man checking motorcycle tires


Wear and tear can obviously have an effect on a motorcycle tires performance, but what about age? Did you know that motorcycle tires are only built to last about five years?

It's important how to check the remaining lifespan of a bike's tires. Things like road hazards, overloading, overinflating and even your riding style can all affect how long a tire can go for. We'll run through how to assess a bike's tires and decide if it's time for a replacement.

How Do Tires Deteriorate?

riding through mud

Tires are made of rubber, but over time this rubber slowly oxidizes. To put that in plain English, tires wear out with long-term exposure to air, heat, cold, and UV rays.

That's one of the reasons you always hear about bikes needing to be stored in cool, dry areas. Constant exposure to the elements can eventually break down the structural integrity of the tires.

Tires can also be worn down from things like over/underinflating, overloading your bike, and running into hazards on the road.

Check Your Tire Tread

To assess a tire's condition, start by checking the tread depth. This indicates the amount of wear on a tire.

Thankfully, tire manufacturers have made this one quite easy. There's actually a tire-wear indicator molded into the tire itself. Look for the tiny letters TWI on the side of the tire. These letters should not be level with any surface of the tire. If they are, then it's time for some new tires.

Look for Tire Defects

If the tread depth is up to scratch, check the tire for any physical defects. Cracking along the sides is one of the strongest indicators that a tire is due for replacement.

Has the tire lost its shape? A worn-out tire will eventually take on a square-like shape, and you'll probably notice a drop in comfort while you ride. Uneven wear is another sign that a tire has had it, so compare both sides during your inspection.

Identifying a Tire’s Age

Motorcycle tire age is one of the biggest factors when deciding if they need to be replaced. Old tires won't just affect your comfort and performance but create potentially dangerous situations. While the standard shelf life of tires is about five to six years, this can be slightly extended by keeping the bike in temperature-controlled storage.

Check Tire Date Codes

motorcycle tires age

Motorcycle tire date codes will tell you exactly when the tire was made. You can find them on the side of the tire. They're easy to read, so don't let that big number scare you. Tire codes tell you things like the tire size and other stuff, but we're only interested in the manufacture date.

See the last four digits of the code? This is a date code, and it tells you the exact week and year that the tire was made. Those first two digits represent the week of the year, and the last two digits are the year itself. Using this code, we can see that the tire in the picture above was made in the 34th week of 2021.

Old Motorcycle Tires: When to Replace them?

rider driving through sand

Replacing older tires can be expensive, but neglecting to do so opens you up to things like tire blowouts, hydroplaning, and ineffective braking.

The two biggest factors for tire replacements are age and condition. Any tire older than six years needs to go, while even newer tires that show signs of cracking and oxidation still need to be changed.

When assessing your tires, keep in mind that your rear tire wears out about twice as quickly as the front tire. Since you'll be replacing them at different intervals, make sure to buy the same make and model of tire, because tires are made to be used in pairs for optimal performance.


rider parked near water

Are 15-year-old motorcycle tires safe?

You might be wondering if your 15-year-old motorcycle tires are safe on a bike that otherwise runs fine. Hell no! Bike tires need to be replaced once they reach a life of six years, so don't even think about riding tires that are nearly old enough to drink.

Running with old tires won't just affect comfort and performance, but puts motorcycle owners in unnecessary danger. Buying tires isn't always cheap, but neglecting them just isn't worth the risk.

How do I know if my motorcycle tires are too old?

So how do you know if your motorcycle tires are too old? The most straightforward solution is to check the tire code, which will tell you exactly how old they are.

The last four digits tell you the exact week and year that each tire was made. For example, a tire code with the last four digits of 1022 was made in the tenth week of 2022. As a rule, tires should be replaced once they reach six years.

But age isn't everything. If your tires show signs of cracking or oxidation, they'll still need to be replaced even if they're new.

What happens to motorcycle tires as they age?

So what exactly happens to motorcycle tires as they age? Rubber is the primary material of tires, which happens to oxidize when exposed to the air. This can happen from long-term exposure to heat, cold, wind, and UV rays.

This process slowly decomposes the tires, which makes them dry out and lose their flexibility. That's why people try to leave their bikes inside in cool, dry conditions. It lengthens the lifespan of their tires (and other parts of the bike).

How can you tell when a motorcycle tire was made?

How exactly can you tell when a motorcycle tire was made? Thankfully, there's quite a simple method. You can simply check the date code on the side of the tire.

The tire code is a long line of numbers that begins with three letters - DOT. But as for checking the tire's age, we only care about the last four digits. These represent the week and year the tire was made.

For example, if the last four digits were 2020, we'd know that the tire was made in the 20th week of 2020. Simple, right?

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