Question: Do you need to change front and rear tires as a set? Is it okay to mix and match brands? Yes and yes. Don’t just take my word for it, go ask your any tech who’s not trying to reach his quota of tire sales. Even on race bikes, riders habitually mix and match different compound tires front and back. Most street riders tend to wear out the rear tire long before the front, so it’s common for people to change the front tire once for every two rear tires.
But won’t this give you different amounts of traction front and rear? You always have different amounts of traction front and rear, just look at the size of the tires. Besides the two tires do very different jobs. Every time you accelerate swiftly you’re rubbing a little more rubber off the rear than the front. This accounts for why most riders wear out (or square off) the rear first. Sport touring tires like the Michelin Pilot 2CTs have a harder rubber compound in the center to prevent squaring off, and softer compounds toward the edges (for when the bike is leaned over).
Having said that if you have old (but not so worn) tires, or the original tires from the factory, chances are a new set of tires will make a world of difference in your ride. Some bikes are notorious for coming with second-rate tires straight from the factory. So if the tires have been on for more than a couple of years, you might want to change them both even if there’s plenty of tread left.
So what tires should I buy? Here’s the simple tip: Stick to major manufacturers and major distributors. Any of the major brands: Dunlop, Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli make excellent tires for every style of riding (cruising, touring, sport, etc). Ask around and see which models people like on your brand of motorcycle. For sporty riding. Dunop Qualifiers are also great, along with Pirelli Diablos, and Bridgestone Battlax. Also, stick to major distributors. You may find a great deal on tires onlines, but stick to major distributors: Some bargain basement tires may have been sitting around for a couple of years, in which case the rubber begins to degrade. You want the tires to be fresh from the factory, not leftovers from a hot warehouse.
Any tire advice? Post in the comments, cheers!