We’ve written plenty on motorcycle tire maintenance from Inspecting and Maintaining your Street Motorcycle Tires to The Off-road Motorcycle Tire Buyer’s Guide and even The Scooter Tire Guide. But no matter how well you care for those tires, there comes a time when you’ll need to swap out those rubbers for some new treads. With the help of those guides and BikeBandit.com’s Motorcycle Tire and Tubes deals buying the tires is a snap. But what happens when they finally reach your front door? They don’t just magically replace themselves, and taking them into a shop to have your ride’s new shoes slipped on by someone else can be costly.
Removing your old tires and slapping the new ones on will require a few extra tools, but, unlike the fee a mechanic will charge you, these are a one time cost for this time and future tire changes alike. You’ll need a tire stand, a tire pressure gauge, 3 tire irons, an air compressor, a valve core remover , a 12mm ratcheting wrench and a Bead Buddy.
The front tire is usually a bit easier than the rear so start there. In order to have full access to the tire, use the tire stand to lift your bike’s tire off of the ground and remove any cables, nuts and bolts holding it to your front fork. Place the wheel and tire horizontal with the rotor facing downward and remove the valve core and valve stem nut. If the tires have tubes, allow all of the air to flow out.
If you’ve invested in some pretty expensive wheels and want to avoid any scratches or marks that tire irons and other tire changing tools may cause, check out the Motion Pro Rim Protectors. Slide them onto your rim and then gently slide one of the tire irons between it and the tire with the spooned side if the iron facing the rim or rim protector. With the tire iron in place, push down on the handle to break the bead of the tire. Slide the iron (and the rim protector) away from the over a few inches and continue the process until the bead of the tire is free from the rim. Flip the tire over and repeat.
With everything all loosened up, flip over the tire iron so that the spooned side is facing away from the rim, slide it back between your rim and tire and push down on the handle so that it bites into the tire enough to lift it up over the rim of your wheel. If you have tubes in your tires, make sure not to pinch it. We like to keep the tire iron propped like this with either our knee or the brake rotor so that the tire doesn’t slip back down. Consider this the ground zero of your tire removal.
If you’re on your front tire, you’ll probably only need to use two of the tire irons. The rear, however, is known for being a bigger pain in your rear because of its thicker sidewall and tread. The beastly rear tire removal will probably call for all three of your irons. With a second tire iron, do the same as you did with the first a few inches away from it. Work your way along the tire until the lip is above the rim and remove the tire irons. Flip the tire and repeat and then check that both sides of the tire are completely over the rim of the wheel.
In order to pull the tire off the wheel, pull the valve stem out of the rim and keep a hold of it while you pull the tire away enough to slip a tire iron between it and the opposite side of the rim. Push down on the handle and, with a bit of force, the tire should come completely away from the rim and allow you talk walk the rest of it off.
With the tire off, remove the tube if your tire had one and check both sides of the wheel for any broken spokes, cracks or debris. Then replace the valve core into the valve stem.
Most new tires will have an indication on the sidewall of which way they’re meant to run. Check for little arrows and note the direction that they point. If you’re going to be installing a tire that requires a tube, always be sure to replace the tube as well as the tire as they tend to stretch and warp with the old tire. Place the new tube in the tire so that it is tucked inside the entire circumference without any kinks or folds. Some people like to coat the inside of the tire with baby powder to keep the tube from chafing. With an air compressor, most hand pumps aren’t strong enough, inflate the tube until it takes shape and is taunt instead of flimsy.
In order to help the tire slide onto the wheel rim a little easier, coat the edge of the tire with soapy water then flip it and repeat. With the brake rotor side of the wheel on top, insert the valve stem and give the nut that secures it a bit of a spin. Starting next to it, insert a tire iron between the rim and the tire and pull down on the handle, away from the rim, to push the tire onto the wheel with the edge of it resting on the outside of the rim. While keeping that tire iron anchored in place with one of your hands, do the same with a second tire iron a few inches to the right of the first tire iron. You then should be able to remove the first tire iron and repeat the process a few inches to the right of where you have the second iron anchored. Continue to walk the irons around the tire like this.
With the entire edge of the tire is the wheel, slide a tire iron between the rim and tire with the spooned side facing toward the tire. Pull down on the handle and insert another tire iron a few inches away to do the same thing, which should allow the edge of the tire to drop below the lip of the wheel rim. With both tire irons in place, slip the bead buddy between the tire and the rim where the rim had dropped and anchor the other end of it to the nearest wheel spoke. This should keep the tire in place under the edge of the rim while you remove the two tire irons.
With one hand, press down on the tire to allow for enough room to slip one of the tire irons back between the tire and the rim with the spoon side toward the rim. Pushing down on the handle of iron will drop the edge of the tire under the lip of the rim. Move the hand that was pressing down over to where the tire iron is and press down to keep the edge of the tire in place under the rim while repeat the whole thing a few more inches away until you’ve gone around the whole thing. At that point, the entire edge of the tire should be under the rim of the wheel.
Remove the bead buddy and flip the wheel over to make sure the edge of the tire is completely under the rim of the wheel on that side as well. With your air compressor, inflate the tire until you hear the bead pop on both sides. This will probably be just over the suggested PSI. Once you hear both sides pop into place, adjust the tire pressure to the recommended PSI and install it back onto your axel in the exact opposite order that you took it off in while making sure that the tire, wheel and rotor are all facing the right direction. Viola! You’ve changed a tire without having to go to a shop and it only gets easier with practice. Just remember that new tires will have a coating on them that will make your tires less grippy for the first 100 miles or so.