Using Nitrogen In Motorcycle Tires

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NitrogenUsing Nitrogen in Motorcycle tires is nothing new. In fact, the practice has been around for a long time and is considered to be a better and safer alternative to using compressed air.

Nitrogen is already abundant in the air we breathe (about 78%) with Oxygen making up most of the rest (about 21%). However, there are several other components including Argon (1%) and Carbon Dioxide (.03%) and trace amounts (measured in parts per million) of others including Neon, Methane, Helium, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone, and Xenon.

Nitrogen reduces permeation

Oxygen permeates through the rubber walls of tires 3-4 times faster than Nitrogen. The water vapor contained in air migrates through the tire wall at a rate of up to 250 times faster than Nitrogen resulting in pressure losses that can be up to 1 pound or more per month. Over time these losses add up and can cause handling and steering difficulty and can lead to premature wear and catastrophic tire failure – which can result in injury or death. In fact, it’s reported that the number one reason for tire blowouts is underinflated tires.

As a side note: Regular visual checks of tires for cracks and other damage is a terrific practice. However, using visual checks to evaluate pressure is a dangerous and worthless practice. Motorcycle tires can be up to 50% underinflated and still appear to be normal. The only proper way to check for proper pressure is to use a quality gauge.

Nitrogen provides a safer alternative and improves fuel economy.

The average vehicle will see a 4% mile per gallon improvement when inflated with Nitrogen and Nitrogen extends tire life by helping to maintain proper tire pressure thus insuring optimum tire wear. While Nitrogen will help maintain proper tire pressure, you still need to check your tires on a regular basis.

78% Nitrogen (which is already in the air in your tires) – is not enough.

Actually, the important part is getting the moisture and Oxygen out. The air in your tires is full of moisture, which along with oxygen can accelerate the damaging effects of corrosion and oxidation. Because Nitrogen is inert and dry, it helps prevent oxidation of rubber, rims, TPMS sensors and valve stems.

Switching to Nitrogen is easier and cheaper than you might think.

Many dealers will fill your tires with Nitrogen for free (including free refills) if you buy the tires from them. Otherwise the cost can range from $3 to $20 depending on location.

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  1. Archie, 14. September 2009, 14:44


  2. Adrian, 3. December 2009, 3:15

    I’m not sure I’d trust myself with Nitrogen tires. I check my tire pressure routinely like clockwork because I know pressure is lost constantly. While I’m down there I usually notice other little things, or remember some other aspect of maintenance or cleaning I should look after. If I stopped checking my tires so frequently I’m afraid I’d start to neglect my bike.

    Guess I need to work on self-discipline, thanks for sharing this though!

  3. I have two concerns with nitrogen in the tires, first as Adrian says, since you don’t have to check the tire pressure so often, is possible to start neglecting your tires, and miss cracks, cuts, and other issues.
    second, i don’t know how tire pressure behaves with nitrogen as tires start warming up after a few miles. i ride a Kawasaki ZX9r with ZR rated tires. cold pressures are 36/front, 42/rear. After a few miles riding in south Fl summer, pressure raises to about 5 psi each, and that’s the real pressure you ride on all day. Does any body knows?