Thursday, December 9, 2010

Motorcycle Tire Changer

Many of us do a lot of our own motorcycle maintenance and repair.  The motivations for this are varied, but cost savings is probably the number one reason.  I know it is for me!
I've been an Automotive Technician for more years than I wish to remember, and it pains me to pay anyone to perform a service or repair I should be able to do myself.
If I hadn’t been doing my own service and repairs I’m not sure I would have been able to afford the “Fine Piece of German Engineering” I have been riding for the past 130,000 miles.
It's the little things that we do ourselves that can really add up in cost savings.  One of those tasks is mounting and balancing our own tires.
When I returned to riding I was shocked at how quickly those ZR-series skins wore out.  I was used to getting 40-50,000 miles on a set of tires on my car, but only 6,000 on a set of motorcycle tires?  OUCH!
Being the frugal person that I am, I bought my first set of replacement tires over the Internet. 
I took them along with the rims and the old tires I had removed from the bike to my local dealer, who proceeded to charge me $30.00 per tire to mount and balance.  Wow, that’s $60.00 a set!
This was a two-to-three hour procedure just to travel to and from the shop, and it was only possible during their normal hours of operation, obviously.  I needed to come up with a better plan. 
After some experimentation, I found I could do the dismounting and mounting where I work on one of the automotive tire machines.  Two riding buddies and I split the cost on a balancer for home, and this paid for itself -- or my share anyway -- with the first set of tires.
But wouldn’t it be great if I could do everything at home whenever I needed to and not pay someone to scratch my rims?  No more driving the cage to work on a beautiful day or riding around with the tire and rim from my son’s Gixxer strapped onto the back seat of my K1200LT.  Thus the plan to purchase a tire mounting machine for home was hatched.
Choosing the No-Mar Motorcycle Tire Changer
A search on the Internet for motorcycle tire changers resulted in several hits for both manual and automatic/power assisted changers.  A powered automatic unit, commonly found in a professional shop, was out of the question due to its high cost.
This left me with a few products that all seemed to work in the same manner via a long bar for removing and installing the tire bead from the rim.  But my bike has painted alloy rims which can be easily scratched if clamped improperly or with jaws that have no protective treatment/covering. 
When using the machines at work I would always wrap the clamps that held the rim to the turntable with duct tape to prevent damage, which was a nuisance.
Although there were cheaper brands, I found only one motorcycle tire changer that mentioned that their clamping system and bead bar were designed specifically not to mar any wheel, and hence their name, No-Mar.
The creation of the No-Mar motorcycle tire changer was developed out of frustration by a motorcycle enthusiast tired of paying someone a bunch of money only to end up with scratched rims. 
No-Mar’s goal is to manufacture an affordable motorcycle tire changer that’s fast, easy to use and safe on ALL types of rims, including carbon fiber (see their video for special handling procedures).  They claim to continuously refine their products to make them efficient and easy to use without harming any type of rim.  And, the No-Mar motorcycle tire changer is made right here in the U.S.A.
No-Mar has several motorcycle tire changer models available, including "heavy duty" models for the more demanding environments such as a professional repair shop that replace numerous tires on a daily basis. 
I chose to go with their “Classic” model bundled in their “Ultimate II” package which includes: the Classic unit; a mount/dismount bar with replaceable plastic tips; a mounting base (with the necessary hardware to fasten it to the floor); four No-Mar spoon bars; three “helping hands”; one metal spoon bar; two types of tire lube (spray and cream); several strips of wheel weights; a tire valve stem core remover/installer/reamer/tap; a wheel balancer with a pair of large cones for hub-less wheels and an instructional CD-ROM.
One of the things I appreciated, as a prospective buyer, was the fact that No-Mar provides online videos that demonstrate the use and operation of all of their equipment. 
Changing Tires the No-Mar Way
There is a separate video for each step of the mounting, dismounting, balancing procedures and other videos covering some special situations such as stiff sidewall tires, etc.  This was extremely helpful in understanding the dimensions of the tire changer, exactly how everything worked and whether it was something I thought was worth having at home.
With two cars, two bikes, a bike lift and other assorted toys and implements in the garage, I was concerned as to just where in the heck I was going to mount this thing since they show it being bolted to the floor.  So when I came across their hitch adaptor, which allows the unit to be attached to any 2” trailer hitch receiver, I figured this was the solution. 
When needed, I could slide the tire changer into the receiver on my truck, do my tire changing and then store it out of harm's way, or maybe even hoist it overhead in the garage.  Of course, it's also possible to bolt the tire changer to the floor.  If this is the case, the tire changer can be stored by removing the lag bolts, leaving the anchors in place, and moving it into storage.
Since I already had a balancer, the fine people at No-Mar swapped out the balancer for the hitch adaptor.  Some day maybe I’ll look into bolting it down... 
Prior to purchasing the No-Mar tire changer I wondered if I could just mount it to a wood pallet with a piece of plywood nailed top.  But after using the tire changer for the first time I’m glad I didn’t rely on that method.  I discovered that it really needs to be securely fastened to something more stable.
Upon receiving and inspecting all of the components I was impressed with the quality and finish.  All of the metal parts are finished in a “7 step Silver Vein Powder Coat Finish”. 
All of the components of the motorcycle tire changer come with a one-year warranty for wear and breakage (with the exception of abuse) and a lifetime warranty on all of the plastic parts to the original owner (which is where most of the wear will be).  Sounds like a good deal to me.
Assembly of the changer was simply a matter of bolting a few pieces together with the included hardware, which was easy since I was not going to be bolting the tire changer to the floor; my plans were to use it solely on the hitch mount. 
That's it -- I was ready to tackle my first tire change.  It just so happened that “The Enterprise” (my ’99 BMW K1200LT) was in need of both front and rear tires -- perfect timing!