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What are correct motorcycle tyre pressures?

tyre pressures Emergency braking - tyre noise motorcycle safety

What are the correct tyre pressures for your motorcycle and do they vary for any reason? The answers are varied and complex.

You should check your tyre pressures every time you go out for a ride or it can result in bad handling, increased wear, fatigue cracking, increased chance of a puncture, decreased grip and lower braking performance.

The first and most important point is that you should follow the pressures stated by the motorcycle manufacturer for any particular motorcycle. You can find them in your user manual or on the placard attached to the bike. Usually there are two recommendations, one for solo and one for two-up with only 1-2psi difference, usually higher on the rear.

Varied tyre pressures have less to do with providing a cushion of air for support and more to do with heat. Tyres need to warm up to an optimum temperature where their grip level is high and wear is low. To achieve the right temperature, the tyres have to be inflated to the right pressure.

If you change to a different brand of tyre, then check the tyre manufacturer’s advised pressures.

tyre pressures
Lower pressures can wear out tyres

Lower pressures

Some riders prefer lower pressures because they believe it gives them more grip as the tyre spreads and creates a larger footprint. Others like the better ride comfort of a lower pressure.

However, lower pressures than recommended (even by a very small margin) can increase the amount of heat generated within a tyre, even after short riding distances. This can affect the compound and accelerate wear on the tyre. These lower pressures also affect the shape and contact area of the tyre under load, dramatically affecting performance and handling, even over short riding distances. So lower pressures are not recommended for performance and safety reasons.

Over-inflating tyres is also not recommended. It doesn’t increase load-carrying capacity, but results in a hard ride and accelerated tyre wear in the centre of the contact patch.

tyre pressures
Don’t over-inflate tyres

Manufacturers’ recommendations

The issue of correct tyre pressures becomes a bit more complex when you look at it from the point of view of the tyre manufacturers. While motorcycle manufacturers tend to simplify their recommendations, some tyre manufacturers can supply a variety of pressures depending on maximum speed, maximum load and sometimes even ambient temperature. This is more important in places such as Europe where roads can be icy and autobahns can have very high speed limits. In normal use, tyre manufacturers’ recommended pressures won’t vary much from motorcycle manufacturers’ recommendations.

If you are an aggressive rider who corners hard, carries heavy loads or rides at sustained high speeds, you may consider slightly higher pressures than the motorcycle manufacturer recommends, but make sure they are no higher than indicated on the tyre sidewall.

To measure tyre pressures, always check them cold prior to riding. Once the tyre heats up from use, the pressures will rise, so the reading will be inaccurate. Recommended pressures in your user manual are always presumed to be taken when the tyre is cold.

Check your gauge

You would think service stations would have accurate gauges on their air hoses, but investigations by automobile clubs and our own checks have revealed substantial inaccuracies.

More than a third of the mechanical units are from 5% to almost 20% inaccurate.  Whereas up to 95%  of the electronic units are within 5% accuracy.

Instead, use your own gauge. Digital tyre gauges or tyre inflators/gauge combinations are often more expensive and seem like better quality, but they can lose correct calibration over time and run out of battery. Analog or physical dial gauges are often more accurate for longer.

I like the simple and cheap pen-sized gauge that members can get free from the RACQ. They are accurate and very small.

The most accurate I have found is the Rocky Creek Designs MotoPressor gauge ($25). It also comes with a short length of tube so you can attach it to rims that can be difficult to access with most garage air pumps.

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Track tyre pressures

Track riders say they lower their tyre pressures when they hit the race track. However, if they are using street tyres – even very sporty tyres – pressures should remain the same as for road use.

The reason is that all of these street tyres are designed to work their best and within their application, design and construction parameters at normal manufacturer recommended pressures. If you lower pressures you will see the same reduced performance and increased safety concerns results as on the road.

However, if you have special track tyres w=you will see that they are recommended to be run at lower pressures, anyhow.

Thankfully there are now many sports and touring tyres that overlap in their capabilities. For example, the Pirelli Angel GT is not only a very good touring tyre with long wear and high road grip, but is also very capable for track work. However, you still need to stick to the recommended pressures.

Purpose-made race tyres have a completely different construction and are designed for maximum grip, rather than long wear and will have specific guidelines for pressures. It’s a black art that race engineers have studied for years. There is no simple rule. Go and experiment.

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Off-road pressures

As for off-road use, dropping tyre pressures is often recommended, but over-simplified. For example, a lower pressure on a gravel road might give you better grip, but it also exposes the sidewalls to sharp rocks which can damage and deflate the tyre. In this case, drop the pressures marginally and try to retain the integrity of the tyre wall shape.

However, soft and slippery surfaces such as mud and sand, require much lower pressures. Sand requires the lowest pressures, sometimes down to about 12psi, however, be careful that non-tubed tyres don’t pop the bead or roll off the rim.

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  1. Thanks for that good piece of information . I will now check my tires every time I use my bike but generally check them once a week

  2. I am lucky that my Indian Chieftain has a TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system) which I always use when starting out on a ride to check the current cold pressures as it is hard to get at the tyre valves due to the mudguards and pannier bags covering so much of the wheel. Having said that I also regularly check the tyre pressures but actually finding a tyre pressure gauge that I feel confident is accurate is very hard. I use the TPMS and the gauge on my air compressor to calibrate any gauge I buy but as so many are wildly inaccurate it is rather frustrating. I like to carry a pen type gauge in my bike tool kit but until you buy one and compare it against a couple of other gauges it is hard to work out if the gauge is accurate. I would love to know what is the best (most accurate) gauge on the market.

    1. Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your email.
      We have found dial gauges the best and the more you pay, the more accurate the gauge.
      You can check this test by the RACQ which looked at service stations and some aftermarket gauges: file:///Users/hinchm/Downloads/0814_tyre_gauge_survey%20(1).pdf
      If you are a member of Choice, there is a reasonably comprehensive guide here:

      1. The RACQ file location you have given is for a local file on your computer, not for one on the WWW. Could you please provide a link for the web, as I’d like to read it.

  3. Thanks, a good article. The tyre pressures on My ‘heavy’ Vstar 1300, fully loaded, on trips, can increase considerably, sometimes by 20% or more. Is this variance factored in as being safe / within tolerances. I also regularly use a TPMS and find it valuable and convenient.

  4. You say……’Or at sustained higher speeds’? can u stipulate just what the higher speeds you refer to should or could be. In the UK if the maximum speed one can legally ride at is 70 mph then is that the higher speed mentioned or are we talking about those who regularly break the law and go for a blast and ride at speeds well in excess of 100 mph.
    I would have thought as many riders do that this would increase the tyre temperature and thus lowering the psi slightly would be the recommendation . Many You tube videos mention lowering the psi but many of those relate to training and riding on a track in the USA and not on road riding which unfortunately some can not tell the difference and they will lower it for road riding. I presume that lowering the psi is a popular misconception.

    1. Lowering pressures causes MORE heat, because the tyre moves around more.

  5. You are saying, “the first and most important point is that you should follow the pressures stated by the motorcycle manufacturer for any particular motorcycle.”
    Are you saying that this would apply to factory installed OEM tires only? Or would this also apply to an aftermarket tire manufactured with, for example, 40 years of improved tire technology?
    It seems that everyone is an expert to one degree or another, but rarely on the same page. I’ve seen nothing but conflicting ideas, on my motorcycle forums, but virtually no definitive answers regarding tire pressure application, and rider safety.
    It’s all very confusing. Does anyone know for sure? What is the definitive bottom line?

    1. Don’t you just get tired of people who don’t know the difference between the words tire (which is to get sleepy) and tyre (which keeps vehicle rims of the driving surface).

  6. Tyre pressures are the same on my ST1100 regardless of the load which I find hard to understand as car manufactures tend to give different pressures depending on the load.

    The front tyre isn’t much of an issue but the rear tends to carry more of any extra load. Riding two up I find the softer side compound tends to wear more than the centre where the opposite occurs riding solo. Now I tend to give the rear a 2/3 PSI increase as I ride two up about 80 percent of the time.

    I check tyre pressures every two weeks or before I go for a ride where I need to leave the town I live in. I try to work it so I check the morning before I leave town.

  7. Tyre pressure is fine.

    Steel belts visible through rubber not so fine.

    New tyres today 🙂

  8. Thanks for this information which is interesting. I have a Honda Transalp with spoked wheel so it has inner tubes. My last set of tyres were fitted by a Honda main dealer but I notice that hey fitted tubeless tyres; Metzler Tourance TL rather than TT. I believe the TL tyre walls are much stiffer than the TT tyre walls and indeed the ride is now very hard. Should I reduce the specified tyre pressures to compensate. Also I have read that tubeless tyres should not be fitted with tubes. Do you know if this is true.

  9. I’ve heard the following statement made many times:
    “The first and most important point is that you should follow the pressures stated by the motorcycle manufacturer for any particular motorcycle.”
    My motorcycle is a ’78 GL1000, a motorcycle that is over 40 years old, and it has an original manufacturers user manual which of course indicates the recommended tire inflation pressures. With 40 years of improvements in tire technology should one still adhere to the motorcycle manufacturers recommendation, when the motorcycle manufacturer would have had no idea what the future would hold regarding tire improvements?

  10. A friend of mine bought a Triumph speed triple. He had had it about 6 weeks and just started to ride out with me. A conversation we had was that he didn’t like the bike and was about to exchange it and i asked him why. He said that he was finding it difficult to steer and it didn’t go round bends as easily as he thought it would. It was if the bike was fighting him he said. The following day, after thinking about this problem, the street triple is a good safe bike with excellent steering qualities so I asked him this question. Have you changed the tyre pressure at all. He readily admitted straight away that he had been advised to reduce the pressure in both tyres by about 6 psi to get the best out of it on long runs.

    This was his problem…listening to idiots. listening to idiots didn’t stop him later

    I suggested that he returned to the manufacturers recommended pressure and he did so and had no further problems at all. All was well and he was beginning to enjoy riding at last.

    Two months later he started riding out with another mate and I heard he got done for speeding at 80 mph on a 50 mph road. I havn’t seen him since but believe that his wife took the bike off him.

    Some you win and some you lose.

  11. Thanks for explaining that it’s important to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when determining the correct tire pressure for a motorcycle. Now that I think about it, it would be smart for the owners of motorbikes or trikes to invest in a tire pressure monitoring system so they don’t have to put much effort into maintaining the recommended value. I enjoyed reading your article and learning more about tire pressure, so thanks for taking the time to share!

  12. ..old thread…oh well…my xv1600 handles like an old 8N Ford with the diff lock engaged if the front tire pressure is low…Michelin RC II…front tire leaks down, back doesn’t…i don’t know why….soaped it,snooped it…no leak found..air them up, handles like a dream…40 front 42 rear…

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