/5 Tire Options

Originally compiled and curated by Cris Vande Velde.
This page is based on a circa 2008 summary of 5 United tire wisdom. It needs to be updated but was accurate at the time it was published.

Introduction

Once in a while, someone asks "What tires do I need to use on my bike? Any suggestions?" Then all hell breaks loose, because everyone has different preferences where it concerns tires.

First of all, your rims are 1,85 front, 1,85 rear for pre-72 bikes and 1,85 front, 2,15 rear post-72. Diameter of the wheels is 19 inch front, 18 inch rear.

The original tires were either Continental or Metzeler, and came in the sizes 3,25-19 front and 4,00-18 rear.

A quick word on speed and load indices: http://www.webbikeworld.com/Motorcycle-tires/tire-data.htm.

Most people feel it is important to have the exact right size tires, which means the inch measures and not the closest metric equivalent. A fatter front tire will make the bike handle like a truck. The difference with a proper 3,25 is night and day. A fatter rear tire may rub the swingarm unless a wider top-hat spacer is used, and is in any case a bear to get past the brake drum. Be aware of the fact that tire sizes will vary between manufacturers, even if the designation is the same. There will also be a difference between TT and TL tires. You have to use tubes, also in TL tires on our rims, but generally the TT tires, if available, will be a bit narrower. Use a TT when they have one. Interesting article in this respect at http://www.webbikeworld.com/Motorcycle-tires/sizes.htm

Don’t buy cheap tires. You get what you pay for, and a tire is what keeps your face off the asphalt. If you have to make an emergency brake manoeuvre, the difference between a Bridgestone and a Cheng-shin can make the difference between a metre to spare and a bent fork... or a lot, lot worse. Keep that in mind. Now we will go down the list again and add some general comments about the various tires listed. These come from a website from which I have shamelessly stolen them, alas, I’ve lost the URL and cannot find it anymore. Thank you, whoever you are !

5 United tire mega-thread on Yahoo.

Thanks goes to Eldon Brown for the idea and setting this off.

Avon

http://www.avontyres.com/

Avon specs the “Roadriders” for the /5.
3.25-19 54V front at 2,30 bar or 33 psi.
Interestingly, they spec it at 2,00 bar / 29 psi for the R75/5 only (?)
4.00-18 64V rear at 2,50 bar or 36psi

Some other tires (“tyres”) that Avon has, but does NOT spec for the /5:

“Roadrunners” AM20 in 325-19 54H front and AM21 400-18 64H rear, these
were *previously* spec-ed for /5’s

One could use, as a very sticky sports tire, the AM18 “Supervenom”
REAR tire in 100/90 57V 19 on the FRONT and combine it with a
Bridgestone BT45 rear. I know of no-one who tried that on a BMW.

Also possible for the front is AM 41 “Venom” 100/90-19 57H, also
available with white walls – no matching whitewall rear tire
though. This would probably look a little ridiculous.

In their classic range, Avon has the “Speedmaster” AM6 front in
3.25-19-TT 57S, in combination with the “Safety Mileage MKII” AM7 in
4.00-18 TT 65S.
          
325-19 54H AM20 front at 2,30 bar or 33 psi (“Roadrunners”)
400-18 64H AM21 rear at 2,50 bar or 36psi (“Roadrunners”)

Avon's bias-ply general purpose tyre. It's an excellent cruiser or
touring tyre. Dry and wet traction are very good, and the progressive
profile of the front gives excellent straight-line stability with a
linear profile once leaned over.

First tire choice of Mark Weiss.

Brett "Boocephus" Mitchell opines about Avons: Is it just me or do
Road Runners only last a few thou? I only have 10K miles on my new
speedometer and I know I've gone though 2 or 3 rear Avons. They are
nice and sticky, but they get squared off in what seems like no
time. I am probably one of the only non- overinflators on the list. I
target for about 34, but I don't put any in until it gets below 30.
Phil Marx : I've had no good luck with the Avons, even sent pics of
the tread cracks to Avon and they sent replacement tires. Big deal,
I'd rather not have tires that split.

Phil also adds that the 325-19 and 400-18 sizes are hard to get in the
US, and thinks that most of these axperiences have been with the
(nearly) equivalent front Avon Roadrunner AM 20, 100/90x19 and rear
Avon Roadrunner AM 21 110/90x18. On top of that the 100/90-19 AM20
seems no longer available, and is substituted by the100/90-19 Venom X

Another Philip : My first Avon (AM21) ran 10414 miles. It had some
cracking but not near as bad as Phil's.  The second Avon ran 9244 with
no cracking. I installed a new front (AM20) with my first Avon rear
and used it for both the listed rear tires (21903 miles). My current
Avon rear has 6322 and still looks great.  Super Venom (AM20/AM18)

Without doubt, this is the finest bias-ply sport tyre available. The
straightline stability combined with linear profile once the bike
leans (also shared with the Roadrunner) makes it an excellent choice
to combine with a harder-wearing rear. Like the Roadrunner, it also
works very well indeed with tyres from other manufacturers.

The downside of the Super Venom is that the AM18 rear wears quickly,
and squares off easily. While unquestionably superb for sport riding,
this has drawbacks for bikes that are used for other purposes. In
those cases, I suggest combining the Super Venom AM20 front with a
harder-wearing rear, such as the dual-compound Bridgestone BT45 rear.

Some narrow sizes of the Super Venom rear can also be fitted on the
front. I would personally choose an AM20 front over an AM18 every
time, because of the former's profile, but there are some sizes the
AM20 does not cover. In that case, an AM18 front is a good sport
choice.

On the “Venom”, snurt1958 says that it served pretty well.

We have no opinions yet on the currently spec-ed “Roadriders”, or the
“Speedmaster/Safety Mileage MKII” combination. Experiences welcome.
          

Bridgestone/Firestone

http://www.bridgestone.co.uk

Bridgestone used to spec different tires in the USA and Europe - right
now, they don’t spec any tires for the airheads in Europe
anymore. There are available sizes though, even though their website
is completely messed up and it is impossible to get actual
availability, ratings and sizes of these tires:

100/90-19 for the front :
Battlax BT-45
Exedra G701

If you feel like riding through mud a lot :
Trailwing 101

Then there are a lot of OEM tires of different bikes which are
probably impossible to get anyway.

110/90-18 for the rear :
Battlax BT-45

There used to be Battlax BT-45 available in inch-sizes, but due to the
website not working properly it is impossible to verify whether these
are still being sold – this was their former recommendation for BMW
airheads:

3,25-19 54H TL BT-45F front at 2,5 bar or 35 psi
4,00-18 64H TT BT-45R rear at 2,8 bar 38,5 psi
In the USA Bridgestone still specs the Spitfire for /5 (unavailable in Europe):
http://www.motorcycle-karttires.com
100/90-19 Spitfire S11 57H front
110/90-18 Spitfire S11 61H rear
Of course the BT-45 is also available in the US.
100/90-19 BW TL 57V for the front (or TT 57H, which I suspect to be the same tire)
110/90-18 BW TL 61H for the rear
          
100/90-19 Spitfire S11 front
110/90-18 Spitfire S11 rear

If the price is right, this is a good choice. It's a dual-compound
tyre, with harder rubber in the centre of the tread for longer life
droning down the highway, and a relatively softer compound on the
edges of the tyre.  Unlike the BT45, however, the "softer" does not
mean it's up to sport riding, just that it gives better traction than
one would expect for a tyre that lasts reasonably long. It's a decent
general-purpose tyre, a good choice for commuters or those with a
tight budget.

Paul Sotrop likes these better than Conti’s and less than Dunlop
491’s.

Someone else says : For me, the Bridgestone Spitfire has been an
outstanding tire. It's a dual compound tire, meaning the rubber in the
center of the tire is a slightly harder compound, and the rubber on
the shoulders is a slightly softer compound. I've yet to run into any
trouble with these tires, and I've got probably about 4,000 miles on
them. There's plenty of tread left. They're very reasonably priced as
well, about $80 per tire from Dennis Kirk.

Lyman Robertson says : I use Bridgestone S11 I have good service from
them usually up to 20,000 rear and about 2x as long front, wet, dry,
hot, cold, doesn't matter twisties, straight away up hills down My
R90/6 and current /5.

Second best tire for Nick Grear, behind Michelin 50e and before Dunlop
K491. Pricing (Front $50.97) and (Rear $57.97)

They seem to last 11.000 to 14.000 + miles.
3,25-19 54H TL BT-45F front at 2,5 bar or 35 psi
4,00-18 64H TT BT-45R rear at 2,8 bar 38,5 psi
(or some equivalent sized Battlaxes ...)

Battlax BT45

This tyre is available in both H- and V-rated versions; aside from the
speed rating and range of sizes, there's no perceivable difference
between the BT45H and BT45V. The rear has a dual tread compound
construction that combines a harder central band, to resist squaring
off and for longer life, with a softer, stickier compound on the
edges.

This is a superb tyre. This is the model with which Bridgestone
introduced their new silica-rich compound, and thus took an enormous
leap in wet traction. Also, the dual tread compound works exactly as
described -- it wears well in normal riding, while the outer edges
stick very well. It's even capable of hard track use -- I've used it
that way on both ends of the weight range, a track-prepped Yamaha
RD400 and a Moto Guzzi California 1100i.

There is no question that a pair of BT45's is one of the best bias-ply
sets you can buy.  If your bike is easy on front tyre wear, though,
and the sizes work out, using a BT45 rear with an Avon Super Venom
front is an unbeatable combination. The Avon adds excellent highway
stablity, confidence- inspiring profile, and ultra-sticky traction,
while the BT45 wears well and sticks very well in the corners.  The
Avon, designed to work well with a wide range of rears (note that Avon
themselves say you can combine it with other manufacturers' products),
lives up to its promise; while Bridgestone has finally perfected the
dual-compound rear.

Cris is still using these, and happy with performance and mileage. He
gets 10.000 km from the rear, 20.000 km from the front (that’s 6/12000
mi). Performance is just fine. When worn out, the bike has more of a
tendency to wobble, that disappears with new tires. Properly
tightening my steering head bearings cured that.
          

Cheng Shin

http://www.csttires.com/

Awful "tyres", both in design and in quality. These are the worst you could possibly buy -- don't do it under any circumstances. Kenda and IRC are vastly superior at a similar cost.

They scream and howl in corners according to Lawrence Hogarth. It may be safer not to use them. Your life probably is worth more to you than the $40 difference per tire with a proper one.

Jonathan Burdsall writes:

Some folks have reported that they are happy with them, I think they are way too easy to please. Aside from my own experience years ago, which was not a particularly good one, my son put a set of them and then Kendas on his Kawasucki. I had warned him about going from his dunlops to the chinese tires so he played with them a bit. He found that both break loose much earlier in both acceleration and braking. The later being much more disturbing than the former. He also found that the bike felt a bit kludgier in corners, with the backend feeling looser than with the dunlops.

Continental

http://www.conti-online.com/

Refreshingly, Conti has a working fitment guide ...
They suggest for the /5 :
3,25-19 54H TL TK22RC front
4,00-18 64H TL TK44RC rear
These were formerly called “Supertwin”
Alternatively they give :
3,25-19 54 H TT RB2 front
4,00-18 64 S/H TT K112 rear
“An economic, all-weather tyre combination”, OEM on our BMW’s
Or else :
3.25-19 54 H/V TL TKH 23 front
110/90-18 61H TT/TL TKH 24 rear

They mention better wear and a damping layer in the front tire that
would prevent handlebar wobble.

Pressure specs from Conti for all tires are 2.1 bar for front, 2.3 bar
for rear.
          
Someone says : Conti still cranks out the RB2/K112 & Blitz tires in
the right sizes but I wouldn't consider either a sport tire.

Paul Sotrop says : period appropriate Continental tires. They wore out
quickly at about 3000-4000 miles, were scary in wet weather, and
terrifying on metal-grate bridges.

Philip Rose says : I am still partial to the original Conti Twins. The
RB2 front and the K112 Rear.

Continental is still making these tires and they fit correctly, look
correct and still give great performance K112 was stocked by Bondo
back when Dunlop K81’s could still be bought.

Kim says : my /5 Continental Super Twin (TK22 /TK44) used to require
40 to 46 psi to feel right.

Ian Hamilton had an issue with the TK44 rubbing his rear shaft drive
when just mounted.

No-one seems to have used the new TKH23 TKH24 combination.
          

Dunlop

http://www.dunlopmotorcycle.com/

Dunlop stopped spec-ing tires for the /5 as well.
Some fit though –
D404 Front 100/90-19 62H
D404 Rear 110/90-18 61H
491 Elite II
MM90-19 Front at 2.3 bar or 33 psi (former pressure recommendation)
110/90 B18 rear at 2,55 bar or 36 psi (former pressure recommendation)
The 491 Elite was replaced by the Elite 3 –from the website, the 491 seems to be still available though.
Elite 3 MM90-19 front will fit
There is no fitting Elite3 rear tire.
Other front tires :
D401 Cruiser at 100/90-19 57H Front
F24 100/90-19 TT 57S Front
Or :
F11 100/90-19 57H Front (at 2,3 bar or 32psi – former pressure recommendation)
K627 110/90-18 rear (at 2,55 bar or 36psi – former pressure recommendation)
Or :
K70 3.25-19TT 54P front
K70 4.00 18 64S rear

The K591 has been taken out of the assortment, and has been replaced
by GT501 Sport Bias. However, the front K591 only is still available
as a front tire for Harleys in 100/90-19 51V

You can try and put these on, but the rear tire will be too big. This
can be solved by using a spacer on the rear wheel with BMW part nr 36
31 2 301 737, which is 10.7mm wide instead of 9.2 and hopefully makes
the tire clear the swingarm.

GT501 100/90-19 57V
GT501 120/90-18 65V
no pressure specs here.
          
491 Elite II MM90-19 front at 2,3 bar or 32 psi
491 Elite II 110/90 B18 rear at 2,55 bar or 36 psi

The 491 sets the standard for bias-ply touring tyres. It is an
excellent choice for touring and cruising bikes alike. With the demise
of the Avon Elan series, it becomes the undisputed leader for tread
life under load.  For a touring tyre, it performs very well in wet and
dry. The profile is particularly well suited to cruisers -- the less
rounded profile of the rear when compared to other brands can give the
effect of extra ground clearance. Harley-Davidson riders swear by
these much like BMW riders swear by Metzelers, and for good
reason. They're excellent tyres. It is not entirely certain they are
still available at the moment though.

Everyone on 5united seems to love the high mileage you get out of
these tires. They do, however, not seem too sticky. Someone mentioned
bouncing his butt off the pavement three times, without mentioning
however *which* Dunlop tires he did that on.

We have no opinions so far of anyone that used either the Elite 3
front, D401 Cruiser at 100/90-19 57H Front, F24 100/90-19 TT 57S
Front, F11 100/90-19 57H Front K627 110/90-18 rear, K70 3.25-19TT 54P
front or K70 4.00 18 64S rear

According to list comments, the F11 front last a looong time. (13.000+ miles)
GT501 100/90-19 57V
GT501 120/90-18 65V

This is a replacement for the well-respected K591. It fills the same
niche, that of a bias-ply performance tyre, but with an updated
compound and tread pattern. I have not had much experience of these
tyres -- first- or second-hand -- and so I'm not sure how they
perform. I see no reason, however, to doubt that they're a good tyre.

No list opinions on these.
          

IRC

http://www.kintai.com.sg/irc.html

WF910 Front in 100/90-19-57H will fit, as will RS310 and 320
GS11 3,25 H19 4PR front and 4,00 H18 4PR rear are a matched pair.

Mark Weiss writes :

An often overlooked tire brand is IRC. They are cheap tires that are
surprisingly decent. For most street use you would never know the
difference between IRCs and Metzlers.
          

Kenda

http://www.kendausa.com/

Challenger sport touring
100/90H-19 6PR 57H TL front
110/90H-18 6PR 61H TL rear
Cuiser sport
100/90H-19 6PR 57H TL front
Kruz
100/90H-19 4PR TL front
          
Larry is happy with his Kenda Cruiser on the front -8000 mi, plenty of
tread left.

Bill Rice had stability issues with a Kenda Challenger on the back
matched with a Michelin Macadam on the front.

A 120/90 Kenda challenger does not fit according to Charles Schiff.
          

Maxxis

http://www.maxxis.com/

Classic M6011 Front (no fitting rear)
100/90-19 57H/TL
100/90-19 WW 57H/TL
Promaxx
M6102 Front 100/90-19 57H/TL
M6103 Rear 110/90-18 61H/TL
Touring M6011 Front (no fitting rear)
MM90-19 61H/TL
V1 M6002
Front 100/90 V19 57V/TL
rear 120/90 V18 65V/TL *may* fit with wider spacer
          

Metzeler

http://www.us.metzelermoto.com

Metzeler has a number of choices – again, they do not officially
recommend any tires anymore for the /5.

Tires that fit :
Lasertec front:
3.25 - 19 M/C 54H TL
3.25 - 19 M/C 54V TL
100/90 - 19 M/C 57H TL
100/90 - 19 M/C 57V TL
Lasertec Rear:
4.00 - 18 M/C 64V TL
110/90 - 18 M/C 61H TL
ME88 Marathon rear (recommended for later airheads – wider spacer needed !): 120/90 B 18 71H REINF
TL
Front is Me880
100/90 - 19 M/C 57H TL
Or in whitewall (no matching rear) : 100/90 - 19 M/C 57S
Also available :
Tourance 100/90 - 19 M/C 57H for the front, no matching rear.
Previously spec-ed as “alternative” by Metzeler and still available :
3,25-19 54S TL ME11 Perfect front at 2,2 bar or 31 psi
4,00-18 64H TL ME77 Perfect rear at 2,3 bar or 33 psi
          
4,00-18 64S TL ME77 rear at 2,3 bar or 33 psi
3,25-19 54S TL ME11 Perfect front at 2,2 bar or 31 psi
Lasertec (former Me33)
Me88/880
Tourance
Me77 Perfect Sporttouring / Allround Generic standard tyres.

The list wisdom says that Me11/Me77 combination is squirelly on rain
grooves.

The Lasertec front had one list member rubbing the tire against the
fender bracket bolt heads and had to use spacer to slightly raise the
front fender.

The information below is about the Me33/99, which has changed into the
Lasertec. It may not apply any longer.

ME33/99 is the third favourite of Mark Weiss, behind the Avon
roadrunners and the Dunlop 591 (now GT501 which doesn’t fit anymore)

Kim says his Metzeler ME33 Lazer requires 38 to 42 psi to feel right

Charlie Baker says : (old threads) Metzeler ME33 'Lazer's' (front) &
ME99A 'Perfect' ( rear) have had the same pattern for 30+ years. I
like the front for handling, but they tend to cup rapidly on our
weathered roads, & the rear is ok, but I prefer the Dunlop 491's ( I
have 19K on mine,vs 4-7k for the Metz)

Someone else says : My over-priced, shit mileage (barely 3500) Metzler
ME99 is over-priced and shit mileage (barely 3500). I like the ME33,
it ran well with it's original ME99 rear and the Conti Blitz's I
replaced it with.

Still someone else adds : ME33 follows grooves
          

Michelin

http://www.michelinmotorcycle.com/

Michelin recommends only one thing: the Macadam 50E/50
50E 3,25-19-54H TT/TL on the front at 2,2 bar or 31 psi
50 4,00-18-64H TT/TL on the rear at 2,4 bar or 35 psi
The Anakee front tire will fit, as will the A39/M39 and M45 rears
          
Here we have to be careful, as Michelin seems to have made a lot of
changes to their 50/50E/50H/50S line in these past few years. The
comment you read may not be applicable to the Macadam tires they sell
right now.

I've had good experience with Michelin Macadam 50s. Michelin tubes
worked fine too.  Michelin recently updated the front tire to the
Macadam 50H which is supposed to limit cupping of the front tire, a
problem not unique to Michelin on BMWs and one which I've not
experienced with my Macadam 50. I don't think you can go wrong with
these tires and they're fairly priced, too.

I will heartily second Phil's recommendation of the Macadams but I
would advise using the 50E on the front. Both my wife & I have had the
50 cup badly on our bikes & I believe it was replaced by the 50E last
year so any 50s are old stock.

I'm a happy Macadam rider - 25,000+ on my SWB 75/5 with just one front
and three rear tires.

First choice of Nick Grear, before Bridgestone S11 and Dunlop K491
(Front $62.97) and (Rear $76.97)
          

Pirelli

http://www.pirellityre.com/

Pirellis are made by the same company that makes Metzelers, and in
general there's a fairly direct product comparison between the product
lines; one big difference is that the comparable Metzeler is usually
the cheaper of the two.

Brent and Mihai have Pirelli’s on their bikes, but they may not be any
of the models listed above ...  comments welcome.

Pirelli also stopped recommending tires for the /5. Some still fit.

Scorpion MT90 front on/off road
100/90 - 19 M/C 57H TL
Sport Demon
100/90 - 19 M/C 57V TL front
110/90 - 18 M/C 61H TL rear

City Demons (their former recommendation) have been taken out of the
assortment in the correct size, however, some still fit (more or
less).

90/90 - 19 M/C 52S front
4.00 - 18 M/C 64S rear
100/90 - 18 M/C 56S TL rear
MT66 Route (front only)
100/90 - 19 57H TL
100/90 - 19 M/C 57S
          

Shinko

http://www.shinkotireusa.com/

"Toaster Tan" writes:

Try the Shinko SR712. I’m a big fan of Shinko for quality and mileage. They get high customer ratings as well.