Alternative Air Pressure Monitoring Methods for Your Motorcycle

Tire Pressure CheckOr, stated differently, how low is your tire pressure right now?

HEY! I know you’re busy. You’ve got this and that and all the more to do. And on top of that, you’re running late…again!

So, who has time to check air pressure? Besides, those darn valves on your motorcycle tires are a pain in the butt to access! I HATE those things! However, just to be safe, let’s try to remember to check the tire pressure tomorrow….

In the mean time, here are some ways to monitor your tire pressure without becoming inconvenienced by bending over with an air pressure gauge while near an air pump:

1) Visually inspect your tires. If you can see that a tire is only partially deflated you’ll know that you can probably make it through another day.

2) While riding, when you can feel a little bit of “wheel wobble,” slow down so that you are only going a civilized amount of MPH over the speed limit, and make a mental note to put air in the tires one of these days.

3) Wait until someone on the road points to your tires and yells that you need air.

4) Wait until you crash. The tow truck will probably have an air compressor and you can fill the tires while the bike is on its side.

BONUS: Points 1-3 all are reliable ways to result in point 4.

NOTE: The most common cause for tire failure is improper tire pressure — usually pressure that’s too low.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY TIP: Most motorcycle tire safety experts recommend checking your tire pressure and tread condition at least once a week. Some even advise that every time you take your bike out is not too often. After all, on a bike, unlike a car, only two tires — and little else — separate you from the pavement. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your tires are roadworthy each and every time you ride.

So…when will YOU have time to check your motorcycle tire pressure?

59 thoughts on “Alternative Air Pressure Monitoring Methods for Your Motorcycle

  • For those in the need for a better gauge,and want more accuracy,and want one that is easy to use—check out those by “Motionpro” .

  • For those of you in need of a tire gauge,you may want to check out the May issue of Consumer Reports. There are 15 listed in the report, ranging from $56 to $4 each. The majority are called “Accutire” and are digital types. The top rated dial type is called “Intercomp”. One issue they noted in that cold temperatures have an effect on the accuracy of the reading(s) of those tested, plus some are fussy to use.

  • I preride check my bike prior to EVERY trip. Tires, turnsignals, brake lights, fluids etc.

    If you don’t and your blowin down the road on two wheels your in for some major eye opening events at some point in your motorcycle experience.

  • I used to get by with a tire pressure check about once a month, but, the latest tubes on my 1974 MotoGuzzi Eldorado (spoke wheels) don’t seem to hold air as well, so I check the pressure almost every time I leave the house, or two or three times a weekin warm weather.

    I bought an inexpensive 110 volt (2 HP) air compressor 3 years ago to make the job easier, since filling stations no longer provide “free” air. Getting to the rear tire with a saddlebag blocking the way is a pain, but that squirrely feeling you get when rounding a corner with an underinflated tire is even worse.

  • I have just checked my wife’s tires after reading this article (the BLUE TOOTH sensor has been indicating low pressure on her car for two weeks). All four tires where reading 28 psi. They should have been at 38 psi. It gets cold up here in Cow Hampshire and the weather changes have a big effect on tire pressure. The temperature around here is up and down 40 degrees every night. She has been concerned that the indicator light was giving warnings for a reason. She was correct.
    If a tire starts out cold and is corrected at that temp. Will the correction cause problems when it warms up?
    Thanks,
    FISHCAKE

  • I can’t believe this is a serious issue for anyone who rides. Motorcycles are not cars and don’t afford the protection of a car. Like pre flight check, check the whole motorcycle before you go out. If it’s too inconvenient, or you don’t have the time you don’t have any business getting on, starting the thing and going out into traffic. It’s like wearing a helmet…….how much do you value your health? Motorcycles have to be 100% operable because there are no margins for error. Tyre pressure is one of the easiest and most basic ways to keep the bike safe, not to mention getting the most mileage from those expensive skins. Seriously, this should have been written in crayon!!

  • I sat next to the president of a major tire company on a coast to coast flight a few years ago and his advice for both bike and car tires has served me well ever since. He suggested looking for the maximum pressure allowed on the side of any tire and then reduce that figure by 10%. According to him that is the most efficient and safest pressure for any tire. It’s worked for me for 20 years.

  • Since replacing the stock plastic valve caps with metal ones that have a gasket my tire pressure remains constant for much longer. Months vs weeks. You still have to check the pressure, but rarely do i have to add any air. I’m guessing that except for damage/punctures, tires loose their air primarily thru the valve.

  • At the start of every riding season, I always fill my tires…front and back….to 100 PSI…and I have never had one read low…………………..IT’S A JOKE, GUYS! LOL

  • I usually check pressures weekly when I refuel the bike and try and fuel up at service stations with computerised air pressure hoses. I think they are just a little more accurate than the older pressure gauge.
    The bike manufacturer generally tests the bike/tyre set up during development and lists suitable tyres and pressures on bike so I use the pressure recommended. I find new tyres that have been fitted have to be checked for pressure as the fitter never inflates to recommended pressure.
    My ST1100 at about 300kg plus two riders needs 36F/42R and generally I have to adjust air from 28F/32R which is nowhere near enough.
    When touring I take a 12volt air pump and I have found that the pressure gauge on that isn’t to far out compared to most garage air gauges. Air pressure for my trailer tyres is 12 to 15 and are checked before I head off down the road.
    I check tread wear before/after I ride and the rear tyre more often as that works a little harder than the front.

  • I had the “Doran” tire pressure monitors installed a year ago in my Goldwing. I have double checked the pressures with a very accurate manual guage at least once a week and never found the Dorans to be off by mor than .2lbs I get a constant read out of my pressures on my dash and a waring light and sound if the pressure drops by 12%. It is one of the best investments I have ever made for safety. They are much better than the external valve cap monitors as they put no stress on the falve stems causing them to fail.
    Two things I will not ride without are the pressure sensors and a modulating headlight!

  • I check mine before every ride. It is no big deal, and an important safety check, like checking the oil level before each ride.

    Bill

  • G Rueger says: “keep a good tire gauge—“.
    Most of you have one (or two) ,but in the event you are in need of a new/better one, I suggest you check out a digital type by ROADGEAR. It is Model TG101,is $33.00, and
    very accurate for this price range. NOTE: You can spend a lot more if you want greater accuracy.

  • If you have a bike with tubeless tires, once a week may be fine IF you haven’t just picked up a nail on your way into the garage.
    With spoked wheels and tube tires you had better check those tires before each ride.
    It won’t make a bit of difference if you fill the tires with nitrogen, fresh free-range sea air, or bowel gas – it will find a way out. Also, tube tires may lose pressure just down to an unsafe point and then lose no more, effectively tricking you into thinking they are sound.
    Better check it before you wreck it!

    ***Helpful hint: Keep a nice tire gauge and a good, strong bicycle tire pump near your bike. You’ll be more likely to keep the proper pressure up with a few quick pumps right there in the garage than if you have to ride to the gas station. Works for the car too.***

  • RE:bikerkash and tire pressure

    This is a good response to this subject,although regular readers will note that the 10/20 rule has been cited before (here) and has been attributed to a well-known manufacturer.
    It sounds good to me.

  • Understand tire pressue and keeping an eye on your tires is one of the simplest things & most important things you can do. Everytime you finish a ride do a tire inspection, that means turning each tire slowly by hand while to take a close look for any cuts or obstructions that may have entered your tire. I have had slivers of steel that are very hard to see that would eventually cause a problem. Always let your tires cool down over night before checking pressure. If you are rider who likes to get aggressive in corners try running pressures a few lbs. from the max recomended by the manf. in order to get max traction. Factory PSI specs are for the bike fully loaded with two up an gear. If you are not running fully loaded you are giving up traction by running max PSI. A tire will need to be quite a ways down on pressure to over heat to the point of a blow out. One of the best ways to find out the correct tire pressue for you is to use the 10/20 rule. This is done by setting your tires at a give pressure while they are cold go out and do your normal ride and when you get back check the pressue while they are warm the front should go up about 10% and the rear about 20%. If they go up more than 10% on the front & 20% on the rear consider running more pressure to reduce temps, if it is less you can lower the pressure and allow the tire to heat up a little more. MC tires are make to run in a certain heat range, as set by the manf. of the tire. If they do not come up to that range you are giving up traction and if they are going over they are in danger of over heating and becoming slippery or in extreme conditions creation an over heat situation leading to a possible blow out. There is much more to be said about tires but I type way too slow.

  • Thanks MCg,
    Squeek says the under inflated tire is “squishy”. Jeez Squeek, the low tire I had handled like a fat drunk woman in the back of a pick up truck; everything was going in oposite directions at the same time, and no two responses to movements were the same.
    Now I stay away from both……

  • My O4 Road Kng is a royal pain in the a** to check and more so to add air. But, it is an even bigger pain in the a** (literally) to dress road rash from losing it due to under inflated tires. Here in Louisiana, the roads suck period. Jeez, the loose gravel in intersections alone could pave a good highway. So, tighten up those cheeks and get on your habds n knees w/ your gauge, or you can tighten up your ckeeks and buy a good pair of leathers. Better yet, put those buck on your health plan. You do the math. Air is cheap, skin is dear.

  • MGH – you seem to have spent a lot of quality time investigating tyre pressure – so what’s the bottom line? My R1 manual tells me that the front should be 2.5 bar and the rear 2.9 bar when cold. Now how can they say that if they don’t know what the ambient termperature is (I could be riding in the desert) or the kind of riding I’m doing. Surely they should have reccomended a range – for instance 2.5 – 3.0 bar in the front and 2.9 – 3.3 in the back? You thoughts please.

    Much obliged,

    Stan

  • If you call yourself a mototcyclist and you don’t have TPMS then you need to start calling yourself something else. Oh and by the way I supply the best TPMS onb the market.

  • I ride a Benelli Scooter. The tires always seem the same pressure. I say seem–I thump them only. They’re always hard. Are these smaller tires less subject to gradual leakage? Or am ? fooling myself? I’ve owned several scooters, and the situation always seems the same. Obviously you can hit a nail or some road hazard & changing a (rear especially) scooter tire is a pain.

    Stephen

  • excellent advice, everyone should do the t clocs method, you cannot go wrong, protect your investment and you and your passenger.

  • if we loves with our family and want happiness for them then must follow the ride instruction prior to make a ride.this is the only best way to far from any unpleasent and bitter ttruth .

  • Hi All,
    I have just bought my Suzuki SV 650S. Three weeks ago I went for a ride and it was awful. I lost my faith in riding the bike. Two days after I checked my air pressure and it my tires was a half of it what should be. I will never do the same mistake in the future. Dear ALL – check your tires every time when you are going to ride !!!!
    Best from Poland … and see U on the road

  • I’ve got a 2008 Road King with the most unbelievable wheels. The valves stick straight out and do not angle to the side of the rim. To check the front tire you have to have the valve forward at 3:00 o’clock and you have to sit in front of the wheel to do it. To check the rear, I have to position the valve at 6:00 o’clock, then I have to lie down on the ground and use both hands, one on each side of the wheel to take a pressure reading with a flexible neck gauge. Needless to say I bought my own electronic air pump from NAPA so I can do all this in the comfort of my own garage.

    I recently purchased a set of Tire Pressure Monitors which seem to work reasonably well. However, the sensors “fall asleep” after 20 minutes of inactivity, so it is necessary to get the bike out and moving a few feet before you can get a reading. It also gives you the temperature of each tire. If this keeps me off my back, then it’s worth the $200.

  • The advice below, about under-inflating after heating the tires up etc. leaves me confused.

    I ride a K1200LT BMW. The manual says one pressure range, but the BMW dealer tells me emphatically to ignore it and bump up to 42/46. In the BMW forums, for the same tires, riders with many years of experience advise up to 52 lbs for rear, and solo riding.

    The recommended pressure from the Metzler company is always lower than what the BMW dealerships advise, and the ‘online riders’ consensus’ is consistently higher than the dealers’ recommendations.

    I can understand the tire company pushing for a pressure that will decrease longevity and increase sales. With heavy bikes, cupping is a problem, which can be reduced by higher pressures, but I’m always wondering if I’m reducing the overall traction to get more miles out of the tires.

    Also, the type of gauge you use to monitor your pressure is important: I checked, then double checked, my tires with 3 different bayonet type/standard gauges. The differences were significant! One gave 38, another 43, and the third 46. Which do you believe?

    I switched to a digital gauge which the mechanic recommended as far more accurate. I keep one in my top case, and another in my truck.
    It is a pain to check the pressure on my bike: the angle has to be just right to reach through the double rotors, but the more you make it part of your daily routine, the easier it is becomes.

    I’m going out to the garage now to check my pressures.

  • Found this on Ducati site. Personally I check on Sat am before riding with 36 psi front and 42 psi rear. As the winter approaches you need to check as tire pressure drops.

    TIRE PRESSURE
    use the 10/20% rule.

    ——————————————————————————–

    From Larry Kelly on the Ducati.net List

    Determining Best Tire Pressures

    A technique for those wanting to get the most out of their tires on the street is to use the 10/20% rule.

    First check the tire pressure when the tire is cold. Then take a ride on your favorite twisty piece of road. Then, measure the tire pressure immediately after stopping. If the pressure has risen less than 10% on the
    front or 20% on the rear, the rider should remove air from the tire. So for example, starting at a front tire pressure of 32.5 psi should bring you up to 36 psi hot. Once you obtain this pressure increase for a given rider, bike, tire, road and road temperature combination, check the tire pressure again while cold and record it for future reference.

    Each manufacturer is different. Each tire model is different. A tire design that runs cooler needs to run a lower pressure (2-3 psi front) to get up to optimum temperature. The rear tire runs hotter than the front tire, road and track. So the rear tire cold-to-hot increase is greater. Dropping air pressure has the additional side effect of scrubbing more rubber area.

    When I used the tire pressures recommended by Ducati (32.5F/36R) for my 916 on my favorite road, I got exactly 10/20% on a set of Bridgestone BT-012SS. So I guess I’m an average rider and the BT-012SS runs at an average operating temperature compared to other brands.

    For the track you’ll have to drop the cold tire pressures an additional 10/20%. Track operation will get tires hotter (increasing the cold-to-hot pressure range) so starting at say 32/30 psi now should bring you up to the
    same temperature (and pressure) that 35/39 psi gave you for the street.

    Don’t even think about running these low track cold pressures on the street.

    Finally, dropping tire pressures on street tires for track use has its limitations, so street compound tires on the track often get too hot and go beyond sticky to greasy. That’s why you have race tires. Race tire compounds are designed for severe operation at these higher temperatures for a limited
    number of thermal cycles. On the other hand, race tire on the street usually won’t get up to the appropriate temperature for good performance. At street speeds, the race compound often won’t perform as well as a street tire.

  • Tried the valve caps that wirelessly broadcast your tire pressure to a little receiver. You’ve likely seen them advertised. They do work fine once you learn not to screw them down too tight. For a price, they seem to be the ideal solution. We put them on two big bikes.

    After a spirited romp, one front tire had a nasty flat when one of the valve stems was ripped off at the base. Maybe coincidence, or maybe centrifugal force acting on a much heavier cap. Even then, maybe only at higher speeds.

    We’re going back to the pressure gauge. Safety first!

  • If You need to be reminded to check your tire pressure on a regular basis then I hope that you do not ride in my area cause YOU are an accident looking for a place to happen!!

  • I ride a gorgeous but rather heavy Harley Street Rod on a 90 mile commute everyday, rain or shine, and generally at a very ‘enthusiastic’ pace. So knowing that the pressure is correct is very important. I’ve mounted some LED valve caps that ‘learn’ the air pressure when first mounted; if it drops 4 psi, it then blinks red (for up to 2 weeks) and allegedly last about 2 years. The drawback is you need to use a special little tool included to get the things on and off, as they have an anti-theft design (the outside collar will freely spin without the tool. Not sure I fully trust these things, but it’s one more thing on the positive side of the ledger.

    The other thing that appears to have stabilized my tire pressures was upgrading to a pair of non-OEM (Continental) tires – I installed Avon Venom’s, which are one of the best tires in the wet, excellent in the dry, and still give decent life. Not a bit of detectable leakage in 6 months.

  • MC-g,

    thank you for your advices and tips.

    Take care and good ride.
    Antonio Silveira

  • Hello Ed,
    You ask some good questions: “Good” from two perspectives.
    1) Obviously you are checking your tire pressure!
    2) You have gone beyond the fundamental interest of maintaining adequate tire pressure, into the realm of “optimizing” tire pressure for high performance. I suggest this article on high-performance tire pressure to offer greater insight into your questions. I would also add my 2 cents to the article by saying you can quantify very specific answers to your questions via track testing. Find out which pressures work best for your bike, your tires, your weight, and your personal handling preferences – using your track time as the quantifying measurement, in additon to what provides you the greatest riding confidence. However, for MOST people, simply using the manufacturer’s recommended pressure rating will be adequate! MCg

  • I’ve been wondering about this for decades.

    I check my tires often enough, but what’s the right pressure? Is it five or ten below the max hot rating? My ’06 Hayabusa consumes a yearly amount of tires which, if converted to tanks of fuel, would just about underwrite the same annual mileage if it were a Ford Excursion instead.

    I’ve noticed that the bike seems to handle a little better when the tires aren’t rock-hard – and maybe are even a tad on the soft side – but that’s about all I’ve been able to ascertain. For a sportbike tire rated at 44 PSI max, with a somewhat frisky (moderately immature 53-year-old) rider, what’s appropriate – 38? 34? Do I have a higher risk of a blowout at 34 PSI than I do at 42? Doesn’t rubber tend to be more likely to catastrophically fail at high pressure than low? Is the extra friction-heat of low pressure rolling resistance worse than the rupture-inducing stress of excessively high pressure?

    Please forgive my inquisitiveness – I can’t resist picking all these brains that are so conveniently located in one place. 🙂

    peace – –

    ed

  • Ha! nice. I was really concerned for a minute.. MC-G’s going to give us slacker tips?! WHAT?! But then no, wham bam, hilarious prose.

    It’s really too bad how so many riders I know consider their tire maintenance similar to cars. You get a flat on a car it’s like; “Damn! how do I get this jack out of the trunk mount?” kind of inconvenience. On your bike? more like; “How do I get my kneecap out of my lung?” inconvenience.

    Check it like your life depends on it….:P

  • Hi Squeak,

    You’re welcome. Actually, with high performance tires that have hard sidewalls, it’s worse than just soft, slow and squishy, it almost fees as though you’re riding on rubber rims. The tires actually fight you unpredictably as the sidewalls flex and give, also changing the rake and trail geometry.

    Regards.

  • A small compressor for checking and inflating the tires is a worthwhile purchase. No more trying to find a gas station with a working air dispenser, plus you’ll never have to leave your house with improperly inflated tires.

    Good advice from Andy! I now know how the bike handles when under-inflated – squishy feeling!

  • Has anyone seen a product called “Tire Supervisor”? It’s advertised in one of the cycle magazines this month and apparently works via two sending units, placed one in each tire valve which monitor and send readout to wireless monitor unit on handlebars.

    (I’ve tried to go to the website they advertise but the posted address must be wrong.)

  • It’s just too easy NOT to do! I do it about every 3rd -4th day with a quality guage. I have gotten to a point where I can feel the tire and tell that I am at least close to correct pressure. That gets done daily before every ride. I then “test the test” to see how close I was with the feel test! Just do it!!!

  • Hi MC-G,

    Thanks. I do check my tire pressures before every ride. I ride my bike as hard as conditions allow, and I find that tire pressure profoundly affects the handling of my motorcycle. On a good autumn day, when ambient temperature temperatures can rise and drop 30+ degrees F, tire pressures can be affected by 3 PSI. This isn’t even factoring in barometric pressure changes.

    Try riding your motorcycle with tires 4 PSI overinflated, and then let out 8 PSI when you done, to simulate starting 4 PSI underinflated, and see how air pressure can change the way your motorcycle handles. You won’t notice it as it changes gradually, but the changes are still there.

    Ride your motorcycle when it is at its best. Check those tires before each ride–at least!

  • I have been using nitrogen for years in all my tires. PSI stays very constant. I check them about once a month just to make sure.

    Jerry

  • MC-G, you’re absolutely right in saying that tyre pressure is of the utmost importance for motor bikers.
    I make it a point to always check my tyres by”
    1.visually – just looking at them before I startup
    2.using my tyre pressure guage to monitor once in a while – a I dont ride daily
    3.pump the tyres up to the correct pressure every once or twice per month
    I hope this is good enough to ensure a safe ride. Since I’m riding a BMW R1100RT, correct pressure is important because of it’s weight.

    Thanks very much for the tips/reminders.

    Warm regards.

    stephen

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