Need Harley-Davidson tires? Whether you ride a Softail or a V-Rod, here’s some tire basics that should help the next time you need Harley-Davidson tires.
Motorcycle tires balance several different factors. They are mileage(tread life), ride and handling, and grip. The type of tire you need depends on the type of riding you do. If you ride an Ultra Classic, you probably need a different type of tire than a V-Rod or sport bike rider. The V-Rod rider might want a sport type radial tire designed for better grip where the Ultra Classic rider would need a bias-ply touring tire that will carry two full-sized people and their gear over 10,000 miles.
The Ultra rider will probably spend hours cruising down the highway at or a little above the speed limit with two people and loaded with gear. They need a tire with deep tread and high load-carrying capacity. The Ultra rider is probably not going to be going over 130mph. or going hard into turns like a sport bike rider. This type of rider is willing to trade sporting grip for longer tread life and higher load capacity.
Sportsters, Softails, and Dynas could use a tire somewhere in between. These models are often ridden solo and sometimes two up. Harley-Davidson motorcycles have low cornering clearance which limits how much you can lean in the corners, which means you really don’t need Harley-Davidson tires to grip like sport bike tires. Again, if you’re like most Harley riders, you’ll give up grip for longer tread life. Here are some basic tire ratings.
This is the weight a tire can handle at maximum inflation. Some code number examples are: 57H which is rated at 506 lbs. with an H speed rating, 68H which is rated at 693 lbs.
SIZE AND SPEED RATING
An example of a Harley-Davidson tire size is 180/80B16 71H. The tire is 180 millimeters wide at its widest point. The 80 means it is 80 percent as tall as it is wide. The B means its a belted tire, not a R or radial tire. The 16 is the rim diameter in inches. The 71 is the load rating and the H is the speed rating.
Common speed ratings for motorcycle and car tires are:
- S: For sustained speeds of up to 112mph.
- H: For sustained speeds up to 130mph.
- V: For sustained speeds of up to 149mph.
- Z: For sustained speeds in excess of 149mph.
As speed ratings increase past H rating, load capacity decreases.
The tire will have a maximum inflation pressure imprinted on the sidewall. This rating is only for maximum loads and speeds and not used for most riding. Use your owners manual for proper tire inflation. Over inflated tires will wear faster and handling will suffer.
TUBE VS TUBLESS
If your Harley has wire wheels, you have tubes inside your tires. One of the problems with tubes is that they usually deflate very quickly. Another problem is when you get a flat with tubes, you cannot fix the flat without taking off the tire, which is hard to to with a Harley because there’s no center stand. With tubless tires, you can have the tire plugged or use a kit to fix it yourself. The cast wheel may not be the the style your looking for but you’re much better off with a tubless tire.
If you’re looking for seriously wide Harley-Davidson tires, you have to realize it will affect handling. Installing a wide tire beyond a certain point will make it harder to turn and harder to control. A 240 or 250 is about the widest, if you want the bike to function well.
RADIAL VS BIAS-PLY
A motorcycle tire is made up of the carcass and plies, the rubber compound and the tread pattern. The carcass is made up of layers of flexible belts, called plies. The plies tend to be arranged in either of two ways. When the plies run across the tire from edge to edge (bead to bead) and 90 degrees to the direction of rotation, the tire is a true radial-ply. This construction results in very flexible sidewall that allows the tire to grip well and gives you a comfortable ride. This construction offers less relative load-carrying capacity.
If you cut the plies at an angle (bias) of 20 or 30 degrees and run them bead to bead you have a bias-ply tire. As the layers overlap, the tire becomes stiffer which gives it a higher load rating but you loose ride comfort. The overlaping plies rub against each other, generating heat. Bias-ply tires tend to run hotter than radials. This heat causes it to wear quicker.
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