Motorcycle Tire and Wheel Balancing
Unbalanced wheels and tires on a motorcycle lead to rapid tire wear, poor fuel economy and increased danger to the rider.
For these reasons alone, you should know how to balance your bike’s tires. But if you’re in the habit of installing your own tires, knowing how to balance motorcycle tires is absolutely essential.
Symptoms of an Unbalanced Motorcycle Tire and Wheel
The first indication of an unbalanced tire is a vibration when riding at certain speeds.
That the vibration only occurs at specific speeds and isn’t constant shows that it’s caused by a wheel/tire imbalance and not a mechanical issue. The other sign that a bike’s wheel and tire is unbalanced is accelerated and uneven tread wear.
If your motorcycle has a tire and wheel imbalance, don’t lower the tire pressures to soften the ride, or increase the pressures to try and reduce the effects of the imbalance. Riding on pressures other than those specified on the tires is dangerous, and will heighten the negative effects of unbalanced tires.
Balancing a Motorcycle Tire and Wheel
To make balancing a wheel on your motorcycle much easier, first make sure the tire is fitted correctly on the wheel rim.
Motorcycle tires have a colored dot (usually red or yellow) on the sidewall. This dot is the balancing mark and indicates the lightest point of the tire. A correctly mounted tire will have its balancing mark aligned with the valve stem on the wheel rim. The most accurate method of balancing a motorcycle wheel and tire is by using a wheel balancing stand. However, you can balance tires with the wheels still on the motorcycle if you absolutely have to.
Balancing a Motorcycle Tire and Wheel with a Balancing Stand
Step 1. Put the balancing stand on a flat, stable surface. Use a level to check the balancer is set correctly.
Step 2. Remove the wheel from the motorcycle.
Step 3. Clean the wheel of any dirt that might affect its balance, which also provides a clean surface for the wheel weights to adhere to. Remove any old wheel weights from the rim.
Step 4. Slide the balancing stand’s axle through the wheel, insert the centering cones into the wheel bearings and secure the cones in place.
Step 5. Place the wheel into the balancing stand, and make sure it spins smoothly and freely.
Step 6. Gently spin the wheel so it rotates a few times and gradually comes to a halt. The wheel will naturally stop with its heaviest point at the bottom. Mark this point with a piece of tape. Spin the wheel again to check that it comes to a halt with the tape mark at the bottom.
Step 7. Tape a wheel weight to the inside of the rim at the very top of the wheel directly opposite the tape mark. Don’t remove the protective strip from the wheel weight’s adhesive backing just yet, because you may need to add more weights or use a lighter weight.
Step 8. Rotate the wheel 90 degrees so the tape mark is at 3 o’clock and the wheel weight at 9 o’clock.
Step 9. Release the wheel so the heaviest point can again fall to the bottom. If the tape mark falls to the bottom, you’ll need to add more weight to the wheel, and if the side of the wheel with the wheel weight(s) falls to the bottom, you’ll need to remove some weight(s).
Step 10. Repeat Step 9 until the wheel remains in place when you release it and neither side falls to the bottom. This indicates a perfect balance, and when you gently spin the wheel it should come to a halt at a neutral point without the tape mark falling to the bottom.
Step 11. Remove the protective strip from the wheel weights’ adhesive backing and attach then to the wheel rim.
Step 12. Remove the wheel from the balancing stand and reinstall it onto your motorcycle.
Balancing a Motorcycle Tire and Wheel Without a Balancing Stand
Step 1. Remove the brake caliper and (if applicable) the speedometer cable so there is nothing dragging against the wheel. If anything prevents the wheel from rotating freely, you won’t be able to accurately balance the tire.
Step 2. Loosen the front axle pinch bolts and the axle nut so there’s nothing binding against the wheel bearings.
Step 3. Clean the wheel.
Step 4. Follow Step 6 through Step 11 from the previous section to balance the wheel.
Step 5. Tighten the axle nut and pinch bolts. Reinstall the brake caliper and speedometer cable.
Step 1. Remove the brake caliper, and the chain or belt from the rear sprocket.
Step 2. Follow Step 6 through Step 11 from the previous section to balance the wheel.
Step 3. Reinstall the chain or belt over the rear sprocket, and reinstall the brake caliper.
As mentioned earlier in this article, unbalanced wheels and tires can lead to rapid wear on your bike’s tires. Watch the video above to learn how to inspect motorcycle tires for tread wear.