Reader Question: Riding Dirty?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Chan asks: What do you think about using a car tire on a motorcycle? I’ve read about people doing this as a way to get around the problem of most bike tires lasting just a few thousand miles or less.

My reply:  It’s true that bike tires generally wear out faster than car tires, in part because of the softer compounds (sport bike tires) and also because of the tendency of bike tires to wear unevenly because of the nature of bike tires – which are designed to roll laterally, with the motorcycle – as it leans.

Look at a bike tire from behind. Note that it’s rounded, with the main contact patch being relatively narrow and  peaked. This is because bikes turn/corner by leaning. As the bike leans, the tire rolls left (or right). The tire is designed to help the bike lean.

A car tire has a flat footprint.  Cars aren’t supposed to lean.

So car and bike tires are designed very differently. It’s not just the compounds/rubber used. If you put a tire meant for a car on a bike, as you turn (lean) the bike, you’ll be riding up on the edge of the car tire’s sidewall, which wasn’t meant for such duty. The car tire will also not roll smoothly as the bike leans because the contact patch is flat. Transitions between upright and leaned over are likely to be more abrupt; traction/grip will almost certainly be less and if you have to make an abrupt/unexpected maneuver  the bike will probably be more prone to loss of control.

I get the attraction of a 40,000 mile tire. But keep in mind the detractions of using a tire that will almost certainly cause your bike to handle worse and thus put your life in greater danger.

I can be a cheap bastard about many things. But not things like this.

Of course, your mileage may vary!

. . .

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  1. I recall being in a tire shop one day when this old fart went on a rant and said “I want some tires that are round on the tread and not that damned flat type.” He never explained exactly what he thought he was going to get out of them. Maybe he thought they were better in mud. No reason to have a good snow tire in Texas.

    • I was hearing something about ag equipment tires on our local radio station. With the on board inflation/deflation systems on tractors they now have a tire that has ribs down the middle and lugs on the sidewall. You air it up to run on the highway and air it down in the field.

      • I’ve noticed that tractor tires have gone the same way of car tires and have an ever diminishing sidewall. I don’t think that’s a plus. I have just a tad of experience in this industry(my entire life). I do like the tracked tractors but they have some drawbacks, mostly on the road I think.

        • When I bought a Cat, I thought “hey great, no flats!”

          Then the tracks started flipping off the idler … That’s an education in improvisation to get the tracks back on out in the woods.

          If bigger wheels and lower profile tires are “better” why not just go back to the old solid steel wheels with the spikes – LOL

          • Yeah, about 30 years ago I nearly bought a dozer and really needed it. I got a friend who knew more than I did and he pointed out it was ready to start walking out of the tracks. That was an easy decision. It was obvious if there had been more adjustment they’d not hesitated to pump more grease and get them tight. Since ag tractors now had 4 sets of tracks, I don’t know how they adjust and don’t want to find out. If I could buy one, I’d move, build an underground bunker and keep an even lower profile.

            • I had a pretty good system worked out. I hooked a come-along winch to the track and around the blade arm to some hard point (eye on top of the blade, I think) and take up all the slack in the winch until it started to pull the track where it needed to be.

              Then back up very slowly and at the same time raise the blade to keep the tension on the come-along as the pad that I had hooked to came up and around the idler. Then at some point it started to over center and I had to let the blade back down for slack just as the track rails (what was left anyway!) popped back into place all the way around the idler.

              Fortunately I had some home-made guards along the lower sides of the engine. Some friends had two of these little Cats and one of them lost a track like that and took out the fuel transfer pump – ouch! You know that yellow paint is really gold plating when it comes to buying parts.

      • My Bridgestone class E tires have tread/thin lugs on the sidewall. When you get into the really slick mud better have some washer fluid or you’ll be eating it looking out the window.

        • I guess I’m just not enough of a redneck to enjoy mud bogging.

          A little bit of rain here and driving a mile down the county road equals an hour or more of hosing underneath fenders and rockers, and you still don’t get it all off.

          A bit of rock crawling or stump jumping can be fun though, or busting through three feet of snow.

          • I never enjoyed mud bogging, just had to do it to work. I’ve had one pickup with two sets of wheels and tires, one pure mud tires. I didn’t run them any longer than necessary. If we got into a wet spell, I’d be all over a winch and carried big pieces of sucker rod to winch myself along till I was out of it.

            I had a friend that had a good solution to that problem. He put really long lug bolts on his Suburban and had some hubs he’d mount outside the tires with a 100′ of cable on them and some pieces of sucker rod he could drive into the ground. He didn’t even need a locking rearend since one pulling and the other not wouldn’t happen for more than a second, generally you could never tell it did anything but just pull it along. It was a great southern engineering job of getting out of a bind.

            • We can get through okay with 4wd but you just bring a bunch of the county “road” home with you.

              That spot was okay when we first moved out here. It was narrow and rough and a blind corner then the county widened it and turned it into a bog hole. The concept of ditches and drainage is just too arcane for these county morons to comprehend.

  2. I think Boss Hoss bikes, which are built with Chevy V8s, use car tires. The reverse trikes like the Can-Am Spyder also use car like tires. Then again, they don’t lean.


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