What Effect Do Wide Tires Have on Motorcycle Handling?

by Richard Rowe
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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

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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

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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

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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

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

Manufacturer Recommendations

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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.

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