Your motorcycle tires are the only thing between you and possible injury. This makes proper tire pressure one of the most basic maintenance and safety functions a rider should undertake.
Step 1 – Inspect Your Tires
Good motorcycle maintenance and safety begins with inspecting your tires before each ride. In a well-lit area, inspect each tire then roll the bike forward or backward so that the whole tire may be viewed.
Use a quarter as a gauge to measure sufficient tread. Insert the quarter’s top into the tire treads, if you can see the top of Washington’s head the tread is too thin and the tire should be replaced. Look for odd wear patterns; if the rubber is worn so badly that you can see the tire’s underlying belts do not ride the motorcycle until that tire is replaced.
Punctures in the tread from nails, screws or other objects as well as sidewall cuts, scrapes and perforations could all cause your tires to lose air or blow out at speed. Repair tread punctures and replace tires with significant sidewall damage. If in doubt ask a professional.
Step 2 – Analyze
Will your ride be heavily loaded as with 2 riders? Do you anticipate Interstate speeds for a sustained period? What about hard cornering? All these conditions indicate your tires should be filled to their maximum allowable pressure.
Small adjustments in air pressure will dramatically affect the ride and handling. Consult your owner’s manual to learn the correct pressures for varying conditions. If you use non-standard tires, refer to the minimum and maximum pressures listed on the tire’s sidewall.
Never exceed the manufacturer’s maximum recommended pressure. Over inflation will not mean a greater load capacity or performance and will wear out your tires prematurely.
Step 3 – Check the Tire’s Pressure
Now you’re ready to check the air pressure. The air pressure and density change when the tire is warm so always check tire pressure when the tire is cool. The ratings listed in your owner’s manual or on the tire’s sidewall are cool or outside temperature ratings.
Whether you have an inner tube or tubeless tire, a Schrader valve will protrude through the center of the wheel’s rim. The valve has an inner stem that when pressed allows air to pass into and out of the tire. Move the bike forward or backward so that the valve stem is easily accessible.
Several types of air pressure gauges exist from digital, dial and stick scales to dual head and versions with extension hoses. Purchase a high quality model that will be easy to thread between the wheel's spokes or spars and keep it with your bike so it’s handy.
Press your air gauge onto the Schrader valve until the gauge is seated. As you begin to press the gauge onto the valve you will hear the hiss of escaping air. The tire pressure gauge is fully seated when this hissing stops and the gauge indicates air pressure.
Read the gauge. If too much pressure exists, allow some to escape by pressing the center stem of the Schrader valve. Most air pressure gauges have a nub protruding from the back side about the same dimension as the valve’s stem. Using this nub makes an easier task of releasing air pressure. Conversely, if not enough pressure is present, use an air compressor to add what’s needed.
Repeat this process until the correct pressure is achieved.