Motorbike tyre safety
When assessing the suitability of your motorcycle rider protection, it's easy to overlook faults in the machine itself that may put you at risk.
Like any road user, it's easy to assume that as long as your bike is running smoothly there are no problems. However, quite often this is not the case, particularly when it comes to tyres.
Tyres are the only point of contact between the road and your motorcycle and play an integral role in the function of your machine. Specifically though, their ability to grip the road surface and maintain pressure are vital for safety, especially when carrying out key manoeuvres such as braking, accelerating and steering.
Regularly checking your tyres for wear and tear - and knowing what to look for - not only improves your risk of avoiding accidents on the road, but also will improve your machine's performance.
A key factor when considering replacement tyres is what you use your bike for.
Is it an off-road, occasional scrambling bike? Or perhaps it’s a scooter used on a daily commute, come rain or shine? Different uses often demand different tyres, and any rider needs to be aware of what best suits their behaviour.
For example, tyres for a bike or scooter you use throughout winter and summer may need to be replaced with the seasons, to ensure optimum performance and safety during different weather conditions.
Similarly, how regularly you use your bike will determine how often you should perform checks on them and assess whether they need to be replaced.
For a scrambler or race bike that only receives occasional usage, it is advisable to give tyres a thorough check before taking to the track or road. Long periods in storage present their own problems for the integrity of the tyre rubber and the last thing you want to happen is for the tyre to fail while you're travelling at high speeds or performing dangerous manoeuvres.
Tyre failure risks
There are myriad risks posed by a failing or damaged tyre, including damage to your machine or inefficient fuel consumption. However, the overriding risk is that you may suffer a crash, often caused by losing control of your vehicle unexpectedly.
TyreSafe, a road safety organisation, recommends all road users avoid buying discounted, part worn tyres, because they tend to be more prone to failure. In the worst cases, they may not be roadworthy at all.
A recent, horrific crash involving a car driver who was left paralysed from the chest down was deemed to be the result of using part-worn tyres.
Following Keith Johnston's accident - in which he lost control of his car on a bend and crashed in to a ditch - police investigators indicated that the part-worn condition of the tyres was a major contributing factor to the crash.
Incidentally, Mr Johnston has only recently installed the tyres, which were found to have an illegal tread depth. Like many other drivers and motorcyclists, Mr Johnston had consistently purchased part-worn tyres and replaced them every few months, being entirely oblivious to the safety risks.
Tyre safety checks
Tread depth and tyre pressure are the two of the easiest checks to perform and both have important implications for safety.
Investing in a high quality digital tyre pressure gauge is a good idea, making checks easier to carry out and thus less prone to being put off.
Measuring tread depth is also straightforward. A tread pattern should be visible around the entire circumference of the tyre, while a depth gauge can be used to easily establish whether the minimum 1mm tread depth has been achieved for bikes of 50cc.
When performing these checks, take the opportunity to look for bulges, perforations or cuts in the tyre or tyre wall. Sometimes, objects such as grit or glass may have even become embedded in the tyre.
In addition to checks of the tyre rubber itself, you should always take a good look at your wheel rims. If these are bent, cracked or rusted, they should be replaced - tyre failures can be the result of damage caused by rims, as well as the tyre wall.
Similarly, examine the valve stem, checking for damage, doing as much as you can to clear away collected dirt, oil and grease away from the valve itself and also from the tyre.
As ever, if you are unsure of anything, take your bike to your nearest qualified garage mechanic and get a second opinion.