TECH: DUBYA WHEELS AND HOW TO CARE FOR THEM
BY: CHAD DE ALVA
Wheels may be one of the most overlooked parts on a motorcycle. Most riders simply think of them as the parts that we mount our tires to, beat up on rocks, and cost a lot of money to replace. But, be honest with yourself, when was the last time you checked the torque on your spokes or bothered to check the run-out on your wheels? If this is something that you do, then good on you, but if you’ve never given your wheels any love, it’s high time you start. The difference an adequately cared for wheel can make in the way your bike rides is huge, just like the difference a quality aftermarket wheel can make compared to your stock wheels.
Your motorcycle’s manual most likely says something about wheel care, but whether that’s just play musical spokes to check the tension, or it actually specifies a torque value, that is up to the individual bike and manufacturer. Playing musical spokes by tapping the spoke with a metal object will definitely get you in the stadium, but there’s really no reason to not have a clicker type torque wrench for checking your spoke nipple torque. This can be done on the bike, or better yet, done in a truing stand (where you can also check run out or true the wheel). Pick a spoke to start from, and making no more than a quarter-turn adjustment at a time, check every fourth spoke around the rim until you get back to your starting spoke. Using a spoke next to the bead lock or the valve stem is a great reference point to remember where you started. Next, move to an adjacent spoke to your starting spoke and run another lap around the wheel checking every fourth spoke. Again, no more than a quarter-turn of tightening here. Keep moving your starting spoke in the same direction two more times, and do two more laps before returning to your very first starting spoke and beginning the process again. Go until your torque wrench is clicking or indicating correct torque on every spoke. Now you can make any truing adjustments needed to the rim.
New wheels will settle in, so it’s essential to check your spoke torque within the first hour of riding on a new or newly rebuilt wheel, and then recheck the torque after a couple more rides. From there, the occasional check will ensure that your wheels are at spec. It’s also essential to keep your wheels clean and greased up, so each time a wheel comes off take the extra minute to clean all of the mating surfaces (swingarm, caliper mount, fork dropouts, etc.), axle spacers, and seal faces and apply fresh grease. If you’ve ever noticed your bike feeling like it’s hopping or bouncing along when riding on hard-packed surfaces, balancing your wheels may be all it takes to solve any scary feelings at speed, assuming that your wheel is true.
There are several different styles of weights you can use, but the idea is all the same – place the wheel in a truing stand and see where it settles. The lowest spot on the wheel is the heavy spot, so counteract this by putting weight at the top of the wheel. Play with adding weight until you can stop the wheel anywhere in its rotation and it will stay where you stopped it. Balancing can make a noticeable difference, even on a dirt bike or enduro bike wheels. A properly cared for stock wheel will perform much better than a neglected wheel, but aftermarket wheels can elevate your bike’s performance even further.
Custom wheels are lighter, stronger, longer lasting, and of course, can be built to look absolutely killer. Yet the thing that most folks don’t realize is that a custom wheel doesn’t cost much more than a replacement OEM wheel, yet the custom wheel’s performance is much greater than OEM. Comparing a set of custom wheels built for my KTM 300 / 500 by Dubya Wheels to the KTM OEM wheels provided a great opportunity to compare the differences. Out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is the killer look. I may or may not have spent a few minutes just taking in the craftsmanship and the details of these fancy new wheels. Dubya wheels just look and feel more powerful, more capable, more invulnerable to rocks and other trail obstacles, which makes you feel more empowered as a rider. With visions of riding faster in gnarly terrain in my head, I got to work mounting up a set of tires.
While spooning on fresh shoes, I could feel a difference through my tire iron between the DID rims on my custom wheels compared to the OEM KTM rims, in that the DID rims were clearly much stronger. Moving to the spokes when checking the torque after the first quick ride, I could see and feel how much stronger the stainless nipples and spokes were compared to OEM. Over the years, I’ve seen riders round off plenty of OEM spokes, and I think you would be hard-pressed to round off one of these stainless spokes. Speaking of spokes, the Dubya wheels settled in much less than my KTM OEM wheels have, which also speaks to the custom wheel’s strength. All mounted up with the same tires and Nitro Mousses as an OEM wheel-set, the custom wheels do weigh less, meaning less rotational mass, which means better braking and acceleration. The stronger custom wheels also flex less, which means that your handling is more precise. Think of the difference in tire flex between a sports car and truck, and you’ll get the idea.
Taking care of wheels isn’t rocket science. It only takes a couple of special tools, and a few more minutes during a tire change to give your wheels a quick once over to make sure they’re happy. Happy wheels do ride better than neglected wheels, so take some time to give your wheels the care they deserve. If your rims are full of flat spots and dings, and your bearings are starting to feel crunchy, give Dubya a call and talk about getting into some custom wheels. The performance difference is there, from the obvious strength increase, weight saving, and component life, to lesser-known benefits like being able to run a narrower rim to make a taller tire profile. Even if your OEM wheels are still in good shape, switching to a custom wheel-set will still make a difference in the way your bike rides, so don’t feel like you have to kill your OEM wheels before you can go custom. Once you do go custom, you’ll never look back – and I say that because your bike is now faster and looks better too. www.dubyausa.com