Motorcycles and Sportbikes are the epitomai of freedom. They not only provide the rider (and passenger) with transport from point A to point B, but they also do that with a lot of styles and exhilarating performance. There are a lot of different motorcycles to choose from, some made for shorter stints in urban areas, some made for long road trips, and some made for the racing track.
Whatever motorcycle or sportbike you choose or already own, you will need a pair of high-quality tires in order to get the most out of it. A good set of tires can make all the difference in the world – not only your motorcycle will be easier to drive, but also much safer and more comfortable over long stints. Oh, and when choosing a high-quality tire, you can be sure that it will last for thousands of miles before you need to replace it.
In order to help you with choosing the tires for your motorcycle, I’ve created a list of the Top 10 best motorcycle tires (including sportbike tires). In this list, you can find many different tires that serve different purposes. This means that you should choose a pair of tires according to your needs, your driving style and the type of motorcycle or sportbike. While we are at it, I’ll discuss these things in the short buying guide.
Top 10 Best Motorcycle and Sportbike Tires
1. Michelin Commander II
Best high mileage - touring motorcycle tires
What better way to start this list other than a Michelin tire? The French company is known for producing one of the highest quality tires on the market, and the Commander II is certainly not an exception. I find it to be the best choice for riders who cover a lot of miles annually or go on long road trips.
Commander II offers an excellent blend of characteristics that are hard to beat in this sector, and that’s why this tire is on the first place on this list. However, please note that even though it is first, it doesn’t mean that it is best for everyone. Namely, riders of sportbikes may find it underwhelming, but don’t worry, there will be tires for you down below as well.
The best thing about the Michelin Commander II, when compared to other tires in this category, is that it is designed primarily with American riders in mind. Thus, it is extremely well suited to cruiser motorcycles and long road trips. I find it to be very comfortable on the road due to the rayon carcass ply, and very quiet too.
It is also very durable – you can easily get 20.000-miles out of these tires, and even up to 25.000-miles with careful driving. This result is absolutely unbeatable by any other tire, touring or not. It also mitigates the somewhat higher price than some of its competitors. By “somewhat” higher I don’t mean expensive, because it really isn’t. Some manufacturers even require more for their touring tires.
Another thing that I love about this tire is that it offers excellent handling in dry conditions, despite the touring moniker. It grips the road very well, in no part thanks to the aramid belts in the rear tire that control the centrifugal growth on the tire and allowing for bigger contact patch. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it can be driven like a sportbike tire, I would say that it is the best in the touring category.
That said, performance in wet conditions suffers when compared to some of its competitors. The Michelin Commander II is not unsafe when it is raining – far from that, but you can find better tires for those conditions. Still, for casual riding, I find it perfectly acceptable.
2. Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra
Best motorcycle tires for cruisers
If you own a cruiser or tourer motorcycle and want a tire that is the best fit for it, then the Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra is the best choice. As its name suggests, this tire is made specifically for long distance riding. Its main traits are low rolling resistance for excellent mileage, very good comfort and excellent traction in both wet and dry conditions. Or that’s what the manufacturer says.
Like many other long-distance tires, the Metzeler ME 888 features flat and wide geometry that dissipates toward the sidewall. Aided by the abrasion resistant polymers, this reduces fatigue and wear on the long run and makes this tire one of the most durable of any motorcycle tire out there. Another great thing is that the transversal grooves in the tread pattern are discontinued by compound bridges for more even wear. In other words, the tire will keep its shape and performance even after thousands of miles. I reckon that it will do around 20.000-miles before it needs to be replaced, which is a very good result.
But it is not the only durability where this tire shines. It also offers very good performance in dry conditions and very good wet performance as well. In the dry, it lacks some of the precision and grip the Michelin Commander II offers, but it is still great for most riders. In the rain, the prominent tread helps for excellent traction and grip – this is one of the best wet tires out there. The Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra is excellent in the comfort category as well, offering the rider and the passenger a very compliant ride and quiet performance, even at highway speeds.
All these traits make this tire one of the best choices for long-distance cruising. Durable, comfortable, and stable, the Metzeler ME 888 Marathon Ultra has everything you need in a cruiser tire. That said, the price is higher than most competitors in this category, but trust me, you get what you pay for here. Highly recommended.
3. Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21
Best sportbike tires for the street
Okay, let’s move onto sportbike stuff. Here high-performance is the norm and thus tires that provide the best possible grip in most conditions should be chosen over long-lasting touring tires. The Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 is my choice here (if you can find the new S22 model, even better) due to its excellent performance on the street. With a pair of these tires, you will get fantastic grip and traction, excellent braking performance, and even long-lasting treadlife when compared to other tires in this category. It is no coincidence then that most manufacturers choose the Battlax Hypersport S21 as their OEM choice in the sportbike category.
The main reason why the S21 is so popular in the street sportbike category is its phenomenal grip in both dry and wet conditions. With a pair of these tires, your motorcycle will be very agile in the corners, have high levels of grip, and amazing stability at higher speeds. Attacking corners with the S21 is a very pleasurable experience due to the excellent steering response and precise input. Despite being primarily designed to be driven in dry conditions, you can expect this tire to perform admirably in wet conditions as well. And even though it is primarily designed for street use, the Hypersport S21 is as much at home on the race track. That’s great news for riders who want to experience the dynamics of their bikes both on the road and on the track.
The best thing about this Bridgestone tire is the ULTIMAT EYETM compound technology, that not only enhances grip and traction but also improves abrasion resistance for long-lasting performance. Trust me, the Battlax Hypersport S21 is the most durable sportbike tire for the street. This somehow mitigates the higher asking price, but in all honesty, you can’t expect a Bridgestone tire to be inexpensive.
Overall, for riders who want the most pleasurable sporty experience on the street and on a winding road, the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 is the best choice out there. It combines excellent performance in a variety of conditions and also delivers outstanding treadlife for a hypersport tire. Highly recommended!
4. Michelin Pilot Road 4
Best sport touring motorcycle tires for street
By now, we’ve covered tires made for touring, long-distance cruising and sporty riding. But, why not combine all of those traits in one tire? The Michelin Pilot Road 4 offers excellent long-distance comfort and durability, but it also offers exhilarating riding experience down a twisty road. Sounds like the jack of all trades, and it really is – this tire can do seemingly everything.
Well then, why is it on the fourth place on this list? The answer is the price. It is up to 30% more expensive than other tires, which is not a small amount. That said, if you’re prepared to pay that much money for a pair of tires, you will not be disappointed with the Pilot Road 4. As a matter of fact, you will be one very happy rider.
That will be especially true when you start rolling these tires on the open road. Both the front and the rear tire provide excellent grip and traction. Agility is also above average, with responsive and tight steering control. All of these traits are the same no matter the conditions – it is excellent both on dry and wet pavement. It is especially good in braking performance in the wet, where it beats almost every other tire on the market.
Despite the fact that it offers excellent drivability in the corners, the Pilot Road 4 is long-lasting and durable as well. The 2CT technology with brand new tread compound and redesigned tread pattern help these tires to last 20% longer than their predecessors, which were not too shabby in the first place. In real life, this means that you can get around 15.000-18.000 miles, which is a fantastic result for a tire that also provides sporty grip in the corners.
But, what about comfort? While probably not on the level of the best touring or cruiser tires, the Pilot Road 4 still offers compliant ride over bumps. Where it suffers though is noise – at higher speeds, it is louder than most touring tires, albeit certainly much quieter than hypersport tires. However, I think that this is an acceptable sacrifice in the name of the performance it gives in the corners.
Overall, no other tire offers the same levels of performance and durability in one package. If you want the best of both worlds, then this is the tire for you. Just be ready to make a significant cut into your budget.
5. Continental ContiMotion
Best budget sport touring motorcycle tires
All of the tires on this list right up to this one are arguably expensive for most people. Yes, they offer excellent performance across the board, but what benefit all that has if you can’t buy them? Well, I have an answer for budget-minded buyers as well – the Continental ContiMotion is an inexpensive tire that still offers excellent performance in almost every condition. Sure, it’s not as good as the best, but at the price, it is offered, honestly, it is a steal.
Unlike other budget tires, with the ContiMotion you get a product from one of the biggest tire manufacturers in the world, that is known for producing high-quality rubber. The sport-touring ContiMotion is designed so that it has safe and reliable feedback on both dry and wet road, and it also has newly formulated polymers for better mileage. The 0° Steel-belt construction helps for excellent stability at higher speeds, and also more compliant ride.
In the real world, the ContiMotion gives the driver a lot of confidence thanks to the excellent grip in the corners, and also the precise and responsive steering. It is also very good in the wet – almost on the level of Michelin and Metzeler tires in the same category. Ride comfort is good, and there is not a lot of noise at higher speeds. Despite the lower price, you can expect very good durability with this tire. While you may not get the same mileage like with premium tires in this category, the ContiMotion will still be close enough.
That said, the ContiMotion is not at its best on very powerful motorcycles and sportbikes. In other words, it is more of a sporty tourer tire and less of a hypersport one. For the price though, this is expected. Seriously, for the money you can buy a pair of ContiMotion tires, you will struggle to buy one from some. Thanks to this, this tire is one of the best, if not the best budget option on the market right now. It is safe, reliable, and comfortable, and it also looks the part. I think that most riders out there will be very happy with this one.
6. Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 2
Best hypersport sportbike tires
While the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 is a great choice for sporty riding on the street, if you are more serious about performance, then the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 2 is the best choice. Compared to the S21, the Italian tire offers much more focused performance and is better for use on the track. However, it is also not as durable as its Japanese rival, but that’s to be expected from a tire that’s specifically developed for fast motorcycle riding.
And when I say fast, I mean it. The Diablo Rosso Corsa 2 offers unbeatable levels of grip in the corners. With a pair of these tires, you can lean into the corners like Valentino Rossi and brake to a stop with so much G that your intestinal organs will need a day to recover. And it is not just grip – the Rosso Corsa 2 offers fantastically precise and responsive steering, making every ride a pure joy. This is no coincidence – the tire is made from a double compound in the front and triple compound in the rear. Pirelli says that the rubber is an innovative combination of 100% Silica and Black Carbon, and all I can say is that it really works. Oh, and when I say works, I mean that it not only works in dry conditions but wet conditions as well. Okay, maybe not on the level of touring tires, but you can still ride your bike without being scared that it will lose traction like some other hypersport tires.
With all that said, if you want a comfortable and quiet tire, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 2 is not for you. It is not bad, but it can be tiring on long trips. Not that you will use your sportbike on very long road trips, but it is still good to know that. It is also good to know that this tire won’t last as long as other tires on this list. However, while this tire requires frequent replacement, the price is not very high – it is lower than most hypersport tires in this category, despite the excellent performance. If you are serious about sporty riding, don’t even think about it – get a Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 2.
7. Continental Legend
Best whitewall cruiser motorcycle tires
Let’s say you want a cruiser tire that will offer all the benefits of a modern motorcycle tire, but you still want the classic appearance with a white wall on the side. Then, the Continental Legend is absolutely the best choice on the market. It is not only stylish in a retro kind of fashion, but it also offers performance that’s comparable to modern cruiser tires. Combine a pair of these tires with custom-made rims and install it on your Harley, and you will have a machine that will be envied by many.
Apart from the arguably best styling in the business, the Legend offers excellent performance for every cruising machine. It is specifically designed with Harleys® engineered carcass that can easily support the weight of heavier cruiser motorcycles. The strong construction also helps for easy handling and solid behavior at cruising speeds, perhaps unlike any other tire in this category, and it also makes it very durable. You can easily get over 15.000-miles from these tires, which is a great result in its own. Thanks to the multi-grooves pattern, the Legend is excellent in wet conditions, even in heavy rain. While you will certainly be soaked in those conditions, you will at least know that the tires will keep you safe.
Despite the tough construction, the Continental Legend still offers compliant ride over bumpy roads and is very quiet at the same time. With a pair of these tires, the only thing you’ll hear is the growl of the engine and the wind. The MileagePlus technology, on the other hand, will improve the fuel consumption of your cruiser bike, which is always welcome in these machines. Oh, and this will also improve performance in a straight line, if you’re into that.
All these positive traits are incorporated in a package that is priced so that they are in the reach of most buyers. While the Legend is not a cheap tire, it is far from expensive and should be on the list of everyone that wants a good cruiser tire for years to come.
8. Dunlop American Elite
Best motorcycle tires for Harley Davidson
While you can install any cruiser tire on your Harley Davidson and call it a day, it will not be the Dunlop American Elite. This tire is an all-American product, which means that by installing it on your Harley, it will also keep the bike as all-American. While for some people this is important on a patriotic basis, I recommend this tire because of its performance. Unlike many of its competitors, the American Elite is specifically designed with Harley Davidson in mind, and it is even offered as an OEM tire on the same bikes. So, if you own a Harley, this is the one to get.
The number one reason why the Dunlop American Elite is best suited to Harley Davidson is that it is built very toughly. This is very important for heavy cruisers such as Harley’s bikes, and also engines with a lot of torque. Put any other tire on those cruisers and it will lose its potency in no time. The second reason is the mileage you will get with a pair of these tires – owners easily cover over 20.000-miles, which is an amazing feat considering the weight and power of the bikes.
Apart from the excellent mileage, the American Elite also provides the driver with very good handling and grip in the corners – also, not very easy to achieve on such heavy bikes. This is achieved thanks to the MT Multi-Tread rear tire compound that incorporates a long-wearing compound in the center of the tire, along with a lateral grip compound on each shoulder for better handling.
The third thing you will like about this tire if you own Harley Davidson is the design. The “American Elite” name is proudly presented on the side of this tire, but perhaps more important, it is available in black (BW), narrow white (NW), and wide-white (WWW) sidewalls, so that it looks great on bikes from different generations. This Dunlop tire is also available in many different sizes, for Harley Davidson bikes of different eras. The manufacturer promises that it covers newer and older models, and also selected Victory and Indian motorcycles.
9. Metzeler Roadtec 01
Best sport touring tires for wet riding
I’ve already included a sport-touring tire, the Michelin Pilot Road 4, but Metzeler also has a great tire in this category and it is called the Roadtec 01. In my testing, this tire is closely matched to the Michelin in terms of performance, and probably a bit better in some areas, but it is also a tad more expensive and that’s why it is lower on the list. Despite that, I think that it is an excellent choice for owners of touring motorcycles who want a tire that will offer high levels of grip and traction in both dry and wet conditions, and long-lasting treadlife.
The Metzeler Roadtec 01 comes with a completely new tread design that enhances mechanical grip, coupled with compound evolved from the award-winning Roadtec Z8 for increased confidence in any condition. In reality, this tire offers sporty performance in the corners with precise handling and responsive steering. It is especially good in the wet, where the Metzeler Interact technology helps the tire stay glued to the road. Braking performance is also excellent both in dry and wet weather – up there with the best motorcycle tires. Oh, and being a sporty touring tire, the Roadtec 01 offers very good ride comfort, even on bumpy roads, and it is not very loud at highway speeds.
Being a Metzeler, you can expect from this tire to last a very long time before replacement – around 15.000-18.000 miles. And not only the Metzeler Roadtec 01 can last long, but it doesn’t lose performance over time. This is especially important for owners of touring motorcycles who cover a lot of miles annually and want a tire that will be always there and provide a safe riding experience.
The biggest drawback of the Roadtec 01 is probably its price, which higher than even the Michelin Pilot Road 4. If the price was just a tad lower, this would’ve been the best sport touring tire out there. That said, if you find it at a discount, or at a cheaper price point than the Michelin than this is an excellent tire that will certainly not disappoint you.
10. Shinko 712 Series Tire
Best budget motorcycle tires
If your budget is very low, but you still want a good quality tire that will provide you with safe riding experience, then the popular Shinko 712 is the best tire for your needs. While it doesn’t provide the performance of the best premium motorcycle tires, the Shinko 712 will be good enough for casual riders who mostly use their motorcycles in urban areas, and for shorter road trips. It is rated at 130 mph, which is not too shabby, and for motorcycles that don’t weigh over 677 pounds. The price of the Shinko 712 is so much lower than most other motorcycle tires that for the price of two pairs of the Shinko, you can’t buy even a single tire elsewhere. Even some bicycle tires are more expensive than the front Shinko 712!
And it’s not like you lose too much in terms of performance. Sure, the grip is not nearly as good as premium tires, and the responsiveness simply isn’t there, but casual riders will be hard-pressed to find a difference. I think that most riders will be perfectly satisfied with how this tire handles, especially given the bargain price. And wait, you haven’t heard the best bit – the Shinko 712 is very good in the wet, where it offers very good traction and strong braking performance. This is achieved thanks to the staggered tread pattern. Overall, it is very safe in every conceivable condition you can encounter on a motorcycle, which tells a lot about its qualities.
Despite the very low price, the Shinko is also pretty durable. Again, I must say that you will not get the same mileage as with premium tires, but if you don’t use your bike for long road trips, you can still have several years of happy motoring.
What to Look Out for When Buying Best Motorcycle Tires
The Top 10 list above can really help you choose excellent tires for your motorcycle or sportbike, but what if you need specialized tires that aren’t there? Well, I’ve also created a sort of a buying guide, where we will talk about all the different types of tires for motorcycles and sportbikes, why you need them and what to look out for when buying a new one.
Type of Motorcycle = Type of Tire
Always choose your tires according to the type of motorcycle you own, and the way you ride it. There are several different types of motorcycles, al serving different purposes. In order to get the most out of them, it is highly recommended that you always buy tires that suite that kind of bike.
For example, if you own a cruiser motorcycle, like a Harley Davidson, you should install Cruiser tires on it. Let’s say you install hypersport tires on your Cruiser motorcycle for better handling in the corners. It sounds like a good idea, but these tires are made for lighter bikes and can’t sustain the weight of a big Cruiser. Even after several hundred miles, the tire will begin to lose its shape and performance and you will need to replace it in no time. It’s the same with sportbikes and cruiser tires – your motorcycle will be very hard to ride and performance in the corners will be lackluster.
With all that said, there are some variations of tires in the said categories. For example, if you own a touring motorcycle, you may opt for a tire that’s more comfortable for long road trips, or a sportier tire that’s better in the corners. It’s the same with sportbikes – there are tires that are better suited to street use and tires that are better suited to street use.
Radial or Bias?
This refers to the way the tires are designed and made. Radial tires have steel belts that run straight from bead to bead, while bias-ply tires have steel belts that run from bead to bead, but at an angle. Due to this construction, radial tires are lighter (less material) and have softer sidewalls. Bias-ply tires, on the contrary, have much sturdier construction and can carry more weight, but they are heavier by themselves as well.
Without wasting too much time explaining all the differences, radial tires are a better choice for almost every type of motorcycle other than cruisers or dual sports (in some cases). For those two, you’ll probably need bias-ply tires due to more weight (cruisers), and worse surface conditions (dual sports).
Tire Dimensions and How to Read Them
Depending on the motorcycle, tires can vary greatly in size. Some motorcycles, for example, have larger wheels but skinnier tires, while others are the opposite. In order to get the best performance out of your motorcycle or sportbike, it is recommended that you install tires with the same size as the OEM ones. In some situations, owners could put wider tires for more grip, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it is best to leave them as they were from the factory.
Having cleared that out, we can now talk about the numbers on the side of the tire and what they mean. For example, we will have a look at Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 rear tire for sportbikes, which in this case is 180/55ZR17. The first number here is the width of the tire in millimeters. A wider tire should give you more grip in the corners, but you may lose agility and rideability.
The second number is the height of the sidewall, expressed in percentage compared to the width of the tire. In this example, the height of the sidewall is 55% od 180mm, which turns out to be 99mm. A bigger sidewall usually gives a smoother ride quality, while smaller sidewall will give you better performance in the corners due to less tire deformation.
The letters after the width of the tire and the height of the sidewall are expressing the speed rating. In this case, the tire is ZR rated, which means that it can withstand velocities above 150mph or 240kmh.
The third number is the size of the wheel, expressed in inches. Please note that while you can install a tire that is wider and has a bigger sidewall on your 17-inch wheels, you can’t install tires made for 17-inch wheels on 16-inch wheels.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I Put a Rear Tire in the Front and Vice-versa?
A big NO. Here’s why: tires in the front are always a bit different than the tires in the rear. Even if you buy a pair of tires, like let’s say Michelin Commander II, the front one will be designed for easier and more responsive steering, and better braking performance, while the rear one will be designed for better grip and traction. Never put a rear tire in the front and vice-versa, or your motorcycle rideability and safety will be seriously worsened.
How Long do Motorcycle and Sportbike Tires Last?
It all depends on the type of the tire, and the type of the motorcycle. If you own a sportbike, for example, the tires will not last as long as they are made specifically for better grip in the corners and less for durability. In my experience, sportbike tires last from 5,000-10,000 miles, while touring or cruiser tires last from 10,000-20,000 miles depending on the tire.
Can Racing Tires be Used for the Street?
Technically it is possible to use racing tires on the street, but I would recommend against it. First of all, why would you – these tires are made for extremely fast riding on the track and wouldn’t give you that much advantage on the street. Besides, they have almost no tread on them, which means that even a little dirt on the road can have an adverse effect on the traction. Remember, racing tracks are cleaned almost daily, while public roads certainly aren’t. Also, no tread means that racing tires don’t work in the rain at all.
How To Change & Balance Your Motorcycle Tires?
How to Check Motorcycle Tire Pressure?
Choosing the right pair of tires for your motorcycle or sportbike is certainly not an easy task, but I hope that this article helped you a little. Even if you didn’t bother about reading the buying guide, I’m sure that my list of best motorcycle tires are excellent for almost any rider out there. Just be sure that you choose a tire according to the type of your motorcycle and you should be good to go!