How to Balance Your Wheels

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Putting new rubber on your pig soon? Maybe you want to install new tires for the first time? Learn all you need to know about balancing the wheels yourself.

Front DR650 wheel in a MTB wheel truing stand

If your mount the tires yourself on your DR650, balancing the wheels is an important aspect to get the best performance from your ride. Do it yourself or make sure to have them balanced when you have new tires installed.


Why the wheels would be unbalanced?

Dual-sport and off-road tires are not evenly weight distributed!

To start with, it may be surprising but the tires themselves are not balanced!

Especially dual-sport and off-road tires with their blocks or knobs are harder to make perfectly even, like road tires could be.

The nicer ones even have a red or white dot on the sidewall to indicate the heavier side of the tire but the cheap ones have no indication at all.


Then, on a bike like the DR, we have a tube-type wheel and tire system with, you guessed it, a tube! The tube is notably heavier with the stem itself and more rubber reinforcement around it.


At last, the whole wheel itself might not be even as well.


So unless you have a way of knowing where all the heavier sides are on each element and would have them perfectly distributed so they would all canceled themselves, your wheels are always more or less unbalanced!


Is it really worth it on a dual-sport like the bush pig?


You might object that it is not necessary on this bike because it doesn't "really" go at high speed on the highway but unless you ride your pig exclusively on an MX track under 50km/h, unbalanced wheels will affect the bike!


Considering dual-sport use, adventure riding or travels here, you are driving at highway speed on tarmac or other hard-packed surfaces probably more than you would like to admit! Thus balancing is important.


Unbalance can affect the quality of your ride in all sorts of ways. From feeling a notable shacking at a certain speed or bad vibrations, it will affect the suspension's work and overall feedback you get from the bike.


It is one of those things, you might have never done it before and it felt fine but doing it won't hurt! It could help with certain things you could have attributed to the engine or just gotten used too.


Fresh rubbers and balanced wheels will usually give you this great feedback of overall smoothness and roundness from the bike at any speed on tarmac.

This means the suspension can do their job without interferences when you get in the rough!


How much unbalance weight are we talking about?


Here is a real-life example on my own bushpig:

Front wheel: 48g (1.7oz)
Rear wheel with rim lock: 173g (6.15oz)

The numbers above are an example of what it could be to balance 50/50 tire like the Shinko 244.

While 48g is not a lot as a static weight, it could still send some unwanted forces up and down as the wheel rotates at speed!


Regarding the rear, it is obvious that a rim lock installed must absolutely be balanced before going at highway speed. There is no objection that 173g on the rear is a lot!


Note: The dirt bike riders usually do not balance their wheels even with rim locks on both wheels. They usually ride at slower speeds and always on really rough terrain so they do not feel much the imbalance. If racing, they change tires too often to care for the extra step anyway!

 

Here is the complete tutorial to balance your wheels on the Suzuki DR650.


Preliminary tasks

This operation requires to remove the wheels off the bike with your existing or with new tires installed.

Tools and supplies needed


  • Wrench size 10, 19 and 24 to take the wheels off

  • A motorcycle truing stand is best but there is ways to do a decent job with other means (see further)

  • Weight kit (sticky type, lead wire or reusable brass)

  • Allen key is you use reusable weights

  • A plier for lead

  • Tape (optional)

Step1: Get your stand ready

Commercial motorcycle wheel stand

Ideally, you would have a commercial stand for motorcycle wheels but it is quite pricey for the seldom use it gets!


What is great with the commercial options is that the axle runs on bearings, therefore, the sensibility to detect an unbalance will be greater than the solutions we will describe after.


Our advice, build your own with 4 skate bearings and some wood but we will keep this subject for another post!



So if you have a stand for bicycle wheels, the DR wheels can fit. It works in a similar fashion but the wheel still runs on the bike axle. (first picture).


Using jack stands to balance a wheel

If you have car jack stands, you can use them to hold the wheel level.

Checking the axle's level on the stand is a must to be sure you have no bias induced.


Also, grease a little the axle surface where the wheel bearings sit to minimize friction.


The wheel bearings are not pressed from the sides so it is not the bearings spinning but only the inner races on the axle surface.


The bearings seal friction is usually greater than the friction on the axle itself.



This is exactly the downside of these methods compare to a commercial option where a smaller dedicated axle will run on bearings on the outside to really reduce friction to a minimum.


That being said, we have used those alternative methods with success and the balanced wheels have proved ample satisfaction.

Once again, the DR not being a real fast bike on pavement, it doesn't need to be perfectly balanced to the gram/ounce but just enough to compensate for tire unevenness and rim lock to obtain a smoother ride.


Step 2: What weights to use?


The process of balancing is quite simple, the goal being to identify the heavy side using gravity but the difficulty is maybe more what to use as weights on the wheels.

Three solutions you can use depending on your needs:
  • Standard sticky weights

Commonly used for road bikes, this is not ideal for off-road use due to their tendency to get knock off if you ride in the rough but also balancing a rim lock with them is almost impossible since you cannot add enough weight in one place.

For the DR it should only be used if you ride with street-oriented tires naturally more balanced.

  • Fishing lead wire

The cheapest option to make your own spoke weights heavy enough to balance knobby tires and rim locks.


The largest size you can still spiral bend around the spokes is 5/16". By hand and a plier, you can create a nice tight spool around one or several spokes.

They won't move if you bend it tight.


  • Brass spoke weights

The nicest weights around the block!


Their main advantage is that they are reusable and easy to assemble to find the right weight needed.

Unlike the lead wire that is difficult to remove and reset when you change tires, these ones are held with a set screw and mount in seconds.


Take precaution with thread lock on the screw and tighten them well, they are simply great to use!


Available in the store: Spoke Weight Kit


Note: There are some lead spoke weights you can clamp on the spokes as well but they are not recommended on our pigs. First, they are usually small so you need a lot of them and with vibrations, they tend to come off rather quickly.


Step 3: Balance it!


Once the wheel in place, you will try to find how the wheel naturally balances itself in the stand, showing you the heaviest side at the bottom.


If the wheel doesn't spin by itself (because we still have friction), try to move it gently one side then the next and see where it would naturally stop.

This is where a piece of tape comes in handy to mark the rim at the bottom before trying again. Do this a couple of times to make sure it goes back to the same spot.


Another way to double-check is to move the supposedly heavy side a quarter turn on one side then to the next to see if it goes down again in the same spot.


Once you are comfortable you have found the heavy side, add weight until the wheel will stay without moving in all positions.


Moving the previously heavy side a quarter turn is where it is most sensible.

So if the wheel doesn't spin back down, then it is balanced!

As you can see, it's quite easy and only requires a little patience to get it right.

 

You can now enjoy a smoother ride overall, free of parasite vibrations and interferences with suspension work!


Happy trail and a well-rounded ride!


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