What Effect Do Wide Tires Have on Motorcycle Handling?

by Richard Rowe

Motorcycles differ from cars in at least one crucial aspect: Cars ride on the flat portions of their tires, and motorcycles do not. Though some of the big-tire vs. small-tire arguments still apply, there are a few very important differences.

Wide Rear

Motorcycle rear tire

A wide rear tire means more tread on the road, making the motorcycle want to push through turns instead of go around them. This can lead to a dangerous understeer condition.

Wide Front

Front tire of a motorcycle

Wider front tires will have the opposite effect of a wide rear, and can make the bike more responsive in the corners (oversteer). Caution is advised, however, since a wide front tire combined with a motorcycle's short wheelbase can make for a twitchy and dangerous ride.

Both Narrow

Some people prefer a narrower tire on both the front and back

Some people prefer a narrower tire on both the front and back, because the tread of the tire is more pointed and handling is a little more crisp. This can, however, lead to serious instability problems at high speed.

Both Wide

The best solution is to go wide on both ends

The best solution is to go wide on both ends, since overall grip will be increased and the handling balance retained.

Manufacturer Recommendations

Motorcycle tire

In general, a rim can only use tires that are ten millimeters wider or narrower than the stock tire. Exceeding this window can result in pinch flats, increased tire wear or blowouts.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

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