You’re hopefully well aware that you should set your motorcycle tire pressures according your bike manufacturers recommendation. That generally means a tire pressure that strikes a balance between grip and tire wear and will probably range anywhere from 32psi to 42psi (generally with higher pressures in the rear tire). But when you’re at the track, your only concern is grip. So how do you go about setting the correct pressure motorcycle tire pressure for a track day?
In almost all instances, you’ll set far lower pressures for the track than for the road. That’s because the lower the pressure, the more the tire will deform at speed – deformation creates more friction between the tire and the track which in turns generates heat. And the more heat (up to a point) the more grip you’ll have. Lowering tire pressures also creates a larger contact patch, which means more rubber in contact with the track and hence again more grip.
If you’re an occasional track day rider, there’s no need to get too scientific. Most people recommend 28psi to 30psi on the front tire and 30-32psi at the rear. Don’t be tempted to go any less than these figures, as you’ll eventually hit a point where the pressure is so low that it begins to slow steering and turning.
If you’re more regular at the track or even an amateur racer, you can start to experiment a bit more and try different combinations of pressures. But if you’re such a rider, it’s likely you’ll begin to use dedicated track tires (either slicks or extremely performance orientated grooved tires). Here, you can again take the manufacturers recommended advice, but this time of the tire manufacturer and not your bike manufacturer.
Michelin has a great website called Michelin Power, where it allows you to choose your bike, the track you’re racing at and even the general weather conditions to get a tire pressure recommendation. You’ll see recommendations of 23-32psi for race slicks as they’re properly designed for high temperature/high grip situations.
But if lowering your tire pressures at the track is such a good idea, why not do it for everyday riding too? Because if you do, your tires will firstly wear to quickly but worse, they’ll deform to a dangerous shape. On the track, you’ll be leaned over on the bike much more than on the road, where you’re probably upright around 90% of the time. By lowering your pressures, you’ll wear the middle of the tire out and ‘square off’ the tire. A squared off tire will completely change the handling characteristics of your bike for the worse. You’ll have more than enough grip for street use following the manufacturers recommendations.
And remember, regardless of when you’re setting pressures at the track or on the street, ensure you do it while the tire is cold or you’ll have the wrong pressures once your tires heat up – cold inflation pressure is key.