How to break in new motorcycle tyres

Motorcycle tyres trivia quiz

Do you know how to break in new motorcycle tyres that come with a glossy and slippery surface? They deserve to be treated with respect and caution.

I once had an embarrassing spill on new tyres right out in front of the dealer when I took charge of a test bike.

Usually test bikes are run in and some manufacturers even get racers to take them to the track for a few laps! But not on this occasion.

It seems strange that new tyres have a glossy surfaces, but there are a few reasons for this.  Some manufacturers use a slippery chemical called a release agent to get the rubber tyres to release cleanly from the mould. However, modern moulds have teflon coatings that obviate the need for a release agent. Even if they don’t use a release agent, tyre manufacturers use chemicals in the curing process to make the rubber flow better and reduce defects in the surface and tread pattern. This results in slick or glossy surfaces.

Motorcycle tyres break in
New tyres look glossy

Apparently riders also like to see a new tyre looking glossy in the showroom, even though they can be slippery. So even if a tyre manufacturer like Dunlop, Continental or Pirelli don’t use a release agent, they still make their tyres look glossy for consumer appeal.

So how do you break them in and get rid of the slippery gloss? Well, some tyre fitters use sanders to scuff up the surface or wash them with an acetone solution to neutralise the oily release agent or wipe them with a cloth to get rid of any slippery fitting lubricant they may have spilt on the tyre surface.

But tyre manufacturers do not recommend washing or sanding your tyres. They go to great lengths to design and engineer tyre treads, so the last thing you should do is attack the tread surface with a belt sander! It is also a bit risky using any chemical solution on a tyre as you do not know if it will be applied evenly and how it will react with the tyre. A wipe with a dry cloth is fine. Notice that race bikes leave the pits with shiny new tyres that have not been belt-sanded or washed with any chemicals.

The best way to break in a tyre, lose that gloss and become sticky is to heat it up and the most effective way to heat a tyre is slowly over a long-distance ride. Racers don’t have that luxury, so they use tyre warmers which they apply about an hour before a race to warm the tyre slowly and evenly.

Most riders seem to think that weaving around on the road like racers on a warm-up lap is the best way to “scuff-up” the tread. However, that is very risky as you could slip over on the glossy surface. Remember, racers are weaving around to keep the heat in the tyre after it has already been warmed up in the garage.

Motorcycle tyres break in
Heat your tyres first

Since most riders don’t have access to tyre warmers, tyre manufacturers suggest a long ride of 160-200km to heat the tyres. Despite the fact that most racers weave around on warmed-up tyres, you actually don’t need to lean the bike over on to the new and glossy surface to heat up that part of the tyre. Acceleration and braking is more effective as it puts stress on the tyre carcass which heats up the whole tyre, not just the bit touching the road. But again, you should get the tyre hot before any abrupt throttle or brake application.

Don’t think in terms of “scrubbing in” your tyres, but think about heating them up. The distance required to get sufficient heat into them can be dependant on the type of bike, the ambient temperature, the temperature of the road and the road surface.

Before you can start to push the lean limits, get off your bike and feel the tyre temperature with your hand. If it’s hot, you can gradually increase acceleration and braking to get it really hot. Then you should be right to start leaning it over.

Sounds over-cautious? You betcha! You don’t want to be embarrassed, injured, or left with a damaged bike like I did.

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Stacked it - Page 5
  2. weaving doesnt heat or keep heat in tyres..
    How often do you see racers do this these days? They dont because it is pointless.

  3. Yip – new tires are slippery which is why the tire shops always tell you to take it easy the first few kilometers. Not sure what part the non-believers above don’t agree with? I’ll bet $100 anyone who rides out of a shop with new untreated street tires in the wet and hooks into the first corner with a bit of lean will end up on there butts!

    My preferred method of scrubbing in new tires is a few laps on a twisty stretch of road. Lean over a bit then more each corner so you wear in a bit of “new” tread each corner.

  4. Are you serious? I don’t know which part of this nonsense I find more ridiculous. It’s either your understanding of tyre warmers on race bikes, the dry cloth, or the 200kms you reckon it takes to warm tyres…
    As if the motorcycling community doesn’t suffer enough through misconception and misinformation. Why would you peddle this garbage?

  5. Is this a pisstake? You obviously don’t ride seriously, let me guess, fine weather only, and just as far as the local cappuccino strip where you can have a soy frappaccino while you pose!

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