by bj max
After only 13,000 miles, my ’05 Wing was ready for new tires. Actually I still had two or three thousand left in the OEM tires but with a trip to Yankee land planned at the end of this month I thought I had better re-tire. Didn’t want to get caught out on the road needing new rubber you see.
But new tires are pricey and with regular gasoline approaching three bucks a gallon, re-tiring is getting’ more expensive every day. In fact, fuel prices are causing everything to go up. We notice it most when we buy the necessary essentials for day to day living, you know, vi-enie’ sausage, beer, bullets, chewing tobacco. Stuff like ‘at. So, out of necessity and with apologies to my dealer, I have gone into survival mode and decided to buy my tires on the Internet and mount ’em myself.
If anybody out there actually reads this junk of mine you might remember a story I wrote from a couple of months back about ridin’ my bike to work as a way to save gas. It worked out all right. A good example; Sunday a week ago I filled up my old pickup and as I write this the needle still rests on full. Normally I would burn a tank a week but, thanks to the motorcycles good fuel mileage I’ve managed to cut that back to a tank every two or three weeks saving a ton of money and solving a small part of the energy crisis in the process. That’s OK. Just doing my part.
The ride to work thing was so successful I began to look for other ways to save a buck or two and once again my attention turned to the motorcycle. Tires to be more specific. The cost of motorcycle tires these days is mind-boggling. Upwards of five hundred bucks for a set of new Dunlop’s mounted and balanced. Five hundred dollars! To put it into perspective, that much cash would buy approximately ninety pounds of prime, whole hog chitlin’s. So I decided to buy my tires from a wholesale house and mount and balance them myself.
But, there was this tiny little problem. I ain’t never mounted motorcycle tires before. So, in order to pull this off I enlisted the help of my friend Buck who has been successfully mounting his own tires for years and he has a balancing tool as well. Bought it at a yard sale he said. On top of that, his next door neighbor and riding pardner’, Sammy, just happens to have one of those Harbor Freight tire changers with the optional motorcycle a-dapter kit bolted into the concrete floor of his carport. This deal was really startin’ to look good. I could almost smell that two hunnert’ bucks I was gonna’ save.
Now, what brand of tires do I order? I’ve always liked Dunlop’s but the Dunlop 250’s installed at the factory howled like a love sick coyote and frankly, it made me nervous. So I decided to mount a set of the relatively new Dunlop Elite III radials. But to my dismay, the Elite III’s, for whatever reason, were backordered. I couldn’t find a set anywhere. This shortage narrowed my choices down to either Avon or Metzler and I had no experience with either. But, they were available so I rolled the dice and bought a set of ME 880 Metzler Marathon Radial’s. At three hundred bucks they weren’t cheap but I had to have new tires for my upcoming trip and I had to have them now.
The Metz’s arrived a few days later and I must say, I liked the looks of ’em. They had a healthy 11/32nds of tread on the rear and half again that much on the front. I called Buck and we decided to put them on the following weekend.
Bright and early on Saturday morning, I hooked my trailer to the bike, loaded the tires up and headed west. As I crossed the Mississippi River a beautiful sunrise beamed over my shoulder and escorted me into the Arkansas Delta and the city of West Memphis. It was 6:50AM and Buck was already across the street visiting with Sammy. Buck hustled over and told me where to park. I unhooked the trailer and in minutes the bike was up on his hydraulic motorcycle lift. What a handy gadget I thought and could see immediately the advantages of working on my bike standing up instead of flopping around in the floor. I made a mental note to get me one of these things as soon as possible.
Several things attracted me to the Gold Wing GL1800 and one was its single sided swing arm and the ease of removing and installing the rear wheel. You just unscrew a few bolts, remove the rear panel, remove the lug nuts and roll the wheel out a-la BMW. And in a pinch, you could put the bike on its center stand and actually perform this chore on the side of the road.
It took us maybe ten minutes to remove the rear wheel. We then crossed the street to Sammy’s where the tire changer was located. Took maybe fifteen more minutes to take the tire off the wheel and put the new one on. Out comes Buck’s two dollar balancer and he commenced making black marks on my wheel and adding weight. The whole process took no more than a half an hour and next thing I knew the new tire was mounted, balanced and back on the motorcycle.
We then turned our attention to the front wheel. It was even easier and had me thinking that the two hundred dollars my dealer charges to mount and balance my tires was just a little bit over the top. Actual working time was about and hour and and fifteen minutes. That means I was being paid roughly one hundred and thirty dollars an hour to change my own tires. To put that into perspective, one hundred thirty dollars will buy 300 gallons of boiled okra. That’s a lot of boiled okra good people. And the tires tested out just fine too. No head shake, they’re quiet, they stick like glue and thanks to Buck’s balancing act, they have that neutral feel that makes riding a lot more pleasurable. Good job. Thanks Buck.
But you know what? The BS spread around that morning was worth a lot more than the money I saved on those tires. We dissected, scrutinized and thrashed out all things motorcycle and had a great time doing it too. Instead of communicating via e-mail or trying to maintain contact on a cell phone, we actually used the spoken word. What a unique way to communicate. We liked it and decided that with a smidgen of publicity and a little time, it might even catch on. Y’all think about it.