Different types of tires provide distinctive advantages to motorcycles. While there are no one tire fits all approach for all motorcycle models, wide tires are usually preferred as high-performing tires.
How true is that? And do skinny tires provide no advantage at all? Let’s dig in.
Skinny tires vs wide tires – which tires are best for a motorcycle? Wide tires are typically considered better since they provide better traction, road grip, speed handling, stability, off-road driving, and braking effectiveness. Skinny tires do have their advantages like low cost, high mileage, and easier maneuverability.
Let’s deep dive into the functionalities and performance of both these tires across different parameters.
These parameters include – traction and road grip, cost, maneuvering and turning, rolling resistance, power requirements, mileage and fuel efficiency, speed handling, stability, braking effectiveness, cornering capability, and off-road driving.
Road Grip and Traction
Traction refers to the grip the motorcycle tire has on the road. Better the traction or grip on the road, the smoother will be the bike riding for the rider.
If the motorcycle rider loses traction, then there is a chance of skidding or falling down on the road.
So, which tires have the better traction? Wide tires provide better traction when compared to skinny or narrow tires.
This is because wide tires have larger surface contact with the road. As a result, the traction improves because of the increased contact between the tire and the road.
Wide tires are invariably costlier than skinny tires.
Skinny tires are a cheaper and more economical alternative when compared to wide tires. Even motorcycle models which contain wide tires will be costlier owing to the additional charge paid by the manufacturer to their tire supplier.
Similarly, the replacement of a wide tire costs you more than that of a skinny tire. In fact, one of the main reasons why bike manufacturers still use skinny tires provided the motorcycle design allows it, is because it brings down the total cost of the motorcycle.
If you want to replace the tire for your motorcycle, be aware that wide tires are going to be costly and skinny tires are going to be cheaper.
Maneuvering and Turning
While wide tires provide you with more traction and road grip, skinny tires give you the flexibility to maneuver and turn your motorcycle easily.
When you are riding on topsy-turvy roads, or you are going for a turn, or you are changing lanes, then skinny tires on your bike are much easier to handle. The turning and steering will be smoother without requiring much effort from the rider.
Wide tires, on the other hand, do not provide that flexibility and comfort when turning, maneuvering, steering, or changing the lines for your motorcycle.
Rolling resistance refers to the friction resistance that tires face while running on the road freely. If you speed up the motorcycle and then go into neutral, the tire which comes to a halt faster will have higher rolling resistance.
As expected, wide tires have higher rolling resistance than skinny tires. The larger surface contact between the wide tire and the road results in higher friction faced by the wide tire. And that’s why they usually have high rolling resistance.
Higher rolling resistance demands high power requirements. The power to move the tire forward overcoming the rolling friction will automatically be higher in the wide tires.
For that reason, wide tires require higher power than skinny tires if all other things remain the same.
It might not surprise you that wide tires are typically complimented with higher engine capacities.
Mileage and Fuel Efficiency
Now, this is the main advantage – apart from the low cost – that skinny tires provide.
Since skinny tires have lower rolling resistance and lower power requirements than wide tires, fuel consumption is considerably lower.
When the fuel consumption is lower to achieve the same speed levels as that of a motorcycle with wide tires, naturally skinny tires in a motorcycle provide better mileage and fuel efficiency.
Bottomline, skinny tires provide better mileage and fuel efficiency as compared to wide tires.
Motorcycle handling and steering, especially at higher speed levels are easier with wide tires than with skinny tires.
The traction and road grip plays a significant role while you are riding at higher speeds. Since wide tires have better traction and grip, handling a motorcycle with wide tires is far easier during high-speed levels than that of motorcycles with skinny tires.
In other words, the speed handling of motorcycles is smoother with wide tires.
Wide tires provide far more stability than skinny tires.
If the road is wet due to rain or it is slippery, there will be a high chance of your motorcycle skidding. Wide tires help you in this exact situation. They reduce the chances of your motorcycle skidding.
Even if the roads are slippery and wet, the wide tires provide that much need stability for the bike to prevent any slipping or skidding.
In addition, if any nail is stuck, a wide tire allows you to travel some more time over a skinny tire. You can take it to a service shop to get the tire plugged or replaced from there.
Skinny tires, unfortunately, do not provide the level of stability that wide tires provide to a motorcycle. As a result, the chance of skidding increases on slippery or wet roads when you have skinny tires.
Compared to skinny tires, motorcycles with wide tires are easier to apply brakes and halt the bike.
This braking effectiveness is also complimented by the use of braking systems. Generally, wide tires are used in high cc engine motorcycles. As a result, motorcycles with wide tires will most definitely have disc brake systems.
Motorcycles with skinny tires, on the other hand, are usually found in lower cc engine motorcycles. As a result, some motorcycles use drum brake systems for skinny tires.
As discussed in this post, the disc braking system has superior functionalities and braking performance than the drum braking system. This factor adds in as well to improve the braking effectiveness of the wide tires when compared to the motorcycles with skinny tires.
Simply put, the wider the tire – the better the cornering capability of the motorcycle.
So, wide tires provide better cornering capabilities in a motorcycle when compared to skinny tires. This has to do with superior traction, grip, and larger friction to the contact area that wide tires have better than skinny tires.
There is one inconvenience with wide tires during cornering though. The motorcycle rider has to lean more when compared to skinny tires.
Other than that, cornering is much easier with wide tires than with skinny tires.
Off Road Driving
If you drive on muddy paths, on irregular roads, or during the rainy season, the tires play an important role in giving you a smooth riding experience.
Off-road driving is usually better with wide tires since they offer better traction and has higher rolling resistance to prevent skidding of the bike.
To sum up the advantages and disadvantages of both wide tires and skinny tires, here is the comparison table across all the different parameters discussed above.
|Parameters||Wide Tires||Skinny Tires|
|Traction and Road Grip||High||Low|
|Maneuvering and Turning||Difficult||Easy|
|Mileage and Fuel Efficiency||Low||High|
|Off Road Driving||Easy||Difficult|
What Tires Do Manufacturers Use?
How do manufacturers decide on which tire to use in their motorcycles then? Is the choice of wide or skinny tires arbitrary?
Not at all.
The choice of tires, whether to go for skinny tires or wide tires depends on the design of the motorcycle model. More specifically, the engine.
For higher capacity engines, wide tires are chosen for motorcycles. And for lower capacity engine motorcycles, skinny tires are preferred by the manufacturers.
This is mainly because higher cc engines generate more power. And skinny tires when accelerated to top speeds with such high power can lose traction with the road which can be dangerous.
Wide tires, on the other hand, can accommodate such high power and acceleration without any difficulties. The tires won’t lose traction easily and provide better road grip.
For these reasons, manufacturers use wide tires for high cc engine motorcycles. And for lower-capacity engines, skinny tires are used in motorcycles since they reduce the cost.