Tires, wheels: both comprehensible parts of your bike, with an obvious role but upon closer look you’ll find your wheels adorned with all sorts of disks, housings and lines running each and every way. While it may look like a busy mess, each part has a specific role, which is truly easy to understand.
When riding you rely on your wheels and related components for some very important things, moving forward, turning and stopping! I feel like it’s best to understand these components you trust your life with, because it never hurts to give your bike an educated one-over before you hit the road.
First thing to notice is the difference between tire and wheel. Tires are the actual rubber…well, TIRE and the wheels are the metal frame the tires attached to. Next time you get your tires changed, ask to watch, it’s pretty interesting. Most road motorcycle have tubeless tires and the air is held in the wheel with help from the tire “bead.” The bead is basically the edge of the tire that sits on the wheel, you’ll hear people talking about “breaking the bead” which is necessary to remove a tire from the wheel. Breaking the bead really just means applying enough pressure to dislodge the edge of the tire from the groove it’s sitting in on the wheel.
Your wheels are attached to your motorcycle on the front by your forks and front axle and rear with the swing-arm and rear axle. Also attached to the wheels are metal discs called rotors. The rotors hold the calipers, which house your brake pads, which are attached to your brake lines, running to your brake masters. So you can see the chain of events are as follows: squeeze your brake master, fluid in your brake lines cause pistons in your calipers to close your brake pads which clamp down on your rotors, effectively slowing the rotation of your wheel. Keep an eye on these parts, make sure your rotors stay clean, there’s no brake fluid on anything and that all your bolts are tight.
Your rear wheel is home to your sprocket/belt drive or shaft drive. Whatever style your motorcycle this system transfers energy from the motor, to the rear wheel to propel your motorcycle forward. Depending on your motorcycle this system can require adjustments, lubing or replacing a chain, belt or sprocket every so often. Ask your mechanic to show you how much play your chain should have so you can add that to your pre-ride checklist that keeps your bike top-notch. Your motorcycle will also have a front fender and sometimes a rear fender.
So every so often, look down and give your tires and wheels some attention. Your tires should have adequate tread, watch out for nails, bolts and dry rot. Check the pressure recommendation for your bike and tires and keep your tires aired up for safety and so they last longer. Make sure the bolts holding your rotors and calipers on are tight and watch for brake fluid oozing out.