Monday 8 May 2017

Motorcycle Tires and When to Change Them

I went for a ride with Jeff the motorcycle Jedi and Wayne, the parts guy from our local dealer, the other week.  It was a 250km round trip out to the shores of Lake Huron and back.  Since we were all on multi-purpose bikes we multi-purposed some of it:

Taking some winding back roads through the countryside we came across such natural wonders as deep mud holes and a lady sun bathing topless on her front lawn; it was a nice ride.

We stopped at one point and Wayne noticed the rear tire on the Tiger wasn't doing very well.  Coming from cars I'm used to using depth gauges on tread to determine a tire's remaining life.  Car tires burn through tread fairly evenly due to equally delivered lateral forces.   Bike tires are undergoing a whole different kind of physics.  You can expect to see fairly even tread wear on a car tire because of those lateral forces.  Bike tires tend to wear from the middle out because the crown of the tire takes the brunt of the wear, especially in flat and straight South Western Ontario.

Wayne pointed out tears down the middle of the rear tire on the Tiger that I hadn't even thought to look for.  As you can see, the tread on the edges of the tire is still quite deep, but the wear in the centre is so deep it's turning up the metal bands in the tires:

Those are some expensive  pieces of wire poking through...
This prompted a call to my local dealer to try and get the bike in - they told me it's over a month wait!  I offered to remove the tires and they said they'd try and squeeze them in.  Fortunately it rained a flood the next couple of days and with some cancellations I got a call a day later saying the tires were done.

The bill was a staggering six hundred and ninety three dollars - for two motorcycle tires on rims that had been removed from the bike (so minimal shop work involved).  I'm looking over the bill now.  Looking up the Michelin Anakees I purchased online, the dealer prices aren't crazy - about twenty bucks more than the online cost for the front and fifteen bucks more for the rear.  There is a cost associated with a local dealer keeping this sort of thing in stock and I've got no problem with that.  With that being the case these two tires came to a staggering five hundred bucks.  By comparison, Corvette ZR1 Michelin tires - very high tech, huge rubber for a faster than light car - cost about three hundred bucks a pop (and include road hazard warranty).  Motorcycle tires must be made out of platinum and unicorn horns - they are wickedly expensive!

The dealer prices on labour were also perfectly reasonable - about a hundred bucks to install and balance both new tires (with inner tubes).  So the lesson learned here is that motorcycle tires are wickedly expensive.  Even with perfectly reasonable labour costs at my local dealer I'm still out nearly seven hundred bucks for a set of new tires.

Fortunately the Anakees seem to be a very long wearing tire, so hopefully I won't be looking to replace them again for a while.  They ride great - much quieter than the Metzelers that they replaced, and the grip in dry has been very trust inducing.  They might have cost me  a mint, but they look like they might be worth it.

Anakee Review:  it's a road biased ADV tire (I'm ok with that - they feel great), it is long lasting, and it can handle light off road work, which is all I'd do on the big Tiger anyway.

US prices are marginally better... $336 for the tires (instead of $500+ in Canada).  $336US is about $461CDN - and that's an online price vs. a dealer price.  The online Canadian price is only a couple of bucks different.

Looking up prices in the US - most dealers will do a tire change for $20 a wheel if the wheels are off (that's $55CDN)