Sunday, July 19, 2020

Changing & Balancing A Motorcycle Tire

In this article we will show you how to change and balance a motorcycle tire without having to pay a shop upwards of $50 to complete this 30 minute task.

We've all been there - our tire is starting to show wear and the tread is getting thin. So, typically we either ride our bike to the shop and pay $50 to $75 to get them to take the wheel off and install a new tire, or we take the wheel off the bike ourselves and drop it off to have the new tire mounted. Note, this doesn't include the cost of the tire itself, just the labor to perform the task.

Recently I needed to change the front tire and tube on my 2003 Honda Shadow Spirit 750. I decided I would call around and get prices on having the tire I had already purchased on Facebook Marketplace mounted. My local Cycle Gear told me I had to remove the wheel at home and drop it off overnight. The price would be $50 to mount and balance the new tire, since I did not purchase it from them. You do not even want to know what the local Harley dealership wanted to charge me.

I decided I would mount and balance the tire myself. I picked up a few items to make the job a little easier and then set to work.

These steps are specific to a Honda Shadow, but should be very similar on almost all motorcycles. I made my motorcycle lift myself for about $20 with parts from Lowes.

First, we need to raise the front (or rear) wheel off the ground, and it needs to be high enough to roll the tire out from under the fender. My lift worked great for this and I will post an article on how to build it on our Mods Mutants & MoneyMakers blog.

Once our wheel is off the ground, secure the front forks with 2 bungee cords to hold the front wheel straight. These can go back to your crash bars or frame, the main thing is to have enough pressure equally on both sides of the forks to hold the wheel straight.

Next, remove the brake caliper from the front forks. On a Honda Shadow, this required a 10mm socket to remove the cable clamp leading to the caliper. I used a 12mm socket to remove the 2 mount bolts for the caliper itself. One note here is to use a 3rd bungee cord to hold the caliper back out of your way. I didn't do this and it resulted in the caliper constantly moving around when I was ready to balance my new tire.

Now that the brake caliper is out of the way, we need to get ready to remove the axle. Using a 22mm box end wrench, loosen the axle bolt on the right side of the front forks. You may need a long Phillips head screwdriver inserted through the holes on the left side of the axle to keep it from spinning as you loosen the bolt. Do not take it all the way out, as we will use it to bump the axle through.

Once that is loosened we need to loosen the fork bolts. There are 2 on each fork, located on the front at the bottom. These required an allen wrench to break free. Again, no need to remove them, just back them out about 1/4 of an inch or so.

Now, bump the bolt with a hammer. Don't hit it to hard or you could damage the threads in the axle. We just want to bump it free and get the axle loose. Once it is loose you can back the axle bolt out. Give the screwdriver on the left side a good tug and your axle will slide out, leaving your front wheel free to roll away.

Now that we have the wheel off, we can begin removing the worn out tire. Use a valve stem removal tool, take the valve stem out and let all of the air out of your tire. Position 2 2x4 inch boards wide enough apart on the ground that your tire can lay on them without the rim hitting the ground. (Lay the wheel with the brake disc facing upwards.)

My bead seal broke free as soon as I let the air out of my tire, but if yours is stuck tight, you can watch this video on how to quickly and easily break a bead seal.

I highly recommend you purchase a set of rim protectors for the next steps as they will keep you from bending or scratching your rims.

Once your bead seal is free wet the bead area with Windex. This will help your tire slide off the rim. Work your tire iron (or in my case flathead screwdriver and a flat bar from the hardware store) under the lip of the tire. Be sure to rest your iron on the rim protector. Work that section of the tire over the rim, then slide your second iron in just a couple inches to one side. Work your way around the tire a little at a time. Taking big bites will leave you hot, sweaty, frustrated and more than happy to give Cycle Gear the $50 they want to do this job.

Once you have the first edge free, pull your old inner tube out and discard it. Spray your wheel with Windex again and repeat the process with the second side of the tire.

This is a good time to clean your wheel as you have full access to the whole thing. I also recommend that if you have spoke wheels you remove the liner inside the rim and replace it with electrical or duct tape. If you do not see a liner, but instead see tape, don't get worried, it just means that someone who knows what they're doing has been here already. I usually add 2 or 3 wraps over the spoke heads to prevent them from chafing through the tube.

Now we are ready to mount the new tire. Make sure your tread pattern is facing the right direction as it is very frustrating to mount a tire only to realize you have mounted it backwards and have to go through the whole process again. Use Windex to lube the new tire and help it slip on to your rim.

Once the first bead edge is on the rim, rotate the tire to where the red dot on the side wall is exactly opposite of the hole in your rim for the valve stem. Next, you are ready to install the new tube. To make this easier and to prevent you from tearing the tube while you're seating the second bead, inflate it just enough for it to take shape. This requires less than 1lb of air pressure. Take your tube and work it onto the rim, making sure the tire doesn't rotate the red dot from its position. Slip the valve stem through the hole in the rim and if it has a lock nut, thread that down tightly.

Now, lube the second bead on the new tire and work it onto the rim. You should be able to use your hands and knees to get most of it on. Use your iron for the last few inches, being careful not to jab a hole in the new tube.

Double check to be sure your tire is still properly positioned with the red dot opposite the valve stem. Now you can fill the tire to the PSI your bike's manual calls for. On the Shadow I believe it was 29 PSI.

Reassemble the front wheel and axle assembly, but do not put the brake caliper on. We are going to balance the tire on the front fork. Make sure your bungees holding the fork have it as straight as possible. Give the wheel a gentle push. If you spin it too hard you may as well go make a sandwich because it will be a while before it stops.

When the tire stops make a mark at the 6 o clock position on the tire with a piece of chalk. Give it another gentle spin and see if it stops in the same position. If it does, then that spot is heavy and you need to add weight exactly opposite of that position. On my wheel the valve stem was the heavy spot. Once you determine which spot is heavy, rotate that spot to 3 o clock. Let go of the wheel and see if it drops. If it does, then add weight to the 9 0 clock position. I picked up some self adhesive weights from a local tire shop. Add 1 oz to start, and test again. If it still drops but is slower, add another 1/2 oz. Be sure to add weights evenly to both sides of the rim as close to the center as possible. Once you get it to where the tire doesn't rotate when you let it go with the heavy spot at 3 o clock, it is balanced. If you can't get it perfectly balanced, then err on the side of less weight. I would also recommend adding a strip of tape over the weights for the first few days to give the adhesive time to bond with the rim.

Now, you can attach your brake caliper and ride off into the sunset! This whole process will take about an hour or so your first time. The second time, it should be a 3 minute ordeal as you will have a better understanding of what you're doing and how to apply the proper techniques.

I hope this has been helpful! Be sure to comment and let us know how this process went for you!

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