Motorcycle Tires vs. Car Tires

Motorcycle Tires, Car TiresBeware! If you are here to celebrate the religion of motorcycle tires and their infinite nuances, which are most appreciated by the high priests of motorcycle high-performance, you are in the wrong place.

And if you are seeking insights into the dark side of the motorcycle tire religion, those whom swear to the efficacy of using car tires on their bikes; alas, you too, will be gravely disappointed.

This is an earthly article, mundane in all aspects, and targeted to the heathen, unwashed masses for whom the travails and ecstasy of worshiping specific motorcycle tire characteristics have yet to seize their soul.

In fact, this is for those who barely care about motorcycle tires.

More to the point, this is for those whom, however well-intended or not, have found themselves riding a motorcycle with no more attention on those rubbery round things under their bike, than they may care about the tires on their car.

Modern car tires have evolved to a point whereby they can almost be ignored. For sure, it’s a bad idea to ignore them. But nevertheless, lots of car drivers do manage to pay little attention to their automobile tires with no more ill effects than lowered gas mileage, increased tire wear and decreased performance. More importantly, most of those who generally ignore their car tires don’t crash or die as a result of their under-appreciation of under-inflation and the like.

So, for those who could care less, let’s address the obvious: motorcycles and cars are very different. But regardless of how clear the distinction between two-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles may be, the difference between motorcycle tires and car tires is just as great, regardless of their surface similarity.

To highlight the obvious, there does exist a similarity: Most car tires and motorcycle tires are round, black and made with some kind of rubbery compound. But that similarity is holy treachery if you let it inform your perspective on bike tires.

When was the last time you paused for a second to contemplate that every time you mount your bike you are entrusting your life to those two small contact patches where the rubber meets the road? Should anything go wrong with one of them, you don’t have three others to save your hide.

Riding is all so fun, as long as those two contact patches are happily doing their job.

But if one of them gets a little grumpy, you too may start to embrace the religion of motorcycle tires, which will most likely result in a full baptism when you see your life unfold before you as part of your first motorcycle accident (presuming you survive).

OK, if the fear of God has not been struck upon your soul, as yet, let’s just get to a few pointers, and call it a day.

Regardless if you have avoided paying attention to your car tires in the past, such a devil-may-care attitude needs to be jettisoned re your bike. Here are three of the most fundamental points to respect about your motorcycle tires.

A) TIRE PRESSURE: Lord have mercy, if you take anything away from this silly sermon, you really do need to maintain the bike manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure for your motorcycle load. You’ll need to dig out that owner’s manual, or check online for your motorcycle manufacturer’s recommended inflation levels for your front and rear tire. Even if you don’t ride your bike regularly, you can lose a little bit of air every week. Hence, check air weekly to ensure optimum front and rear tire pressure. Heck, in some religions, there might be some motorcycle God who will give you a pat on the back if you check tire pressure before each and every ride.

B) TIRE TREAD: Yes, it can be a nuisance, but you have to tear yourself away from the good-time saddle to LOOK at and inspect your tire tread. Car tires seem to last forever. Motorcycle tires don’t. If you ride a lot, you change tires a lot. Oh well. Replace those tires before they get down to the last 10% of their tread because that’s where most motorcycle tire failures occur. (Again, to emphasize the obvious, motorcycle tire failure means bad things for riders, but generally nothing more than inconvenience for automobile drivers). There’s a lot that can be learned about different tires, but if you really want to keep it simple, just get the same tires your motorcycle manufacturer recommends.

And don’t forget that when you replace your tires, you need to be especially careful while riding for the first hundred miles, or so, since new tires tend to be smooth and slick.

C) TIRE CLEANING: OK, maybe you’ve been lax about checking your tires. But at least you clean your bike and clean your tires. And that’s a good thing, ain’t it? Sure, cleaning your bike is good. And cleaning your tires with soap and water is fine. But if you’re the kind who really gets jazzed about dressing up your motorcycle tires, you may be meeting your maker sooner than you intended. If you are keen on making your sidewalls look shiny and new, you do so at the risk of getting the tire dressing product on your tread, which can make your tires very slippery. After your accident, and presuming you survived, your insurance adjuster may be kind enough to advise you that the your tires look pretty and shiny on your smashed up bike and you may have inadvertently caused your own wreck in pursuit of that beautiful black.

Reciting the above 3-point hymnal to the true and faithful of the motorcycle tire religion will not win you any respect for there is so much more to know about motorcycle tires. But at least you won’t be thrown out of the church for blasphemy.

Wishing you safe riding.

71 thoughts on “Motorcycle Tires vs. Car Tires

  • hope you have car tires on the frt also . should be the same handling ..right ! say bike tires cost to much but you buy a $20,000 big fat over weight bagger and wine about cost of tires .????? .we need more parts bikes ….so go for it …wait till you insurance co says ,sorry we are not paying for you plastic YOU made it unsafe ..your fault …

  • I’m putting a car tire on my VTX 1300 tomorrow. I got lots of good info from the mcdarksiders forum, including safety and size conversions. What we pay for MC tires is absolutely rediculous for the mileage we get out of them. Anytime someone tries something different or new, the masses come ou with “safety” issues to try and scare you. Just be safe when you ride and you’ll be fine.

  • On my Big Dog K-9 I replace both tires anually. I always have always done this and always will. The bike tires are, IMHO, cheap insurance vs. a wreck or a wreck in which the rider is injured – or even killed. This policy is more important now since on many models the section height is so thin tire integrity has become paramount.

  • Could someone please give me where to go to get info. on converting my m/c over to a car tire …… thank you

  • rethinking it ya car tires on bikes sure when was the last time a h.d. or crusier leaned over far and then ground off the mufflers, or side stand…and hey ww-2 bikes well they needed to lean over , right ,all at 45 mph top speed on a wd -hd of 20 hp flat head…and they did it in semi-knobby miltary tires … so if its good enough 70 years ago its good enought now, and car tires come with —white walls how cool is that..

  • Car tires on Motorcycles??? Been in the business since 1965. Have only seen 1 car tire on a bike. You guys must be smoking illegal stuff!.. Square profile on a bike? down a drag strip yes, NOWHERE else. Smokey you are crazy!!!!!!!!!!1

  • When I read about all the changes riders and shade tree mechanics make to their rides I am always amazed the Japanese, Korean, American, Canadian and European motorcycle manufacturers hire idiots as engineers. They obviously have no idea certain segments of the riding public is more qualified then they are. But of course manufacturers are ham-strung by government regulations, that is if they want to sell the product.

    The cost of tires was mentioned. Did you ever try buying a replacement part for your inboard or outboard boat motor? How about a Cessna or Piper Cub airplane? Closer to home; a $30 dollar printer and $40 dollar print cartridge.

  • Don’t know about the durometer rating of car vs m/c tires, but I’m pretty sure that m/c tires are made to have a high coefficient of friction, even more so on sport bike tires designed for lighter bikes. Heavier bikes probably get away with running car tires better because they are heavier and therefore apply more force on the contact patch. Not being a tire designer, I can only speculate that one of the tire design tradeoffs is high coefficient of friction vs longer wear. If that’s not the case, then tire companies are sticking it to m/c riders big time, given the price of tires!! Are there any physicists out there that can enlighten the rest of us on this issue?
    I asked a Dunlop factory rep about the “new tires are slick” advice you always hear. He laughed and told me that the shiny surface on modern tires is only because they are fresh out of the mold. They used to put mold release on the tire molds, but for decades they have used teflon coated molds so no mold release. One of the guys I ride with (70 yr old still on a sport bike) will take a new set of tires and run the chicken strips off on a twisty road right away – seems to validate what the Dunlop guy said. Apparently they still advise you to go easy for the first 100 miles, but that is for the rider to get used to the new tires, not because the tires are coated in snot.

  • Actually the video is mistaken, the rubber compound on bike tires is actually a harder compound than that used on car tires. Only exception being a race MC tire or a very rare older 100,000 mile car tire.
    If you don’t believe me, go buy yourself a durometer, it is a tool used to measure the hardness of kart racing tires as well as other racing tires. we checked a dozen cars and 15 bikes, in all cases the car tires were 10-25 points softer than the MC tire that came in the softest.
    The reason MC tires wear so fast is due to the air bubbles in the rubber compound causing the rubber to wear away quick.
    I will be the first to say that the car tire on a bike is for everyone, it is not. There are way too many closed minded folks out there for me to believe that. I will say that those same closed minded folks should stop and look at the history of motorcycling and realize that the manufacturers originally built bikes with car tires on them. Front and rear. The MC troops of WW2 were on scoots with car tires on them.
    I also am not recommending a car tire on sport bikes, however there are several thousand riders on sport touring bikes running car tires as well as thousands and thousands more on cruisers and touring bikes running car tires with absolutely no ill effects.

    See you out there

  • watch the video it says 0 on bike vs car tires, check air wow thats great… but bike tires are round for turns people and softer compound to grip .. wow… the fools useing car tires are on 2 wheel cars that if you lean over something will scrap anyway…. again keep it up used parts are cheaper and carry the body parts card…

  • I have been using car tires on my motorcycles for the last 4 years and over 80,000 miles. I ride a honda vtx 1300 and a honda gl1800 goldwing. I replace my worn out pegs about every 18 months, worn out from dragging them through the twisties.

    Here is a website dedicated to the use of car tires on our bikes, as you will see we cover most makes of bikes.

    While I can’t speak for all the riders on the site, I can say that I have ridden with several spirited riders from the site that were quick to dive in hard and drag parts through the twisties. Some of us occasionally dive in hard enough to drag the hard parts.

    If you have never ridden a gl1800, let me just say that they are impressive in their agility and power.

    See you out there

  • only a show off fool will use car tires on a bike… try to lean for turn = dead . ok used spare less fool organ donor glad brains can not be transplant… hell even the h.d. riders know that..think fools lean over, square tire duhaaaa.

  • Not too sure about car tyres on a bike. May be OK on long US highways, but no good for our UK twisties, I think?.
    Just had a shocking experience while re-using a T100 after 4yr lay-up. The tyres (tires) looked fine and correct pressures etc but when needed to stop, nowt.
    Rubber was degraded so much they were useless, but looked fine and were approved at Tyre Service centre.
    Message, Always check your rubber.
    Old rubber out, new rubber in, so to speak!!!

  • thanks again for the tips! greatly appreciated. I am not a motorcycle engineer nor am I a tire engineer. For my vehicles both 4 wheelers and 2 , the MANUFATURERS recommend particular sizes and brands with specified air pressures and replacement at certain kms. I do not want to REINVENT THE WHEEL . Just out of curiosity do insurance companies approve car tires on motorcycles? hhmmm.

  • thank you very much for the reminder about tiers it is alway good to keep checking tiers.
    and a big thanks to MC-G for the info from Goodyear.

    But on a funny note if someone tied your arms to your sides would you stop speaking 🙂

    God bless all you bikers

  • I had a 1998 Suziki Intruder and put 30,000 miles on a car tie on this bike. I traded for a 2007 Yamaha Roadstar. Will a car tire fit on the Roadstar without rubbing? Has anyone ridden with a car tire on a Roadstar?

  • triumph t-100 comes with 130-80×17 rears… 130-90×17 works fine and is every where and cuts down rpm a bit and the x tra side wall gives to soften the bumps. and is still right for rim with.. go to a 140 and your pinching in the tire…

  • Dear Sir; I have a yamaha midnight venture ( 2006). The rear tire is a 150/90b15m/c74h,I want to put a car tire on in place of the motorcycle tire.Could you please tell me what size car tire I can use.

    Thank You


  • It would seem the fix is in for mc tires. Surely some tire maker could build a safe long milage tire and at a reasonable price. But why, when there is more money in throw away low milage tires which are not cheap but probably have one hell of a markup.

  • For me the CT is the only way to go in a 900# Gold Wing. I am on my 3rd Kumho 195/55/16 Car tire. MT only last about 12k on the back of this beast. CTs go over 25k for the three I have used. Run Flat and greater breaking ability is the reason I went to the darkside. I will never go back to a MT on the Gold Wing.
    BTW: a rear, bias ply MT on the front of the GW also makes them last twice as long with no problems with handling.

  • Has anyone put a car tire on the rear of a ultra claasic? If so, what size did you use and how is it working?

  • It would be helpful if you could talk about purchasing tires for our motorcycles.
    There are many brands and models to choose. Riuding style dictates the type of tire that
    is best for traction and milage. Please elaborate.

  • For those who have already “decided” that a CT will not work on a bike, then there’s no point in arguing. For those willing to listen and think, considering a CT on the rear wheel might just be an option. I’m running a TOYO Proxes Ts1 205/55/16 on my Valkyrie. I’ve only put on about 5,000 miles so far, but I’m convinced it works for me. As my fellow Valk riders have said, we will never go back to a MC tire after this. The handling with the CT is as good or better than before. I’ve leaned so far in the twisties, I’ve scraped the bottom of the pipes, and pegs. After the first 20 miles, I didn’t even notice the change. If you’re considering the change, try it out. I did, and don’t regret the decision.

  • I have a scooter–Benelli X50. Also lots of other scooters, previously. Could be imagination, or negligence, but these tires never seem to wear out. Indeed, I get the feeling they’ll rot first. Explanation?

    Thanks, Stephen

  • Need feedback from other bikers: Last Aug I got the New Fat Boy Lo equipt with Dunlop D407 rear tire. Yesterday I went in for FIRST Replacement at: 12,500 miles. I never has that kind of mileage from any rear tire. IF Anyone got better mileage from a rear tire – PLEASE e-mail details

  • I made this video 1 year ago to proove thet Car Tires are NOT suitable for motorcycles.
    Motorcycle tires for motorcycles and car tires for cars PERIOD!
    One year ago I said I would rather put motorcycle tires on my car than car tire on my motorcycle.

    I still have the CT installed, I have to admit I was wrong. It is not much difference. I have even measured stopping length difference with CT and MCT. I reduce the stopping length with 15% at 50mph. !!!
    I have more than 15000 miles on his tire now, and I`m sure I can get another 10K.

    General Altimax 205/55/16 rear tire. Camera mounted under the bike.
    Watch the video at:

    Compare this video with “VALKYRIE DARKSIDE VIDEO” Bridgestone 200/60-16RR rear tire. Camera mounted under the bike. Same bike, same road, same rider, same speed, same day.
    Watch the video at:

  • I have a car tire on my Valkyrie. I will never go back to a motorcycle rear tire on that bike as long as I own it.
    I don’t think I would put a car tire on a sport bike, but on my cruiser the car tire is fantastic.
    fast black

  • Mr. Biggz in his own words threw on a car tire and wnet to the track. I am sure the tire was not scrubbed and still had the slick factory crap on it. Number 2 TRACK?? you kiddin me?? This discussion and noone ever said to put on a car tire and hit the track! Number 3, and this is from years of experience on a 2000 CC bike with a car tire on the rear, the rear braking is out of this world!! It is so much better there is no comparison, so al lI can say is, the tire was too new or he was coming in too hot, or both. Too many things he did wrong to use his experience as an example. I regularly ride twisties and scrape the boards and have never had an issue, and will NEVER EVER go back to a MC tire period. I have seen AMA riders low side and high side with MC tires, he needs reevaluate his skills and quit blaming the equipment.

  • I liked your video on tires. Here’s what I do–Check your tire pressure before every single ride. Sounds like a pain in the butt, however, you can get a set of tire pressure monitors which will give you an instantaneous readout of the pressures in each tire. The monitor will also give you an alert if your tire pressures are to low or too high. Costs around $200, but worth it. I also change tires at 10,000 miles, no matter what. MSF recommends it and I concur.

    When I got my 2008 Road King, the dealer had a “carrot” that he dangled in front of me–free tires- for life! So far, he’s been true to his word.

  • Referring to Biggz’s comment above: It is good practice to always start out slow on a bike after any change to brakes, tires, engine mods, suspension or anything really. Learn the changed handling and learn how to use the front brake which is way more effective than the back…regardless of the tire size. A high percentage of bike accidents happen to first time riders, riders on new or different bikes and after changes have been made to the bike that they have been riding. Like different tires. You’ll notice even in a car the handling difference from old tires to new ones even if the same brand and model of tire. Also. slow down before you need to and survive to ride longer. Good luck.

  • Always interesting when I check what folks are saying about car tires on a cycle.

    Just the facts on my experience: On my second car tire on my Valkyrie Interstate. Running a high speed rated 205/55 16. Did lots of research and read some very detailed articles from some who went to the “dark side” before me. I was tired of only 7k between tires on the back. Mostly ride double (wife/V.P) and frequently tote a trailer. The weight, power, and such certainly contribute to my tire mileage issues. I respect the bike, never abuse it, but hey, if I was satisfied with a minivan leaving the light faster than me I’d not be riding a 6 cylinder cruiser that still garners admiring glances everywhere I go. Even the hog riders drool a little. I think it’s the chrome. Could be genetics but I’ll quickly claim that’s a joke, lest they pick their knuckles off the ground and thrash me.


    I keep the rear tire at 46 psi for best handling and have no problem scraping pegs. Understand, I’ve been riding for 54 years with loads of off-road and some racing of many types, mostly off road, under my belt. I’m a very experienced rider who is, nonetheless, intimately acquainted with the laws of physics. Age will do that if school doesn’t.

    A high speed, high quality tire is recommended with mirrored tread patterns and lots of rubber on the side treads, which you’ll be riding on through those twisties. Only difference in handling I’ve notices is that you have to tell it to turn rather than just lean. It doesn’t fight me. I have no problems at slow speed turns. OK, it does react more to road irregularities. Minor trade offs to double the mileage and half the price. That’s right, I now get about 14K before it needs changing. Power to weight ratios and more aggressive driving than I’d do in my family car is the culprit, both of which is why I bought the bike in the first place. Zoom Zoom!! The current ride is now respectfully broken in at 52K but showing no signs of age or performance issues. Heck, it’s likely good for as many and likely more miles than my other American made vehicle by Chrysler.

    Do your homework and read lots but take the critics with a grain of salt. Those of us with the proper bike (less suitable on say the 1400 Kawasaki OMG crotch rocket my brother currently pilots with a car tire but he’s always been crazy….. and lucky, too. He also has a sidecar. I’ll never go back…. not with THIS bike. It’s too much hassle AND cost to change that rear tire every 7K. Only modification I had to do was with the mounting bolts on the fender.

    It can be a challenge to find a dealer that will mount the tire for you. I buy it from a car tire place and have a particular cycle dealer who will mount it for me.

    Just the news from one well seasoned and well reasoned warrior road warrior.

  • Hello Luis, I have ridden the CamAm Spyder, but I have not owned one. Since that is a 3-wheeler, with one-wheel on the back and two in the front, I can’t offer much personal experience in terms of tires. I would check with CanAm on what tires they recommend.

  • Oops. Ignore the last sentence. Doing two things at once.

    My question is whether the advice about the difference between motorcycle tires and car tires applies to Can-Am Spyders, apart from the presumably softer tires.

  • I ride a Can-Am Spyder. The rear tire is a Kenda 225/50R15 68H. This is supposed to be a 150.00 tire. There are other brands that are the same size but have higher ratings for weight and speed and cost less. Do your distributors sell this tire for less than BRP?

  • Guys, while Car Tires are not designed for use on motorcycles, they can work and they work well. This not speculation. It’s based on seat-of-the-pants experience.

    I have logged over 80k miles on 2 Honda GL1800 Goldwings in the last 3 years using several different brands of run-flat car tires. They do everything a motto tire does as well or better. For those who say they won’t let the bike turn properly, most of those miles were logged in the twisties of N. Ga., Tn. and N.C on dry and wet roads, in the heat of summer and the feezing temperatures of Winter.

    There are currently over 300 owners of 1800s who run CTs and love them. Read their experiences on the “Darksider” forum at


  • Unless your trying to go drag-bike racing, don’t use car tires for rear wheels.

    What’s funny is that I just got out of the hospital (broken ankle both legs) not a day ago because I just HAD to be persuaded by my cousin Faris to use 150/40 (I Think) Yokohama tires for my Yamaha Scorpio’s rear wheel, the argument was that since it’s made for a race car, it would be just fine… Yeah right.

    Just after installing the wheel I tried it on the tracks near the garage, on the straights it was amazing, really fast acceleration, by the time I have to brake though, The rear breaks couldn’t do a thing, I don’t think I even slowed down, as I smashed into the guard-rail on the bend, the next thing I know I was looking at the sky from a ditch, peaceful, until the pain kicks-in that is.

    Sorry if I’m ranting but i needed to get it off my chest, frankly I hope that if this story is read then people please, just stick to motorcycle tires to motorcycles, and car tires to cars. even with a full riding gear I manage to broke both my ankles, fractured my legs and I thinks I heard the doctor said I’am lucky I didn’t brake my spine.

    Thanks for the Info MC-G, just wished I seen this video before listening to one of my cousin’s “it should be fine, what’s the worse that could happen”.

    I’m still not allowed to ride any bike until June, even-though my Scorpio is fixed an upgraded.

  • With a 185/65-16 auto tire on the rear of my Boulevard C90 I’ve noticed after experimenting a bit, as soon as the tire presure is below 28 psi it feels just like a totaly empty motorcycle tire.
    Braking on wet pavement with the bikes recomended presure while only using the rear brake (just testing, not a habit) is a lot harder to get it to lock, while is easyer to make a burnout.
    I will post again results after a two months or one fall(whatever comes first)

  • Hi John,

    Thanks for your comment. I wrote to Goodyear for more info and have included the response I received a little further below.

    Upon further emails, it was clarified that as a blanket statement, not “ALL” motorcycle tires are made of softer tread compounds when compared to “ALL” automotive tires. He went on to say that “in some specific comparisons, this may be true, however other comparisons could prove this statement to be false.”

    Anyway, below is the response from Paul Appleby at Goodyear which outlines the details:

    “Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your motorcycle tire questions. Regarding your car tire to motorcycle tire comparison, we must first make sure that we are comparing apples to apples. When you think of it, the vast majority of motorcycles are high performance vehicles compared to most cars. Consider that you rarely see a motorcycle with less than ”H” speed-rated tires. By comparison, the vast majority of cars ride on non-speed-rated tires or very low speed rated tires. Power-to-weight ratio and speed are big factors in respect to tire wear.

    “Unfortunately, when many people compare mileage, they do so with a family sedan and a much higher performance motorcycle. Another significant factor in this comparison is the size of the tire’s contact footprint. In the case of a car, the footprint is much larger and there are four, not two tires contacting the pavement. You must keep in mind that virtually the entire width of the relatively flat tread of a car is in contact with the road all of the time. A car remains upright, even when cornering. This results in a much smaller contact footprint for a motorcycle tire. High power-to-weight ratio, speed, size of footprint and other aspects explain why motorcycle tires tend wear out quicker than car tires.

    “If you were to compare a motorcycle tire against a high-performance car tire, for a Porsche as an example, this would allow for a much closer comparison. The power-to-weight ratio and speeds are closer even while allowing for the much larger contact patch times four (x 4). Tires fitted to these types of vehicles generally provide 10,000 – 20,000 miles of service before wear out, much like a motorcycle tire. Throw in the fact that motorcycle tires can not be rotated and you’ll soon see that motorcycle tires do a yeoman’s job of delivering both performance, mileage and safety. To obtain the best mileage from your motorcycle tires, observe the following guidelines: obey the speed limit; avoid quick acceleration and hard braking; maintain recommended tire pressures; and do not overload your bike or tow a trailer.”

    Paul Appleby/NA/GDYR

  • Your info is incorrect. Motorcycle tires use a harder compound of rubber, that degrades faster than car tires. Tire pressure and tread wear check should be part of your PRE-ride check.

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