Much like car tires, motorcycle tires come in a lot of shapes and sizes that match the different types of bikes out there and all the different activities you use them for. Small changes such as the tread shape and depth, the rubber stiffness, and the sidewall angle can make a big difference in a particular situation, and so it's important to know which motorcycle tires are useful in which situatio

Cruising Tires

crusing tires

Image via Flickr by Flattrackers and Caferacers Parts and bikebuilds

Cruising tires are the standard option for most street bikes, particularly cruisers and touring bikes. They work the same way as cars' all-season tires do: they have some tread that helps them grip when it's wet, they have flat surfaces that grip when it's dry, and they use a hard rubber with sturdy spokes that can take a lot of punishment before needing a replacement. They aren't very helpful when you need a strong performance, but for most bike owners a set of cruising tires is essential for any motorcycle that you drive on the highway.

Racing Slicks

These tires use a special kind of soft rubber that melts at a low temperature. The soft and sticky rubber leaves a mark on the road, but it also grips the pavement like no other tire. The reason for the name "slicks" is because they also come with no tread, or else they have just enough of a tread to meet regulation standards. This means it can be dangerous to drive on slick tires when it rains since the treads are what keep you from hydroplaning and losing control.

Sport Touring

Slicks aren't good for regular highway driving, but sport-touring tires are. These tires are more expensive than the regular touring tires, but that's because they come with extra features such as a wide sidewall that helps maintain grip on sharp turns, and a strip of the durable rubber blend down the middle that takes the punishment from a long drive. They're great for putting a performance motorcycle through its paces, but you should keep in mind that higher price if you don't know which one you want to buy.

Off-Road Tires

great western trail

Image via Flickr by Iain Farrell

Motorcycles and cars can both come with off-road tires, but while cars can take those tires and drive on pavement, bikes tend to be more extreme since you can load them onto a trailer, and because a dirt bike can reach places most four-wheel vehicles can't. Off-road motorcycle tires tend to be knobby, sacrificing grip on a straight road for a deep grip that digs into dirt and mud tracks so you don't start spinning your wheels in place. There are other ways to sort tires: height, width, and bias-ply versus radial construction to name a few. Still, for the most part you should stick with the size and the type of tire that your manufacturer recommends for the bike model and the design you're looking at. Knobby tires belong on dirt bikes, and street-ready all-weather tires belong on touring bikes.

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