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Buying Motorcycle Tires on the Internet

Is it really such a sweet deal?

Shadow Sam is fit to be tied. He'd called a nearby shop and asked the question "How much do you charge to mount tires?" The shop's response was $59 per tire. So Sam purchased some tires on eBay, strapped them to his bike and rode to the nearby shop. But things didn't work out as planned. He was advised by the shop that the only way they could mount the tires from a third party purchase was to charge him an additional $59 per tire. That's not what he heard the first time when he neglected to mention to the shop he'd bring in his own tires purchased online.

So why the upcharge? And for those of you who say 'I mount my own tires' keep reading anyway. There's more you need to know.

Suppose Sam gets a flat in the first 500 miles. The tire is covered under warranty by the manufacturer and Sam is entitled to a new tire free of charge. But who is going to back up the warranty? Should it be the eBay seller or the shop? Certainly not the shop because the tires weren't purchased there. So if that's the case, it must be the eBay seller. In that scenario, Sam is going to have to pay the shop to remove the faulty tire, pay to ship it back to the eBay seller and pay the shop to remount the tire. So much for saving money. The kicker here is that the motorcycle is Sam's only mode of transportation. Those bus tolls are gonna get old quick.

But over the years, some shops have come up with an option to back the warranty on a third party tire - at the advice of their attorney. Some shops will back the warranty for a price. In Sam's case, what is happening here is that his nearby shop will back the warranty and they will handle all the details if needed. Either way, Sam is paying an additional price here. And savvy shops will charge the premium and back up the warranty because they hold a certain amount of liability for the tire since they mounted it.

Sam might not be happy about this, but the reality is dealing with warranty issues costs money and one way or another the purchaser pays for that. Had he bought the tires from the shop in the first place he would have paid a higher price for them, of course, which would cover those costs. But it was such a great deal to get them online.

There's another issue going on here that affects everyone. Date of manufacture. All tires built with DOT standards are required to have the date of manufacture imprinted into them. If you buy your tires at a shop you can always ask to see the date, and you should. But if you buy them online that will rarely be revealed to you. Those tires might have gone through an auction house from a dealer who closed several years ago and the inventory has finally made its way into a new seller's hands. There's no law that says the date has to be shown and in our research of more than twenty tires for sale on the internet, not one of them did.

David Hough's informative graphic above reveals how to find the date of manufacture on a tire.

So what's the big deal about the date of manufacture anyway. Well, rubber has a way of getting old and the older it gets the stiffer it gets, providing less traction when it hits the road. Take a three year old tire and mount it on a bike in the Northwest, couple that with our weather extremes that take their own toll on rubber and you're not doing much to ensure you'll stay upright when you need to.

Putting a bike back together after a low traction fall isn't worth the savings you got on what seemed like a sweet deal.

If you plan to buy tires over the web, be sure you've considered all the possibilities ahead of time. It's often much cheaper to buy them locally and you'll ride off with more peace of mind.

Patrick Thomas/Winter 2010


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