Some Thoughts and Questions on Tire Wear, Wear Out, and Replacement.

My wife has this LX150 Vespa scooter. It was purchased a few years ago and, frankly, no longer gets ridden very much. Not very much at all – like just 1500 miles total. It is, however, a fun, responsive little rig perfectly suited to a 25 mile scoot around the neighborhood on a springtime Saturday afternoon. So, we really can’t bear to get rid of it. A couple of weeks ago I dragged it from the garage, serviced the fluids, checked the lights and horn, and measured the tire tread in anticipation of getting the dreaded Pennsylvania State Inspection. All was good except for the rear tire. This tiny 10 incher was worn out! Burned down. Torched. Like less that the requisite 2/32 of tread depth required to earn an inspection sticker. Seriously – into the wear bars.

Into the wear bars at 1500 miles? Seriously?

Into the wear bars at 1500 miles? Seriously?

A little research yielded more insight. It turns out that this Pirelli SL38 scooter tire is known to seldom yield even 2000 miles before wear out. This one, worn out at 1500 miles, is hardly a freak. Now I get that these tiny tires spin faster than those on a proper motorcycle, and that every tread element passes through the tire contact patch about 3 times for each one on larger tires. But really? 1500 miles to wearout? So the question here is, what is your expectation for tire life for various bike usages?

I’m talking about tire wear for your average, standard, everyday, on-highway kind of rider here – not your track day junkie
IMG_2046 nor your best Ricky Gadsen imitator. burn We’re also not thinking about your dual sport that is kitted out with a set of TKC 80s, Karoos, or other knobbys yet only gets street ridden.

You’ve simply taken advantage of the Martin Motorsports “deal” on a new set of skins for your ride. How many miles do you expect to ride before you have to replace ’em again?

Is it 5,000 miles? 10,000? Some other number? Is there a right number?

A second, and related question is what criteria do you use when you decide to replace? On the scooter example our criteria is simply that the tire is into the wear bars and won’t pass inspection. Should that always be the criteria? What about considerations like irregular wear? Or the like the tire shown below where there is obviously substantial tread depth remaining but it’s worn square from lots of “straight down the highway” miles? Would you replace this one?


Ready for replacement?

Then, of course, there is the questions of whether to replace in matching pairs (i.e. same manufacturer, model) only? Agree? Disagree?


We're just looking for opinions and thoughts here, so please feel free to share. Please.