Knowing when to change your motorcycle tires is vital for your safety while riding.
But when is it time to say goodbye to that valiant piece of rubber that carried you so far?
Here is the good news; There are some easy ways to know if a tire needs replacing!
- The Wear Indicator on Your Tire
- The Depth of Your Tire Tread
- The Age of The Tire
Motorcycle Tire Wear Bar Indicator
Most motorcycle tires are equipped with a wear indicator located inside the tread groove. When any of the wear indicators on a tire is leveled with the rest of the rubber surface, the tire needs to be replaced.
As an example, here are some indicators located on one of my new spare tires lying around.
As you can see, a tire wear indicator is a slight ”Rubber Elevation” or ”Bump” located inside of your thread canal.
Bear in mind that almost all motorcycle tires come with Wear Bar Indicators…But not all of them.
There are also motorcycle tire wear bars like this one.
For comparison, let’s look at a wear indicator on a tire that needs to be replaced due to wear.
If the Tire’s Outer Surface Is Leveled With Any Wear Indicators, It Needs to Be Replaced.
As you ride more and more, the distance between the outer rubber layer to your wear indicator will get smaller and smaller.
Eventually, the tire’s surface will be leveled or touching the wear indicator, and you need to replace that tire.
If you can’t find any indicators on your tire, don’t worry.
In that case, we need you to learn the second way to know if your motorcycle tire needs replacement.
Understanding Wear Tread Depth to Know when To Replace a Tire
How do you know when to change your motorcycle tire by looking at your tire tread depth?
As a tire wear out due to usage, the tread depth will decrease. When the outer surface of the tire is about 1mm from the deepest point of the tread depth canal, a motorcycle tire is due for replacement.
1mm Is the Legal Limit for Tire Tread Depth You Are Allowed to Ride Your Motorcycle in North America
How can you know or calculate 1mm of tread depth?
The fancy way to check your tread is to get this tool that will calculate it for you. It is Tire Tread Depth Gauge.
Insert the needle in your tread, and voila!
You will have an accurate measure reading.
You can get one by clicking here.
Or if you are a proud greedy bastard like me, I won’t spend 10$ when there is a free way to check if my motorcycle tire needs replacing.
Free But Effective Way to Check if You Need to Change Your Tire.
If you live in the United States, find a penny. That is what you will use to check if your tire needs a replacement.
Since we don’t have pennies anymore, if you are in Canada, we need to use our good old friend, the 5 Cents Beaver, instead.
Take your coin and insert it inside your tire tread like this.
(The head of this guy on the coin, aka Abraham Lincoln, need to go into the tire tread first)
You need to insert the coin as much to the center of the tire as you can. Otherwise, you will not get the proper result.
Level your head with the side of the coin and tire.
Then take a look similar to what you see in the picture.
If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, you are at the limit of 1mm tire depth tread, and your tire needs to be replaced.
It is the same principle with the Canadian beaver Coin.
If you can see the end of the beaver’s tail, your tire needs to be changed.
How To Measure Your Tread Depth If You Don’t Have Coins Available Or You Need More Precision.
Here is what you need.
- A Ruler or A Measuring Tape
- A Narrow and Long Object Like a Match to Put in Your Tread Groves.
- A Pencil or Sharpie marker.
Your everyday matches for making fire work great for this.
Put the tail end of the match or your substitute object in the thread groove like this.
Then take a marker like a sharpie or a pen and mark the matches where you see it disappear inside of the tire thread when leveling your head with the tire edge and looking at its side.
Measure the distance between the tail end of the match and the mark you made, and there you have it.
In this example, I have 7mm of tread depth. Plenty to ride around.
When to Replace Motorcycle Tires Due to Old Age
A motorcycle tire’s useful lifespan is 5 years after the date of its manufacture. The manufacture date of a tire will be stamped on its side in the form of four numbers.
The first two numbers refer to the week, while the remaining number represents the year the tire was made.
This is the 4 number code you want to look for somewhere on the side of your tire to know its age.
In this example, we have – 3120 –
the first two numbers (31) indicate the week of the year the tire was manufactured.
If we look at this Website Here as a reference, it tells us that Week 31 is the last week of July.
Now let look at the remaining numbers that represent a year.
18 would mean 2018, 11 would mean 2011, and so on.
In this example, we have the number 20.
It means the year 2020.
So my tire was ”born” on the last week of July in 2020.
So in five years, in July – August of 2025, this motorcycle tire will be considered too old and unsafe to ride.
If you have a 3 number code instead, such as 337 that means your tire was built in the 2000s
33 would mean the week number and 7 would mean 2007.
I hope I don’t have to argue with you that this tire should not be mounted on a rim.
A Motorcycle Tire’s Useful Life Is Five Years.
Usually, a tire won’t last five years of regular riding and will need replacing by wearing out before that.
But don’t make my mistakes;
1. When you order or buy motorcycle tires, don’t get scammed, check the date right away when you can.
2. When you wish to buy a used motorcycle, inspecting the bike’s tires should be a priority.
Check the state of the tread depth and date on both tires before making an offer.
You might avoid a nasty surprise.
Ask me how I know.
Final Word on When to Change Motorcycle Tires
Always keep a close eye on tread wear and tire pressure for safety reasons.
Every time you walk up to your motorcycle, give a quick glance at your tire tread.
It will become second nature without thinking about it.
Over time, you will spot a tire that is close to the end of its life or is due right away.
Your Tires Will Last Much Longer with Proper Inflation.
Take the good habit of checking your tire pressure weekly and adjusting the air accordingly.
Don’t worry if you don’t know the proper air pressure for yourself or how to check it.
I have a complete guide on the subject for you by clicking here to know everything about your tire’s air pressure.
Also, don’t be scared to take your sweet ride in for service for a tire change, even if your tires aren’t due quite yet.
Even if you haven’t reached a tire wear indicator or the 1mm limit, both act as a ”Last call” warning system to change your tires.
It would be best if you changed your tires a bit before you reached that point.
Replace your tires right before you hit your wear indicators, or you are around 1.3 – 1.5mm in thread depth.
Otherwise, I hope I helped you with what you wanted to know about when to change your tires.
Take care, Ride Safe.
Sidenote; a big thank you to Laval Moto for letting me search through their tires trash pile for visual examples to make informative pictures in this post.