Here's some information about tires, and how to change them yourself. It's not a complete how-to, but it does highlight out some important points about tire changing in general. The example shown is replacing a worn out Bridgestone Battleax BT020 rear tire on an FJR1300. You might want to refer to the page on how to remove the rear wheel if you're doing this for a Yamaha FJR1300.

The new tire looks like this. Unfortunately, as of Sep-2002 the "N" version of this tire, as came OEM on my FJR1300, is not available in the USA, so this is the "standard" version. The "N" version reportedly has stiffer sidewalls, to cure a high-speed weave experienced by FJR owners of 2001 and 2002 models (which hasn't been reported in the 2003 North American models).

The OEM Metzelers MEZ4s are the "B" and "J" versions, but like the Bridgestones are also not currently available in the USA. Several FJR owners have reported good luck with the standard version MEZ4s available here.

One thing I always do when I buy new tires is specify that I want tires which are less than a year old. Why? Well, tires are full of complex hydrocarbons and deteriorate with time, so I want the freshest ones I can get.

Tires have a code "punched" into the sidewalls (not raised, like most of the other lettering). They used to be 3-digit codes, but now seem to be 4-digits, which makes them easier to read. In the example shown in the photo above the tire was manufactured in week 23 of 2002 (e.g. WWYY). The letters before the date code seem to vary from tire to tire. I don't know what they mean.

Motorcycle tires almost always have a direction indicator, so the tire can be mounted in the proper orientation. The above photo shows how the BT020's indicate direction-of-rotation.

Tires also have the lightest point indicated with a marking of some kind, on these BT020's it is a bright yellow dot, and a small blue line. When the tire is mounted, this dot should be nearest the valve stem. This makes the tire balance with the minimum amount of added weight.

Start by removing the core from the valve stem. Put it somewhere you can find it later. Note the duct tape with directional arrow. I usually do this when I take a wheel to a shop to have the tire changed. Since the shop's mechanic didn't remove the wheel, he may pull off the old tire before he notices which direction the new one should be mounted. Why take a chance?

Next step is to break the bead. It is much easier with the right tools. Break the bead all round the rim on both sides of the wheel.

My friend (let's call him "Tim") has a Coates tire changing machine in his garage. Here's the wheel all clamped down and ready to change. I was going to photograph all the steps involved in removing the old tire and "spooning on" the new one, but it just didn't work out.

In retrospect, I think it's better not to have step-by-step photos, as you need to know what you are doing when using one of these machines and you aren't likely to even have access to one unless you (or somebody standing nearby) does know how to use it.

I will say though that the FJR1300 rear rim doesn't have much of a drop-center (for the tire bead to drop into) so it is somewhat more difficult to get the tire tools under the bead of the tire than with other wheels I've done.

I also didn't show the balancing step, which was accomplished by running the axle through the wheel and suspending it on two sawhorses. I won't try to describe the static balancing method, a Google search will probably produce plenty of advice on that subject. I lucked out and my tire was in balance and didn't require any weights at all.

IMHO for most folks who have the time, the best procedure will be to take your wheel, and the tire you probably bought cheaply on the Internet, to a friendly local motorcycle shop and pay them the $10 or $20 they will want to mount and dynamically balance it. My friends and I have had good luck with these companies (I got front & rear BT020s for $203, including shipping to my home, from the first place listed):

If you need a tire RIGHT NOW, and can't wait for it to be shipped to you, then just go directly to your favorite shop and buy the tire from them, with mouting and balancing. By giving your local shop all (or part of) your business, you help insure that they will be there the next time you need that part or accessory and can't wait for mail order.

The finished result on my 2003 Yamaha FJR1300!

...and what that same Bridgestone looked like the next day after 75 miles of "playing with the road" during a track day at Spokane Raceway Park. I could discern no difference between this tire and the OEM "N" version in handling, braking, or general feel.

Copyright © 2002, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.