This article was written to be a source of information only, but with a clear disclaimer that I am not recommending you run a car tire on your Valkyrie. The information contained in the article is so you can obtain more information to make an informed decision if a car tire is for you. You are a grown up. I am not responsible for any damage or bodily injury that may occur because you mounted and drove your motorcycle with a car tire on it. This compilation of information is my experience, and I am not infallible, neither are you.
Compared to car tires, today’s cruising tires are seriously overpriced, technologically outdated, and unreliable. Failures are frequent and expected mileage is much lesser than what is expected of a car tire. The tires of sport bikes are much better, of course, but cruiser bikes are riding today with nearly the same technology as they were 30 years ago, but at 10 times the price.
Tolerance to defects is the most noticed difference. Just reading the forums and checking reviews of tires, let alone talking to other bikers, you will read stories of motorcycle tires having every kind of failure imaginable. Defective beads, bubbling, blistering, cracking, tread/carcass separation, radical balance deficiencies, out of round, wobble, and just the outright failure to actually hold air. By contrast, you will rarely see any of it in car tires. So much so that car tires are covered by extensive warranties and replacement programs. Motorcycle tires are not.
Quality of motorcycle tires varies even within every brand. Just because one size tire in your favorite brand causes no problems, doesn’t mean a different size tire of the same brand will be similar in quality. Even in the same brand and size, batches vary considerably in quality.
Insurance companies never asked if I had the engine modified in any way (I had), if the exhausts are the original ones or custom (they are custom), if the carburation, filters, or oil I use are the ones recommended by the manufacturer (they are not). I don’t think they will ever ask, or care, what kind of tires I am running on my bike.
What Honda says:
If I were to ask them, they would say never to work on my own machine, only use OEM parts and tires, never, under any circumstances modify anything, and for heaven’s sake only have them do any work needed. They of course, would also say that they are not liable for any work they do or parts they provide, and probably if I pressed them they would say that riding motorcycles is inherently dangerous and not worth the risk.
What to buy:
Look for a symmetric, directional tread pattern, with solid, beefy chunks of tread near the outer edges to minimize squirm, and solid tread in the very center of the tires to help make it quiet. Also look for a high speed rating (Y, W, or Z). I bought a Goodride A308 215/55/16, which very barely fits, so I would rather recommend a 205/60/16 unless you are a crazy SOB like me.
It looks badass as it can be! It looks much wider than the original MC tire. Most riders that go dark side use 205/60/16 but I read a reference to someone that successfully installed a 215/55/16 so I decided to try that. Well, it fits!
The clearance using the 215 wide is so little that I think different models of 215 may give you different clearances, or no clearance at all. You are risking installing the tire just to find out, after you mounted it on the bike, that the tire is rubbing on the swingarm: Epic failure. So if you feel adventurous it’s worth the risk, but if you do not then stick to the 205 instead.
It is a bitch to install. Just getting it on the rim and install on the bike was a major pain in the ass. The good thing about being around 40 years old is that you can pay 20 year olds to do all this heavy work while you drink a beer, so it wasn’t too painful for me. But I would not try to do it myself. Most car tires require the fender bolt retainer cages be removed from the fender.
This is not a task for the mechanically apparatus challenged. Don’t try to mount it on the rim by hand. You risk dinging the rim. Use a machine for that. The sidewalls on those car tires are way too strong and stiff.
After running any new tire for about 500 miles I like to add Slime to it, to prevent losing pressure to punctures and leaky valves.
The Valkyrie speedometer reads the front wheel so no matter which one used, the accuracy will not be affected.
There is not much information out there about what is the best. I started with 36psi and after just a few miles was under the impression that it was too soft, so I increased it to 40 and will run it like that for a while. You may have to try different pressures to find the best combination for your tire, your particular bike (weight) and your riding comfort.
It takes a little getting used to. After about 200 miles I did not even notice the difference anymore. It is very much like getting used to a new motorcycle. It handles differently. Not worse, not better, just differently. You can handle it, and in a short time, you won’t mind the difference.
The tire is designed to flex in the sidewall whereas a motorcycle tire is not, well not much anyway. A motorcycle tire is designed to make contact with the road on the edge of the tire, hence it is rounded. A car tire is designed to flex in a corner, keeping as much of the entire tread on the road. This is what takes a little getting used to.
Cornering it will fight you a little bit and want to track straight rather than lean into the curve of the road. Also, any little imperfections in the road, it will also let you know when you have found them, by “squiggling” under you. It’s not bad, it’s not even very different than the motorcycle tire, but yes it does handle different. Parking, doing U-turns, or very small circles it will feel quite uncomfortable and keep you alert wether you like it or not.
The higher the speed the more you will like it. Very comfortable and stable above 30 miles per hour or so. The faster the better. I am not talking 140 MPH, but 65 to 80 MPH the tire becomes very stable. Much more so, I feel, than the motorcycle tire.
It is much worse in some kinds of ground, like my old driveway full of imperfections, potholes, and loose gravel and rocks. Clearly superior in grooved pavements, and asphalt. A little better than the MC tire in gravel. It sticks more to the ground. You feel more the acceleration and when applying the rear brakes the bike will not just slow down better but also straighten out more.
So far I am very happy.
It costs much less, lasts longer, looks better, and handles better on the kind of roads I travel the most. It is not likely that I will go back to a MC tire on a Valkyrie.
Is it for you? I don’t know, you will have to drive one and try it out. Or install and see how you like it. But you will have to make up your own mind.
I would say that if you ride mostly in the city, at very slow speeds mostly in traffic, I would definitely not recommend. That is the situation where you would get all the worst of it without any of the best of it. In any other situation I wager that you will like it better.
Update after 3,000 miles:
I am very happy with it so far. Got used to the different way it handles after just a hundred miles or so. No problems at all. I did all the sharp twisties of Blue Ridge Parkway and Deals Gap on it. I rode through very bad weather and scorching heat. Gravel roads, grass, dirt roads, and sand. Traveled alone, with luggage, with passenger, and with passenger and luggage. Not a problem.
When going through a very strong storm in South Carolina a pick up truck hydroplaned and spinned right in front of me, then it drifted sidways to the right hitting the barricades and getting out of the road. I have to say I got quite afraid that if there was enough water to make a pick up truck lose control perhaps there was enough water for me to lick the wet asfalt as well. My bike went through it without the slightest sign of problem. The episode was still nearly instant cure for constipation, but at least I know that the car tire didn’t affect adversely the handling in any way.
The only thing I changed was reducing the tire pressure back to 36psi. It feels better, and the sidewall doesn’t rub the swing arm. The clearance is so little you can’t see it, but I know it is not rubbing because the lettering on the side of the tire is still fine.
Update after 21,000 miles:
Only had one flat tire due to a defective valve, and I could ride some 12 miles on the flat tire until I found a Honda dealer in the middle of Austria. Put a new car tire, this time a 205 to have a bit more clearance. With that new tire I went all the way to Barcelona (Spain) and back all the way to Kiev (Ukraine). Tremendous success! I have no intention of going back to motorcycle tires on the Valkyrie.