Tuesday Tip: Tire Selection and Replacement, with Bridgestone’s Doug Schopinsky

Doug Schopinsky’s how-to videos on tire changing stand as our single most popular Tuesday Tip to-date. So when readers asked us for a tip on tire selection and replacement, we decided to see what Doug recommends to the pros every weekend at the races, and what the average Joes like us should be looking for when replacing our tires. Take it away, Doug…

Most of the tire companies have one or two premiere models that they highlight as being the coverall for everything. Bridgestone goes in a little bit different direction; we try to apply the tire to the terrain more specifically, so our terrain-pattern application guide is a little broader.

M100 Series: Sand and Deep Mud
The M100 series (M101 front/M202 rear) is for deep sand and bottomless mud conditions. This type of tire has a smaller block that’s broader spaced, generally the rubber compound is a little harder, and the casing is a little softer. The rubber compound being harder so it digs, and the casing being softer so as it digs into the dirt and comes across rocks or tree roots, it doesn’t deflect as much.

M200 Series: Soft Terrain
The M200 series (M201 front/M202 rear) is our soft to intermediate terrain tire. The M201 front has a little bit closer spacing than the M100 series, and a little bit larger block, broadening the application range a little bit. So when the ground is fairly dug up and loamy, we’ll use the 200 series. The main premise behind it is trying to dig straight lines, and the slightly larger blocks and closer spacing give you enough surface area for when the corners get hard and rutted. You’re still into the fairly hard rubber compounds, with soft cases; again because the tire is designed primarily to dig.

M400 Series: Intermediate Terrain
Our broadest range tire—our ‘one size fits all’—is the M400 series, with the 401 front and 402 rear. It has the broadest range of application. Basically, this tire is designed to have enough spacing to clean out if it is muddy or prepped well in practice, but the block size and spacing is enough to handle hard terrain applications where you want to ride on top of the soil and get good surface contact. Most customers should be looking in this intermediate tire category.

M600 Series: Hard to Intermediate Terrain
What we use here in Supercross is the 601/602 for the hard to intermediate terrain found in man-made racing surfaces like Supercross or Arenacross. The block is shorter, and the block angle has a little bit more radius so that when the block grips the soil it doesn’t fold over. Also, the casing is more rigid, so as the tire plants it doesn’t roll on the rim, but the compound is softer for better grip.

M22/23: Hard Terrain
Finally, at the far end of the extreme is the M22/23, which has been around since the early ’80s and is legendary for the blue groove terrain like we used to see at Carlsbad.

An intermediate tire is the ideal choice for the guy who wants something to cover the widest range of soil applications. For us that would be the M400 series, it will work well when the track is prepped and muddy in the morning, but it still has enough tread and clean out that it won’t clog with mud. Then as the day goes on and you get down to hard corners and ruts, the surface area is sufficient to give you good grip on the hard base.

When you’re talking about a hard terrain tire, edge isn’t as important because the tire is intended to grip the soil and ride on top of the base. So when you start to see an edge wear, it can actually be an advantage because the casing starts to breakdown and get more flexible, holding thee surface a little bit longer.

When you’re talking about your mud or soft terrain tires, edge is critical. The mistake people make, is they buy a soft terrain tire because it looks more aggressive, but the way the tire is designed, if you misapply it and ride on hard terrain for even one day, you’ll destroy the life of the tire. The casing just doesn’t have enough rigidity to hold up to the hard terrain.

With an intermediate tire, the edge and surface area are both important. That’s the tire that I suggest flipping around to get more life out of it. All Bridgestone tires—except for the M100 series—are designed with a bi-directional patter that can be flipped around for extra life.

You should always inspect both of your tires when you are thinking about changing them. The majority of people we see at amateur races neglect the front tire. We see dads changing rear tires all day long, but the front tire on the bike is the wrong application or worn beyond effective use. The wear of rear tires is more noticeable because of the traction of the machine, but the truth is the front tire plays a bigger role in performance for the average rider. If you watch any racing below the A class, you’ll never see anyone crash because the rear tire didn’t hook up, it’s always the front tire.

I don’t think you necessarily need to change both the front and rear simultaneously; the front will last longer than the rear on average. A top pro will use one front, to three rears, but that’s just a guide point. Overlooking the front tire is one of the most common mistakes people make.

Thanks, Doug!

Next time you head down to your local shop to buy a new set of slicks for your ride, be sure to refer back to Doug’s tips. There’s no point in spending your hard-earned cash on the wrong tire for your riding conditions.

For more information, visit www.motorcycle-karttires.com.