Tuesday 5 January 2021

DIY Motorcycle Tires

My first go at motorcycle tires way back with the Concours left me with a staggering dealer bill for nearly $700 for two tires installed.  That made me a bit jumpy about moto-tire changes.  Last time around I did a pair of Michelin Anakee 3s on my Triumph Tiger.  For that one I purchased the tires online and got them installed at my local shop.  That cut the cost down to just over five hundred bucks for two tires installed which is the way to go if you don't want to get your hands dirty, though I still did in both cases because I had to take the tires off the bike to get the professionals to do the job.

This time around I thought I'd order in the tires and do them myself.  I did a lot of tire changes as the tire guy at Canadian Tire during my misspent youth and know the process, but I don't have any of the pneumatic tools at home that made the job quick and easy.  A good piece of advice came from buddy Jeff, who suggested it's a good idea for anyone who rides to do their own tires at least once so you're not doing them on the side of the road for the first time, or getting taken to the cleaner by a shade tree mechanic who sees you coming from a mile away.

Doing tires by hand is easy if you do a couple of things to help the process.

Make sure you've got your direction of travel
worked out - bike tires aren't obvious in terms of
direction of rotation like cars are.  I should have
looked at which side the speedometer was on
but got distracted by just getting the new tire on.

When I couldn't get the old tires off at home I took them in to school and the auto-shop teacher and I did the job, but in the process of putting the tires on we must have got the front turned around and ended up installing it backwards.

It was a sweaty job the first time so I wasn't looking forward to doing it all over again, except this time I had a couple of tricks in hand to help things along.

Tire Installing Hack One:

Warm up the tire! It's Canadian winter here and cold tires are way harder to take off and put on.  This time around I left the tire on the rim on a heat vent by the front door before taking it out to the garage.

Warm tires are much more malleable and easy to dismount and mount.  If you're working in a cold garage this becomes doubly important.

Tire Installing Hack Two:

Use a lubricant to help the tire slip on the rim.  We used soap and water in the shop at school but I had an old bottle of Armour All sitting in the garage and used that to great effect.  A moisturised tire stretches more willingly and pops off the bead and back on again much easier than a dry one, and Armour All did the trick even better than soap and water.

Tire Installing Hack Three:

Be especially careful about inner tube placement if you've got them in your tires.  Pinching one can take you all the way back to step one again.  It's easy to get them seated inside the rim well away from the bead, but if you rush you can make problems for yourself.

Tire Installing Hack Four:

Save yourself the costs and logistical headaches of getting your new tires in for balancing by using Counteract Balancing Beads.  I've used the balance bead kits in tubeless tires with excellent results, so this time I got the Counteract inner tubes that include the beads inside.

I've installed bead kits into inner tubes before but it's a fiddly process (easy on tubeless tires though).  The kit that included new inner tubes for my 17 year old ones was a good choice that wasn't much more expensive than a new inner tube without the built in balancing.  Don't be skeptical about Counteract bead, they work!

Tire Installing Hack Five:

Get yourself some good tire spoons.  I got this Neiko long handled spoon set from Amazon and they've been good tools.  They're tough, built to purpose and the long handle gives you ample leverage.  At only $35 for three long handled spoons and the rim protectors, it's also an inexpensive way to make a hard job easier.

Using the first spoon to pry the tire off the rim, you can then work your way along keeping one in to hold the tire off the rim while the other two work together to work the edge of the tire off.  Soon enough (especially if things are warm and lubed), you've got the tire free.  They've installed 3 tires already (the front one twice) and still look brand new.

Thirty-five bucks in tools and a couple of common sense steps and this time around my tire change cost me $460 which included the two Michelin Anakees and Counteract beads delivered to my door.  Looking at those Michelins that cost me a fortune dealer installed way back when, I can see the same tires with Counteract beads delivered to my door for $462, or about $240 less than what I paid four years ago.

DIY tires are the way to go as long as you've got the right tools and know the tricks.  And if you're ever struck on the side of the road you'll know how to get into them and patch up the inner tube because the mystery will be gone.