Hands up, who’s bought tyres based on looks rather than functionality?
Come on, there must be more of you than that.
Okay then, who’s been tempted to buy tyres based on looks rather than functionality?
That’s more like it! Because most of us have, at some point, looked at tyres and been tempted by the aesthetics.
If you ride a sports bike, those slicks look so damn sexy, don’t they?
And if you ride an adventure bike, those knobblies just look so rugged and macho and adventury!
Choosing Touring Motorcycle Tyres Based On Function
Chances are, your bike spends more time stuck in traffic than it does racing around Oulton Park.
And if this is the case, don’t put slicks on your sports bike.
Similarly, if your adventure bike spends more time on the North Circular than it does on Greenlanes, then maybe those provocative, rugged tyres aren’t the ones you really need.
Because choosing tyres isn’t like choosing the paint scheme of your new bike.
Tyres have a purpose. They have a role to play. And just like an employee, you have to pay to have them do that job.
It’s no good paying top whack wages for a flaky employee who’s going to leave after 3 months.
And it’s no good paying a prospective long-term employee the national minimum wage if you want them to work hard for you over the next few years.
The same goes for tyres.
You need to get the right tyres for the right job. And in the case of touring, one of those jobs is longevity.
You want them to last.
Which brings us onto our first point of discussion.
How Long Do Touring Motorcycle Tyres Last: Longevity
In all genres of motorcycling, there is always a trade-off between grip and longevity.
And that’s a shame. Because generally, we need both.
Slicks on a sports bike give you the ultimate in grip as you get your knee down. But unfortunately, you can burn a set out in just one track day.
The same goes for knobblies. They’re great in the mud. But as soon as you get them on tarmac, their functionality goes out the window and within 2,000 miles, they’re toast.
Buying a set of slicks or knobblies every 2,000 miles just because they look good doesn’t add up. Especially when you consider that one ‘appropriate’ set of touring motorcycle tyres could last you over 10,000 miles.
The Perfect Touring Motorcycle Tyres
If you’re currently on the hunt for the perfect set of touring motorcycle tyres, I’m afraid you may as well give up the ghost right now.
Because they don’t exist.
Touring tyres are a compromise.
Every manufacturer out there is trying their best to build a tyre that covers a spectrum of needs.
On one side of this spectrum is performance. They need to do what we want them to do in the environments we wish to ride.
On the other side of the spectrum is the cost of longevity. Because unless you’re sponsored by Dunlop, chances are you have to keep paying to replace these touring motorcycle tyres every time the rubber runs out!
Dual Purpose Tyres
You can see this spectrum in the kinds of tyres that are available today.
There are road-biased tyres, off-road tyres, and a whole host of options in between.
50/50 tyres are the ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ of the tyre world. They’re okay on tarmac and they’re okay on gravel. But they aren’t the best on either.
You can also find 70/30 tyres which are 70% off-road and 30% road-biased. Or 80/20 tyres which have even more of a bias towards the gravelly stuff.
Complicating Matters Further
It’s not as simple as finding where you are on the spectrum and buying whichever tyres suit your needs.
Because you might not like them when you get them on.
I’ll give you some examples.
For touring, I’ve always been a fan of the Michelin Pilot Roads. I loved the PR2’s, PR3’s, and the PR4’s. Yet I don’t particularly like the PR5’s.
Conversely, I have a friend who hates the PR4’s but really likes the PR5’s.
In the off-road world, I enjoy Metzeler Karoos on my Africa Twin. Yet I hate them on tarmac which means I can’t have them permanently on my bike.
Manufacturers Don’t State The Longevity Of Touring Motorcycle Tyres
The other problem with choosing touring motorcycle tyres is that manufacturers don’t state the exact amount of miles you should get out of them before needing to replace them.
And this is down to the fact that the way you ride can affect the longevity of the tyre.
If you ride your bike hard or take it on track days, there’s a good chance you will accelerate the general wear of the tyre.
If touring is your thing and you spend a lot of time on the motorway, you might find that you suffer from uneven wear.
In the case of touring, this usually comes about in the form of ‘squaring off.’ This is where the apex of the tyre becomes flat rather than curved.
Wear could be minimal around the edges of the tyre. But if the centre has squared off, you will reach the TWI (tread wear indicator) much quicker.
Punctures are also a surefire way to lessen the lifespan of your tyres! If you get a bad one, you may have to replace the tyre; regardless of how much rubber is still left on it.
A General Guide To Touring Motorcycle Tyres: Mileage
As mentioned above, tyre manufacturers don’t issue a statement that says “Our touring motorcycle tyres will be good for 10,000 miles.”
And that’s because these tyres are being used on a whole manner of bikes, in a variety of conditions, on numerous surfaces, in different climates, and on bikes that are ridden by individual riders.
It would be impossible for them to give us a direct recommendation.
Having trawled the internet for specifics, we’ve put together a generalised table to show the mileage that real-world riders are achieving from some of the most popular touring motorcycle tyres.
Please note this is not a definitive guide to exactly how long your tyres will last for the reasons mentioned above.
Chart data by Tyre Reviews: https://www.tyrereviews.com/
Touring Motorcycle Tyres: Longevity Estimates
The data documented for the Dunlop Roadsmart 3’s is a mixture of user record and research carried out by Texas Test Fleet. For their test, Texas Test Fleet carried out longevity tests on the Dunlop Roadsmart 3’s at 3,000 and 5,000 miles.
From these tests, they created estimates based on the results and a prediction of how long the tyres would last.
Their official data stipulates 13,000 miles for the front tyre, and 20,000 miles for the rear.
Real-world records document similar statistics to those predicted by Texas Test Fleet.
Touring Motorcycle Tyres: Conclusion
As you can see, the prospect of engineering tyres is an art form!
And whilst manufacturers are making good progress in the areas of practicality and longevity, it still boils down to rider purpose and preference.
As touring riders, we will always have to compromise between performance and longevity. And we will always be skirting up and down the spectrum until we find that works for us as individuals.
But either way, there are plenty of options out there for us to try!
Top image via Needpix