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How Long do Motorcycle Tires Last & Other Motorcycle Tire Age FAQs

April 10, 2024 Comments Comment

For motorcycle riders of all types, from everyday enthusiasts to occasional weekend warriors, understanding motorcycle tire longevity and maintenance is key to ensuring an enjoyable riding experience.

This guide to motorcycle tire age and lifespan addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about motorcycle tires, providing important and practical insights to protect yourself and your investment over the long run.

How Long Do Motorcycle Tires Last?

Manufacturers typically recommend replacing motorcycle tires that are more than six years old. However, there’s a considerable difference between how long it’s been since a tire was manufactured and how much it has aged.

Ultimately, the lifespan of motorcycle tires—and how fast they age — is influenced by several factors, including riding style, tire type, road conditions, how tires are stored and how well they are maintained. For example, a new tire, parked or stored next to an electric motor or transformer (or other ozone-producing device) can incur irreversible damage to the sidewalls and tread in the form of cracking within a short time. The same goes with a motorcycle that’s being stored outside and exposed to intense UV.

More generally speaking, tires on motorcycles, especially those on high-performance models like many Harley-Davidsons, tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to car tires.

This fact, however, should come as a little surprise. Motorcycle tires are more often subject to more demanding conditions, such as greater speed-to-weight ratios and varied road surfaces, all of which can accelerate tire wear.

Meanwhile, different tires’ contact footprints are a significant factor in their lifespans. In the case of car tires, that footprint is much larger—and there are four, not two, larger tires with flatter treads in contact with the road at virtually all times. In contrast, on a motorcycle, the contact footprint is considerably smaller, meaning that the tire’s contact patch receives considerably more stress than on a car tire.

Ultimately, there’s little use in comparing the mileage of a family sedan’s tires and a high-performance motorcycle. However, this information does shed light on the factors that influence the lifespan and aging of motorcycle tires.

Riders who favor a more aggressive style, involving rapid acceleration and hard braking, may find their tires wearing out more quickly. Likewise, the conditions of the roads traveled upon will affect how long tires last. Additionally, the type of tire plays a significant role—sportier tires and those with higher speed ratings might offer enhanced grip but could wear out faster than touring types.

How Can I Get the Best Mileage from My Motorcycle’s Tires?

To obtain the best mileage from the motorcycle tires of your choice, observe the following guidelines:

  • Obey the speed limit
  • Avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking
  • Maintain recommended tire pressures
  • Do not overload your bike with weight or use it to tow a trailer

How Many Miles Do Motorcycle Tires Last?

On average, motorcycle tires can last anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000 miles. But, as with gauging tires’ typical lifespan, estimating the exact mileage at which motorcycle tires should be replaced is challenging, as it varies greatly based on the tire's design and the rider's habits.  Riders should regularly inspect their tires for signs of wear and replace them as needed to ensure optimal performance and safety.

How Can You Tell How Old a Tire Is?

The age of a tire can be identified by examining the Department of Transportation (DOT) code located on the tire's sidewall. The DOT code is a 4-digit Julian date code indicating the week and year the tire was manufactured. For example, the code ending in '1016' means the tire was made in the 10th week of 2016. Learn more about how to read a tire sidewall code.

It is generally recommended to replace motorcycle tires every 6 years, regardless of tread depth or overall condition, as the rubber compounds deteriorate over time.

When Should I Replace Motorcycle Tires?

Knowing when to replace motorcycle tires is important for maintaining the safety and performance of your motorcycle. The most obvious indicator of tire wear to inspect is the tread depth. Tires should be replaced once the tread wears down to the legal limit, which is typically 1/32nd of an inch. Riders can use a tread depth gauge to measure this.

Additionally, visible signs such as cracks, cuts, bulges, or significant uneven wear are clear indicators that the tires need replacement. It's also important to consider the tire's age, as mentioned earlier, since rubber compounds degrade over time even if the tread appears to be sufficient.

Can I Extend the Life of My Motorcycle’s Tires?

Regular motorcycle maintenance and inspection, including routinely checking for wear and damage, as well as proper storage can significantly extend their lifespan. When storing your bike, especially for extended periods, keep the health of your tires in mind by:

  • Storing it in a space with a temperature of 32-77°F (0-25°C)
  • Ensuring the storage area is dry and well-ventilated to stop any buildup of moisture or condensation
  • Keeping tires away from direct sunlight
  • Storing tires away any ozone producing electrical items such as generators, motors, and fluorescent lamps. Solvents, fuels, lubricants, chemicals, acids, and disinfectants also need to be kept away from the tires
  • When storing tires for long periods, rotate the tires every 4 weeks to avoid shape deformation

To learn more about the different types of tires available and how to take proper care of yours, check out our comprehensive Motorcycle Tires 101 guide.

For Harley-Davidson riders, understanding these key aspects of tire longevity and maintenance is not just about ensuring a smooth ride; it's about supporting safety and achieving peak performance. 

Understanding how long motorcycle tires last requires regularly monitoring your tires and being proactive in their maintenance. To find more expert advice on tire replacement as well as options for new motorcycle tires, head to your local Harley-Davidson® dealer

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