These days we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to motorcycle touring tyres.
The thing is, a touring motorcycle is not so easy to define these days. Years ago it was a motorcycle with a massive fairing, built-in panners and a big engine, ridden (mainly) by old men who’d been riding before you were even born.
But these days, Sportsbikes, Tourers, Sports Tourers and Adventure bikes all blur the boundaries of what a tourer is.
Sure, there are still the big guns, the BMW R1250RT, Yamaha FJR1300 and the Honda Goldwing but there are also smaller tourers, like the BMW F900XR, Yamaha’s Tracer 900GT and Triumph’s Tiger 1050. Is Kawasaki’s H2 SX a Sports Tourer or a Tourer or a Sportsbike? Either way it’s designed to cover big miles. And how about Honda’s poster boy for Sports Tourers, the VFR800F? Would you choose that over a big comfortable Adventure bike like the Honda Africa Twin for a trip to Southern France and back?
And while we’re being honest with each other; aren’t the majority of Adventure bikes just tourers with tall suspension?
Choose Your Tyre Type
The Criteria for a Good Motorcycle Touring Tyre
While the touring market has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that if you buy a motorcycle for touring, you want all-day comfort, performance, luggage carrying capacity and the ability to bash out the miles and take on the twisties.
When it comes to touring tyres, every manufacturer produces at least two tyres to cater for tourers but the reality is there are over 30 different decent models of tyre that sit in this loosely-defined category. Because touring tyres are designed for the sports touring, touring or commuter markets, meaning there are a lot of tyres to cater for this arena.
That choice can be overwhelming but this guide is designed to help you find the best tyres for your motorcycle.
You don’t want your tyres wearing out when you’re halfway across the continent, which is why we think mileage is the most important factor to consider when buying a tyre for your touring motorcycle.
Equally, you want a hard-wearing tyre if you use your motorcycle to commute as you don’t want to be visiting the tyre shop every other month with a rear that’s knackered in the middle but with plenty left on the edges.
A touring tyre also has to be all-weather capable. Good in the wet, with a fast warm-up time. It has to have a wide operating temperature range but with the ability to offer great edge grip for fast road riders.
You also want a touring tyre to be comfortable and capable of managing big loads (think big tourer, two-up with luggage) without affecting the bike’s handling characteristics.
In short, a touring tyre probably has the highest requirement of any motorcycle tyre.
How to choose the right tyres for you
Just because you ride a sportsbike, doesn’t mean you need a tyre with ‘ultimate’ grip levels. Equally, just because you ride a commuter, doesn’t mean you need a hard-wearing tyre. It’s important to find a tyre that suits your riding style and your main riding activity and not just a tyre that fits your motorcycle manufacturer’s idea of what you might be using the bike for.
Tyre chooser chart
If you’re not sure of the best tyre for your motorcycle or riding style, check the chart below. We’ve put some common scenarios in the table to help you get a better idea of the category of tyre that you’ll get on with.
|Riding Scenario||Recommended Tyre Type|
|I want a tyre for fast road riding.||We’d go for a Sports Touring tyre as it’ll have a faster warm-up, longer life and arguably as much grip as a Sports tyre on the road.|
|I ride a Sportsbike on the road and the occasional trackday||A Sports tyre will do the business but look for a sticky track-focused road legal one if you are a faster track rider.|
|I ride a Sportsbike over long distances or commuting.||A Touring tyre is a sensible option as it’ll offer the best mileage.|
|I ride a big Adventure bike but I never go off-road.||A Touring tyre in Adventure-bike sizes will work well.|
|I ride a big Adventure bike and I occasionally go off-road.||If you want an Adventure-style blocky tread pattern and arguably a little bit more off-road capability, then go for an Adventure tyre over a Touring tyre as a Touring tyre will be hopeless off-road.|
|I tour on a Harley-Davidson or other large cruiser.||The major brands all produce Cruiser tyres but some will also produce tyres designed for heavy V-twin motorcycles. The tyre construction is usually Cross-Ply and not Radial, and this softer carcass can help reduce vibrations and give a plusher ride.|
The Best Tyres for Big Tourers
If you own a heavyweight tourer, like BMW R1200RT, a Yamaha FJR1300 or a GTR1400, the chances are you like to cover big distances and your annual mileage is higher than the average biker.
You need a tyre that can handle the weight associated with a fully loaded tourer. A week’s worth of kit. A pillion. That pillion’s 7 pairs of shoes, 9 outfits and a wash bag that would make an oil tanker list. We’ve all been there.
All of the popular touring tyres come in a GT or HWM spec, designed for heavyweight bikes. There is a popular myth that you’ll get more mileage from these tyres but that’s not the case. These heavyweight tyres use a different internal construction and sometimes they use a slightly different compound to work with that internal construction. They’re designed so that a bigger bike’s handling isn’t affected, especially one that’s fully loaded.
The exception to this (and there’s always one!) is Dunlop. Their Touring tyres are designed for all bikes but if you have a lighter touring bike, you need to go for the SP option.
Fitting a ‘GT’ tyre to a lighter-weight bike may have the downside of throwing-off the handling, with no upside. So it’s always best to fit the right tyre for your bike.
A Touring tyre will have the best wear rate of any motorcycle tyre, so if you’re looking to get more miles from your tyre, you probably need to change your brand of tyre or change the way you ride.
A brilliant all-rounder
Touring is never boring. Especially with these Roadtec 01 SEs fitted. But they’re more than just a tyre for old boys; I’ve seen them fitted on everything from Ducati superbikes to big BMW tourers. They offer superb levels of grip and feel, a decent wear rate, great wet-weather performance and a fast warm-up. If you’re a road rider on anything but a superbike, these should be your first port of call.
Motorcycles you’d expect to see running a Touring tyre: BMW R1250RT, Yamaha FJR1300, BMW K1600
The rider’s most likely to be seen: Heading over the Yorkshire dales or dashing to catch the ferry to France.
If you want a budget tyre, try the: Metzeler Z8 in the ‘O’ fitment, which is for heavyweight bikes.
Other great tyres in the Heavy Tourer category
Let’s face it; we all have a preferred brand and my pick above might not be to your tastes. Below I’ve listed a few other great options from different manufacturers.
Dunlop Roadsmart 4 – Choose the GT fitment if you have a heavyweight bike (BMW R1200RT, Yamaha FJR1300 for example)
Another mention for Metzeler with the Z8 in the ‘O’ fitment.
The Best Tyres For Touring
A decade ago you had Touring tyres and Sports Touring tyres. If you were heading to the Pyrenees on your GSX-R1000, you’d fit a Sports Touring tyre because a Touring tyre wouldn’t have been that good on the twisty stuff but the reality is that these days, a full-blown Touring tyre will do the business anywhere, from a trackday to a motorway.
It’ll have a decent wear rate, thanks mainly to the fact the majority of Touring tyres have a dual compound construction, with a harder compound rubber in the centre and a softer compound on the rear, for better edge grip.
They’ll have a fast warm-up time, great all-weather performance that’ll look after you when it’s raining cats and dogs or when you’re up early ready for a long day in the saddle and the outside temperature is nearing zero-degrees.
I’ve ridden on track on Touring tyres on big bikes like Kawasaki’s ZZR1400 and they’re not far short of a Sports road tyre.
The tyres in this pick are for all manner of bikes, from a Yamaha Tracer 900GT, to a Z1000SX, an S1000RR to a Versys 650 or VFR800.
Ideal tyes for the type of riders who do it all. From the daily commute, to back-road adventures or those who want to do a lap of France and still have enough rubber left to blast the last leg home.
The best choice for real-world riding
The Pilot Road series has something of a cult following and for good reason. When the Pilot Road 3 hit the market almost a decade ago, nothing else looked like it. The sipes (the small channels cut into the tread) made the tyre look more like a racing intermediate than a road tyre but they helped to give the tyre feel, amazing wet weather performance and a fast warm up. A decade on and these 6s are the latest offering.
Motorcycles you’d expect to see running a Touring tyre: From a Honda CB500F to a BMW R1250RS, a KTM Supermoto to a BMW S1000RR.
The rider’s most likely to be seen: With Touring there is no ‘likely’ scenario. They’re a popular choice for commuters, weekend warriors, Adventure-bike riders, wheelie-poppin’ Supernaked riders and everything in between.
If you want a budget touring tyre, try a: Avon Storm 3D XM
Other great tyres in the Touring category
Touring is a hotly contested category with every manufacturer producing at least one model, if not two. Touring tyres nibble into other categories too, from Adventure to Sports. With so much choice, it can be overwhelming but the good news is, there’s bound to be a brilliant Touring tyre for you.
Dunlop Roadsmart 4 – Dunlop’s latest premium Touring tyre features all new technology and a revised tread pattern when compared to the popular Roadsmart 3. A great tyre for those who like to combine good handling with high mileage.
Metzeler Roadtec 01 SE – Probably the best wet-weather Touring tyre on the market. It’s one of my favourite tyres and works well on pretty much any bike from a Sportsbike commuter to a Tourer.
Pirelli Angel GT2 – If you want to get your Touring bike handling brilliantly, then check out the Angel GT2. It combines Pirelli’s racing-knowledge with a dual compound construction that features a harder central section. A tyre that lasts well and offers superb handling.
Motorcycle tyre load index chart
A motorcycle tyre’s load index is a numerical code that corresponds to the maximum weight a tyre can support. In order to determine the load index you require, take the gross single axle load of your bike (see your owner’s manual). If it is, say, 340kg then each tyre needs a load index with a minimum load of 170kg, in this case 46. As two tyres that can carry 170kg each will safely carry 340kg.
Motorcycle tyre speed rating chart
Every motorcycle tyre has a speed rating. It is a single letter found after the load rating which is a single number. For example 67H or 55P.
The letter is a maximum speed rating, which indicates the maximum speed the tyre can safely reach, with the maximum load when the maximum listed inflation pressure is used.
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
Symbol, Max Speed (mph)
(V), more than 149mph
(W), more than 169mph
ZR, more than 149mph
How we researched this guide
I’ve spent over a decade riding all sorts of bikes on all sorts of tyres in different conditions. That’s given me a good foundation for what to look for in a tyre but this guide isn’t about my opinion.
For this guide, I spoke to tyre expert Chris Lyndon-Parker, the boss of motorcycle tyre suppliers, Two Tyres, to get real world feedback. I spoke to the major manufacturers to get their take on the tyres they recommend for each category too.
I also researched the latest magazine tyre tests from multiple magazines across Europe. I’ve also sifted through user ratings and reviews on retailer websites to get the full-360 on what’s worth fitting to give you the feel and confidence you need.
It’s impossible to ride on every tyre, in every condition on multiple bikes but with the research I’ve carried out, I think it’s pretty close to as good as it gets.
Motorcycle tyre FAQs
Do touring tyres have an expiry date?
All tyres will have a production date on the sidewall. From the moment they’re manufacturered, they’re guaranteed for 5 years but they will last around 10 years. So if you fit a pair that are unused but four years old, you’ve got around 6 years of usable life in them. If you don’t get through them in that time, perhaps take up a new hobby?
To see when your tyres were made look for the final four numbers after the DOT code. The first two numbers designate the week of the year and the second are the year. So a tyre with the code 3419 was made in the thirty-fourth week of 2019.
Ho many miles should I be able to get from a touring tyre?
This is a hard one to accurately answer as we all ride differently and all ride different bikes. You should be able to easily get 3,000 miles of mixed riding (think a 10-day lap of France, Italy and Germany) without the rear needing to be replaced. More sedate riding should see 4,000 miles from the rear, with the front getting at least 4,000 miles before needing to be replaced. we have heard stories of riders getting more than 10,000 miles from a set of tyres, so it all depends on your throttle control.
One factor that does affect tyre wear is your tyres pressures. When clocking up the miles, it’s important to keep on top of your pressures on a daily basis, to ensure your bike handles well and the tyres wear well.
Can I run two different brands of tyre on my tourer?
We don’t recommend it, especially when it comes to Touring tyres. These tyres are designed to work in all conditions but when it comes to wet weather performance, the tyre’s tread pattern is designed so that the front disperses water as best as possible but this can channel the water to the rear tyre. The manufacturers design the rear to deal with this situation and the tread pattern is there to disperse this water. If you mix brands, you could end up with a rear tyre that loses grip in the wet, due to it having to deal with more water than it was designed for.
Equally, different tyres will have different profiles and that could cause your rear tyre to wear faster, especially in the centre, depending on the front tyre’s profile.
What Is The Legal Requirement For Tyre Tread Depth?
Here in the UK, the legal requirement is that the tyre tread depth is no less than 1.0mm around the circumference of the middle three-quarters of the tyre.
Once your tyre reaches this limit, it must be replaced. It is advisable though, to replace tyres before they reach their legal limit, as their ability to provide traction will be heavily compromised.
Many organisations and companies advise changing at 2.5mm tread depth because at lower than this tread depth, you will notice a decline in your motorbike’s handling ability and stopping distance.
Riding around on tyres with a lower tread depth also makes you more susceptible to punctures, nasty loose nails and other damage to the tyres as they are wearing paper-thin.
Do they make motorcycle run-flat tyres?
In the car world, run-flat tyres have been the mainstay for over a decade. Can you believe that the first ‘run-flat tyre’ was introduced by Michelin in 1934? It was designed for military use and also for armoured bank vehicles to lower their risk of being successfully hijacked.
Back in the real world, run-flats are a common fitment to modern cars. Due to the way a motorcycle tyre needs to work, the development of a true run-flat motorcycle tyre has yet to hit the mainstream. A good alternative is to use a tyre sealant like Slime, which will prevent a tyre from immediately deflating if you get a puncture or a screw or nail in your tyre.
Do I need to scrub new tyres in?
You always had to scrub your tyres in but have modern methods of tyre production removed the need to do this?
In short no it hasn’t. The problem used to be that the release agent used to get the tyre form the mould was slippery. It was an issue and it could mean the tyre surface wouldn’t grip well until it was worn away. These days a lot of manufacturers use Teflon-coated moulds which removes the need for (as much) release agent to be used.
However, a tyre still needs bedding in for the first few miles. Firstly, it’ll pick up dirt when it’s shipped and stored at your local garage, not to mention the greasy hands of whoever is fitting it. Also, during the fitting process, the bead undergoes enormous forces and the first few miles allows it to properly seat on the rim. Going steady for the first few miles also allows the steel belt and aramid fibres to settle-down and start working properly.
So yes, you still need to bed in new tyres, so take it easy for the first few miles to give them a chance to work as the manufacturer intended.
How should I store my bike if it’s not being ridden
Your tyres will lose pressure over time. If you’re storing your bike for a month or more, it pays to keep it on paddock stands rather than sat on its tyre on the sidestand.
As the tyre loses pressure, it will deform and can form a flat spot, especially if the floor it is on reaches near-zero temperatures. It can cause this part of the tyre to become brittle.
If you don’t have paddock stands, then pump the tyres up to their maximum pressures and as silly as it sounds, roll the bike onto some carpet to keep the tyres from being subjected to extremely cold contact.