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Are your motorcycle tires cupping?

Are your motorcycle tires cupping?

Your Harley-Davidson® Tire is cupping?

We see it quite often. We also get some complaints that the Dunlop tires are crap.

First off, let's talk about Dunlop Tire quality. Yes, we sell Dunlops. Yes, we also sell other brands, including Avon, Metzler, Michelin, and others. But not as many as Dunlops.

Dunlop tires are good.

What do we mean they are good?

  • They are good for mileage.
  • They are good for wet weather.
  • They are good for stickiness in the corners.
  • They are good at stopping power.

Are they great at any of those? No...they are good.

Try and find a tire that does all of those things well. You won't. Yes, we know some of you love your ___________ (fill in the blank) tires. Yes, we know you love them because you can corner like you are on rails.

Does everyone ride the corners hard? No. Do some. Yes.

Yes, we know some of you don't like to ride in the rain. Do some. Yes.

Get the point? Harley-Davidson® is trying to find a tire that does all of these things well. They found it with Dunlop tires and some Michelins for certain models.

Now, on to the original topic. Cupping.

What is it?

Cupping or scalloping is uneven wear on the tire. See the photo below.

Cupped Tire

With that said. Your motorcycle can make different sounds when the tires are cupping. We can't articulate the sound with words, but if you want to come in, we will make the sound for you. How does it ride? When you are riding straight and coming into a corner, you can quickly feel like the tire has a step that it came off. Almost as if there is uneven pavement.

What Causes Cupping?

A lot of things cause cupping. The most common two scenarios that cause cupping:

1. Cornering hard. Yes. We know you are an awesome rider. You are the best since Evel Knievel, but if you ride hard in the corners, you should expect a tire that is designed to be "good" in a lot of areas (see above), that it will wear differently.

2. Tire Pressures. Too High or Too low. Traditionally they are low. Yes, we also know you check your tire pressure "all the time." But, why is it that when the tire is evaluated on our bench, it is running 20 pounds when it should be 38-40? We see this a lot as well. We recommend checking tire pressures before every ride.  We have a customer named Rick who checks his tire pressure before every ride.  We also have a friend Joe that never checks his.  

3. Hard Braking. If you brake hard. Expect some cupping. Braking hard causes the tire to grab and wear in one direction. When braking is applied to the front tire, the load transfer over flexes the tire.

4.  Not cornering at all.  Some of you ride straight and claim your Harley is not designed to corner.  Okay.  

With all of this said, we see the same amount of Dunlop tires getting 4000 miles that we do getting 16000. Stated differently, one customer comes in and his tire is spent at 4000 miles (Joe). The next comes in with the same model Dunlop and has 16,000 miles (Rick). It becomes very difficult to explain to a customer with 4000 miles that another customer is getting 16000. They feel they received a defective tire. Factually, they didn't get a defective tire, they just treated the tire differently in their riding preferences and or pressures. 

How to avoid cupping

In interviewing customers who get a lot of miles. They don't accelerate hard. They don't corner hard. They check the pressures religiously. They ride to relax. One customer said recently to us, "I bought a Harley® to cruise. Don't get me wrong, we corner hard once in a while, but we don't need to lose our buddy in the dust on the corners. I'm not a showoff." Not our words, our customer Mike said that. To that end, once a tire is cupping, there is no turning back. It is gone. You can't adjust your riding habits or pressures and allow the tire to mend itself.  The tire isn't Terminator 2.

We hope this sheds light on tire cupping. If you are focused on only one specific type of riding (cornering, rain, etc). You can purchase a tire for that type. But if you want a good all-around tire for your Harley-Davidson® Motorcycle. Stick with the OEM Harley-Davidson® Dunlop. Call us biased, but we all ride our own Harley® and we all have different riding habits. We don't see cupping on our own Harley®'s.