Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200
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How to change your rear tire on an 04 up Sportster
Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200
Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200
27 Jan 2021

How to change your rear tire on an 04 up Sportster

Hello everyone lets get to it. You've been riding and riding and riding and now your rear tire looks like this

What do you do? Take it to a dealer, to an Indy? Nahhh
Change it yourself.
Here's how:

1. Jack up the bike and tie it down. You are going to be wrenching on stuff with a lot of force so you want the bike really secure. Also, place another jack under the rear tire if you have one. It makes the rest of the process easier though it can be done using blocks of wood stacked

2. Now, take off both lower shock/spring bolts. They are a T50 Torx.

3. Now with the jack under the tire jack up the bike to where the axle can slide out over the rear exhaust pipe. Note, if you do not have stock pipes you may not have to jack the tire up into the fender. (sorry for the crappy image here. That is about the height it will be at. The axle slides out to the right of course though. I removed the clip that is on the end of the axle already. Remember to do that. Just take a 1/8in flat screwdriver and pop it out. You are supposed to buy a new one but I reuse it. It doesn't matter anyway.

4. Loosen the alignment screws to make it easier to slide out the axle. Note, you don't HAVE to do this, but it is very very hard to re install the axle with the belt tensioned. Use ONLY a rubber mallet or soft steel hammer to pound on the axle if needed. Much force shouldn't be needed, but if you use a steel hammer you can stress and crack the axle.

5. Pull the axle out and place the spacers on it in the correct order so you don't forget where they go.


If you are smart you will now take your tire to someone who can mount it and balance it as taking it off and putting a new one on is a pain in the ass.

But since I am not smart...here it goes.

If you want to mount and dismount tires as well as balance them you need

1. Some type of tire spoons
2. A C clamp or preferably a bead breaker to break the bead
3. A tire balancer. (50 bucks or so at Harbor Freight)
4. Rim protectors

Then you will want to make a frame like this for the wheel to sit in so you don't destroy your rotor and pulley.

6. Let the air out of the tire by removing the valve stem with a valve stem removal tool.

Now here is the difficult part. I could not get pictures of the process because it is more of a video necessary thing. That being said there are tons of videos on Youtube to show you how to get a tire on and off. Basically it is a combination of swearing, prying, and WD40 and eventually you'll get it off and the new one on. Note, make sure to line up the barcode on the bead of the tire to match the location of the valve stem. (Sometimes it is a dot on the bead of the tire as well) This aligns the lightest part of the tire to the heaviest part of the rim so you don't have to balance the tire with as much weight. And to be honest, Dave 63 said he didn't ever balance his tires at all so take that for what its worth too...

After that you need to set the bead of the tire. You need a good air compressor, more WD40 and more swear words as well as a Normally Open air chalk. what that is is an attachment that allows you to force air into the tire faster because you don't have to have the valve stem in to use it.

After that you will come up with this

Now here is the deal. You need to jack up the tire like you did before so the axle will fit over the rear exhaust pipe.

Then shove the axle through remembering to put the spacers back in. You want to re anti-seize the axle, a nice light coating and reattach the shocks and take the jack out from under the bike.

Now. To adjust your belt and center the tire. Leave the axle loose but with the bolt on and what I do personally is use a giant zip tie and mark it with a piece of tape.

Then center the point by the front dimple in the swingarm. Right by the passenger pegs.

Now, on the piece of tape you can eye up or write down where the axle falls on the right side with the belt tensioned correctly. About 1in of travel up and down. It should be tight but not guitar string tight. Use good judgement and you won't have an issue. The adjusters pictured previously are what you use to adjust the centering...or should i say angle of the tire.

Then once the belt is good on the right you can match the left with it. It may take some playing around to get it all squared away. Once they match you can use your 1 1/4in socket to tighten the axle to 65ft/lbs I believe. Check your Service manual to make sure.

And your done! Go for a ride an revel in the cost savings.

Note I did not show you how to balance the tire. Again that is a very visual thing so I just assume you look it up on Youtube and you will get a lot more info on how to do it.

Couple more things. Yes my bike is filthy, yes it will be getting a bath soon and remember to use the rim protectors whenever you can when prying on the tire/rim. You can get away without using them but one slip and you're fudged.

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