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Motorcycle tire speed rating and load rating

What are motorcycle tire speed rating and load rating?

The European Tire and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) is an organisation that defines tire standards that tire manufacturers must meet. These include speed ratings and load ratings.

Motorcycle makers homologate tire sizes for each of their vehicles, both front and rear, including a maximum speed and load. Then, the tire manufacturer carries out regulatory testing to ensure that the tires comply with ETRTO standards and motorcycle makers homologations.

In short, the speed rating and load rating ensure that a motorcycle is fitted with the correct tires, in terms of speed and load, to enable the rider to drive safely.

How are the tires tested?

From the moment a tire is manufactured, Michelin carries out numerous tests to ensure that it supplies the motorbike manufacturer as original equipment and its customers with safe tires that comply with standards.

For this, the maximum load is simulated, including stresses that could affect the behaviour of the tire. We also test driving at the minimum pressure and maximum speed that the tire should be able to withstand.

The test results should verify that a tire is capable of running at a minimum pressure, under stress and at the speed defined by the vehicle manufacturer. In this case, the tire can be marked with the relevant speed and load ratings.

Understanding motorcycle tire speed ratings

Vehicles have a maximum speed at which approved tires must be able to perform. The speed rating corresponds to this maximum speed. It is indicated by a letter.

Example: 180/55 ZR 17 M/C (73W)
Here, the tire speed rating is (W).

To find out what maximum speed a speed rating corresponds to, simply refer to the table below.

Motorcycle tire speed rating chart

speed index

In our example, the index (W) corresponds to a speed above 270 km/h.

Speed rating in brackets

A speed rating in brackets means "above".

Without brackets, the W corresponds to a maximum speed of 270 km/h (see table).

With brackets, it means that the vehicle can go above 270 km/h, with no speed limit.

It should be noted that if the bracket refers to the speed index, it generally includes the load index/speed rating pair in order to respect the generalized nomenclature. Thus, to take the example given above, the tire will not be marked 73(W), but rather: (73W).

Understanding motorcycle tire load ratings

Vehicles have a maximum load at which approved tires must be able to perform. The load rating corresponds to this maximum load. The load rating is indicated by a number preceding the letter of the speed rating.

Example : 120/70 ZR 17 M/C (58W)
Here the load rating is 58.

To find out what maximum load a load ating corresponds to, simply refer to the table below.

Motorcycle tire load rating chart

load index

In our example, 58 corresponds to a maximum load of 236 kg.

The load rating takes into account not only the mass of the vehicle, but also the mass of the driver, any passengers and additional luggage.

For this reason, the rear tire has a higher load rating than the front, so that it can carry a higher load.

Is it mandatory to comply with the speed and load ratings?

mg 1097

Yes. The regulations require that the motorcycle maker's homologation be respected for the safety of the vehicle's user and any passenger. Therefore, your motorbike must be equipped with tires that comply with the homologated dimensions, which include the load and speed ratings defined as safe for your vehicle.

If your vehicle is not fitted with manufacturer-approved tires, there are safety risks and it may also jeopardise your insurance cover in the event of an accident.

If your tire is approved for a speed rating that corresponds to a speed you never expect to reach, it is still imperative that the homologation be respected. Why is this? Because the speed rating and the load rating are correlated. If you take a tire with a lower speed rating, the load rating could be insufficient for your vehicle, which would expose you to the risks mentioned above.

Where are the load and speed rating indicated?

load rating speed rating

They are part of the standard markings on the sidewall of the tire or in the vehicle manual (sometimes also on the pressure sticker).

For more information, see our article on tire markings.

The particularity of reinforced tires

Some motorcycle manufacturers provide for the same size a normal load rating and a load rating for reinforced tires. This can happen, for example, when the manufacturer markets a new version of a vehicle with additions that imply a higher load (a more powerful engine, a higher luggage capacity...)

This is the reason why you will sometimes find two different dimensions with the same speed rating:

One with a normal load rating, for example:
130 / 70 - 12 56P
(56 is the load rating)

The other, that of a reinforced tire indicated by the marking "REINF", for example:
130 / 70 - 12 62P REINF
(62 corresponds to a higher load and the REINF marking indicates a reinforced tire)

In both cases, the tires have a speed rating of P.

Depending on the model of the vehicle, one or other of the dimensions will be the one approved by the manufacturer.

The professional is there to guide you

Don't forget that if you have any doubts or if you don't know which size is suitable for your vehicle, the role of the professional is to guide you in your choices, in compliance with the manufacturer's homologation.

You can find a professional near you :

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