What’s the best tyre for my scooter or small motorcycle?

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a Yamaha MT-10 and Honda Grom. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, a KTM 1050 Adventure, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

 

Small capacity bikes, scooters and mopeds cover a large chunk of powered two wheelers. They might be small, light and relatively affordable, but they’ll also be putting a real demand on their tyres. From the Aprilia SR50, Peugeot Kisbee or Honda Vision and the Vespas, Kymcos, Glieras and Lexmotos on the road, to the Grom, CB125 and KTM Duke and more, owners will typically want good grip in the wet and dry, as well as excellent longevity.

These are often every-day transport, so how do you choose the best tyres? We worked with Gary Hartshorne, Bridgestone’s Senior Product Manager of motorcycle tyres in Northern Europe to find out…

 

Best tyres for your scooter

Gary rides 25,000 miles a year on a huge variety of bikes…

 

How to choose the best scooter or small-capacity tyre

The size, weight and type of machine you have will usually be the deciding factor when choosing the best tyres, so here are Gary’s recommendations …

 

I’ve got a 125cc or 250cc motorcycle

Battlax BT-45

I ride a scooter or moped

Battlax SC (cross ply)

I own a maxi-scooter like a Suzuki Burgman or Yamaha T-Max

Battlax TH01 or SC, or SC rain for all-year (radial)

 

I’ve got a sporty 125 or 250cc bike – do I need expensive sports tyres?

No, you don’t need the most expensive race tyres, however sporty your 125 or 250cc bike is. If you’ve got a Yamaha YZF-R125 for instance, the tyres suitable for an R1 would be no good at all.

Tyres have a load and speed rating, which is not just a maximum – the carcass of the tyre is designed to work within those parameters, and a 125 or 250 isn’t heavy or fast enough to get higher-rated tyres up to the temperature required for them to work correctly. The R125, for instance, needs a 52H front and a 62H rear, while the R1 demands a 58W and a 75W; he R1 rear is designed for almost 50% more weight than the YZF-R125, and much greater speeds.

 

Motorcycle tyre load index in kg

Rating

Kg

Rating

Kg

Rating

Kg

Rating

Kg

Rating

Kg

41

145

42

150

53

155

44

160

45

165

56

170

47

175

48

180

49

185

50

190

51

195

52

200

53

206

54

212

55

218

56

224

57

230

58

236

59

243

60

250

61

257

62

265

63

272

64

280

65

290

66

300

67

307

68

315

69

325

70

335

71

345

72

355

73

365

74

375

75

387

76

400

77

412

78

425

79

437

80

450

81

462

82

475

83

487

84

500

85

515

86

530

87

545

88

560

89

580

90

600

91

615

92

630

93

650

94

670

95

690

96

710

97

710

98

750

99

775

100

800

 

Motorcycle tyre speed ratings in mph

Speed symbol

L

P

Q

S

T

H

V

(V)

W

(W)

ZR

Max speed

75

93

99

112

118

130

149

>149*

169

>169*

>149

* At reduced loading

 

The load ratings are the maximum weight that can safely (and legally) be put through that one tyre (so it’s an axle weight, which is why the front is often a lower load rating than the rear). You could fit a tyre that’s capable of carrying an increased load (though it’s not a good idea), but it is illegal to fit one that’s lower than recommended for your bike.

Don’t ‘over-tyre’ your motorcycle, as you’re not just wasting money; you’re potentially fitting a tyre that will give you less grip; check what your bike’s handbook says – you don’t have to use the brand that the manufacturer lists, but the load and speed rating, not to mention size, are very important. You can also check on a tyre manufacturer’s website for its recommendations specific to your motorcycle.

 

Best tyres for your scooter

 

What are the best scooter or small bike tyres in the wet?

On a scooter, the SC2 Rain would be Bridgestone’s recommendation, as it has the same tread pattern as the flagship T31 touring tyre. Any road tyre is designed to look aesthetically pleasing, but of course the grooves have also got to pick up water and throw it to one side, leaving a relatively dry patch of tarmac for the following ‘slick’ section of rubber.

The way the tread is designed will influence its ability to shift water, and that goes right down to the angle the grooves are cut into the rubber. These grooves also have to work as the tyre moves and deforms when it meets the road – it’s no good just having a slot in the rubber that looks pretty; it must be designed to maintain an efficient shape within its specified load and speed rating (that’s one reason why so much R&D goes into tyres). Which, once again, is why it’s so important to use the correct rating of tyres, as recommended by your bike’s manufacturer.

Tyres are designed as pairs – if the front is engineered to disperse a certain amount of water, the rear must be able to cope with what it leaves in its path. Mixing tyres isn’t ideal for this reason, and that’s not just brands – having a touring tyre that moves a lot of water on the front, with a sports tyre on the back, could cause problems.

You might also have noticed that some front tyres have tread patterns that appear to run in the opposite direction to the rear – this is to shift the water to the outside edge of the wheel in a corner, the idea being that it’s better than throwing it to the inside, which would create a wetter patch of tarmac when the rear tyre reaches it, making it have to work even harder.

As a general rule of thumb across all brands of tyre, the more sporty the rubber, the less wet-weather performance it’ll have; the more touring-focussed it is, the better it’ll work in the rain, but at the cost of dry grip. Having said that, for pretty much everything except track use, the best sport-touring tyres now generally give more than enough performance for very sporty road riding.

 

Best tyres for your scooter

 

How long will my tyres last?

How many years or miles your tyres will last depends on many things, but the most important point is to regularly check the pressures; while tyres do have a liner built into the carcass, they’re still porous, so will slowly lose pressure – up to 2-3psi in a month.

How you ride also has a big influence – and not just whether you’re doing burn-outs; a smooth rider will see their tyres last a lot longer than someone who’s more aggressive on the throttle and brakes. For example, the same tyre might be used in short-circuit racing (let’s say Donington Park), at the same pressure and temperature as at the Isle of Man TT:  the TT sees fast and smooth riding, while Donington would have the riders on and off the brakes – hard – constantly. In 20 laps (50 miles), Donington would likely destroy the tyre, but six laps of the TT, covering 226 miles, would probably see it in far better condition.

As they’re smaller, scooter tyres tend to build up more heat – while the machine’s lighter, the tyres can wear just as fast, or faster, than a sports-bike tyre. Expect around 5,000 miles – you may well get more, but if you’re getting less, the chances are your pressures are wrong or you’re riding very aggressively.

 

How do I scrub in my tyres?

The industry guideline is a recommended 200 miles, but that is for the safest margin. Keep banking over a little at a time, so as you lean, your contact patch is half scrubbed in, half fresh; lean incrementally. And no sudden braking or acceleration; it’s not just the speed or the lean angle that can cause a problem on new tyres – it’s more the brake force or acceleration.

Of course, a tyre can be scrubbed in within one lap on a track with a fast rider, but on the road, just ride smoothly and gently while building up your lean angle.

A common perception used to be that scrubbing tyres in was about getting rid of the release agent that was used when removing the tyre from the mould, but not all manufacturers use this anymore; Bridgestone for instance has such precise moulds that there’s no need. But a tyre still needs its surface ‘roughing up’ (like a new pair of leather-soled shoes), and the plies within the carcass also have to settle into each other.

Another point to consider is that the rubber will likely have been fitted with tyre ‘soap’ – it’s possible for a new tyre to spin slightly on the wheel during hard acceleration when it’s just gone on, which will throw it out of balance.

Finally, when you replace your tyres, the bike will feel very different as you’ll have been riding for a long time on rubber with a more worn, and hence different shape; you need to give yourself time to acclimatise to the new hoops.

 

Best tyres for your scooter

 

What pressure should I put in my tyres?

The air in the tyre is what’s supporting you and your motorcycle, not the rubber. Don’t go by the maximum pressure shown on the tyre itself – you’ll find the correct tyre pressure for your motorcycle or scooter in several places:

• On the bike itself (usually the swingarm)

• In the handbook

• On the website of the tyre manufacturer.

The wrong place to look is on a forum.

Motorcycle manufacturers don’t randomly choose their own pressures – it’s dictated by the maximum load on the bike, so you’ll sometimes see recommended pressures based on solo riding, and when fully loaded, but that’s the only variable: the correct pressure is the one given to you by the manufacturer of the bike or of the tyre recommended for that bike.

In Europe the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) stipulates what size of tyre goes on a certain size of rim, and what pressure goes in it under a certain load (in Japan it’s JATMA, the Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association).

Don’t drop your tyre pressures when riding in the wet either – this will cause the tyre to deform, reducing not only the contact patch, but also closing up the tread grooves when they meet the road, making water dispersal less effective. The leading tyre manufacturers – like Bridgestone – spend years and years, and millions of pounds, developing tyres to work at specific pressures, so use them.

The only time you might drop tyre pressures is when riding hard on track; a newcomer should stick to standard pressures, but an experienced rider might reduce the pressure to take into account the higher temperatures that will be achieved, as this increases the pressure in the tyre beyond that of ‘normal’ riding.

 

Can I repair my scooter or small-bike tyres?

You can repair your tyres if you pick up a puncture, but there is a British Standard (BSAU159F) that stipulates that any motorcycle or scooter tyre can only be repaired if the hole is no larger than 3mm, is within 75% of the centre line, and is not in a tread groove. The standard also states that you shouldn’t repair any tyre with a speed rating of W or ZR – some people might argue this, but it’s the UK’s standard, so tyre manufacturers need to comply with the regulations of the countries where the tyres are sold.

The ‘quarter bead’ of a tyre (the edge to you and me) is the section that flexes and moves the most, which is why this section (along with the sidewall) should not be repaired.

A repair needs to be carried out by removing the tyre and plugging it from the inside – a roadside repair kit should only be considered a means of getting to a professional fitter.

A repaired tyre is always going to simply be a plugged hole, so the damage done to the carcass and the plies inside by the hole, and the excessive flexing that happened while the pressure was dropping, will never be rectified.

 

What if I don’t like the OE tyres that came with my bike?

During development, motorcycle manufacturers don’t test their bikes with every set of tyres available – some brands might use just one, others might use several. From this data will come the bike maker’s recommended fitment, but all tyres are made to conform to European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) specifications, so within the axle weights, maximum speed and sizes, there will be other options that can safely be recommended by other brands.

Some top-of-the-range motorcycles, like the BMW S1000RR, will come with top-spec tyres, but others might have rubber that’s been designed specifically to be sold with the bike when new. These could look the same as similarly-named tyres, but might have one or two extra letters at the end if their name.

Just one example of this is a pair of sports tyres that might be single-compound for the bike that they come with (like the Bridgestone RS10G on the Yamaha R1), but multi-compound when bought after-market (the Bridgestone RS10). A single compound tyre is of course less costly to produce, so a bike manufacturer might specify that as part of its requirements when developing the machine, but they could last fewer miles than the after-market versions.

No bike manufacturer can tell you that you must use a specific brand of tyre – what matters is that you stick to the correct sizes and load/speed ratings, and that you run them at the correct pressures. Each tyre manufacturer will offer a list of recommended fitments, then you can choose which best suits your riding style.

 

Bridgestone’s choice

Bridgestone’s Gary Hartshorne explains how to choose the best bike tyres

 

What about other brands?

We worked with Bridgestone to find out how to choose the best tyres for your scooter, moped or small bike; once you understand the tech that goes into them, you’ll know how to buy the right rubber for your motorcycle. We also asked the other most popular manufacturers for their recommendations. Of course, these are a general recommendation, and not specific to a particular bike, so always check the fitment for your motorcycle…

 

Bridgestone recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Battlax BT-45

Scooter / moped: Battlax SC (cross ply)

Maxi scooter: Battlax TH01 or SC, or SC rain for all-year (radial)

 

Anlas recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Tournee

Scooter / moped: Tournee

Maxi scooter: Tournee

 

Avon recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Streetrunner

Scooter / moped: Viper Stryke

Maxi scooter: Not available

 

Continental recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Conti Go

Scooter / moped: Conti Scoot and Conti Twist

Maxi scooter: Not available

 

Dunlop recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: ScootSmart

Scooter / moped: ScootSmart

Maxi scooter: ScootSmart

 

Maxxis recommended scooter and small bike tyres

Scooter / moped: Choice of around 30 models, depending on size/application

Maxi scooter: M6128 / M6135 / M6029S

 

Metzeler recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Sportec Street

Scooter / moped: Me7 Teen

Maxi scooter: Feelfree

 

Michelin recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Pilot Street

Scooter / moped: City Grip

Maxi scooter: Pilot Road 4 SC (Pilot Power 3 SC for sportier riders)

“The named tyres are in general one of the most appropriate tyres for the stated type of bike and use. These generalisations are not Michelin recommendations. The law, the specific bike and the intended use are all factors that must be considered when determining the correct choice of tyre. Always seek expert advice if in doubt.”

 

Pirelli recommended scooter and small bike tyres

125cc and 250cc motorcycle: Angel CiTy

Scooter / moped: Diablo Rosso Scooter

Maxi scooter: Angel Scooter

 

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