Motorcycle Tyre Tread Depth: The Ultimate Guide

Motorcycle tyre tread depth plays a crucial role in your tyres’ ability to provide traction and keep you safe on the road. Thankfully, it’s incredibly straightforward to monitor the tread depth of your motorcycle tyres to ensure they remain road-legal.

In this article, we’re going to look at why maintaining your tyres’ tread is essential, how to measure tread depth, the causes behind uneven tyre wear, and more!

motorcycle tyre tread depth

What Is Motorcycle Tyre Tread Depth?

Tread depth is measured from the deepest part of the tyres’ grooves to the top of the tyres’ surface. Tread depth is measured in millimetres (mm) and affects the tyres’ ability to channel water away from the contact patch in wet conditions.

Why Is Tyre Tread Important?

Tread is not only responsible for providing grip in wet weather, but it’s also directly linked to handling and braking distances.

A study conducted by the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association found that tyres with 1.6mm of tread take nearly 12m further to stop in wet conditions than a new tyre from 50mph.

To put that into perspective, that’s nearly the length of a double-decker bus!

What Are The Legal Requirements For Motorcycle Tread Depth?

The minimum legal tread depth of a motorcycle tyre is 1mm throughout the central three-quarters of the tyre’s tread pattern. For motorcycles greater than 50cc, the remaining tread around the tyre’s outer edges must remain visible.

Can I Be Fined For Having Bald Tyres?

The penalty for riding a motorcycle with bald tyres is a fixed £100 fine and three points per tyre. If the offence is escalated to the magistrates’ court, this penalty can increase to £2500 per tyre and potential disqualification from riding.

How to Measure Motorcycle Tyre Tread Depth

While there are several ways to measure the tread depth of your motorcycle tyres, the two most reliable methods that we recommend are:

Tread Depth Indicators

Some manufacturers include tread depth indicators on the inside of the tyres’ grooves. These are typically small sections of raised rubber that are set to the minimum legal tread depth of 1mm.

When the top of the tread’s grooves begins to approach these raised rubber sections, it’s time to start thinking about a new set of tyres!

Tread Depth Gauge

A tread depth gauge is unquestionably the most accurate way to measure the tread depth of your tyres. This handy tool is easy to use and can be found in most bike shops and online for less than £10!

We’ve personally had great success using the Preciva Digital Gauge (pictured above), and we’d highly recommend investing in one for less than the price of a tank of fuel.

What Causes Motorcycle Tyres To Wear Unevenly?

Tyre wear is a natural process that occurs over time due to a combination of several factors.

Uneven tyre wear, however, is far from ideal and will gradually impact the performance capabilities of your bike. Here are three of the most common causes:

Your Riding Style

Tyre wear is impacted heavily by acceleration and braking, so if you frequently ride with a heavy right hand, chances are the tyre’s life is going to suffer.

Riding in a smooth and controlled manner can help to keep you safe on the road, limit wear, and prolong tyre life.

Motorway riders are also particularly at risk of developing uneven wear down the centre of their tyres due to the lack of cornering.

Inappropriate Tyre Selection

While most modern tyres are designed to provide reliable performance across various conditions and speeds, each tyre is specifically tailored to particular riding styles.

For example, if you frequently ride on poorly maintained road surfaces or partake in the odd track day, you’ll want to invest in a tyre that has been developed for these conditions.

Tyre Pressure

Running your tyres under or overinflated can cause them to wear more quickly, especially at higher speeds.

Over-inflation leads to poor handling and increased wear down the centre of the tyre due to such a small section of rubber being in contact with the road.

Under-inflation makes the bike less willing to turn into corners and increases wear across the whole tyre due to the larger contact patch.

Final Thoughts

Tread depth has a significant impact on the performance, comfort and safety of your motorcycle.

With your newfound knowledge and a reliable tread depth gauge at the ready, you should be ready to hit the road!