Whether from age or miles, your motorcycle tires are going wear out — faster than your car tires will. Fortunately, it’s easier to change the tires on your bike at home, particularly if you have a small to mid-sized bike. Watch the video below for a step-by-step demonstration to walk you through the work. We’ve included a full list of steps as well, for you to review as a checklist. Note that this guide is intended for tubed tires on smaller bikes — if you have, say, an R 1250 GS, you may want to leave the tire changes to the pros.
Time needed: 40-60 minutes per wheel
- Bead breaker
- Rim protectors
- Tire irons/tire spoons
- Tire paste or soap-and-water solution
- Valve stem remover
- Air gauge
- Air compressor
- Required tools to get the wheels off the bike (will vary by model)
- If you have a big bike with tubeless tires, you may not want to try this at home. Changing those tires requires special tools and a lot of muscle—mainly to break the bead on these tubeless tires. You can use big tools and a lot of leverage to get this done, but you need to have experience. If you mess up, you’re going to be looking for new rims.
- It’s easier to manipulate tires when they’re warm (not cold, like they’d be in your garage during the winter). Warm rubber is soft rubber. Before you start the project, try bringing the wheels inside so the tires warm up to room temperature. In the summer, put them outside in the sunshine.
- Take your time and don’t force anything.
How to Change A Tubed Motorcycle Tire
- Remove the wheels from the bike. You’ll need to lift each tire off the ground. You can accomplish this with the centerstand, a track stand, a milk crate — anything that lifts one end of the bike at a time.
- Find an open, flat space to work. It could be a bench, a low table, or a wheel stand if you’re willing to make the investment. Tip: Put some cardboard or a piece of carpet down first, to protect the finish of your wheel components.
- Remove the valve core and deflate the tube.
- You’ll probably find a nut on the outside of the valve stem to keep it from descending into the wheel. Remove that nut now.
- On the more serious dual-sport bikes, there may be a rim lock opposite the valve stem; remove the nut from its stud now.
- Here comes the really fun part: Break the bead. Your best bet is to use a bead-breaking tool. Be sure to go slowly and avoid hammering too hard on the rim.
- Once the bead is broken, install the rim protectors and use your tire irons or spoons to work the bead over the outside of the rim. Again, go slowly and avoid putting a big load on the edge of the rim.
- Remove the entire bead on one side of the rim, remove the tube, and then flip the wheel over and break the other bead to the outside. This lets you slip the wheel down into the tire and pull it through from the opposite side.
- While the wheel is bare, inspect the rim channel area to look for debris. Check the rim strip for any evidence of spokes poking through the nipples or other damage.
- If the wheel looks good, inspect the new tire next. It should be smooth and free of debris on the inside.
- Hit the first bead with either a dedicated tire paste or a very week soap-and-water solution. Do not use oils or WD-40.
- Go back to the wheel and pull the first bead over the rim. If you’ve warmed up the tire first (see Pro Tips above), you should be able to do this by hand.
- Partially inflate the new tube, just enough to get it to hold a little shape. Starting at the valve stem, insert the tube through the rim and thread the locking nut on just a couple of turns.
- Carefully push the tube into the wheel. Take your time! Try to avoid folds, and be sure it’s not getting pinched between the bead and the wheel.
- Once the tube is settled, seat the remaining bead. Use your tire irons or spoons and take small bites. Go extra slowly as you get to the last few inches. If you have to really work it, check that the opposite side of the tire bead is near the center of the rim channel; this will give you a little extra room to work.
- After you’ve got the last bit of the second bead seated, inflate the tire and make sure the beads seat evenly around the rim on both sides. Listen for excessive hissing, which means you pinched the tube.
- If you have a static balancer, go ahead and balance the wheel. For low-speed dual-sport motorcycles, balancing is generally optional.