Dirt Bike Tires: Helpful Tips Before You Buy

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Here’s a run-down on dirt bike tires – what the different tread types are for, when to replace them, what air pressures you should use, what the good brands are and more…

First of all let’s make sure you realize how integral a good set of tires is to the overall performance and handling of your bike. A quality pair of rubber-knobbed, dirt chewers will not only give you better acceleration and traction, but will also drastically improve your bike’s braking and cornering capacity.  The difference that can be felt after replacing worn tires with new ones is dramatic and very noticeable.

Dirt bike tires come in many different shapes, sizes, rubber compounds, colors and tread patterns to function best in various environments. Selecting the correct tire for the conditions you will be riding is important. So, which tires should you use? You’ll find that most motocross tires and enduro tires are conveniently labeled according to the type of terrain they are designed for. Here are some of them…

Hard Terrain: For hard, dry terrain tires will generally be made of a soft, outer rubber compound to provide extra grip on hard surfaces. The tread blocks (or knobs as I prefer to call them), will be spaced closely together.

Soft Terrain: Used in soft, loamy, muddy and sandy conditions. The rubber compound is hard and the knobs will be taller and shaped in a paddle or scoop-like pattern. Large spaces between the knobs allow mud to be thrown from the tire preventing mud clogging up the gaps. Front tires will have spiky knobs.

Intermediate Terrain: Designed for varying conditions in between hard and soft tracks. Probably a good idea if you are riding in places that have a mixture of land types, like bush trails, and you don’t alternate your tyres often.

Paddle Tires: These are for the hardcore sand riders. Designed purely for riding in sand, these aggressive, sand-annihilators will have you spitting out more roost than a combine harvester. Large rubber scoops spaced wide apart give you the ultimate traction in the dunes. Definitely no good for any other terrain though.

If you want to pimp up your bike go for the colored or camo motocross tires, designed for the more flamboyant riders – just be prepared to spend the extra bucks $$.

Some tips and pointers on dirt bike tires

  • Air pressure: When riding in sand or mud, lower the air pressure to around 10psi in the rear and 11-12psi in the front. This allows more surface area on the tires to contact and grip with the sand. For harder conditions on motocross tracks and trail riding over stones, branches e.t.c, inflate them up to around 13psi, 14psi max. If the air pressure is too low over hard terrain, you run the risk of causing a puncture or damaging the RIMS.Don’t tighten the nut (on the air piece) to the rim. It’s not meant to be tightened. Back it off to meet the valve cap once you’ve got the air pressure right.
  • Inner tubes: Different strengths and thicknesses are available. If you ride trails regularly, use a thicker, heavier duty inner tube to help prevent those dreaded punctures.
  • When to replace your tires: When your rear tire is missing knobs… you know you should have replaced it a long time ago! Unless of course you race competitively, in which case tires are usually replaced after each day of riding or race. When the knobs loose their sharp edges, the tyres have lost a lot of their effectiveness. Don’t wait until the knobs are worn down to wee rubber stubs. A good rule is to replace both tires at the same time, and keep them matching brands.
  • Brands: Some popular, quality brands are… Michelin, Dunlop, Kenda, Bridgestone, Pirelli and Maxxis.

Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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