Q:I work at a car dealership that puts nitrogen in many of their car tires. They’re recommending I do the same for my motorcycles. They claim that tire pressure will not fluctuate as much with changes in temperature. What are the proven advantages of putting nitrogen in motorcycle tires? Are there any safety concerns? — Joe Acquaviva / North Falmouth, MA
A: Nitrogen has advantages over air. It doesn’t seep out of the tire—through the carcass, past the bead/rim seal, or the Schrader valve in the stem—as fast as air. Nitrogen is also more stable when it gets hot, so tire pressure doesn’t vary as much from cold to hot. The result is more consistent performance, longer tire life, and better fuel mileage.
For most motorcyclists, though, the benefits are diluted. Besides being more expensive than air, nitrogen isn’t as widely available. If you check tire pressures regularly for commuting or pleasure riding, you’ll let out a whiff of whatever is in the tire, eventually requiring a fill-up. Likewise if you adjust your tire pressures for two-up riding or a trackday. Both require a supply of pure nitrogen or you’ll dilute your tires with nasty old air, which, by the way, is 78 percent nitrogen anyway.
Nitrogen’s tangible benefits are offset by an increase in cost and a decrease in convenience. If you’re willing to accept the bad with the good, nitrogen is the way to go. But if you want to save time and money, good ol’ air is good enough.
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