Once you’ve laced and trued your motorcycle wheel, you’re ready to install new rim tape, tubes, and tires.
If ever patience and finesse is required for a beginner it’s with tire and tube installation. There’s little more frustrating that having the last bit of tire to get over the rim than to hear a faint air leak coming from your punctured tube, indicating that you’ll need a new tube and to start the process all over again.
Luckily, there’s some tips and tricks for installing motorcycle tires that will make the job much easier and help you stop puncturing your tubes.
Materials that’ll make motorcycle tire installs easy:
- Dish soap and water mixture
- 3 tire irons
Removing Old Tires
Depending on how long your bike has been sitting, the tires may have fused to the rim. In this case, patience, heats, penetrating oil can sometimes help to remove it. In the worst cases, you may need to cut the fused tire off the rim.
To remove a motorcycle tire:
- Deflate the air from the tube.
- Break the bead from its seat on both sides.
- Work around the tire with your tire irons to leverage it over the rim.
- If you feel you are applying force, stop, and make sure the bead is out of its seat.
How to Install the Tire and Tube on your Motorcycle Rims
- Fill the tube up with air so it just barely holds its shape.
- Generously coat the rim and tire walls and bead with soapy water.
- OPTIONAL, but easy: Place the tube inside the tire before it’s on the rim and tighten zip ties around the tire every few inches to cinch it in on itself.
- Get the first side of the tire over the rim, you may or may not need the tire irons.
- Insert the tube into the tire and find the valve stem hole to secure the valve stem.
- Working in small sections, gentle work the bead over the rim. If it feel too difficult, make sure the opposite beads are not seated and that they are down in the rim gutter.
- Work your way around the remaining bead until it’s inside the rim.
- OPTIONAL: Cut and remove the zip ties.
- Fill the tube with air and bounce it around to help seat the bead.
If you find it difficult to get the bead over the rim or you keep puncturing tubes, the zip-tie method makes putting on the tire very easy.
Certain tires have a directional arrow. Be sure to put the tire on to match the way the wheel spins, otherwise you’ll need to take it off and start again.
Replace the rim strip that covers the spoke nipples when replacing your tube.
Tubeless Motorcycle Tires
If you have a tubeless rim and tire, getting the tire on is usually the easy part. When you try to inflate the tire, you may run into the issue of the bead not fully seating and sealing.
To inflate a new tubeless tire, put some soapy water around the bead. Wrap a ratchet strap around the tire and tighten it until you’re able to fill it with air.
When you’ve pumped it up enough, remove the ratchet strap and you’ll hear a pop as the tire bead seats itself.
Motorcycle Tire Sizes
There are 3 main system for tire sizes: Inch, Alphanumeric, and Metric. Each system includes a mix of letters or numbers to describe the height and width of the tire and the size of the rim. The last number in each system denotes the rime size.
Tires also include letters that represent their speed rating: S, H, and V.
S: Rated up to 112 mph.
H: Rated up to 130 mph.
V: Rated up to 150 mph.
Here is a rough conversion/comparison for tire sizes across the different systems: