Expert advice: Choosing the best motorcycle tyres for you

Michael Neeves stands with a stack of tyres
Michael Neeves stands with a stack of tyres

Tyres are the most important part on your bike – your sole connection with the road for the overwhelming majority of the time – but choosing motorbike tyres can be a minefield, and finding a good deal on tyres, even harder.

First of all, it’s very difficult to pick a ‘best tyre’ because your riding experience, the kind of bike you have, and the riding you do will affect what is the most suitable rubber for the job. A Ducati Panigale V4R rider looking for the best trackday tyre will have a completely different set of requirements to a long-distance tourer looking for sports-touring tyres to fit their Suzuki GSX-S1000GT.

Tyres also work differently depending on the bike you fit them to. So, a hard-wearing touring tyre may cope perfectly well with a sub-100bhp middleweight struggle when fitted to a 200bhp superbike. Although this is an extreme example, the concept is true. Even the grip characteristics of differing engine layouts and firing orders can have an effect on tyre performance – not to mention bike weight, braking power, and suspension.

Best motorbike tyres at a glance

In this page, we’ve picked tyres from each genre that we’ve found to perform well across a range of motorcycles. For a more in-depth look at each type of tyre, we’ve also written individual motorcycle tyre category guides. You will also find an in-depth tyre FAQ here.

Best motorbike tyres

Best for sports-tourers

Price: £287 (was £389.17) per pair

The Metzeler Roadtec SE 01 tyres have been around for a while now. They won our best sports-touring tyre test back in 2020... and they've done it again!

Read our full Metzeler Roadtec SE 01 review.


  • Grip from cold
  • Incredible wet weather performance


  • Slightly unsettled by bumpy, fast corners

Best for off-roading

Price: £107.83 to £196.27 per tyre depending on size

The TKC 80 has seen off competition from countless new off-road motorcycle tyres over the years. They sit firmly at the off-road end of the dual sport market with heavy blocking, despite the firm claiming a 50/50 on/off-road bias. Unless you spend a significant chunk of your riding life exploring greenlanes, the TKC 80s will feel too compromised. They are noisy on the tarmac and prone to a gentle weave at high speed. If you want something with more ability on the black stuff, then read on.


  • Great off-road ability
  • Big blocks for mud


  • Noisy and vague on the road

Best dual-sport or adventure-sport tyres

Price: £126 to £144 per tyre depending on size

MCN sports editor Michael Guy went along to the launch of these new Dunlop Trailmax Raid adventure-sports tyres and came away feeling like he'd found the holy grail of do-it-all adventure bike tyres. Blocky enough to handle the dirt but with truly impressive road handling, they would be a great choice for riders who spend miles on the tarmac before they find a dirty trail to explore.

Read our full Dunlop Trailmax Raid review.


  • Excellent on and off-road performance
  • Great wet weather performance


  • Dual sport tyres are always a compromise

Best sporty road tyre

Price: £288 (was £411.43) per pair

Sitting slightly below the Italian firm's flagship Supercorsa range, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV Corsa is a brilliant all-round sporty road tyre. It'll warm up faster in the cold than a Supercorsa, has better wet weather performance, and for road riding, you'll barely notice a performance drop in the dry, either.

Read our full Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV Corsa review.


  • Great performance in wet and dry
  • Fast warm-up time


  • Still quite sporty

Best for trackdays

Price: £478 (was 628.85) per pair

The best motorcycle trackday tyres are entirely subjective, but not everyone who takes part runs slicks and tyre warmers (in fact, they're not allowed at all trackdays). If that includes you, a road-legal track tyre like the Metzeler Racetec RR is a great option. It's a soft, high-performance tyre from the German firm (owned by Pirelli) with enough tread to pass muster on the road.


  • Excellent performance
  • Road legal


  • Don't last long

How do I check my motorbike tyre pressures?

How to check motorbike tyre pressure

Checking your bike tyre pressures on a weekly basis is a really good habit to get into.

Not only will you ensure that your handling stays sweet, but simply crouching down to check pressures and condition of the rubber will help you spot any other adjustments that may be needed to the chain or brakes.

Motorbike tyre pressure tips

  • Tyre pressures should always be checked when the tyres are cold. As a rule of thumb, tyres are considered cold when they haven¹t been used for three hours or have travelled for less than a mile.
  • Petrol station gauges are better than they used to be, but there’s no substitute for your own gauge, either digital or the pencil type (and don’t forget to replace the valve cap). If the tyre seems to be losing 5-10% a week, check that there isn’t a small leak from the valve itself. Get some spit on the tip of your finger and draw it across the valve so that it forms a film. If it starts to bubble up, you know you need to replace the valve.

Finding the perfect trackday tyre pressure

Finding the perfect trackday tyre pressures

A trackday is a great opportunity to test tyre pressures to find the optimum. Road tyres have to work from the minute they start rolling from the garage when they are cold, so industry advice is to check the pressures when they are cool.

How long they take to become cool after a ride takes depends on the ambient temperature, but a good rule of thumb for a typical British summer day is about 45 minutes.

When it comes to the actual pressures, our recommendation is 36psi front and 42psi rear for road use, dropping four psi front and rear before you start caning it on the track.

Don’t forget to go return to road pressures at the end of the day, especially if you’re riding home from the trackday.

Motorbike tyre sizes explained

Motorbike tyre sizes explained

A common question around the size of your bike’s tyres is what the numbers and letters actually mean. For example, what on earth does “120/70 ZR17 M/C (58W)” refer to?

Let’s break it down into its constituent parts. The first part is the tyre’s width in millimetres, so it’s 120mm wide. The next bit is the aspect ratio, meaning its height is expressed as a percentage of width. Here it’s 70% of 120mm, or 84mm tall.

It’s the tyre’s speed rating and type of construction next, so ZR refers to the speed rating Z (capable of being ridden above 149mph) and the construction type R (radial). The 17 refers to the diameter of your wheel in inches, so 17″. M/C simply denotes a motorcycle tyre.

Finally, the 58W is the speed rating and load index respectively. “W” means it’s rated for a maximum speed of 270km/h at its correct pressure and under load, while “58,” tells us it’s rated to carry up to 236kg.

Head here to read the table showing the speed ratings and load index.

How to pick the best motorcycle tyres for you

Motorcycle tyres all look black and round, but you wouldn’t believe how much difference there is between tyre genres.

For many the sheer choice of rubber out there is bewildering. It’s not helped by the fact that just about any tyre on any bike will feel kind of ok, even if it’s the wrong one.

Lots of riders stick to the tyre they and their friends like, but they could be missing out because choosing the right type of tyre is essential to getting the most out of your bike and riding.

There are basically three types of tyres for the road: sports, sports touring and fast road/track. Then there are another two for the circuit: trackday and racing.

On the face of it choosing the right rubber seems easy, but what really is the best tyre for you and what happens if you choose the wrong one?

To find out we’ve gathered all five genres of 17″ rubber from a single manufacturer: Dunlop and we’ll put them through a number of scientific tests at their Mireval facility in the south of France. These tyre categories are indicative of what’s available from Dunlop and most other leading manufacturers.

Scrubbing in motorcycle tyres

How to scrub in your motorbike tyres

Wondering whether you need to scrub that new set of boots in? The answer’s yes, despite modern technology.

Jim Worland, Metzeler UK Director, told MCN: “There’s a big misconception that tyre moulds have a release agent and that needs to be worn off before the tyre will start to grip. That’s not the case with our tyres, the moulds are highly polished and the tyre comes out easily.

“When you start riding on a new tyre, it’s not just the contact patch that needs bedding in, it’s the whole structure. There are a lot of components including the steel belt, aramid fibres, nylon, rayon, silica, carbon black, oils and a complex mix of elastomers.

“Then there is how the tyre is fitted on the rim, ensuring the beads are properly seated. It’s a running-in process similar to a new bike and it’s important to get the structure working in harmony with the wheel and giving the rider confidence-inspiring feedback.

“One thing that can affect your tyre’s initial performance is how it’s been stored at the dealer or warehouse, as extended exposure to UV light can affect the compound performance.”

How to change motorcycle tyres at home

Learning how to change your own tyres means that you’re free to take advantage of some of the amazing, mail-order tyre deals on offer. That said, changing tyres at home is a fairly physical task and the larger the tyre, the harder the task becomes.

Fat 190 and 200 section, stiff carcass sports tyres can leave you sweating and swearing, wishing you weren’t such a tight arse and had taken it to the local dealer instead. And you also have to make the initial outlay on fitting paraphernalia such as bead breaker, balancer, levers and soap.

Then you have to work out what to do with the old tyre once you’ve removed it because they won’t accept it down at your local household recycling centre, which means if you’re anything like me, they’ll end up being piled up in the corner of your garage for all eternity.

Here’s MCN’s step-by-step guide to changing motorbike tyres at home:

Stand for action

Stand for action

Put the bike on a suitable stand that will allow the wheels to be removed safely. Use paddock stands, a swingarm pivot stand, or your bike’s centrestand, and tether if necessary. These devices give much more safety than simply propping the bike up with a jack, which could be easily knocked as you wiggle your wheels free.

Pop the valve

Pop the valve

Before you remove the wheel, check the tyre you’re about to fit is the correct type and size. Remove the wheel and make a note of the wheel rotation, as it’s often not so obvious once the wheel is out. Place the wheel on a surface that won’t damage the finish. Undo the dust cap then use a valve key to remove the valve.

Break the bead

Break the bead

You will need a mechanical bead breaker to force the tyre off the rim. Apply pressure as close to the rim as possible to focus the force on the lowest part of the sidewall. Deploy enough force and the bead will pop of the rim and into the well of the tyre. Rotate the wheel and progressively push the rest of the tyre off the rim.

Push and shove

Push and shove

Flip the wheel over and use the bead breaker on the other side. With the tyre now off the rim on both sides, now’s the time to apply a bit of technique. The tyre will have a tendency to sit back onto the rim, so you need to push the tyre into the well of the wheel using your hands and knees prior to levering. It’s tricky and fairly strenuous.

Lever it off

Lever it off

Place a rim protector at 12 o’clock and another next to it. Holding the tyre off the bead with your knees, insert a lever between the rim and protector, and place another 3in away. Apply pressure to the first lever until the tyre flattens, then do the same with the other. Continue around the tyre.

Whack it!

Whack it

With one side free, insert a lever under the outside of the bead still on the wheel and, using a thick cloth or rag for protection, lever it over the rim. Strike the edge of the tyre close to the rim with a rubber mallet to knock the tyre off. Take care as sometimes the wheel can be spat out by the tyre.

Push it on

Push it on

Clean the inside of the wheel, particularly the area where the tyre seals. Lube the bead of the new tyre with tyre soap then offer it up to the wheel, making sure the rotation is correct. Place the tyre on the rim and push on and away from you, using the most force nearest you. As it pops over the rim, slowly transfer the force to the furthest edge and it will pop on.

On your marks

On your marks

With one side of the tyre on the rim, look for a yellow dot stamped on the sidewall, this indicates where the valve needs to be. Spin the tyre on the rim until the valve lines up with this mark. Doing this will help reduce the number of wheel weights needed to balance the wheel, and will also act as a reference to see if the tyre has spun on the rim.

Lever on and inflate

Lever on and inflate

Start to lever the tyre on using two levers at once, and use your knees to keep the bead away from the rim. If the tyre becomes extremely hard to lever it’s possible the bead will need pushing off the other side. Inflate the tyre with the valve core removed. When the tyre has popped on both sides of the wheel, fit the valve and set the correct pressure.

A fine balance

A fine balance

Place the wheel on the balancer with the dust cap fitted. Remove any stickers and old wheel weights. Spin the wheel, when the wheel settles the light spot will be at 12 o’clock, clean this area of rim and apply a weight. Turn the wheel to the 3 o’clock position and if it doesn’t move the wheel is balanced. If it still creeps around, add or remove weights as necessary.

Top tools for changing your tyres at home

  • Bead breaker (£61) – this robust Abba bead breaker works by applying downward pressure onto the bead of a tyre and helps take the effort out of popping a tyre off the rim. It works with tyres up to 200 sections.
  • Tyre levers (£15) – same principle as the spoons you used as a kid when changing your bicycle tyres, but motorcycle levers are a bit more robust and feature-shaped ends to dig under the bead. They usually come in a kit including plastic rim protectors.
  • Wheel balancer (£96) – a basic stand featuring a selection of different-sized spindles which rest on roller bearings. This Abba balancer is accurately welded to ensure it stays true at all times. Cheaper versions are available from as little as £30.
  • Valve key (£2.50) – just the ticket for extracting that pesky little valve. All bikes and cars use a Schreder-type valve which features a threaded core at its heart. This tool will unscrew the core, and it’s very satisfying to use.

How to check motorbike tyre tread depth

This is not how to check your motorbike's tread depthThis is not how to check your motorbike's tread depth

As well as inflating them correctly, the Law says that the grooves of the tread pattern must have a depth of a least 1mm throughout a continuous band measuring at least three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre.

As quite a few bike tyres have grooves that don’t extend beyond three-quarters of the breadth of the tread any groove of the original pattern must have a minimum depth of at least 1mm.

That’s the absolute minimum and 2mm is when we’d change our rubber as the tyre’s profile will have altered by then.

Buy yourself a tread depth gauge at your local car accessories shop.

How to check motorcycle tyre condition

How to check your motorbike's tyre condition

Regular close inspection of a tyre is important, as cuts weaken the tyre’s construction and may be deeper than you think.

Carrying a pillion or luggage can lead to tyre damage. Refer to the owner’s manual for correct tyre pressures with a load. If this isn’t available, a good tip is to add 3psi to both tyres until the correct figure can be obtained from your dealer.

Buying a secondhand bike is stressful, and worrying about the condition of the engine can mean missing out on other areas – tyres are arguably as important as the motor. Check the tyres are in good nick, especially on older bikes with original tyres – tyres perish if left in sunlight or if they have come into contact with fuel or oil.

A punctured tyre can be temporarily repaired as long as the puncture isn’t too big (fingernail size penetration) and is on the treaded area only – never ever on the tyre’s sidewalls. Any repair (sealing mousse or internal mushroom patch/plug) must be treated as temporary and the tyre replaced asap. The running speed of the bike must also be reduced as heat can weaken the repair. Repairs should not be carried out to tyres of over speed rating ‘Z’ (149mph – most 600cc bikes and above) – how would you feel if your secondhand GSX-R’s unknown repair blew out at that speed? Larger holes shouldn’t be repaired as the inner carcass is more likely to have been damaged.

A leaking (Schrader) tyre valve core – detected by placing spit on top of the valve to see if it bubbles up – can be cured by tightening the core with a valve key (above left). Replace the core or valve if it still leaks after tightening. Also note that hot air expands, so the core might only leak when the tyre is hot and the air pressure within has grown.

Valve caps are important to retaining air inside a tyre – any flash, gimmicky caps that don’t have a rubber-sealing ring inside them should be thrown away. Why? The seal prevents dust from entering the valve core, causing it to stick. It might also stop all the air from escaping in one hit if the valve core works loose.

Although tyres are made to exacting standards, there is always an imbalance between a new tyre and the rim. An unbalanced tyre will cause vibration and accelerate tyre wear. Balancing by use of weights is best left to dynamic machine balancers as they can detect exactly which part of the rim needs added weight.

Motorbike tyres when carrying a pillion

Riding pillion on a motorbike

A lot of bikers don’t bother changing their tyre pressures for when they carry a pillion, but it is advisable to do so. If you have it handy, refer to the owner’s manual for correct tyre pressures for carrying pillions. If you don’t have the manual handy then it’s best to add 3psi – 5psi to account for the extra weight.

Motorbike tyre reviews by MCN

About the author: Michael Neeves has been an MCN Road Tester since 2002. He’s reviewed everything from mopeds to Rossi’s Yamaha M1, and plenty in between. He covers tens of thousands of miles a year on the world’s roads and racetracks in his role with MCN, and when he’s not working he’s still on two wheels, racing both modern and classic superbikes for a variety of teams.

- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections.