Slip Sliding Away
How does one tell when their tires are worn out?

McCoy sliding it with style...  but can you do this with confidence?by Eric Stradal
Durango, Colorado
Member Since October 2002

"Am I ready to for new tires?"
You most likely wouldn't want to recieve the answer from your otherwise trusty TZ250. The cost of pre-emptively changing tires is pretty small compared to the cost of a crash. I know, at least on my TZ, I'm riding too close to the edge to recover from what happens when
tires "go off".

I've done a lot of endurance races, and there are any number of ways your tires will try to kill you when you use them too long. Here are the three most likely scenarios you are likely to encounter:

1. You hit your front brake at the braking marker, squeeze the lever and nothing happens. In a split second you realize the front tire is locked up, and you aren't slowing down. If you're not already on the ground, let go of the lever, apply as much front and rear brake as you can and try to ride it out. From then on, move your braking markers way back.

2. You get on the gas coming out of a corner (the same way you've done 100 times before), and the rear tries to pass the front. You have to make a quick decision about whether you can save it. If you try to save it, and it's too far out, it's high-side city.

3. Mid-corner one end, or the other will try to jump out from underneath you. Usually it's the front tire. You have to keep the bike up on your knee and nail the gas to try to get the rear to slide.

Mick Doohan loses it at the British GP in 1993,  chasing #1, Wayne RaineyWhen the rear slides, the front will usually hook back up. When it does, you're usually good to go because the sliding front tire will scrub off a lot of your speed. So you end up slowly riding out of the corner. If the rear comes around, stay steady on the gas and try to flat-track it. If you chop the gas, you'll high side. If you hit the steering stop, you'll high-side. You just have to relax, and let the bike find its own equilibrium.

I was in an endurance race on an R1 in 2001 where I'd lose the front tire once or twice a lap. It was too late in the race to put on a spare, so I rode it out. I had to ride really conservatively, even got passed by a sv650. But riding at 75%, it wasn't a problem to "save it", every time.

I know that if I was riding the TZ at 95%, the chances of saving it would be much, much lower.

Also, when a tire goes off, it almost always surprises you. You're doing the same thing you did every other lap, and suddenly the tire is sliding away. If you can catch it the first time, you can alter your riding style so you won't crash later. But that first time is always a matter of chance.

I'm not willing to take that chance on a TZ ( you have to risk it on an endurance bike, but you're riding a lower intensity), so I change tires often.

Thanks for listening!

  Eric

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