Deciphering Motorcycle Tire Sidewalls

Everything you need to know about your tires is right there in the large print

Everything you need to know about your motorcycle's tires are imprinted on their sidewalls. All you need to know is how to decipher it. Most important is the big number describing the tire's size and general characteristics, for example 130/70R17 MC 62 H.

Deciphering motorcycle tire sidewalls
Everything you really need to know is spelled out in large type.Photography by Mark Zimmerman

The first number is the tire’s width in millimeters; the second represents the tire’s aspect ratio, which describes the tire’s sidewall height as a percentage of its width. In this case we have a tire that’s 130mm wide and 70mm high. R means this tire’s radial, and 17 tells us it fits a 17-inch rim. MC means it’s a motorcycle tire, while 62 is the load rating index, or the maximum amount of weight the tire can carry at maximum inflation. This may also be expressed elsewhere on the sidewall as a letter or spelled out along with the maximum tire pressure. Don’t confuse maximum tire pressure with the motorcycle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. The maximum is the pressure the tire can safely hold, not the pressure you should be riding with under everyday circumstances. H is the tire’s speed rating, an H-rated tire being safe at a sustained 130 mph. You’ll also find either tube-type or tubeless stamped somewhere to let you know if you need a tube.

Most tires have a directional arrow molded into the sidewall. When the tire is correctly mounted, the arrow will face forward when it’s at the top of the tire. You’ll also find a balance mark indicating the tire’s lightest spot. This mark should be aligned with the valve stem whenever a new tire is mounted. Other sidewall information includes the number of plies, the type of material used to build the tire and the tire’s build date, which is usually found following the DOT tire ID number. Tires built after 2000 have a four-digit code. The first two numbers are the week the tire was built, and the last two are the year.

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