Changing a Motorcycle Tire

Changing a motorcycle tire isn’t too hard.. well at least in theory. Most of us don’t have access to machines that do this, so here’s how to do it with tire irons – also saves the labour fee in having someone else do it for you, or if you break down miles away from a garage.

motorcycle tire removed

Whether tubeless or not, the process is pretty much the same (apart from removing the inner tube). The only additional thing you’ll definitely need with a tubeless is a way of breaking the bead. You’ll want decent tire irons about a foot long/ 30cm with as thin an edge to them as possible to aid getting them under the tire.

So let’s assume that you’ve removed the wheel, this one is a scambler/ dirt bike wheel and tyre but you can use this method for any type. It’s no different to changing your bicycle tires, just a bit more effort as they’re bigger and need balancing.

1. Remove the Schrader valve – this is the valve you use to fill the tyre with air. This valve part is the pretty much the same across all tires and they’re dirt cheap, so always replace them when changing a tyre. There’s a special tool, again it’s really cheap, designed specifically to remove the Schrader valve (also known as an American valve). Why kids don’t remove this valve instead of deflating the tyres by holding the valve in is a mystery.

Remove the schrader tire valve

The tyre valve

2. The tire’s now deflated, so next thing if needed is to break the bead. The bead on a tire is what runs around the rim of the tyre that locks in to a groove on the wheel, when inflated this is held in place and there’s no need to have an inner tube. However, without a fancy machine, breaking/loosening the bead can be hard work. You can get a specific and tool to do the job or you can just jump on the wheel or use something heavy like your friends van.

3. Now we’re ready to lift the tire off, first use some rim protectors – especially on soft metal/alloy rims. Clip these on to the rim where you intend to insert the tyre irons against the rim – I’m not using them on this wheel it’s already knackered. To make things easy apply plenty of tyre fitting soap around the rim to lubricate the tire to help it over the rim.

Get the first tyre iron in by the valve

4. Starting with the valve closest to you push in the opposite end while inserting the first tire iron at the valve side, leave this towards the center of the wheel to lift the tire from the rim, repeat this step with a second lever a short distance away from first iron you inserted.

work around the wheel to remove tyre

5. Keep repeating until you get at least half way round and can get the tire past the rim.

remove inner tube

6. If you have an inner tube, then push the valve inside the wheel and then try to reach inside to pull out the inner tube – you need to do this to avoid damaging it in the next stages.

lifting the tire over the rim

7. Now insert a tire iron past the rim to pull the tyre up towards you to lift it clean from the rim, it’s the same as stages 3 to 5 but is a bit more fiddly, after you’ve worked around just over half of the rim, you’ll probably find that if you turn the wheel over and brace the tire against the floor, you can lift the rim out away from the tire.

8. To refit the tyre, first check for the direction of roration (DOR) on the tyre, then check for a small dot or 2 dots which will be orange, blue, yellow etc… this signfies the heaviest part of the tyre and needs to be directly opposite the valve to balance out the weight of the valve.

9. Refit the tire -  just reverse the process, replace the valve and inflate (remembering to repair the inner tube if you needed to)

10. Check that the tire is holding the requred pressure and is reseated properly. Remove any old wheel weights (if applicable) and re-balance the wheel – which is an art and another post all in its self.

First time I did this took no more than 30 minutes to get the tyre off and back on.

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