber. No texture means that the tire isn’t going to grip the pavement the way it should.

Don’t be that guy that crashes his bike in the first 10 miles after getting a new set of tires (which is more common than riders realize). The moral of the story with new tires is to take it slow until you’re bike feels like it should.

How to Tell Motorcycle Tires Need to Be Replaced

There are a few tell-tale signs that it’s probably time to change out your old motorcycle tires for a new pair. Manufacturers even include a few different ways to let you know on the sidewall of the motorcycle tire itself.

Here’s the basics:

  • Look for the wear bar.
  • check the tread depth in the major part of the groove pattern.
  • 2/32 of an inch is about as low as you should go for highway riding.

The first thing to check for is the tire wear bar or tire wear indicator.

On motorcycles the tire wear indicator is a little triangle on the wall of the tire. If the tire wear indicator is now level with any part of the tread on the motorcycle, it means that your tire has given you its all – It’s done for.

It sounds obvious but;

Any signs of excessive wear are also a pretty good hint that your tires probably need to be changed. I’ve seen a ton of riders who ignore the obvious.

While we’ve mentioned that some texture is good on a tire to increase its performance,  too much texture in the form of chunks of rubber being torn up all along the length of the tire then it’s probably time to change those tires.

harley davidson trike

Look at the tread depth

Then There’s the ‘Ol penny trick.

A penny can be inserted into the tread on the tire, and if it doesn’t reach Lincoln’s head on the penny then you’re going to need to get your tires changed pretty soon. Another important indicator is the way the tire has been worn.

Why is the penny trick used all the time?

From Lincoln’s head to the edge of the penny is approximately 2/32 of an inch. The measurement of the 2/32 is the legal limit for tread depth in most states (excluding steering axle tires).

Always make sure to regularly check your motorcycle’s tire pressure and check out our article Motorcycle Tire Pressure Recommendations and Checks to learn how to do that and what to look out for.

Often some parts of the tire will be more worn down before other parts, and this means your tire will have an uneven and sometimes squarish shape. If your tire looks like this then it’s time to not only get it changed, but see if there are other suspension issues. A squarish shape of the tire can cause performance and safety issues while you’re riding.

Cuts and Cracks On Your Tires

If you notice a lot of deep cuts and cracks all along your tire (specially in the sidewall), that tends to be an indicator that some dry rot may be starting to settle in and you need a new tire. Tires with lots of cuts and cracks have a higher probability of failure, especially in high heat. The closer cuts and cracks are to the sidewall (or right on it) the more dangerous they are.

harley with white wall tires

The last way to tell a tire isn’t good anymore is simply by age. Tires that are over five years old are no longer good to use. After this long a period of time the rubber will harden up and the tires will no longer be fit to use, so if you’ve got an old pair of tires it’s probably time to get them changed to keep you safe because extra hard rubber can cause performance issues especially with braking.

This scenario doesn’t happen to the people who ride on a regular basis. But I have seen this happen with people who buy used motorcycles.

If you’re riding your motorcycle again after a long break or taking a long ride soon check out our article called How to Prepare for a Long Motorcycle Trip: Ultimate Guide.

Take time to inspect your tires often, and when you decide it’s time for a new pair of tires ride easy for a while. Make sure you Break in your new motorcycle tires before you decide to take your next big trip or put your favorite passenger on board.

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