There exists a haze around the ways to properly warm up and break in motorcycle tires, especially racing tires. Many of the tricks and knowledge passed down from generation to generation is outdated now. When you think of it, the first motorcycle came into existence over a century ago, and the first motorcycle races were held shortly after that. Technology and design have changed a lot since then. Granted, many of the warm-up practices we riders are in the bad habit of using didn’t necessarily start that long ago, but the same rule applies: when technology advances, our way of working changes. Therefore, why do many riders still break in and warm up their tires the same way they did 10, 20 or more years ago? Because bikers are a stubborn breed, creatures of habit and once we know something, we know it, regardless of the engineering advances in tire manufacturing.
Therefore, to learn how to warm up your tires properly, it is necessary to de-educate and debunk some of the old ways. There are too many myths describing how to work with new tires for this post to sort through them all, which is why we will focus on the three that can cause the most damage and even create the most danger for racers today: scrubbing and weaving.
Scrubbing means to abrade or scuff the tread surface to create better traction. However, while this process was possibly necessary at one time when tires were treated with a mold release compound, manufacturers today do not use such practices. Tires today and the methods used to install them are more precise, and mold release is only used on the sidewall never the tread. Other surface treatments, like Teflon, are better for the treads and do not require the same scrubbing or scuffing that the old ways made necessary and popular.
Weaving is still a practice, though unnecessary and ineffective. You’ve seen it; a racer begins swerving back and forth before a race, attempting to warm up their tires and scuff up the treads. Again, scuffing, or scrubbing, is no longer necessary with new tires. However, while warming up the tires is essential, weaving is not the best way to do it, and it can lead to cornering grip prematurely. There are far better methods for warming up your tires than weaving which are safer and more effective, but we’ll address that in just a moment.
No Breaking in
Many new riders for some reason or another for the need to break in new tires. So, let’s put the question to bed. Do tires need to be broken in? No. New tires, unless coated with soapy water or contact cleaner, do not need to be a cause for concern. In fact, racing tires have a minimum tread life as it is, around 300 miles, so extensive breaking in can cut that expectancy and cost you a mint in the process. While you may have a friend or two arguing the merits for 100-mile break-ins, the truth is that manufacturers will not slap an unsafe, unready tire on a bike and send you off. Engineers dedicate agonizing and copious amounts of time to creating the best traction tires for you and your safety. However, that is not a green light to go crazy on some brand-new tires, especially if you are riding on a brand you are unfamiliar with. Different tires, like different bikes, have a learning curve, so make sure you understand the feel and the design before going full throttle.
Properly Warming Tires
Now that your de-education is complete, it is time to re-educate you in the ways of tire usage. As stated earlier, warming your tires before a race is essential. However, there are better and safer ways of doing it that do not include weaving. There are two methods that work, but one includes the purchase of specialized equipment.
- Old school heat cycling
While there is debate on the efficiency of heat cycling tires before a race, the method for how to heat cycle tires is straightforward. You use a combination of acceleration and braking repeated several times to warm up the tires and provide more flexibility to the tire carcass. You use a similar method when breaking in new brakes. However, unlike the ineffective practice of weaving, you do not need to lean, stay upright throughout the warming process. While heat cycling is a useful and inexpensive method for warming your tires, there is some argument as to the wear-and-tear it may cause, diminishing the tread expectancy of your tires.
- Tire warmers
Another warming option that has no impact on tread life is the use of tire warmers. These devices are useful, but you need to leave your bike on them for at least an hour before a race, and you should also rewarm your tires after a race if you have others, preventing multiple heat cycles.
Getting your tires to the proper operating temperature means getting to the best compound for racing; however, the right temperature varies by tire brand. That being said, most brands fluctuate somewhere around 165 degrees for optimum track and race day performance.
Tire pressure is essential for motorcycle racers. The right pressure contributes to the control and overall feel of the ride. Unfortunately, most tire manufacturers list suggested pressures for cold tires. Therefore, it is important to adjust your pressure for race day. For a tire operating at 165 degrees, some brands suggest a racer’s front tire be somewhere between 32 to 34 psi and the rear 28 to 30. Essentially, this will equate to 3 to 5 psi more than cold tires. However, tire pressure is brand specific, and it is wise to contact the manufacturer’s technical support department for the best psi range.
While there are many myths about how to warm up and break in motorcycle tires, most of those suggestions are based on old wives’ tales or dated information. Most tire brands don’t require breaking in, and the warm-up methods are more simplified now. Therefore, go out and get some of the motorcycle racing tires you can and get out there and have fun.