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Ever had that unusual feeling that something is vibrating and out of balance when you’re riding? (No, I am not talking about indigestion.)
If so, chances are, your motorcycle wheels are out of balance.
Fact: Riding a motorcycle is all about balance.
And if you’re riding on wobbly wheels, you are seriously compromising the bike’s performance.
So what makes tire balance an integral aspect of riding safety? Let’s find out.
Is Motorcycle Wheel Balancing Necessary?
Tire imbalance is caused by the uneven distribution of tire materials across the circumference. That leads to one end of the tire being heavier than the other.
Even the most incredible motorcycle tire will gain minor imbalances. One way to fix that is by adding tire weights.
An unbalanced motorcycle tire can not only be dangerous but also makes your ride uncomfortable. More so, if you’re planning to hit dirt roads.
And consider this…
The power of the engine is transmitted to the wheels and drives the motorcycle. When the wheels are unbalanced, there’s going to be some power loss.
As a result, the engine will have to work harder to compensate for the loss of balance. This will not only stress the engine but will also use up more fuel.
More Reasons Why You Should Take It Seriously
Basically, a motorcycle is a collection of moving parts that has a neutral setup to ensure equilibrium. That’s necessary for predictable handling, and ease of maneuverability.
There are three important aspects of motorcycle balance – geometry, suspension, and tires.
When the tires are unbalanced, they end up fighting each other to keep the bike stable. Things get even more complex if you’re passing through twisties.
Here’s another scenario…
Any time you apply the brake, a large portion of the motorcycle’s total weight is transferred to the front wheel. With an unbalanced tire, this can lead to problems. More so if you’re riding in wet conditions.
Beyond that, you will also get unsteady steering with unbalanced tires. At higher speeds, the front wheel could be out of balance. And that can be dangerous.
In fact, even a small shift in the balance can make a big impact at high speeds.
(No wonder someone said, “Next to love, balance is the most important thing.”)
Besides, misalignment can cause damage to the wheel spindle. What’s more, the fasteners can come loose or the wheel spindle can get damaged in such conditions.
Next, unbalanced tires will lead to excessive wheel wear. The running temperature of the tires can also get excessively high. This may lead to the oxidation and degradation of the rubber.
In most cases, the imbalance is felt more in the front tire than the rear one. The reason is, you’re not in direct connection with the rear wheel while riding. Moreover, since the rear tire carries more weight, it balances the imbalance to some extent.
That said, don’t neglect signs of imbalance in the rear tire. You need to balance both wheels to get the best performance from the bike.
A quick note to avoid any confusion…
Motorcycle tire balancing and wheel alignment are two different procedures. Alignment involves setting the wheels at the right angle as specified by the manufacturer. Both processes are important to get the best performance from the bike.
Telltale Signs You Should Balance Motorcycle Tires
You need to recognize the signs of tire imbalance. Here are three signs that are the major indicators.
- The first sign is vibrations at a particular speed and a bumpy ride. One time, it felt like riding over cobbles for me.
- A visual check of the tire surface will tell you about the condition of the wheel. In case of problems with wheel alignment, the outer or inner edges of the tire will wear faster than the rest of the surface.
- Another effect that directly hits your wallet is fuel economy. With unbalanced tires, fuel performance will head south.
At times, riding on rough roads can cause the wheels to go out of balance. After such a ride, it’s best to get your tires checked for misalignment.
Remember, when you see any signs of loss of balance or uneven ride, don’t alter the tire pressure to reduce the effects. Riding at lower or higher pressures than the specified values is never recommended.
Also, tire balancing also needs to be done with rim or tire replacement. If your tires have been repaired, checking the balance is a good idea.
Can You Balance a Motorcycle Wheel?
Yes, you can do static balancing of a wheel in your garage. For that, you’ll need to use a wheel balancing stand and some weights for this purpose.
If you don’t have a stand or want to invest in one, it’s time to take the help of a professional.
That brings us to the question of static and dynamic balancing.
Now, this is another rabbit hole of a topic that needs to be addressed separately.
(Great! Remind me to send you a thank-you email.)
In a nutshell, dynamic balancing is required for more complex balancing issues and is more accurate. Since dynamic balancing devices are expensive, heading to the nearest repair shop is the best idea.
Mystery of the Red Dot
Here’s another question that many riders have- what’s the “red dot” on the sidewall got to do with balancing?
Now, many motorcycle tires come with a red dot on the wheel which indicates the lightest segment of the tire. This balancing mark is to be aligned with the valve stem on the wheel rim. Typically, the valve stem is the heaviest part of the wheel.
In some modern radial tires, there may not be a red dot. You need not worry about that.
Are Tire Balancing Beads Any Good?
There are quite a few riders who love using them. Others claim that they are nothing more than snake oil.
In reality, balancing beads does help in balancing out the heavy spots in a running tire.
But the fact is, they work mostly on imbalances acting on the vertical plane. If the tire has some lateral imbalance too, you need to balance it manually.
The other thing is, tire manufacturers don’t recommend putting anything inside the tires other than air. So putting foreign objects inside the tire can void your warranty.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you balance motorcycle tires?
You should balance the tires at regular intervals; ideally after every 5000 miles. In addition, balance the tires when you install a new tire or rim. You should also check the balance after you hit a rough patch of road.
How much does it cost to balance a motorcycle tire?
If you bring the whole bike, it can cost you between $40 to $50 per wheel for balancing and mounting. If you bring the wheel, balancing a motorcycle tire can cost between $15 to $25 per wheel.