The Importance of a Balanced Tire
When it comes down to it the only point of contact between your bike and the road is a very small strip of your tires. When your tires are properly installed and balanced they wear evenly and work as they are designed.
Because of small variations in construction or material a wheel or tire might have an area that is slightly heavier than another area. The act of balancing a tire is meant to offset this variation by counter-weighing the opposite side of the heavy point.
An unbalanced wheel can be experienced through vibration or wobble as speeds increase. With such little real estate on the tires keeping your bike upright and moving in the direction you want it to go, any minor unexpected variation can spell disaster.
Even if you don’t experience any concerning movement from the wheel an unbalanced tire might still wear unevenly. This can cause patchy tread wear or flat spots. Any uneven treadwear can drastically reduce traction and could result in loss of control.
At the very least uneven treadwear will require you to replace your tire sooner. A properly balanced wheel can not only save you money but could save you from an accident.
What Do You Need To Balance a Tire?
When you balance a wheel at home you are most likely going to be using the static wheel balancing method. What this means is that you find the heavy spot on your wheel and you offset it with equal weight on the opposite side.
To perform a static wheel balance at home you will need a wheel balancing stand, a level, and some wheel weights. That’s it. No fancy machinery or exotic tools.
The most expensive thing needed for this job is the wheel balancing stand itself. Like this Motion Pro Wheel Truing and Balancing Stand which can be had for $136.99 or this Bike Master Wheel Balancer And Truing Stand for $143.96. Some stands can be found for cheaper, but reviews of them are mixed.
The good news is that once you have a balancing stand you’ll probably never need to buy another one again. They’re relatively simple tools that can be used again and again. With the cost of mounting and balancing a tire being $25+ the tools needed to mount and balance your own tires will pay for themselves after just a few uses.
In addition to the balancing stand, you will need a level. A basic level will do just fine. This is to ensure that the balancing stand is flat and you find the true heavy spot on the wheel. If you don’t have one, add one to your toolbox as they have countless uses around the house and in the garage.
The other item you will need to balance your wheel is a set of wheel weights. Wheel weights come in multiple finishes and sizes. The size weight you will need depends on how out of balance your wheel is. Most stick-on wheel weights are relatively inexpensive. If you don’t know how much weight you need start with a box of 7-gram weights.
How Do You Balance a Motorcycle Tire?
The first step to balancing a motorcycle wheel is to make sure that your balancing stand is level. For static balancing, this is important because we are using gravity to show us where the heavy spot is and if your stand is not level it may not be accurate. Some stands come with a level built-in and for some, you may have to use a handheld level.
The next step is to have the wheel off the bike. In most cases, you’re going to balance your wheel after you’ve changed the tire so you probably already have the wheel off the bike. If not, follow your manufacturer's instructions for removing the wheel you think needs balanced.
With the wheel off the bike inspect the tire’s sidewall for a balancing mark. This is usually a colored dot and it indicates the lightest point on the tire. This dot should be lined up with the valve stem and is meant to offset the added weight of the valve stem. Many unbalanced wheels are because the tire was installed incorrectly.
Put the wheel on the level balancing stand and gently spin it. Make sure the wheel rotates two to three times and allow the wheel to come to a stop on its own. The wheel’s heaviest point will naturally come to rest at the bottom. You can mark this point with a small piece of tape and repeat the process to confirm you have found the heaviest point.
With your heaviest point marked tape a wheel weight to the opposite side of the rim. Don’t install the weight just yet because you don’t know for certain how many you will need.
Now rotate the wheel 90 degrees so your heavy spot and your wheel weight are parallel with the ground. Release the wheel and if the heavy spot rotates to the bottom you need to add another wheel weight and repeat. Repeat this process until the heavy side no longer falls to the bottom.
You can check that your wheel is balanced by giving it another gentle spin. The heavy spot that you marked with tape should not rotate to the bottom. With this confirmed remove the backing on the wheel weights and attach them to the wheel.
Congratulations, you now have a balanced wheel that should not vibrate and should wear evenly. Install the wheel on your bike and repeat with your remaining wheel.
Where Can I Get My Motorcycle Wheel Balanced?
If you are not confident in your ability to mount and balance your own wheel, lack the tools, or a place to safely do the work there are options available. Check with your local motorcycle shop to find out how much they charge to mount and balance a wheel.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a Cycle Gear store many of their stores offer tire mounting and balancing for a charge. My local Cycle Gear charges $25 per tire if you purchase the tire from them or $50 per tire if you purchased it from elsewhere. This includes lifetime balancing of that tire. They did inform me that they require the wheel to be removed from the bike at home before the service.