How to Change a Motorcycle Tire
Changing a motorcycle tire is a skill that takes practice. No two bikes, sets of tires, or wheels are the same. Many people pay their repair shop to replace the tires for them, but this service is an unnecessary expense if you know what you are doing.
The process requires patience, but it gets easier the more you do it. Plus, the more familiar you are with your bike, the less variables you will have to consider each time you have to change a motorcycle tire.
Removing the Wheel
The first thing you will need to do is get the bike in the air. You can use either a jack or a stand, each works provided it is set up safely and allows you to get the tires off the frame.
Next, you will want to remove the chain and axle hardware, making sure to keep the pieces organized as you go. This should allow you to remove the wheel and begin taking the tires off.
Breaking the Bead
Once your wheel is separate from the frame, you will first need to break the bead so you can remove the tire. There are dedicated bead breakers you can buy for this step or you can use a tire iron, clamp, level, or your own foot power (in any combination).
This will be the hardest step in the process, as everyone has a different approach. Using a tire lube will make this step much easier. If you do not have any commercial lube, you can mix equal parts water and soap to create one yourself.
Work methodically on the tire, going section by section with your tools to work it off the rim, being careful not to cause damage as you go. Using your knee as a counter force helps keep the tire in place while you work with your hands. Once you have finished one side, flip it over and start working on the other. Eventually, the remaining part of the tire should slide off.
Installing the New Tire
When you are ready for this step, line up the tire and rim orientation before you start working. You don’t want to put all the work in to get a tire on only to realize it is facing the wrong direction. Also, generously apply lube to the new tire bead so that it will be easier to manipulate.
Line your balance dot/mark up to the valve stem (this will help with the balancing process). Then, just as you did while removing the tire, work in small sections to get the bead over the lip of the rim.
Setting the Bead
Once your tire is on the rim, you need to inflate it to set the bead. An air compressor is recommended to fill it up. When the bead sets, it will make a loud noise and pinch whatever fingers, toes, or clothing is nearby. Be safe during this step- the bead will set quickly and oftentimes without warning.
Replacing the Wheel
Before you put the wheel back on the frame, check the tire for any leaks.
Double check that the orientation of the tire is correct. If everything is aligned, it’s time to inflate or deflate the tire to the correct PSI level. Then, put the wheel and any hardware back on the bike in the same order you took it off.
How do you know when your motorcycle needs new tires?
- Tread indicators are level with the top of the tread groove
- Tires are more than six years old
- Penny trick shows that tread is insufficient
Do front and rear motorcycle tires have to match?
With exception to a few specific cases, front and rear tires should be a matched set. Manufacturers design these sets to work optimally together. Swapping out one tire for a different brand can completely change how the bike operates.
While the tires might be different models within the set, they are paired for a reason, so it is inadvisable to mix them.
Should I replace both motorcycle tires at the same time?
It is not necessary to change both tires at the same time. Since back motorcycle tires wear faster than front ones, they will need replacement more often.
You should be more concerned with the state of the tire itself. If both tires are older, then they should be changed together. Also, if you switch brands, you need to change both tires over to the new manufacturer.
Why do motorcycle front tires look backwards?
Most manufacturers mirror the front tread pattern to the rear pattern mainly to improve wear characteristics because they are subjected to different primary forces (braking on the front and acceleration on the rear). It is this pattern that also determines which direction the tires deflect water when the road is wet.
Additionally, the “backwards” tread helps reduce noise and vibration while you ride.
How often should you change your motorcycle tires?
It is recommended to replace motorcycle tires that are at or above six years in age, no matter when they were used or sat in a warehouse. Outside of that timeline, you should also change out damaged, punctured, or unevenly worn tires.
Keeping an eye on the tread is an important habit to develop. Since front and back tires function differently, they do not typically wear out at the same rate. Once a tire’s tread is inefficient, it should be replaced ASAP.