Street Tires on a Dirt Bike: Time for Some Mud-Racking
Planning to use street tires on dirt bike?
If you love off-roading, my suggestion is… don’t do it! Dirt bike tires are designed differently for a reason.
I know many riders who love using a specific tire on their dirt bike and will not change it for anything!
But if you’re on a budget and still want to ride on a dirt track, will the street tire work?
Yes, it will. But you won’t get the best results from it.
How about we look into the dirt and find out more?
What is Special About a Dirt Bike Tire?
Before starting, let me remind you that dirt bikes aren’t street legal in many states. However, some states have more lenient laws than others. So, make sure to check out the local laws before you ride a dirt bike on the street.
Keep in mind, using a street tire won’t make your dirt bike street legal. If you see someone riding a dirt bike on the street, they have modified the bike to make it street legal.
For that, you will need to upgrade the electrical system, the lights, horns, and more.
But I’m jumping ahead.
Basically, dirt tires are categorized into three main types:
- Soft terrain tires are designed for loose soil, loam, or loose gravel. They have tall aggressive lugs with uniformly spaced tread patterns. The lugs push into the soft terrain and the wider tread design promotes self-cleaning. However, they are made from hard rubber and won’t last on a hardened surface.
- The hard terrain tires are for harder soil and tightly packed surfaces. They have closely spaced treads that provide more surface area. The soft rubber compound gives it more flex and grip on hard soil.
- Lastly, there are intermediate-grade tires that work well on a wide variety of surfaces. The material used is mid-grade rubber that offers a balance between hardness and flexibility. The lug size is average and the spacing between treads is moderate.
Other than these, there are other specialized tires that are a favorite of many dirt riders. For example, knobby tires are good for desert tracks and paddle tires for the best riding experience over sand dunes.
And it’s not just about digging into the dirt. The dirt tires should be able to let go of the dirt easily too!
So, you will get to see a wide variety of tread designs to optimize self-cleaning.
What it all boils down to is…
Dirt tires are specially designed to assist your bike on a dirt road. You have a wide variety of options to choose from based on the soil condition of the track that you prefer.
Fair enough, but what about putting a street tire on a dirt bike?
Well, then things get a lot different. (Think of the terminator trying hard on a dance floor. Get the idea?)
Can You Put a Street Bike Tire on Dirt Bike Rims?
Sure. You can always install a street bike tire on a dirt bike as long as it is of the right size. Keep in mind, some bikes are better suited than others for such a conversion.
However, with street tires, you won’t get the right level of traction or stability on technical terrain.
Usually, the best street tires are rounded and smooth in shape and there aren’t large lug patterns either. The design ensures that you have the maximum tire surface in contact with the ground at all times.
Quite simply, they won’t dig into the mud like a well-designed dirt bike tire. So, if you’re planning to tackle leans over a 60-degree angle with a street tire, think again.
Besides, the treads of a street tire are designed to repel water. When you use them on mud or sand, they will simply not serve the purpose. Moreover, the mud will pack into the grooves.
But that’s not all…
How the bike will handle a dirt track depends a lot on your driving skills. Experienced off-roaders might tell you it’s an easy track for riding. But without those monstrous knobby tires designed for dirt tracks, you might find it difficult to get going.
(That reminds me of a cold stare I got from a grizzled veteran on a particular track in my greenhorn days—“You ain’t from aroun’ here, are ya, boy?”)
Fact is, when you’re planning to hit the dirt tracks for fun, street tires will hardly give you the fun factor. If you love jumping over berms, then you need the right tire to enjoy the thrills.
However, there is another option to get the best of both worlds. (And to avoid getting into trouble with your friendly neighborhood law enforcement officer.)
That is by choosing a Supermoto or a dual-sport bike. You can also call it a dirt bike with street tires.
Basically, this is a street-legal bike that can be used for off-road action as well. If you want to hit the track on weekends and stick to asphalt for the rest of the week, they are a great choice.
Let’s say you aren’t fond of riding on hardcore MX tracks but still don’t want to give up the fun of riding on dirt roads, then a Supermoto is a good choice for you.
And the best part is, these bikes are hardy and are super resistant to crashes. Some even have their gear ratios modified for the street as well as dirt. You get lightweight agility as well as sharp handling.
Lastly, they are fun and forgiving for rookies. You don’t need to be an off-roading expert to ride a Supermoto.
That said, the versatility doesn’t come without a few compromises.
A Supermoto won’t perform like a champ on the freeway, or on a curvy mountain road. They won’t offer the best off-road performance like a hardcore dirt bike either.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use dirt tires on the road?
Yes, you can use dirt tires of the right size on the road. But that won’t be a wise choice. A knobby tire isn’t designed to dispel water like a street tire. If you run into standing water, the water might get trapped inside the tire. That increases the risks of aquaplaning. Besides, such tires will also wear out faster on the pavement.
Are dirt bike tires legal on the street?
You can use DOT-approved dual-sport riding tires to make your bike street legal. However, you need to update the other equipment of the dirt bike to make it fully street legal.
Can you take a road bike on a dirt road?
Yes, you can take a road bike on a dirt road. But since the tires are not designed for mud or sand, you will lose traction. That means you will need to do a lot of slow-speed maneuvering and keep scanning the road ahead.