What Can Happen if You Choose the Wrong Tire Style for Your Motorcycle (Bias vs. Radial Tires)
Motorcycle enthusiasts love to customize their bikes. What makes riding such a fun hobby is how unique each vehicle can be once they have been decked out from end to end. It is certainly possible to adjust the brand and model of tire that you use on your bike, but the basic tire structure should remain the same. Sometimes, riders try to change out bias-ply tires for radial tires. This practice, however, is not recommended for a few critical reasons.
While personalizing the various accessories and aesthetics of your ride is a worthwhile experience, you should be careful not to change critical components. Your motorcycle tires fall somewhere in between customizable and fixed structures.
Tires support the weight of a vehicle and diffuse the load across the ground surface. This load distribution is heavily impacted by the tire’s overall construction, which affects everything from its footprint to its profile, durability, and strength.
At the time that radial tires were first introduced, many of the available rims could not keep up with the increased load capacities that the tires could support. Several rim models cracked due to the extra pressure. Even some of the highest-quality radial tires would cause rim failure if paired with an ill-equipped model.
When you add weight to your motorcycle, you are transferring the impact to the tires. The more weight that is added, the more the tire will appear to bulge under the stress. On radial tires, the body ply cords will curve in accordance with the surrounding rubber and result in a bigger bulge. However, the cords on bias-ply tires do not curve in this way because they are attached to the cords that cross over them.
The greater bulge that radial tires have increased the chance of the tire wearing down the wheel at various pressure points. Radial tires typically provide better handling, but that improved performance can cause more cracking if not mounted on the proper wheel. Prolonged strain via the transferred impact of a vehicle’s weight from the tire can result in total wheel failure.
Each motorcycle is designed with a unique riding style in mind. Within the motorcycle world, there are many different preferences—from cruising to motocross and anything in between. At the design stage, bikes are equipped with the most optimal type of tire so they can reach peak performance.
Altering the construction of the tires used on a bike will ultimately have a major impact on how it rides. One of the most noticeable differences between bias-ply and radial tires is how they affect the handling of a motorcycle.
Radial tires are designed for sportier bikes which typically drive at higher speeds. The radial construction is more ideal for deflecting the buildup of heat, allowing riders to go faster without the tires failing. Due to their larger tread design, radial tires offer riders improved grip strength and traction. This increases sport bikes’ maneuverability.
However, if you were to put a bias-ply tire on a sport bike designed for radial tires, you would not have the same handling experience. Bias-ply tires are designed to sustain heavy loads. They typically perform best at slower speeds, and they are perfect for agricultural vehicles like tractors which move slowly but weigh much more than a motorcycle.
When you put a bias-ply tire on a sport bike, it will lack agility and not be able to perform at high speeds. The motorcycles that these tires are designed for are usually classic models which were never intended to run at today’s fast paces. Most of these bikes were touring and cruiser bikes designed for leisure speeds and carrying weight for a long distance.
Putting a radial tire on a motorcycle that was initially intended for bias-ply tires will affect how that model drives. Given that it was most likely designed for long distances or to hold a lot of weight, you are probably going to either have a blowout or need to replace your tires much more frequently.
Mixing Bias and Radial Tires
Some modern motorcycle models use a combination of bias-ply and radial tires. In that case, the bias-ply tire will be in the front while the radial tire will be in the rear.
You may choose to mix tire types for competition purposes, but you would need to test this out ahead of time. Given that the type of tire you use will greatly impact the motorcycle’s handling, you want to make sure that this combination provides a tangible performance improvement.