How to inspect and inflate your motorcycle tires the right way

With motorcycle season starting, one of the most important things you can do to prevent crashes costs little or no money: make sure your tires are inflated.

Riders in the south may have kept their motorcycles on the road through the winter months, but for most others, motorcycles that spent the cold winter months in hibernation are about to come back to life again. Tuning up your bike, lubricating it, and ensuring your safety equipment is still in good shape are keys to staying safe on motorcycles.

The number of motorcycle accidents each year is staggering. In New York alone, 171 people were killed and more than 5,000 were injured in the 2013 season alone, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Nearly 3.4 percent of motorcycle crashes in New York that year were fatal. In New  York, you’re also required to have a safety helmet and eye protection.

In Pennsylvania, helmets are optional for riders 21 years or older who have two years of experience.  Since the non-mandatory helmet law was passed in 2003, motorcycle fatalities in PA have jumped 35 percent, according to a 2013 article on

Under inflated tires can make a motorcycle difficult to handle and sluggish and over inflated tires reduce road grip and traction, according to MIC. Here's their video:

Check that your motorcycle insurance policy is up to date and provides enough coverage for you, the cost of replacing the bike, and even lost or stolen safety equipment. Many motorcycle owners decrease c overage over the winter months. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to restore your policy to reasonable coverage levels when the new season begins.

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While a motorcycle should have a full inspection and tune up at the start of every season, paying close attention to your tires is key. Tires should be filled up to the manufacturer’s PSI specification, typically found on the side wall of a tire. You should also inspect the following:

  • Check the tread depth: In most sidewalls, you can find Tread Wear Indicators (TWI) that show you when your tire has reached the end of its life, which is typically around 1.6 mm or 1/16th of an inch for street tires. Off-road tires may be different.
  • Look for uneven wear: While checking the treads, look to see if one side of the tread is wearing faster than the other. This uneven wear can create dangerous conditions when riding.
  • Inspect for cracks, bulges: If you see cracks forming on the tire or bulges, that’s a time to either replace the tire, or have it professionally inspected. A blowout can be a very bad thing on a motorcycle.
  • Check the age of your tire: Time to Retire Your Tire? Generally speaking, most tires should be replaced every six or seven years (the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends changing tires on your car once they reach 10 years old). If you can’t remember how old your tire is, check out the handy information on the sidewall, which should include a “born-on-date.” It’s typically a three or four-digit code. If a tire reads, 2908, that would translate into the 29th week of 2008. If a tire has a three digit date, like 505, that would indicate the 50th week of 2004 (or potentially 1994, 1984, etc.).
  • Add the right amount of air: Finally, if you’re unsure how much air to put into your tire, look for the PSI (pounds per square inches) indicator on the sidewall. If the sidewall indicates 35 PSI, fill it to that level.

Sources that contributed to this story: