The Basics: Motorcycle Safety Tire Wear Bars

The tire below is worn out, it looks like there is still good tread, but, with over 12,000 miles on it, it’s done, and unsafe.  A clear indication of this is that the tread is worn down to the wear bars.

dunlop motorcycle tire showing wear
Worn Out

This is my own bike, and I should have never let the tire get to this point, but I did, no excuses, I wasn’t paying attention.  I was half expecting a lecture when I brought my front wheel to my local tire dealer, Ken’s Tires, I guess I was spared because it was May, and Ken was so busy.  Even if I had got the lecture about riding on such a worn tire, it would have not been as embarrassing as our first “talk.”  I had brought my rear tire in because I knew it was worn and needed replacement, the center tread was gone completely, so it was time.  When Ken brought my wheel out with the new tire mounted, he said, “You know you had some tire carcass showing right?”  “You’re kidding,”  I said.  He went back in to the shop and brought out my old tire, sure enough, you could see the beginnings of carcass threads.  I knew my tire was marginal, but, I didn’t know it was THAT bad!   Apparently it was, and if I had just rode another fifty, or sixty miles, I could have had a blowout!  He asked me if I had not noticed my wear bars were gone, and I said, “wear bars?”  I have been riding for well over forty years and didn’t know there were wear bars on motorcycle tires!  Thus began my education about wear bars, and how to find them.

On a new tire wear bars are almost invisible, only after the tire has some miles on it can you see them more clearly.  If you look closely at the example below, you can just make out a bar in the long tread that starts on right hand side of the bike (your left) near the axle, follow the tread up, and you can just make it out a little way past the mid-point.  If you still can’t make it out, click the image to zoom in.

new dunlop motorcycle tire showing wear bars
New Dunlop Tire

So, these things are hard to spot, but, the tire manufacturers make it a little easier for you by providing guides on the side walls.  Most tire makers  have some type of arrow on the side of the tire that points to the wear bars, I’ll show you on a worn tire so you can see the relation of the arrow to the bar.

I have circled the marker and wear bar in red so you can see the relationship of the two, having the arrow makes the bars easy to find.  The bars and arrows are all the way around the tire spaced evenly.  I would suggest you chalk mark a point on the tire and roll the bike forward to inspect all your bars, this way you can tell if you are getting uneven tire wear caused by an out of balance condition.  While you are checking, be sure to look for other problems, cuts, suspicious bulges, nails, etc.

side view of worn dunlop motorcycle tire showing wear bar location
Side View

Here is a similar view with my new tire, again, I have circled the wear bars and arrow in red.

side view of new dunlop elite three motorcycle tire showing wear bar location
My New Tire

While I had my bike up on the lift, I did a quick inspection of my rear tire which has about 7,200 miles on it, sure enough, it will be due for replacement very soon, rear tires, since they are drive wheel, wear at about twice the rate as the front.  The mileage and wear rate can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and, the type of tire can be a factor, “touring” tires trade-off a little less grip for durability, where a “sport” tire will sacrifice longevity high performance traction.  Riding style is also a factor, the more you abuse them, the less mileage you get, for me, and the way I ride, 7,000 miles or so out of my rear Dunlop E3 is about average.

Your safety depends on your motorcycle’s tires being in good condition, make sure you check them regularly for proper pressure and tread wear, your life could depend on it.

Words By: Terry Cavender

Images By: Terry Cavender

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