How to change your own tires
Motorcycle tires do not last that long, so if you are going to pay someone to mount those new tires on your bike plan on paying out $100 for mount and balance. I know I use to do to do this and my wife still thinks this is cost effective. I ask her, “are you rich?”, she just says I married money….LOL! I’m a Cardiothoracic surgeon. Personally I can not afford to pay someone else to mount my new tires. Then there is the concern if you mount them yourself they won’t be balanced. If you are riding knobbies it doesn’t matter and if you go less than 110mph on the freeway it doesn’t matter either.
I was putting new tires on my KTM 520 almost every 600 to 800 miles so I could not afford to pay the dealer to do it. Plus, what are you gonna do when you get a flat out the the bush or desert, where is the dealer going to be? You are stuck if you can’t fix your own flat.
I am not expert.
I watched youtube videos and I will share what I think is the best information out there to help you learn.
Grant Johnson, the founder of Horizons Unlimited gives a class on tire changing at all HU meetings. It is both fun to watch and educational. He always picks someone from the audience to do it that has never changed a tire before and they do it in front of an audience for first time. You can do it too.
I asked my neighbor, Mike, to help me a few times. He is an aircraft mechanic, so tire changing doesn’t scare him.
I bleed a little each time I change a tire. Not good for a surgeon that needs to be able to work the next day.
If you totally blow it take the tire and wheel to the dealer and they will fix it for you. They know you are an amateur and are happy to take your money.
So what do you need?
You need to have a safe way to have your wheel off the ground. Best is a center stand, but there are many options. We have several bikes with no center stand. Make sure the bike will not fall with the wheel off. It is very bad when this happens. I know from experience. Tie your center stand so it can not fold down on you while you are forcing the wheel off.
Take the wheel off. Front and rear are very different from each other. Both are easy after you figure it out. Your owner’s manual will tell you the specifics for your bike. It is easier to take the wheel off than put on.
Next take the valve stem out. This lets all the air out, essential to getting tire off. I have valve stem wrenches on all of my bikes for their valve cap. I have heard that in Mexico kids like to remove the valve stems on motorcycles for fun, so might not be the best valve cap.
Next you have to break the bead of the tire. Easier said than done. Sure there are people will tell you to use the kickstand of your bike. Don’t kill yourself. Buy the Motion Pro bead breakers tire leavers. They work and are worth the money, I paid $70 for mine at the KTM dealer; you can get them online for less. Revzilla offers the same tool. CLICK HERE to check it out on their web site.
So now the bead is broken, next you need to get the tire off. Here is where you need a little lubrication and go slowly around the tire. I use very dilute soapy water. Don’t use too much soap because it can dissolve the rubber rim tape inside your wheel if the soap is too concentrated. I like that when it’s wet it is slippery and when it drys it is sticky. You don’t want your tire slipping when you give you bike the gas. Start at the valve stem and work your way around. The reason to start at the valve stem when taking it off is the opposite of when you put a tire on. You want the tire while mounting to make it into the deep area of the rim.
Ok one side is off, pull the tube out. This is where I loose a little skin on my knucles everytime. Tubeless tires are much easier to replace. But getting them to take air can be difficult.
How to get the old tire off the rim? You have two choices one is easy but sounds weird; the other is just difficult.
I will explain them both.
Easy way is turn the rim over and pry the other side of the tire off the rim. Now the wheel will fall into the tire. The rim will almost fall out now with little effort.
The harder way is to muscle the tire off the same side. Hard to do but it is possible.
Ok so now the Tire is off.
Clean your rim if it is filthy. I know I should do this but usually do not.
Putting the new Tire on is just the reverse of taking if off. The hardest part is getting a tube valve post through the rim and rim tape.
Spooning on the new tire, the best thing I have learned is warm up the new tire. Use a hair dryer, get the rubber hot. The heat makes it softer and much easier to spoon on the wheel.
For a tube tire put the valve stem in and just fill it up.
Tubeless can be tough to get the air to not leak out. You need the bead to seal. There are lots of ways to do this but I find bouncing the tire on the ground while putting in air worked. Another recommended way is to use a strap around the entire tire and make it real tight –I didn’t have luck with this. I have even seen on the internet people using starter fluid and a lighter to explosively get it to set the bead. Personally I would not do this. I like living too much and worry it might hurt the new tire. I want to be able to ride over 100 mph without being concerned that I might have damaged my new tire during installation.
I recommend you watch a bunch of you tube videos first and then practice.
Don’t be afraid to mess up a few times.
Being able to change a tire is essential for the adventure rider. Or, you better ride with someone like my friend Mike to help you out.
Happy to field any questions.
Also I have tried many brands of tires and have opinions on this too.
Vicky thinks I have an opinion on most things, just not always a good one.