Swap Your Tire in Six Minutes with Team Honda¿s Kenny Germain and his Foolproof Quick-Change Method
Intro And Photos By Garth Milan
Remember the first time you changed a tire on your bike? If you¿re like most (author included), the long and sweaty process involved several curse words, a pinched tube or two, and the clank of tire irons being thrown across the garage floor in a fit of rage and frustration as you struggled with the daunting task.
Well, Ernesto Fonseca¿s Factory Honda tuner Kenny G is here to tell you that you don¿t have to get so ¿tired out¿ performing what really is a simple duty when done properly. In fact, we witnessed the G Man execute a perfect tire swap in just under his claimed six minutes with our very own eyes. What this means to you is more time on the track and less time on the garage floor with dripping, bloody knuckles, freshly cut on the sharp teeth of your sprocket.
As you¿ll see from Kenny¿s step-by-step process, tire changing is less about strength and more about technique and tools. Whether you¿re a seasoned mechanic with scarred hands or an ad salesman who gets manicures, pay attention; you¿re bound to learn something in this edition of ¿Race Shop.¿ Kenny goes about changing tires a bit differently than most of us are used to, which helps him with his speed. Once you get his factory technique down of leaving the tube in the tire, it¿s a snap.
First off, Germain recommends that you get rid of that old screwdriver set you were trying to use. Instead, go out and buy some quality tire irons. Motion Pro makes an excellent set that nearly every factory wrench prefers for their slim and effective spoon-shaped design. Along with the Motion Pro irons, Kenny also recommends grabbing some baby powder and glass cleaner to make the job even easier, while at the same time reducing the risk of pinched tubes. Of course, always start off with a clean bike, and if you have access to a bucket or 15-gallon gas drum, they make nice stands to work on. With that said, grab your tools, remove your wheel, and get to work!
Step 1: With the wheel off, first remove the valve stem. This must be done regardless if you¿re changing a flat or just swapping tires out¿all the air needs to be out of the tube.
Step 2: Next you need to break the rim lock(s) loose. Sometimes they are loose enough that after you back the nut off, you can just bang them with your tire iron and they¿ll free up. If the rim lock is more stubborn, though, just sit your wheel upright on the ground and use your tire iron for leverage, pushing your foot down on it. Once the rim lock is loose, break the bead by standing on it. If that doesn¿t work, use your tire irons to break it.
Step 3: Here¿s when small irons like the Motion Pros are great. Dig your tire iron in, being careful not to pinch your tube by going too deep. Work your way around the rim using both tools, one to hold the tire from going back on the rim while the other goes around. You can use your hand like I am here for additional leverage on the opposite side of the tire.
Steep 4: Once that first side is done, don¿t remove the tube just yet; flip the tire over and do the same thing to the other side, removing the tire from the rim. When you¿re done with the second side (which should be easier than the first), the rim and tube will be inside of the tire, with plenty of freeplay up and down.
Step 5: Put one hand on top of the tire, and with the other grab the spokes and pull the wheel towards you while pushing away on the tire. This allows you to extract the rim and the tube in one easy movement, and is the key to a quick change.
Step 6: Next, lay the tube out flat in its perfect and natural circle shape, with no kinks anywhere. The tube will capture just enough air inside it to make the job easier and less prone to pinches. Once the tube visibly has some air in it, carefully thread the valve back in. Just snug it on, making sure not to strip or over-tighten the delicate threads. Now is the time to swap tires if you¿re electing to.
Step 7: Pour some of your baby powder (if you have it) on the tube and in the tire, and insert the tube evenly inside of the tire. Certain tires, like the Dunlops I am working with here, have a small paint circle designating the lightest point on the tire. This is where your valve should go.
Step 8: With the tube inside, work the powder around evenly and spray the lip of the tire with window cleaner all the way around.
Step 9: Mount the rim, starting first with the rim lock. With the rim lock in place inside of the tire, work your way around with the tire irons. Now flip the tire over again and work the other side on, again using both irons. Don¿t take too big of ¿bites;¿ be patient and take small steps all the way around.
Step 10: I usually like to end with the final bite occurring at the rim lock. With the nut just barely in place, I use my thumb to push the rim lock out towards the tire while simultaneously digging in with the tire iron. When done correctly, the rim lock should be able to be pushed in towards the tire with ease. Now, air your tube up until the bead seats on both sides. Once this happens, use the valve to let air out until you reach your desired p.s.i. We normally start the day with 12 pounds of air, and then go up or down from there, depending on track conditions. I highly recommend investing in a high quality, low-pressure gauge. Tire pressure is vital to your bike¿s handling performance, so don¿t be cheap and use your automotive gauge! Don¿t forget to tighten the rim lock, and you are back in business, ready to mount your tire back on the bike. Remember, practice makes perfect, and it will get easier every time you do it.