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What causes motorcycle tire cupping?

You may be a rider who always wears complete protective gear from head to toe and is always practicing defensive driving, but if you do not regularly maintain your tires or subject them to excessive wear through improper care and driving techniques, you are still essentially putting yourself in danger.

Once your tires start showing signs of cupping and you fail to act on it immediately, your safety is already compromised.

Motorcycle tire cupping explained

Motorcycle tire cupping, also known as scalloping, is a type of tire wear that occurs when the tread experiences excessive bouncing. This irregular motion interferes with how tires make contact with the road and results in uneven spots on the rubber.

Here are the 8 common causes of motorcycle tire cupping.

  1. Making sharp turns too fast
  2. Braking too hard
  3. Under and overinflated tires
  4. Overloading the tires
  5. Misaligned tires
  6. Worn-out suspension
  7. Tire imbalance
  8. Low quality and cheap tires

If you have experienced motorcycle tire cupping, it could be any one or a combination of these 8 factors.

Constant friction also causes tires to get worn out over time. But due to several factors like unpredictable weather, unfavorable road conditions, and irresponsible driving habits, tires wear out more quickly and become even more prone to cupping.

Although motorcycle tire wear and some cupping are inevitable through everyday riding and use, there are several things you can do to slow down the process and ensure that your tires last longer. We will cover that routine maintenance later in this article but first, let us talk about what causes motorcycle tire cupping.

Causes of motorcycle tire cupping

Cupped tires could be an indication of more serious motorcycle issues, so identifying what causes them may prevent a rider from encountering more problems down the road.

  • Making sharp turns too fast

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Doing this puts an extra strain not only on the tires but also on the suspension and braking systems. You are also more likely to lean with the bike when making a sharp turn which can cause the tires to be worn out on the sides.

  • Braking too hard

If you brake too hard, the front tire can get locked and may even skid. When too much force is applied to the front tire, much of the load transfers to it which increases the likelihood of cupping. Hard braking can also cause the tires and braking system to overheat which can significantly shorten the life span of your motorcycle.  

  • Underinflated and overinflated tires

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

An underinflated or overinflated tire can negatively affect a motorcycle’s stability and make steering, turning, and braking difficult. This can also lead to uneven wear on the tire. For under-inflated tires, the wear can be typically seen on the outside edges of the tread. For over-inflated tires, the wear is usually found in the middle of the tread.

  • Overloading the tires

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Putting too much weight on your motorcycle subjects the tires to extra strain that can wear them out quickly. In some cases, overloaded tires may also overheat or even blow out.

  • Misaligned tires

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Tires that are misaligned prevent a rider from having a smooth ride. Because of their uneven contact with the road, the tires sustain rough stresses that appear as sawtooth patterns on the surface which lead to cupping on the tire tread.

  • Worn-out suspension components

Shock absorbers, struts, bushings, and other suspension components eventually wear out after miles of travel. As a result, the tires tend to bounce instead of rolling smoothly down the road. This motion creates uneven points of pressure on tires, causing them to be cupped.

  • Tire imbalance

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Having balanced tires can extend their life up to 20%. If weight is not evenly distributed across the tire, it could lead to an imbalance that may cause some areas of the tread to experience more impact than other areas. As a result, this excessive force causes uneven tread wear and cupped tires.

  • Low quality and cheap tires

Causes of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Beware of tire manufacturers that use cheap materials, like steel belts that provide less support for the tread and rubber that is prone to uneven wear, because tires of poor quality are more likely to experience cupping.

Signs of motorcycle tire cupping

When a motorcycle tire is cupped, it would look like someone has scooped the rubber out of some areas of the tread. But aside from the visual signs, what are the other indications of motorcycle tire cupping?

  • Instability

Signs of Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Misaligned tires can cause a motorcycle to misbehave and drift in either direction when making a turn. If your motorcycle starts acting this way, take it to the nearest motorcycle repair shop and have it checked.

  • Noise

Cupped tires are usually noisy, especially when speeding through highways. If you notice that your tires are making more noise than usual, consider having them inspected by experts immediately.

  • Vibrations

If you can feel vibrations on the handlebars or the seat, it is usually a potential sign of tire imbalance and cupping. If the shaking is felt through the handlebars, this could mean that the front tire is unbalanced, but if it is felt through the seat, the imbalance may be on the rear tire. However, if the vibration is felt through both, this is a sure indicator that the tires need to be checked as soon as possible.

Is it dangerous to ride a motorcycle with cupped tires?

Riding a motorcycle with cupped tires can be risky. They may last you a few miles or several hundred more, but it is not certain so do not risk your life to find out. If the tires are already showing signs of cupping, have it checked immediately.

While there is nothing that explicitly prohibits you from riding a motorcycle with cupped tires, doing so will only worsen the cupping and can put your life in danger.

How to prevent motorcycle tire cupping

It is quite impossible to completely prevent motorcycle tires from cupping because it is often a result of tires gripping the road when making turns, something that is not exactly avoidable when riding a motorcycle. However, regular tire maintenance does prevent costly repairs, ensures good tire health, and avoids unexpected road mishaps.

  • Take it easy.

What makes motorcycle accidents more dangerous than car accidents?

Refrain from making sharp turns too fast and braking too hard. This may not eliminate the possibility of the tires getting cupped, but it does reduce the risk of the tires cupping easily.

  • Check air pressure.

Prevnt Motorcycle Tire Cupping

Regularly checking your tires’ air pressure helps identify if one tire is losing air quicker than the other. This can prevent you from riding with underinflated or overinflated tires that cause cupping. 

Another thing you can do to prevent tire cupping is to always keep your tires’ pressure at the level specified by the manufacturer. As several extreme forces are applied to the tires in every ride, they will expectedly react differently if the air pressure inside them keeps changing.

To avoid this, have your tires checked regularly and make sure that they have the appropriate air pressure inside them.

  • Check alignment and suspension.

Make sure to check your tires’ alignment and suspension as often as possible. This reduces the likelihood of cupping and ensures that the tire rolls the way it should and is in full contact with the road at all times. 

  • Choose high-quality motorcycle tires.

Prevent Motorcycle Tire Cupping

When changing your tires, make sure to replace them with high-quality tires that are better at resisting cupping. Manufacturers who use a harder rubber compound are more likely to produce tires that stay rigid for a longer time.

You should consider the actual tread as well. Beware of tires that have a square tread because they are more likely to get uneven spots.

Moreover, do your due diligence and research online for feedback on specific tire brands and models. Some tires are notorious for cupping easily, so it would be good to see what other people have used, what they have to say, and how it worked for them.

Knowing these things may not necessarily prevent your tires from cupping, but at least you will be aware of which brands to stay away from, thereby lessening the likelihood of getting tires that cup easily.

Where to buy high quality motorcycle tires.

Tire Rack
Dunlop D404 Front Motorcycle Tire 100/90-19 Size
Dunlop D404 Front Motorcycle Tire 100/90-19 Size
9.7/10
  • Expanded size range fits a wide variety of older bikes and cruisers. Tread compound delivers excellent balance of mileage and grip.
  • Front and rear tread patterns designed for outstanding water evacuation and wet grip.
  • Bias-ply construction designed to deliver excellent load-carrying capacity as well as a smooth ride for maximum comfort.
  • Offset center groove offers excellent straight-line stability.
IRC WF-920 Wild Flare Motorcycle Rear Tire (150/80-15)
IRC WF-920 Wild Flare Motorcycle Rear Tire (150/80-15)
9.5/10
  • IRC aspires to provide rides with high performance tires for any condition.
  • Their mission is simple: To provide superior and never-ending product development and customer service.
  • Their goal is to be your number one tire partner.Well-balanced in design and performance.Features the widest and lowest profile design available within JATMA (The Japan Automotive Tire Mfrs.
Bridgestone Excedra G851 Front Motorcycle Tire 130/70-18
Bridgestone Excedra G851 Front Motorcycle Tire 130/70-18
9.1/10
  • Performance Radials designed for Large Cruisers, offer solid performance and great mileage
  • Replacement applications for V-Rod, Mean Streak, Warrior and VTX1800C
  • Silica enriched compound offers a tremendous level of grip on both wet & dry surfaces

There are many available options for riders as far as tire shops and repair centers are concerned, but arguably one of the best choices for high quality motorcycle tires is Amazon. Not only do they have a massive selection of tires to choose from, but they also deliver to the local tire shop of your choice for installation.

I have personally used Amazon several times, and for every experience, their tire and installation price was far less than what I was able to get when calling around local shops.

Amazon offers major motorcycle tire brands, as well as regular auto, cars, and trucks. They have also partnered with thousands of independent tire installers across the United States to cater to every customer wherever they are.

The biggest advantage to using Amazon is their customer reviews, so you can get honest opinions on how each tire performed for the customer that purchased and installed it, rather than trying to guess which one is best for your motorcycle. 

They always have the lowest price as well since there are typically many sellers offering the same tire. Amazon gives preference to the seller with the lowest price, which keeps pricing competitive, rather than using other online retailers that do not have to compete on price.

Chris

Content manager and writer for MotorcycleAccident.org