Monday, March 26, 2007

Change your own tires ... ?

My rubber needed replacing, as it does every 10,000 miles or so. (If anybody has recommendations for higher-mileage tires, I'm VERY interested. No matter the make and model, I always seem to get about 10-11K out of a set, front and rear. And I'm not a hot-rodder!)

I ordered new tires off'n the Web, since they are SO MUCH less than in the local shop. (As I occasionaly explain, my great-great grandma Margaret McNeil was from Scotland; her blood is obviously thick in my veins because I'm a compulsive bargain-hunter.)

Then I did some checking on the cost of dismounting the old tires, and mounting the new ones.

A lot of shops won't do it any more, unless you buy tires from them. (The "reason" they give is liability, but I'm sure they also figure in the handsome profit they gain by selling the tires. Nothing wrong with that.) The ones who gave me an estimate... it ranged from $50 to $70 (that's for front and rear, and if I carry in the wheels, dismounted from the motorcycle). Ouch!

So, I decided to try something new. I went to the local Harbor Freight Tools and bought a motorcycle tire-changing stand. It was approx. $75 on sale. (You buy two pieces - the tire changer, and the motorcycle tire accessory.)

And - the experiment was successful. The old rubber is off; the new rubber is on. (The first one went less-than-perfectly. I ended up with a couple scratches and minor dings along the edge of the rim. Nothing I can't live with. The second one went MUCH more smoothly. I got the hang of it.)

Would I recommend this to others? I'm not sure. Here are some considerations:
- I've changed hundreds of bicycle tires over the years; that has given me some experience. Same concept; just everything's a lot bigger and stiffer.
- There's definitely some "grunt power" involved. (And don't make the mistake, like I did, of thinking you can do it without anchoring the stand to the floor!)
- My wheels are NOT officially balanced. Time will tell if that's a problem. I'll definitely do some "testing" before I hit the road in any serious way. (I've seen many opinions that it's not critical unless you go over 100mph a lot. If that's the case, NO PROBLEM! You can build an inexpensive balancing stand, if it's an issue, that would get the job done.)
- I like to think that I'm "mechanically inclined." Part of the reason I chose a Harley is the notion that I could do most of the maintenance... and this is just a new step in that direction.
- So, I paid just a bit more for the stand than the tire-swap would've cost at the shop... next time I need rubber, I'll be money ahead!

Here is a GREAT resource if you think you might be interested... a photo album of the stand in use.

Harbor Freight's website: (Their tools are somewhat on the junky-and-cheap side... not made for the long haul. If I were changing motorcycle tires like I do bike tires, I'd definitely want something a little better quality... but this unit is very adequate for using every 2 years or so. Maybe my little Scottish great-grandkids will wear it out someday.)