How wide are your chicken strips?

Dunlop Sportmax Alpha 14 tyres Ducati GT1000 chicken

Chicken strips can be one of the biggest causes of embarrassment for riders and may even be a safety risk.

In case you’ve been riding in a vacuum, “chicken strips” is a term for the shiny, unused part of a motorcycle tyre’s tread.

They signify that the rider hasn’t leaned the bike over very far in the corners and are therefore testament to their apparent lack of talent and bravery, hence the term “chicken”.

Chicken strips can be a source of ridicule and embarrassment among the riding fraternity.

But there is far more to it than that.

Different strips

For a start, there can be a big difference in chicken strips on the front and rear tyres.

Talented/brave riders with no chicken strips on the back can still have chicken strips on the front.

And vice versa.

These are more testament to the riding style of the rider.

No chicken strips on the back, but strips on the front may mean the rider brakes early, turns in late and gets on the gas early while the bike is still leaned over.

No strips on the front, but strips on the back means they go hard into a corner and get on the gas later when the bike is upright again.

But even brave and talented riders can still have chicken strips.

Different tyres and bikes

Tyre pressures track day chicken
Full-width tyre wear

It can depend on the type of motorcycle and the type of tyres.

Some bikes, usually cruisers, run out of cornering clearance thanks to low footpegs, exhaust, side/centre stands and other hard parts.

So the bike can never use the full width of the tread.

Adventure bikes can be the opposite with high pipes and pegs that will never obstruct cornering clearance.

However, their knobby tyres can become really squeamish when run right out to the tread edge.

PIrelli Scorpion Rally adventure tyres chicken
Adventure tyre

Tyre profile can also affect chicken strips.

Usually low and wide tyres such as on sports bikes and some cruisers provide a flatter characteristic to the tyre which makes it easier to use the full width of the tread.

Taller and narrower touring and adventure tyres have a much rounder cross section which makes it more difficult to use the full tread width.

How to delete chicken strips

Motorcycle tyres chicken
Head to the track

If you still bow to peer pressure and are concerned about the chicken strips on your tyres, don’t get the power sander out! That is just destroying your tyres.

Instead, we suggest heading to a track where you can explore the tread limits much easier and with more safety.

Chicken strips are slippery as the tread has not been “broken in”.

So trying to delete your strips can result in exposing your bike to slippery parts of your tyre with obvious safety issues.

The glossy and slippery tread surface should be treated with respect and caution.

Continental tyre chicken
Glossy new tyres

The best way to break in a tyre or to lose that gloss on the edge of your tread is to heat up the tyres.

That doesn’t necessarily mean leaning it over. A long-distance high-speed highway ride will heat the entire width of the tyre, even though the tread edge has not touched the road surface. 

So before you go exploring the limits of your tread and lean angle, go for a long ride, then gradually start leaning more and more.

Click here for more details on breaking in your new tyres.

15 Comments

  1. Chicken strips are for morons.
    How many riders sit up and lay their bike over to try and narrow their chicken strips? Lots.
    Unless you are on the track, with the right pressures and thoroughly warmed up, road tyres are not safe at extreme lean angles on the roads.
    Usually you can’t see round the corner well, there could be gravel or other obstacle, and there’s no safe run-off area if it all goes wrong.

  2. Ride to the limit of your tires. An accepted limit is riding to about 85% of the tires capacity to grip. An understanding of your tires capacity to grip and selecting the correct tire for your intended usage is a necessary skill for motorcycle riders. If you like corners select a tire that has high grip and a profile that allows for a greater angle of lean. Same road, same corners, a race spec tire has 20mm of “Chicken Strips”, A road tire has no “Chicken Strips”. To most riders, bragging that you have no ” Chicken Strips” on your road spec tires will only attract a chuckle at best.

  3. On my Adventure bikes I find easier to find the edge with the knobbies than I do with my street oriented tyres as I can feel the knobbies ‘squirm’ about which doesn’t quite happen as much with street tyres.

    Either way one while it finding the edge can be good to improve skills one should be wary of doing it for pissing rights.

  4. One question, when doing ‘long-distance high-speed highway ride” what sort of speed are you talking about, especially considering the speed limits are usually a maximum of 110 kph?

    1. Hi Ian,
      Highway speed is enough to heat up a tyre after only 15 minutes or so.
      Try it. Ride a straight road and feel the temperature across the width of the tread and you’ll be surprised how the heat spreads.
      Cheers,
      Mark

  5. Have to laugh (quietly). A Spyder now resides next to the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, Very different riding techniques with zero chicken strips on the Spyder.

  6. Good riders lean less, not more. That’s why MotoGP riders hang off so far – they’re trying to keep the bike as upright as possible. Street riders with no chicken strips aren’t good riders, they’re accidents waiting to happen.

      1. Ahem .. koff koff … … BS!

        MotoGP riders have already used up their chicken strips and hang off the inside to gain even more corner speed. Moves the CoG of the rider/bike inwards without changing the lean angle.

        Street riders can do exactly the same.

        |:-\

        1. “MotoGP riders have already used up their chicken strips and hang off the inside to gain even more corner speed. Moves the CoG of the rider/bike inwards without changing the lean angle.”

          There you go, ruining a good story with the facts again 🙂 I guess the point I was trying to make is that MotoGP guys don’t lean to be cool or brave, just enough to get the job done. They would gladly have “chicken strips” if they could!

          “Street riders can do exactly the same…”

          Sure, but it’s not smart. Too many things to bite you on the street that aren’t present at the track.

  7. Having had the fright of my life picking the back tyre up off the deck and grinding part of my exhaust system off I learnt how to go fast around bends without leaning right over until I modified the exhaust that is , but I found I was actually quicker not grinding the chicken strips. That was in the days when I bounced in a off now that I just go splat and the bike will cost more to repair than three of the bikes I rode in my youth put together my chicken strips are staying un molested thank you very much.

    1. I guess it depends what one is riding Al.. Big, heavy = wide strips. Light and leaning = narrow strips with well scrubbed sides. Everything in between depends upon the rider’s choices at the time when the twisties appear. Those low mufflers always light my red caution light when it comes to cornering at fun speed.

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