Motorcycle Tire Change – Step-by-Step Instructions

There are many benefits to doing your own motorcycle tire change.

1) Save money by buying tires online versus in the shop

2) Save money on tire change shops fees

3) Save time not having to wait for the local shop to do your motorcycle tire change

4) The excuse to buy a lot of cool new toys (this is always a good one)

5) The satisfaction of a DIY job

Step-by-Step Motorcycle Tire Change (Tube-less Tires):

1) Loosen the axle nut before lifting the bike off the ground.  It is safer to do a motorcycle tire change with the bike on the ground unless you have a table top lift or are comfortable that the bike is very secure while lifted.  I loosened mine with the bike already up on the lift, but I had the bike centered perfectly on the stand and strapped down tight with three ratcheting tie-downs.  It wasn’t going anywhere.

2) Get that rear wheel off the ground.  Typically this is done with either a bike jack, bike lift, or other wheel stand.  Personally, I have the Craftsman lift from Sears, which takes the whole bike off the ground.  Don’t cheap out on a lift; it is holding your prize possession off the ground.

3) If you have chain adjusters, you can loosen them now and slip the chain off the sprocket.  If not, simply start sliding out the axle and you will rotate the wheel out of the chain later.

4) Before getting truly started, take note of the order and placement of the axle spacers.  You don’t want to be stuck later not remembering how things went.  Once the axle is out, you can put the spacers on the axle in the proper order so it is impossible to forget.

5) Now, it is easiest to get the axle out when there is no downward pressure on it.  In other words, you need to remove the weight of the wheel.  Slide a few books or somethings solid under the wheel just for this step.  You can pull the books back out after.  I promise the axle will come out much easier.  Use a rubber mallet to hit the axle out.

6) Sidebar for a front wheel.  There are generally some nuts at the bottom of one of the fork legs that need to be loosened before the axle will budge.  These should be obvious, just look at the very bottom of the fork legs where the axle goes through.

7) Also, you will need to consult your manual about how brakes fit into the situation.  Generally for caliper brakes, they will need to be removed to get the wheel out.  Just take note of where everything was, remove, and reinstall in the same order.  You may have to bungee the calipers off the handlebars or frame so that they don’t dangle by the brake lines.  I recommend you do that.

8) Deflate the tire.  Remove the valve core using a valve core tool.  This tool is often snapped on or screwed into the valve to keep it open and let the air out.  The valve core is that single rod sticking up in the middle of the valve stem.  Keep in mind that as you unscrew the valve core it is going to want to come out because of all the air behind it.  Make sure you have a good grip on the core otherwise it can go flying.

9) “Break the beads” or aka getting that initial separation between the tire and the rim.  There are many tools designed specifically for this job.  This is a really tough part of the job so don’t skimp out on some flimsy tool that can’t withstand the force required.  Motion Pro makes a solid product and these guys are eligible for amazon prime.  Check out the reviews too; lots of good talk.  Another good alternative is the press/clamp style bead breaker if you are willing to spend a bit more.  Start on one side of the wheel.  Once the bead is truly broken on that side, you should be able to go around the rim with your hands pushing the bead off.  Repeat on other side.

10) Next is pulling the tire off the rim.  Lay the tire flat on the ground rotor side up, preferable on something kind of soft like an extra piece of carpet.  You will need tire lube, tire irons, and a good choice is also to get rim protectors.  Something to keep in mind here is to get one side of the tire off the rim, the other side needs to be pushed toward the center of the rim; otherwise there will not be enough flex to get the side you are working on out and over the rim lip.  Use the hooked end of the tire iron to grab the bead and pull it over the rim of the wheel.  The rim protector should rest between the tire iron and rim to protect it as you lever the bead.  Once you get the bead over the rim in one spot, the rest should come relatively easily and the other side should come even easier (might not even need the tire irons).

11) Replace the valve stem with the tire off the rim.

12) Remount the tire.  Make sure the directional arrows on the tire are pointed the right way.  Generously use tire lube on the tire beads.  Installation is really the reverse of removal.  If there is a colored mark on the tire sidewall (typically, the lightest point of the tire), try and line it up with the valve stem (typically, the heaviest point of the wheel).  This ultimately helps with balancing.  A balancing stand can help you find the true heavy point of the wheel to line up the paint spot with.  Some people balance the wheel before balancing the wheel and tire.  Remember too that once one side of the tire is back on the rim, you will want to push that side toward the center channel to get the other side back onto the rim.

13) Reseat the beads.  Remove the valve stem and inflate the tire rapidly to help those beads “pop” into place (two “pops” in total, one for each side of the tire).  This is usually at about 40psi.  Typically this is done with a device called a cheetah or bead seater.  If the beads don’t seat, you will either hear or feel air coming out along the sidewall of the tire.  A trick to get the beads to seat is to bounce the tire around on the spot where air is escaping.

14) Reinstall the valve core and inflate the tire to the recommended pressure.

15) Balance the tire.  Balancing stands used to be super expensive, but have become much more affordable of late.  To be honest, I don’t own one of these currently, but have been doing my research and have narrowed it down to this stand from Bikemaster.  It has the most bells and whistles, best reviews, and is under $100.  I am leaning toward this guy for my own upcoming purchase.  Balancing is important for tire wear and to prevent wobble at high speed.  To be honest, balancing wheels and tires is an art in and of itself, so I am going to reserve another post for a full discussion of this issue.  Additionally, I want to hit the topic of balancing beads.

16) Replace the wheel on the bike.  At this point the process is simply the reverse of the first few steps above.  Slide that large book back under the swingarm and make sure to install the axle spacers exactly as they were.  Follow the torque settings in your manual and check the chain tension when you are done (lubricate it too).

So, that’s it – 16 steps to a motorcycle tire change.

It might seem like a lot of tools are suggested for this job and that is because for this job in particular, the right tools make things easier.  Trust me, I don’t mean like mildly easier; I mean like NIGHT and FREAKING DAY easier.  First time I ordered tire changing tools, I spent about $100 in total not including the balancing stand (irons, bead breaker, lube, valve core tool).  Set aside another $100-$200 for the cheetah and balancing stand.  Once setup though, you will never pay for a motorcycle tire change again.  Good luck friends!

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