Look after your tires

What are the only things separating you from a nasty attack of gravel rash? That’s right, your tires. And in order for your tires to give you their peak performance, they need a bit of regular – as in every week ‘regular’ – care and attention. It doesn’t take long to check over your tires; after all, there are only two of them and they’re very easy to get at. But by inspecting them carefully for damage and keeping a close eye on their pressures, you’ll not only get more performance and longer life out of them, you might well save yourself from a potentially serious accident. That may sound a little melodramatic, but it’s the truth.

The following guide tells you what to look out for and why you should do it, but if ever you’re in any doubt, pop in to your local Avon Tyre dealer and ask for their advice. Once you’ve got into the habit of regular checks they’ll take no time at all – they could well save your life (as well as save you money in tire wear and extra fuel costs) so please, read on.

Have you got the right tire?

Just because a tire will fit on your bike doesn’t mean it’s the right tire. Check your bike’s handbook to see what the right specification should be, or if you’ve lost the handbook ask your local Avon dealer for help. The speed and load ratings for your tires should be the same as the original fitment items – never fit a tire of a lesser specification. And although it is possible in certain circumstances to fit a tire of a non-standard dimension, always seek the advice of either your bike’s manufacturer or your Avon Tyre dealer before doing so.

Pressures up to scratch? Maintaining the correct tyre pressures is critical to your safety, so never think, ‘oh, they’ll do’. Check in your handbook (or with your local Avon dealer) to see what’s right for the speeds you’ll be riding at and the load you’ll be carrying, then take the pressures when the tires are cold – leave it an hour after you last rode the bike. The tire pressure gauges in garages are notoriously inaccurate, so invest in a digital pressure gauge; they’re inexpensive and can be found in most bike and car accessory shops.

Correct pressures – Your tire is designed to perform perfectly at a very specific pressure. Inflated correctly, it provides the optimum contact patch for superb roadholding and water dispersal, as well as giving good handling, comfort and lifespan characteristics.

Under-inflated – A tire with too little air in it has a distorted contact patch, reducing its roadholding and ability to cut through water. As if that weren’t worry enough, the tire’s carcass is forced to deal with stresses and strains it wasn’t designed for, which increases the risk of accidental damage. Tire wear increases, too, and your bike will be unable to put down all of its power effectively – bad news on all counts.

Over-inflated – Too much air means you’ll wear out the center of your tire more quickly, which is going to hurt you in the pocket. Your bike’s handling will suffer, too, and there’s the distinct possibility of fracturing the tire’s casing and badly cutting its tread blocks – not to be recommended.

Use your eyes – Some problems you can see for yourself – cracks, bulges, splits, things like nails and stones embedded in the tread. Some of these things can be dangerous, so if you spot something potentially nasty, get it looked at by a specialist at your local Avon supplier, and remove items stuck in the tread straight away; if left, they could embed themselves further and puncture your tire. And if there’s any evidence of the casing showing through the rubber of your tire, replace it immediately – it’s dangerous and illegal.

Tread pattern – Although the minimum tread pattern depth is 1mm or 2/32 of an inch, it’s advisable to replace your tyres before they become that worn. If the tread pattern shows signs of uneven wear, check the pressures carefully and also check out the alignment of your bike’s frame and forks.

Valve cores and caps – Pressure loss from your tires can sometimes be caused by poorly seated valve cores – try tightening them down into place, or if they’re worn, replace them. And remember that valve caps actually do a job – keeping dust from the valve mechanism – so try not to lose them.

And some other things to keep an eye on…

As well as the frequent checks on your tires, here are a few other tips for keeping your tyres in tip-top condition.

Wire wheel worries – Before fitting a new tube and tire to wire wheels, check the rim tape all the way round the rim – if a spoke head pokes through it could cause a puncture.

A question of balance – Despite the most stringent quality programs, most tires and wheels have a ‘heavy’ spot that can cause vibration through your handlebars and frame. When fitting new tires, always have them balanced – on the wheel – by a specialist Avon Tyre fitter.