Inside Motorcycle Tire Warmers

The ins and outs of motorcycle tire warmers

What's the deal with those heat blankets wrapped around the tires on racebikes at the track and on TV? What are they for and what do they do? Do you need a set? Today on MC Garage we talk about tire warmers.

Motorcycle tires rely on mechanical grip to get you safely around on the track and street; of course we normally call this traction. Things like the rubber compounds, carcass construction, tread design, and tire profile all play a part in helping you accelerate, brake, and corner. But there is one other key piece to this traction equation—temperature.

On the street, you normally don’t shoot out of your garage and immediately snap into a corner with your knee and elbow dragging. That’s just crazy. You head out and take it easy for bit, giving your tires time to come up to operation temp. Which is around 165 degrees to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. But what about at the track?

On race day, getting to the first corner and making it around in one piece is crucial to a good finish. There is no time to cruise around and wait for your tires to come up to temp. Racers need to have their tires ready to go. Makes perfect sense, right? But there are other reasons to use tire warmers.

We're not all Valentino Rossi, but you can still benefit from using tire warmers at the track. Tire warmers do exactly what they say they do. They use an internal heating element to bring the tire up to temp before hitting the track. They wrap around the tire like a nice electric blanket and then apply serious heat. You can achieve temps as high as 200 degrees with tire warmers.

Not only will you have the confidence in your tires to ride more aggressively, sooner, you will be controlling one more variable in your motorcycle setup—consistent tire temp. You can’t control the track surface, but at least you know your tire temp and pressure.

Tire warmers also help with prolonging the life of your tires at the racetrack. When riding hard on tires that aren’t fully warm you can cold tear the tire. This is basically where the tire is not pliable enough and shreds, cutting the tire’s usable life short. This type of wear is totally avoidable by having tires at proper operating temps, pressure, and having a well set-up suspension.

There are numerous brands of tire warmers out there; some you plug in and set at low, medium, or high setting. Or like our Chicken Hawk Racing Professional Line warmers here you can set the exact temp. You can also control how quickly they come up to temp.

And that is important. When heating a new tire or for the first heating of the day, warm the tire gradually. Don’t just flip the switch to high 10 minutes before you hit the track. Use the slow heat setting or warm in stages from low to medium to high. This ensures the entire tire carcass and wheel is heated rather than just the surface. You want to have heat all the way through the carcass and even the wheel.

So do you need tire warmers at a trackday? Depends on how important each lap is to you. At $300 a day, if you turn 50 laps, each time around is $6. Also, can you control yourself for two laps of your 10-lap session waiting for your tires to warm up? By the number of red flags that I’ve seen at trackdays, the answer is usually a no. I’d rather be confident in my tires from the get-go, I’m sure you are too.

Starting at around $350 and topping out at nearly $750, tire warmers are a big investment. But put that cost in perspective to your trackday expenses. You spend $350 to $600 on a nice set of track tires, $300 on a single trackday, and who knows how much on your bike. Another $350 in the long run is worth it. You’ll prolong the life of those expensive tires, have more confidence in the early laps, and control another variable in the traction equation. All making for a better day at the track.