Tire pressure: road vs. track vs. off-road

Get the most out of your tires by keeping a close eye on pressure

Fuel efficiency, safety, extended tire life cycle and grip - they all require the right pressure. No matter the bike you are running and the tire brand, you must check the pressure at least every 300 miles (500 km) or every week.

Safety comes first when it comes to motorcycles. Underinflated tires will affect handling and grip, making your bike act unpredictably. Overinflated tires will compromise grip and make the bike become stiffer and harder to steer. In both cases, the consequences can be fatal.

The bright part of optimum tire pressure is reduced wear and improved fuel economy. Running with the incorrect pressure will make the tire wear quicker, while an underinflated one requires a bigger force to move it, therefore, more fuel; both cases will eventually affect the life of the tire.

Every bike has a label on the swingarm that tells the right pressure. If you don’t have it, you can always consult the service manual. Exceptions like Dunlop race tires or Enduro Tubliss systems work only under the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. 

It's crucial to check the pressure when the tires are cold using a quality gauge. Here are the main categories and the optimum pressure values depending on the type of your bike:

Road

The street tires must be inflated to at least 30 psi (2 bar). Things change when you add the passenger or luggage. You must add more pressure for both tires. The rear tire always needs to get at least 0.3 psi (0.2 bar) more than the front one. The modern tires available these days are made to work with the standard pressure, but this doesn’t mean you can't customize things until they feel right.

The exception for street rubbers are the big touring bikes that work with 40 psi (2.8 bar). The tires must support the entire weight without wearing off in the first hundred miles. Usually, these tires are specially designed with a harder carcass.

Also, the visual inspection is always important. The tires should look scrubbed when you use the right pressure. If they have a glossy marble look, then you need to lower the pressure by a few psi.

Off-Road

When it comes to muddy roads, traction must be as high as possible. The only way to gain traction is to lower the pressure, but not by much, or you will bend your rims. You can lower them even to 18 psi (1.25 bar). Even the big adventure bikes or dual sports can also work with pressure as low as that.

The tubliss system is another story. It’s specially designed to protect the rim and replace the tube. This way you can run with very low pressure while reaching the highest level of traction. The only downside of this setup is that it'is only built for small motocross and enduro bikes.

The off-road pressure changes will increase the chances of punctures and damaged sidewalls, so don’t go flat out and remember to reinflate your rubbers when going on the road.

Track

Track-focused tires are made out of a softer superior rubber that offers higher levels of grip. Monitoring the pressure is mandatory if you want the tire to really perform. The pressure is usually lower for the track bikes but that doesn't work for street tires. If you are using street tires, keep the road pressure. Otherwise, you will lose grip and safety.

For tires like the Dunlop GP Racer or the KR slick, you must stick with the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. The front can stay the same as the road - use 30 psi (2 bar), but the rear can go as low as 19 psi (1.3 bar). 

Track tires are meant to reach and whitstand temperatures as high as 90 degrees Celsius, so their life cycle is not very long. Depending on the composition, they are designed to offer maximum grip for a short period.

The pressure also varies according to the temperature and type of asphalt you are running on. Improve your grip and get the most out of your tires by keeping a close eye on the tire pressure. Moreover, it's a good idea to invest in a portable quality gauge.

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