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Trail Riding Set Up – Tyres

Preparing your bike properly in advance will ensure a more enjoyable days
riding and one area in particular that seems to catch out new off road converts
is tyre selection and set up.

Three general types of tyre are commonly used on trail bikes:–
1) motocross tyres which offer the best grip but are generally not road legal
2) trail tyres which are road legal but offer limited grip in off road situations
3) Enduro or road legal motocross tyres

Motocross tyres are available in hard, intermediate and soft compounds, have
deep tread blocks but the wide tread pattern often results in these being
stamped with “Not for Highway Use” which the plod can sometimes take a dim
view on if used on the road.

Trail tyres often fitted as OEM to bikes such as the Suzuki DR400 street
model are obviously legal but when used on anything other than tarmac can
result in loss of machine control resulting in damage to the bike or rider due
inability to provide grip off road.

Enduro tyres have a motocross tread pattern, are approved for highway use
but have a reduce tread depth resulting in shorter life though they do work
well off road when new. The most recent development is the road legal
motocross tyre with has the full tread depth and is road legal as the
manufacturer has obtained necessary approval. They are often stamped
“MST” – Multi Service Tyre and are “E” marked with road speed ratings on the
tyre wall. (See letter from Michelin regarding their AC10 tyre.) These are
relatively expensive but do wear quite well and other types are available.

Once you have selected the correct tyre, as with cars, tyre pressure is also
very important. Below is a guide to PSI levels for different compounds and
riding conditions. In the Dales I sometimes run as high as 16 PSI to avoid the
risk of punctures at the expense of some grip due to most trails being rocky.

Hard                        Intermediate                 Soft
Clay, Dry Dirt              Loam, Some Rock              Sand, Mud, Rocks
14 / 12 PSI                 12/10 PSI                    10-8 PSI

The first number is the front tyre and the second the rear tire. At these low
pressures it necessary to fit rim locks to both wheels to ensure the tyre does
not spin on the rim resulting in a puncture as the valve is torn from the tube.
Once you have mastered off road tyre changes these can be done
comfortably in ten minutes a wheel.

Mouse inserts are the ultimate but few of us can afford them and fitting can be
like wrestling a python but they eliminate the puncture risk.
The key to grip with off road tyres is having a nice square edge on the knobs
so if yours are all well rounded even though it still has depth it may be prudent
to change it. This applies to fronts in particular.

The rear tyre wears and rounds off the driving edge so spinning a tyre round
will extend the life and fronts wear the braking edge.

A 21” front tube if carried when trail riding can go in a rear tyre as a get you
home fix and I carry a couple of tyre levers, a valve tool and spanners. Some
people carry bicycle pumps but CO2 canisters are small ,cheap and light.

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