The Indian two-wheeler market has always remained steady even when a pandemic crisis like COVID 19 strikes and locks down industries, especially the automotive industry, which was even otherwise facing severe slow-down. Like many other Asian countries, India has more 2-wheeler users than car people. Two-wheelers are part of a middle-class Indian’s daily life. Even for the more affluent segment, and especially for youth, 2-wheelers are much sought-after – even a trend statement. As consumers are turning more health and environment conscious, bicycles also have now become very popular.
This trend has helped the 2-wheeler tyre industry greatly. The sector has been bringing good news to the tyre makers, no matter how slow the other segments worked.
“Motorcycle & Scooter tyre sales have performed better than other passenger tyre categories amidst this slowdown, Amit Tolani, VP Marketing, Ceat Tyres, told Tyre Trends. “This is primarily due to restrictions in travel by public transportation and lower consumer confidence in using shared mobility - leading to increase in usage of motorcycles as a personal transport medium.”
“We believe the demand would be there for motorcycle tyres more in rural areas, as the return of migrant workers will couple with lesser use of public transport,” Tolani added. “Urban demand has also increased due to the same reason and we expect it to pick up further as lockdown restrictions ease.
According to him, there is a shift in terms of adoption of tubeless technology. “OEMs are also shifting from tube type to tubeless technology and hence this would reflect in an increase in adoption & demand of tubeless tyres going further up in the near future.”
The industry is now moving into radialisation from bias technology. This is similar to what happened in 4Ws many years ago. With this radialisation technology, tyres would be much better in terms of providing improved ride & handling, providing maximum grip, control & safety to the bike rider & providing a higher fuel efficiency, Tolani said.
He added: “We had earlier launched Gripp X3 range of bike tyres and are now extending it to scooter tyres. This is an innovative product which comes with a Dual compound technology with an USP of everlasting grip, providing maximum grip till the end of tyre life.
“Going forward, we expect tyres with low rolling resistance and low noise coming in to cater to the nascent but fast-growing Electric Bike space. Again, CEAT has taken an early lead in this space by being the tyre partner of most EV Bikes.
“We are partnering with all leading OEMs for steel radial tyres, which will further provide strength and durability as compared to the existing fabric radial tyres. In addition, we will consolidate our leadership position for Electric Bikes, which will be the next generation solution for this fast-growing space.”
Madhavan P, Executive Vice President- Sales and Marketing, TVS Srichakra, also pointed out that apprehensions on using shared / public transport and a shift to personal mobility due to COVID-19 is expected to push the two-wheeler and the two-wheeler tyre demand in the coming quarters.
He said: “Tyre sales have seen improvements in the month of June and the trend is expected to continue. We are upbeat about the demand and anticipate it to do better in the aftermarket segment, though the OE business will take some more time.
“We are fully prepared to lead our customers into the future of riding with our technologically advanced and high-performance range of tyres. Our R&D centre in Milan helps us tap into international trends in tyre technologies and innovations, with this advantage we will continue to adopt cutting-edge technology and offer world class products.
“Our new brand TVS Eurogrip is still very new and has a very distinct offering. It is one of the major marketing initiatives we have embarked upon in recent years, and the brand is still in nascent stages. In the coming year we will be offering a range of TVS Eurogrip products to meet the expectations of the new age rider. All our recent product introductions including our radials and tubeless patterns have gained good acceptance in the market, the focus going forward will be to further increase our product range with upsize tyres for bikes in the urban sport segment.”
Vinod Gopalakrishnan, Business Head-India operations, Timsun Tyres India, leading tyre dealers, said there has been “a vertical growth in motorcycle tyre sales in the last 2 months despite many big pockets like Mumbai, Chennai were in lock down. Motorcycle tyre market is expected to grow at a high pace further in future. The motorcycle /scooter market is witnessing a revolution in India as the niche, sports and performance motorcycle sales are showing a vertical growth. This manifests that the purpose of riding is getting evolved from just commuting to passion and pleasure. Along with the increase in vehicle population, now the usage per vehicle also is drastically increasing which results in consumption of parts like tyres.”
Timsun has started ground works to manufacture tyres in India.
Have you ever thought about buying a new tyre for your motorcycle? If yes, then you’ll know why it’s an endless search. Ranging from tread pattern, to the kind of rubber compound used, to the size, the options are abundant.
Road tyres: These are the standard tyres that most motorcycles come fitted with. They are made of a harder rubber compound and have more treads etched in. The harder rubber compound used means that it will last longer and is more resistant to harsh road debris. They offer sufficient traction but only at lower speeds as they’re meant for city use. The high side wall on these tyres allows for a more comfortable ride, but limits the lean angle of your motorcycle.
Sport tyres: Not to be confused with racing tyres, Sport tyres are meant for road use only. The rubber compound used is much softer offering excellent grip on tarmac but with the downfall of not lasting as long as regular road tyres. They have fewer tread patterns allowing for a bigger contact patch while still being able to dispel a little water. Sport tyres also allow you to ride at faster speeds without compromising on traction and cornering grip.
SuperSport tyres: The premium segment in motorcycle tyres are the SuperSport tyres. They are sticky tyres which love hugging the road, as long as they are warmed up. SuperSport tyres offer paramount grip at high speeds on dry surfaces but lack wet weather traction due their low and scarce tread depth. You can even drag your knee around corners comfortably knowing the tyre has more grip than you’ll need.
All-Terrain: These tyres are characterised with a bulky tread pattern and depth. They are mainly for those who like riding on a mix of different surfaces like road to dirt. Their dual purpose lets you ride on and off road without having to change your tyres. Unfortunately, this means that they use a harder rubber compound. This offers less grip on dry road surfaces at faster speed, but performs really well in wet weather and on loose surfaces like gravel and mud.
Off-Road tyres: Off-road tyres are slowly becoming popular in India as the number of riders interested in dirt riding is increasing. These tyres have very distinct knobs made specially to dig into the dirt. They are meant only for riding on dirt trails and competitions. Don’t even try to use them on normal road surfaces, unless you like wobbling around while trying to ride in a straight line.
Racing Slicks: You won't find these tyres at your regular tyre shop. They are used only on race tracks and require tyres warmers in order to give you any grip at all. These tyres have a high heat resistance to allow you to ride at 300km/h and have different rubber compounds in different parts of the tyre to give that racing edge. It’s perfect for track days at the Budh circuit.
If you’re bike crazy, the first thing you would do once you get it is to customise it. It’s not about transforming the bike into a radical chopper or a cafe racer, but small things like hand guards, fog lights and, of course, stickers! Our motorcycle is an extension of us. The way we customise it says a lot about our inner personality and our taste in aesthetics.
Mustafa Bakri (24), a graphic designer in Mumbai, says: “I bought the Hero Xpulse 200 for touring purposes, and a few trail rides on weekends. It looked like a go anywhere kind of bike and I’ve realised that it’s extremely comfortable on Mumbai roads.
“I've added a Top Rack with a backrest, brighter LED indicator lights, a softer seat, auxiliary lights, Hand guards, a taller wind breaking visor and plenty of stickers. The Hero Xpulse looks like an off-road motorcycle but I've tailored it for touring use. I made all these tweaks to my motorcycle so that I could tour and travel comfortably and safely”.
Bigger not always better!
Tyres too are an expression of one’s style. Tyre sizes and tread patterns don’t change as frequently as the garments, but they have evolved over time to give a stylish look to your motorcycle. Tyre treads vary from the basic ribbed tyres like the MRF Zapper RF to the Pirelli Sport Demon and even the odd squiggly lined Timsun TS 660.
As tyres go, the general belief is that a bigger tyre gives you more grip and looks really badass. That’s true, but only in part. Bigger tyre gives you a bigger contact patch while riding in a straight line. But it changes the dynamics of how your motorcycle handles while cornering and on uneven roads. The key point to remember is you can’t exceed the tyre size recommended by the motorcycle manufacturer. The rim dimeter and width play a crucial role with tyre size and how well the tyre will perform with your motorcycle. In fact, putting a bigger tyre on a motorcycle that doesn’t support it will reduce your mileage considerably and if it’s too big, you may even have to change the swingarm.
Tyre sizes vary significantly, those numbers written on the sidewall of the tyre as 120/70/R17 is the tyre width, aspect ratio and rim size respectively. These numbers can help you when choosing a new tyre for your motorcycle. Just remember not to go beyond rim size, whereas a slightly different width and aspect ratio may work better depending on your riding style and the terrain you travel on.
A point to keep in mind though - any modification to a motorcycle is illegal as per RTO regulations and your motorcycle can be impounded with a hefty fine. The decision is yours.
Should you change your stock tyre
The tyres that come with your motorcycle have been chosen based on a variety of factors like road abuse, life span, all weather traction and fuel efficiency. They will give you good road grip, adequate wet grip and last you a couple of years. However, there are motorcycle enthusiasts who run through the lifespan of their tyres rather quickly and there are those who know what they want from the get go. Many bikers upgrade their original tyres to ones that either give them better grip on tarmac or give better longevity and grip for touring on different terrains.
It all depends on where you ride your motorcycle the most and the kind of traction you want. Road tyres will work great on the tarmac in all weather conditions and last long, Sport tyres work brilliantly in dry and smooth tarmac, whereas All-Terrain tyres work well for touring.
Calvin Vaz, 37yrs, Sound Engineer in Mumbai, said: “I booked a Bajaj Dominar 400 late last year. The bike comes stock with tyres meant for riding on the tarmac but I wanted to tour different parts of India on this bike. Given that I'm likely to spend quality time on bad roads, I needed a tyre that was closer to 60/40. So, I researched for almost a month and called several dealers to check for the tyres that I wanted. Unfortunately, all the dealers had tyres that were over a year old. Tyre dealers were not helpful in offering me a good value for my stock tyres. I literally rode straight from the showroom to the tyre shop and got my tyres changed the day I bought the bike. I now have Pirelli Rally Scorpion STR tyres on my bike and I'm very happy with them.”
The possible and the impossible!
Every bike manufacturer has done a lot of research on different types of tyres for a particular motorcycle before they launch it in the Indian market. They look at tyres that would serve the intended use of the motorcycle along with longevity. Motorcycles can’t be made customised from the factory. Which is why we make a few modifications to our bikes to suit our style.
As far as tyres go, no authorised motorcycle dealer will allow you to change the stock tyre that comes with your motorcycle, as it voids the warranty. But if your warranty is over, there are plenty of tyre dealers who will sell you every single tyre they have (even if it’s not right for you). Motorcycle tyre shops will always ask you about the tyre size, rim diameter and the ratio you are looking for. But if they don’t have the tyre you’re looking for, they’ll recommend a tyre with a different ratio. This is where you need to be vigilant and not compromise on style over safety and performance.
All those bikes!
Motorcycles, just like people, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The categories vary considerably.
Scooters make up the majority of two-wheeler sales in India, mainly because of its user friendliness. Most motorcycle users learn riding first on a scooter. They are easy to ride, nimble in traffic, and have plenty of storage for the daily grocery ride. These days they have undergone a generation make-over, becoming trendier, with a host of features like LED lights, USB charging ports and now even Bluetooth connectivity.
As far as popularity goes, street bikes come in close to scooters. Mostly because they are affordable, don't weigh much and are easy to maintain.
If you like speed and sweep corners with your knee, then sport motorcycles are yours. They are fast, have great air flow dynamics and push the limits of a rider's capability both on road and on the track.
Cruiser motorcycles are great for laid back and relaxed riding while still munching down those kilometres. They are built for long hauls on highways.
Adventure bikes are tall motorcycles with massive ground clearance and will require a higher skill set to ride. These aren’t your ordinary everyday motorcycles but once you get the hang of riding one, you’ll never want to go back to any other motorcycle.
Dual sport motorcycles are lighter than Adventure bikes and more terrain focused. They are great for going off-road riding in the mountains while offering a superb comfort level on pot hole infested roads.
Cycling is fast becoming a fitness trend. Cycle sales have gone up in recent times due to high fuel prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Cycling is quickly becoming popular in the metros and buyers are filled with options as far as features and prices go.
Cycling is not only a great way to exercise, it also boosts your metabolism rate, stamina and gives you a chance to ride together with friends and family. The best part is, age is no bar to ride a bicycle.
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