Buying part worn motorcycle tyres is the most cost effective way of getting sticky rubber on your machine, which will give you plenty of time out on track for significantly less money than buying brand new track day tyres.
It’s not just as easy as buying any old pair of part worn tyres though, it’s good to make sure of a few things so you know what you’re buying and what to expect. With that in mind, you should be looking at the following:
Plenty of tread – How much tread is left is a good indication of how much the tyre has been used. As a rough guide, having between 2mm-3mm on the sides of the tyre is good going. You will see about 4mm-5mm in the middle as it’s not used as much and doesn’t take as much load. If a seller tells you there’s 4mm-5mm left on the tyre, they are most certainly talking about the middle which is fine for road use, but as the tyre will be spending most of its time on the sides it’s worth knowing the side tread depth specifically.
Smooth wear – If the tyre has smooth, even wear across the whole face i.e. there’s no sections of the tyre that visually look very different from the rest, this is a good indication of a good suspension setup and/or correct tyre pressure being used. If one section of the tyre has worn VERY differently from the rest this can be hot or cold tear. If it’s been run on the bike like this for a long time it could have done detrimental damage to the tyre.
How old – Most part worn motorcycle tyres won’t be more than a couple of years old as they would have been raced on then sold not long after.
If you find a tyre that’s more than 3-4 years old I would be looking elsewhere for newer rubber. Tyres perish just like normal rubber and given enough time they will start to lose their effectiveness.
If a seller hasn’t stated the age then ask, every tyre has a manufacture date stamped onto it which consists of four digits, the first two digits represent the week of the year and the second two digits represent the year. So the tyre in the above picture was manufactured on the third week of 2011.
Sizes – It’s worth finding out what size tyre you can run on your bike. You don’t want to go and buy a set of part worn tyres only to find they rub on the swing arm, hugger or front mud guard.
Should I worry about heat cycles – The theory is every heat cycle a tyre goes through the less effective it becomes. In truth though it’s impossible to know exactly how many it’s gone through and to what extent, so don’t worry too much about this. In my early years doing track days I ran tyres over long periods of time with and without tyre warmers and never noticed any massive performance drop. Best to judge on tread depth, tyre age and wear pattern.
How many days will I get from them? – This is very rider specific. I have seen people destroy a tyre in a few sessions, where as I myself have run a Metzeler Racetec for 10-12 days (it was that many I can’t remember) and the tyre still had tread left. This was of course in my early days.
A part worn tyres wear rate is determined by a mixture of the brand of tyre, the pressures used, how the suspension is set up and how kind you right hand is to the tyres. Having all working nicely will see good wear rate, having them all working against you will see you kill a tyre in no time at all.
See my when to change motorcycle tyres guide for a more detailed look on tyre durability.
Listings with little information – If you see a very vague advert for a tyre that simply states ‘plenty of life left’ it’s either because the tyre isn’t in the best condition, or they’re just lazy and couldn’t be bothered to list it properly. Ask them questions or ask for close up pictures, if they try and run you in circles steer well clear.
Where to buy? – In all honesty, if you know a motorcycle racer ask them if you can buy their tyres off of them, that way you’ll know the history and you’ll know they aren’t going to rip you off. Or if you have friends who know racers then do the same. Other than that it’s worth having a look on ebay as you can often grab some used tyres at a good price (see below for links to the current best part worn tyres).
You can also buy part worn motorcycle tyres on a track day itself. Expect to pay a little more than normal though, unless the tyre guy is just looking to shift them ASAP.
Michelin Power Cup Evo