Improve wheels and tires is becoming extremely popular, particularly among cruiser owners who do it for appearance, and sportbike owners who want to improve performance. Here’s a primer on upgrading your tires and rims.
Rim Width and Wider Tires
Cruiser and custom builders love to slap big, fat rubber on their rear wheels. How wide you can go with the tire before you need to change rims is a frequently asked question.
Tire manufacturers recommend that the rim width should be at least half as wide as the tire. Ideally, rim width should approach 60 to 70 percent of the tire’s width. When the rim is narrower than the tire, the tire loses support. The bike will develop a mushy or heavy feel. Conversely, while it’s rare to fit a tire that’s too narrow for a particular rim, it does happen.
If the rim is too wide for the tire, the footprint will be too wide and conceivably the rider could run the tire off the edge of its tread during cornering. My advice is to always stick with the manufacturer’s recommended tire sizes, unless you want to lace up wider rims.
Installing Wide Rims
Okay, so you want to install a really wide rear tire and rim on your custom. While installing a really wide rear tire on your cruiser may make it look cool, it will create certain problems.
First and foremost, the bike will handle differently, and likely not as well as it used to. Second, a wide rim and tire may mean that you have to reposition your drive chain or belt as well as the rear disc assembly to clear the new tire.
In some cases, a new swingarm may even be required. If you’re intent on installing a fat rear wheel, my recommendation is to read through one of the custom bike builders guides, particularly anything written by Tim Remus (Wolfgang Publishing), before lifting a wrench. He’ll give the straight scoop and the step-by-step procedures. He may even try to talk you out of doing it.
Everyone wants better traction. One way to get it is by installing sticky tires. Most motorcycles come with a tire compound that’s formulated to balance traction against wear.
Accordingly, most tire manufacturers may also offer a softer, stickier compound for “sport use.” You can read that as being suitable for track days, or a Sunday shoot-out. Many tire builders also offer DOT legal race tires. For example, Michelin offers their splendid Pilot in both race and sport compounds. The race versions offer the ultimate in traction.
Although it’s primarily a race tire used in supersport racing, it is street legal. However, if used primarily as a street tire, its life expectancy may be less than 2,000 miles. On the other hand, the sport version sacrifices some tractive qualities for a bit better mileage. It is primarily a high performance street tire that’s capable of taking in a track day.
Sportbike owners often fit lighter wheels to their bikes. Although this is an expensive modification, it is a worthwhile one.
Lighter wheels offer some significant advantages. For example, the reduction in unsprung weight improves the suspension action. Because lighter wheels contribute to an overall reduction in the weight of the motorcycle, acceleration, braking, and handling are all improved.
See also the wheels types
Finally, because the lighter rear wheel has less mass, it allows the engine to accelerate harder, which helps the motorcycle accelerate the wheel quicker, which improves overall acceleration. Some significant advantages.
For example, the reduction in unsprung weight improves the suspension action. Because lighter wheels contribute to an overall reduction in the weight of the motorcycle, acceleration, braking, and handling are all improved.