Modifying a motorcycle is one of the great pleasures of ownership. You can customize your ride so that it meets all your needs.
A growing segment of riders is taking that concept to a different place. Called “Dark Siders,” they update their motorcycle by using car tires instead of ones meant for the bike. This group is passionate about pushing the envelope and trying different ways to maximize their fun on the road.
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Is this practice safe? Can you be pulled over if you ride a motorcycle with car tires, and are there insurance issues to consider?
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Is It Safe to Use a Car Tire on a Motorcycle?
A motorcycle is a single-track vehicle. When you take a bike through a turn, it naturally leans into that motion. Having car tires underneath you instead of ones made for what you’re riding causes the maneuvering profile to change.
A motorcycle tire has a U-shaped design, allowing the contact area to change its shape and size when navigating turns and corners.
Car tires use a flat design. It uses an even contact area across the entire surface that doesn’t change shape or size when correctly inflated. That means this option doesn’t withstand the same level of shock during a high-camber angle as something made for the motorcycle.
Additional differences include sidewall stiffness, total size, and construction. The rigidity differences can be enough to cause blowouts while on a motorcycle with car tires when the bike isn’t driven according to its equipment needs.
What Are the Risks of Using Car Tires on Motorcycles?
You can safely drive a motorcycle with car tires if you’re on a long stretch of highway without many turns or curves. You’d want to know how your bike moves and balances at different speeds to ensure you can stay in the saddle.
When you engage a curve, the turning motion and gravity effects place a car tire on its edge. That means about one-third of the available tread is in contact with the road. The tire could fail if you have too much pressure on the sidewalls.
Since you have less contact with the road while turning, there is a higher risk of dumping the motorcycle. Should that happen, you’d have damage to the chrome, paint, and exterior components at almost any speed.
Car tires tend to be wider than motorcycle options, which means you could damage your equipment. Updates to the fork and suspension might be necessary to use this modification.
Is It Legal to Ride Motorcycles with Car Tires?
The legality of a car tire on motorcycle failure issue is up to the individual jurisdictions in the United States. You’ll need to review what modifications are permissible, including tire shape, width, and size changes.
If car tires are not permitted on motorcycles where you’re riding, then police officers have the authority to pull you over. Citations or demands to repair (or both) could be issued if your bike doesn’t meet the street-legal definition for that location.
Please remember that what might be considered legal where you live might be illegal where you plan to ride. Try to review the laws and regulations before traveling to avoid unexpected complications.
Will Insurance Companies Pay a Claim with Car Tires on a Motorcycle?
Most insurance companies will deny a claim if you modify a motorcycle by using equipment not meant for the purposes it was manufactured to meet. This fact applies to all vehicles.
You can still complete the modification, but it could be treated as a “use at your own risk” scenario.
Whether you use car tires on motorcycles safely or not is irrelevant to the situation. A car tire is designed to work with four-wheeled vehicles and doesn’t have the manufactured profile to support a bike’s activities. You may have never been in an accident, but your driving record is not part of the equation.
Your policy outlines what to expect if illegal modifications are damaged on your bike. If you prefer to ride on the dark side, you might need a custom policy for car tires on motorcycle failure issues.
The best advice is to contact your current agent or request a quote for motorcycle insurance when you want to try car tires on your motorcycle.
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