Removing/replacing the rear wheel

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Front wheel: Here's a link to Reinstalling the front wheel

Removing the wheel

  • Support the bike. Only remove one wheel at a time for better bike stability. If you have the stock rear fender, you'll need at least one 2x4 or similar under the centerstand, and two makes it easier. New generation bikes without centerstands will require a rear stand.
  • Loosen the nut on each end of the brake torque link. You may need a 17mm wrench instead of a socket to fit behind the muffler.
  • Remove the axle nut cotter pin. Remove the axle nut (24mm or 15/16").
  • Loosen the chain adjusters enough that they can swing down (previous generation) or completely back off the adjusting nut (new generation). Lay a rag or newspaper on the ground to keep the chain from picking up grit once the axle has been removed.
  • Slide the wheel forward; you may have to kick it to get it to move, but be sure to have a firm grasp on the grab bar to prevent knocking the bike off the centerstand (this is sage advice even if you push rather than kick the wheel.) Lift the chain off the sprocket and place to the side.
  • While supporting the wheel, pull out the axle; it may help to wiggle the wheel if the axle binds, and you may need to tap on it with a rubber/plastic mallet. Swing the brake caliper up out of the way, still connected to the torque link. Pull the wheel spacers out and set aside so they don't get lost. Slide the wheel rearward to remove. It will need to be angled to clear the stock fender -- be careful not to bash the brake disc.

Axle nut loosening technique

This does not have to be a 2-man job. You need a fair amount of force on the castle nut side and just a little bit on the other side to keep the axle from spinning (not always necessary - it sometimes stays put.) Straddle the bike, standing facing the rear. Use a breaker bar/ratchet/wrench (17mm socket) against the ground on the right (brake) side of the axle to keep it from turning. Position your other breaker bar (24mm or 15/16" socket) pointing toward the front of the bike on the castle nut (left/chain) side. Push down on it with your right hand, which will loosen it (counterclockwise). Let gravity and your body weight help apply the turning force. Since you are straddling the bike, it should be difficult to knock it over. You may want to rest your left shoulder on the pillion seat as you do this. And no, you don't have to have long legs. This is short-person certified.

Reattaching the wheel

Reinstalling the wheel is the exact reverse of removal (above). On previous-gen bikes, the chain adjusters will fall off when the axle is removed; don't forget to reinstall them. The left-side wheel spacer in particular requires patience and careful manipulation to get into place, and having a helper to hold the wheel up can ease the task considerably. Note that the side with the circular portion around the hole faces outward. Also, even though the two should be identical, if you have trouble getting the axle through them, try swapping them.

Be sure use the proper torque on everything. If inserting the axle gives you trouble, try this:

Sit on the ground behind the bike. Hold the wheel up with your left hand, or your feet, or a board, and feed the axle in with your right. When it starts to hang up (and it almost always does), tap (not whack! just tap) the head of the bolt with a rubber or plastic hammer while moving the wheel up and down a little with your left hand. You can also use a length of wood as a hammer, but a metal-faced hammer should not be used.

You may have to lower the right muffler in order to tighten the torque link properly. Don't forget to install a new cotter pin on the axle nut. You can buy an assortment at an auto parts or hardware store or find a reusable alternative such as a D-clip or R-clip:

Cotter pin 1.jpg Img 4712.jpg

Cotter pins and R-clips are available at most hardware stores, and D-clips (which are more secure than R-clips) are available at better hardware stores and auto parts stores. Some racing organizations don't allow R-clips, but they're fine for street duty.

If you get the wheel back on and it doesn't seem quite right (for instance, if the brake disc doesn't go easily into the caliper), check that your spacers are all in order, including the chain adjusters (which are not shown in this picture). Should look like this:


You'll now have to adjust the chain and align the chain/rear wheel.