How To Change Motorcycle Tires

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Categories: How To, Expert Advice, Repair and Maintenance

How To Change Motorcycle Tires

The rise of online motorcycle parts retailers has meant a substantial drop in prices for virtually everything you need for your motorcycle. And for those that don't mind getting their hands dirty, tasks like mounting your own motorcycle tires can now be down cheaper in your own garage than at the local dealership.

This also can be a necessity for owners of older machines that some dealers may not want to service due to inexperience with vintage motorcycles. Whatever your reasoning, the tools needed are minimal and the knowledge of being able to change your own tires could help get you out of a jam somewhere down the road, so it is worth learning how to do yourself.

READ MORE: The Dos and Don'ts on Motorcycle Tires | RideApart

Step 1:  The first step is obviously to remove your wheel (front or rear) from the motorcycle.  You'll need to refer to your owner's manual for the specific details, but generally you need to lift the motorcycle off of the ground and remove the axle so that the wheel can come free of the motorcycle.

Whenever you are lifting a motorcycle off the ground, make sure to secure it properly once it is in the air.

Step 2:  Once the wheel is off, you'll want to deflate the tire completely.  The best method is to remove the valve stem core from the valve stem.  This is removed with a special tool that be picked up from your local auto parts store for just a few dollars, so don't try and remove it with pliers and risk damaging your valve stem.

The valve stem core removing tool comes in multiple forms, including this one that doubles as a valve stem cap.

Step 3:  Now you need to break the bead that holds the tire to the rim.  If you have a fairly narrow tire, you can get away with just using a benchtop vise to break the bead. For those with larger tires (especially the rear wheel) you'll need a special bead breaker.  The Motion Pro BeadPro Aluminum Tire Bead Breaker is a good choice as it also has integrated tire spoons, which you will need for the next step. Never try to break the bead by beating on the tire with a hammer, you'll more likely to damage the rim than loosen the tire.

The bead can often be tough to break and require putting pressure on the tire at multiple points to work it loose from the rim.

Step 4:  Once the tire bead is broken, you can start levering off the first side using a set of tire spoons. Some motorcycle tool kits come with a set of small spoons, but a longer spoon will give you more leverage, which will make the whole job a lot easier. The basic operation is to first slide the spoon between the tire and the rim using the "hooked" end to grab the edge of the tire. Then you pull the end of the tire iron towards the center of the rim which will pull the edge of the tire up and over the rim.

The edge of tire will not just stay in place once it is levered up, so you'll need to use multiple spoons with some just holding the portion of the tire already levered past the rim as you work your way around the tire.

Step 5:  If you are running a spoked wheel with a tube, you'll need to remove it next. Unbolt the valve stem from the rim and carefully slide the tube out between the rim and the tire.

Tubes are relatively cheap, so replacing them along with the tire is always a good practice. This one is loaded with rust from the rim, so it is going straight into the trash.

READ MORE: 5 Things You Need to Know About Motorcycle Tire Pressure | RideApart

Step 6:  Using the same technique as in steps 4 and 5, lever off the other side of the tire.

At this point you should be getting the hang of the tire spoons and if you didn't invest in a long spoon you'll be regretting that decision...

Step 7:  Inspect the inside of the rim for rust and debris. It is important to clean the inside thoroughly, especially if you have steel rims, which are prone to rusting. A wire brush and a cordless drill can make quick work of clearing away the rust.  I also recommend using a lightweight spray-on corrosion inhibitor on steel wheels after they have been wire brushed.

Do not paint the inside of the rim once the rust is removed unless you remove the spokes first. Otherwise the paint will seal the nipples in places making it hard to true the wheels in the future.

Step 8:  Coat the edges of the new tire liberally with bead lube to help it slide onto the rim.

You can substitute hand soap or hand sanitizer, but the real deal bead lube is slicker and stays on better.

Step 9:  If you are running a spoked wheel, make sure you have a rim strip installed (a thin band of rubber that covers the spoke nipples to protect the tube).

Line up the notch in the rim strip with the hole for the valve stem in the rim.

Step 10:  Using the fork spoons, lever on one side of the tire.

Your knees make for a good set of tools for holding the new tire in place.

Step 11:  For tubed tires, insert the tube between the tire and rim making sure it is not twisted or kinked.  Also make sure to push the valve stem back through the hole in the rim.

If you look carefully, you can just make out a dot of grey paint above the serial number on the sidewall. Many tire manufacturers mark the lightest point on the tire which should be lined up with valve stem as it is usually the heaviest point on the rim.

Step 12:  Carefully lever the other side of the tire onto the rim using the tire spoon.

If running a tube, make sure you do not rest the edge of the tire iron on the tube (which can puncture it) or get the tube pinched between the rim and the tire.

Step 13:  Reinstall the valve stem and inflate the tire until it seats completely on the rim.  This may require inflating the tire past the recommended riding pressure.

Inspect both sides of the wheel to verify that the tire is seated against the rim all the way around.

Step 14:  Remount the wheel on your motorcycle and verify that it has the correct air pressure.

Double check that all fasteners have been installed and tightened before attempting to test out your new tires.

When it is all said and done, the hardest part of the whole process is usually removing the wheel from the bike.  Unless the tires are extremely old and hard, removing them should be relatively easy with a good set of tire spoons and the new tires should go on much easier with their more pliable fresh rubber.

READ MORE: How to Choose New Tires | RideApart

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