There’s no getting around it (no pun intended): when it comes to consumable items — components that are continually worn out and replaced during a motorcycle’s usage — the most expensive part on that list is tires. For those who ride often and usually ride hard, it’s not uncommon to see less than 1500 miles on a really sticky set of optimum sport rubber. And with those high-end sport tires costing upwards of $400 a set, feeding that monster on a constant basis can be an enormous financial drain on an avid sportbike rider.
One of the ways racers make back some (but definitely not much) of the huge amounts of money spent on tires is to sell the used “takeoff” race tires to more-than-willing street riders. Although the sides usually sport some definite wear, the center portion of the tread is almost unused, and it suits the vast majority of street riders just fine…especially when the price is usually a fraction of what they’d pay for a brand new set of tires. While not what we’d consider the optimum solution, it’s often an acceptable choice for most riders whose budgets for motorcycle consumable items have shrunk drastically.
…we’ve been talking with a few shop owners and distributors around the country that say there’s been a run on the very inexpensive non-name-brand tires on their shelves "
Lately, however, we’ve been talking with a few shop owners and distributors around the country that say there’s been a run on the very inexpensive non-name-brand tires on their shelves. “We basically can’t keep them in stock,” said one shop owner. “As soon as we get them delivered, they’re gone within a few days.” Unlike the name brands, these off-brand tires can run just $180-$220 a set — literally half the price of a premium set of sticky sport tires. And contrary to assumed beliefs, the off-brand tires have more than acceptable handling and levels of grip, at least according to the riders we’ve spoken with (and yes, we’ll be testing these first-hand — along with many others, in our upcoming tire comparisons — to give a better understanding of how they fare against the established brands…stay tuned).
Interestingly, the major tire companies have certainly taken notice of the off-brands stealing some of their market share. While some of the big names may have been dismissive about it in the past — and the numbers are still small in comparison to the aftermarket tire industry as a whole — a few of them have seen enough of a demand now to “re-release” some of their previously discontinued older models at a discount. While not quite as cheap as a pair of the off-brand tires, these resurrected models are surely intended as a way of keeping riders on that brand — it’s a good bet that even the old model name-brand tires outperform the latest model off-brand rubber — until they hopefully move back up to the premium rubber when finances allow.
This situation is basically an offshoot of the scenario five years ago that inspired us to conduct a multi-faceted tire comparison in December 2006 (“Jeopardy”). The rising cost of continually replacing premium sport rubber was forcing many riders to search for alternatives. Sport-touring tire technology was beginning to make leaps and bounds, and their performance even back then was not that far off the premium sport tires. Thus, the idea of using sport-touring tires on supersport bikes to try and get the best of both worlds became the latest rage. Soon we were inundated with letters asking questions such as, “If I take my bike that’s shod with sport-touring tires to a track day, will I run a much higher risk of crashing?” Or, “Will my sport-touring tires overheat and turn to gooey mush after just a session at the track?”
It’s interesting to note that the economic tenets of market demand and competition have at least partially forced some companies to rethink their own marketing strategies. Granted, most of this was created by the worldwide economic crisis, but that in itself has created its own problems for all of the motorcycle industry. Motorcycles have always been the transportation mode of choice for the less lofty rungs of the economic ladder (it’s part of the reason why the emerging economies in countries like India have exploding motorcycle markets). Companies lose sight of that important aspect at their own peril. SR