Saturday, November 17, 2007

Changing tires is not a job for wimps

Been busy getting the green mule into traveling shape. The above photo is when I was changing the radiator fluid (and making a mess because the container I drained it into had a leak that I hadn't noticed when I put it under the drain plug on the bottom of the water pump, sigh). That one required removing a bunch of stuff -- side covers, seat, tank, tool tube (that black tube under the bike), skid plate (in front of the bike near that tupperware tool bin). Not difficult, just tedious. Today it's putting the new tires on that you see on the top left of that photo.

Changing dirt bike tires is not a job for wimps, but it's the only way to a) know it's been done right (last time I had a shop do it, the wheel was *not* balanced correctly and they lost one of my really trick stem covers), and b) know you can do it if you get a flat on the trail. I just finished changing the front tire. It took two hours. Now, part of that is because I'm very meticulous. I clean the rim inside and out after I get the tire out, inspect the spoke rubber (tube protector), re-pack the speedometer gear with grease (the bearings are rubber-shielded and sealed so they're immune to being packed with grease, but the speedo gear is not), carefully balance the wheel, powder the tube when I put it in, etc. And in truth, it's not a hard job to change the front tire, it popped off the bead with a firm shove with the axle, then I used a tire spoon/axle wrench combo with a tire iron through the wrench loop to go around the bead and twist the rest off. Then pop it over the rim, pull the tube out, pop the other side of the rim, reverse to install. It's just tedious. Especially the balancing part, though luckily my spoke weight already on the wheel was the right weight to balance it when I got the wheel on my balance rig (the front forks of my bike with the speedo gear removed and the brake wheel cylinder removed to reduce friction to almost zero), it just required relocating the weight about 1/8th of the way around the wheel to make it balance, making this one of the easiest balancing jobs of the past four tire changes I've done on this bike.

But now comes the back tire. That's a PITA, always, because this is a fat tire with short stiff sidewalls that do *not* want to go down into the "pit" between the beads and furthermore does *not* want to go over the side of the rim even when the other side *is* down in the pit. And you have to deal with the chain, and getting the rear brake mechanism (which is on a sliding rail inside the swingarm so it can go back and forth when you adjust the chain) to line up with the axle as you shove it through the hole is always a PITA...

I'll be back in four hours or so with my official endorsements for the Republican and Democratic nominations. They will not be who you expect. Unless you are really acquainted with my bizarre ways of thought, that is :-).

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin


  1. I had to provide "technical assistance" to a neighbor trying to change the rear tube and tire on a bicycle. I admit the Shimano gears aren't as simple as the old single speed bikes, but give me a break.

    Fortunately I only got involved with the front tires on the Lambretta, Honda, and Yamaha. The stands and a concrete block made those a breeze.

  2. Changing bicycle tires takes about 10 minutes tops for me.

    The problem with the KLR isn't getting the wheels in the air. There's a multitude of ways to do that. I have a lift in my garage that'll hoist it right up in the air with its wheels dangling, or I can tilt it over on its sidestand and kick the appropriate Givi hardbag under the front or back of the skidplate to get the appropriate wheel in the air, or if all else failed I could even gently lay it over on its side until both paws dangled in the air like a cat playing "rub my tummy" in the hallway, it spent overnight that way once when a bear knocked it over and no big deal with the gas cap I have on the thing (which has a gravity-operated check valve), though it's a PITA to get it back up on its paws at the end of that one (doable -- been there, done that -- but decidedly not my preferred way of doing it).

    No, the problem is all the shit that happens between getting the wheel off the ground and getting it back on the ground. BTW, breaking the bead on the rear requires a C-clamp and a lot of grunting and a lot of good short Anglo-Saxon words that would get me arrested in Pennsylvania (heh!)...

  3. I have an old fashioned gas station/mechanic a block away with tire tools that would take care of getting the tire off for a couple of cold ones picked up at the convenience store on may way over, but getting the rear wheel off, especially on the Lambretta, would be pretty much a tear down. The new scooters are a lot better, but this was a vintage job that my older brother shipped back from Italy.

    The real problem is getting it off without damaging the rim. I have plenty of pry bars, but too much force in the wrong place and you have a very expensive problem, and having to use a C-clamp to break the bead loose was not a good omen.

    I have often wondered if the guys who make the tires ever measure the rims the tires are supposed to be on.

  4. Dirt bike rims are really tough. They have to be. My rims are all scratched up from the tire irons that I've used on them over the years (I'm much better at changing tires now than I was back then), but it's a KLR. It's ugly. So it doesn't matter that its rims are ugly too.

    I would *not* change my own tires if I had a street bike. Those are tubeless tires and much stiffer, and they are typically mounted on alloy wheels that are much more fragile than the chromed steel wheels of my KLR. That's a case where I would pop my bike up on the lift and haul the wheels to a bike shop with the proper machine and rim protectors to do the job without damage to the wheel.

    I do not suggest using prybars to change motorcycle tires. They're shaped wrong. You want something with smooth edges that won't catch on the rim and that won't poke holes in the tube. My little MotionPro tire irons are nicely rounded with a little hooked end for hooking under the rim. I also have a little widget called a "Bead Buddy" which is helpful as a "third hand" in certain situations, though I've used my knee from time to time when necessary as a "third hand" to press on a tire iron on one side while I relocate a tire iron on the other side.

    All in all, it is nice to know that I can change out a tube on the trail if I'm forced to do so. It doesn't make it any less of a PITA though!

    - Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin


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