Bike owners regularly maintain their motorcycles to ensure they are in perfect riding condition before the next trip.
However, certain motorcycle parts may cause problems before you schedule your next maintenance. For example, a properly running engine with poorly aligned wheels is as problematic as one with engine issues.
Unfortunately, most riders barely notice that their wheels are out of alignment. It is easier to assume that minor handling issues are typical to daily driving until you have to pay more to fix your motorcycle.
Therefore, if you love your bike and want it to take you places, ensure that you pay attention to its wheel alignment.
If you are not sure about the symptoms of misalignment, here are some points to note and how you can fix them.
Symptoms of a Misaligned Motorcycle Wheel
1. Motorcycle Steering in Other Direction
When riding in a straight or curved line, the motorcycle should only respond when you turn it in a specific direction. Wheel misalignment will force the motorcycle to pull you right or left, so you must constantly straighten it.
Driving in this manner also means you must grip the handlebar tightly to prevent the motorcycle from overturning. In addition, misalignment on the front or back wheels sometimes causes the bike to steer independently.
2. Uneven Tread Wear on Front or Rear Wheel
Threads maintain traction and displace water on wet, off-road, and snowy tracks. If the front or rear wheel alignment is poor, the tire will wear out unevenly.
In the long run, some parts of the tire will chip away more instead of evenly wearing as intended.
Check for one side of the tire appearing smooth with treads not being prominent. Such visuals are enough to tell you that your motorcycle wheels are poorly aligned.
3. Wobbling of Tires at Medium to High Speed
Motorcycle wheels must be intact and in a straight line to ride perfectly. With misaligned wheels, you will feel like the bike is slightly wobbling when you ride at moderate to high speeds of 24-40 mph (40-60 kph).
Wheels are supposed to have sufficient traction/grip on the road surface. Anytime it loses traction, it will try to realign itself to maintain traction. Bad wheel alignment puts the bike into a loop cycle that causes too much wobbling.
4. Damage or Breakage of Chain Links
The working mechanism of the chain link works with the wheel to deliver more power to the motorcycle to gain acceleration and momentum.
Breaking or damage of the chain link can be due to excessive tension. The front sprockets should be in a straight line with the rear. Rear or front misalignment causes chains not to travel in a straight line, thus creating friction between chain links and sprocket teeth, resulting in damage.
5. Motorcycle Handlebar Tinting Due to Misaligned Forks and Wheels
It is easier to figure out if the handlebar is crooked or tinted. Look at the handlebar from a top-down view to determine whether it is straight or not.
Misalignment of front forks could cause the handlebars to tilt on the left or right. Any impact on the wheel may affect the handlebar by causing the fork clamps to misalign the front forks.
Since the handlebars connect to the wheels, they will cause misalignment.
6. Damage to Wheel Sprocket Teeth
The wheels sprocket and chain work hand in hand to create and carry the momentum of the motorcycle.
When wheels are poorly aligned, they create a significant amount of friction between the sprocket teeth of the rear and front wheels with the chain.
Such harsh frictions cause damage to the teeth resulting in bending or breaking. If you are wondering why your sprocket teeth are constantly damaged, wheels out of alignment are the culprits.
7. Rattling Noises From the Wheels
Riding a motorcycle with a misaligned wheel will create unnatural sounds. The chain is usually under constant tension creating friction between the chain and sprockets.
This friction causes noise from the misaligned wheel. It would help to inspect where the noise is coming from, whether in the front or the rear.
8. Loss of Balance During Acceleration
Riding a motorcycle is about gaining traction to ride safely without crashing. The sudden acceleration causes the rear wheels to spin, making the tires lose grip on the road surface.
With misaligned wheels, throttling too hard will try to gain traction and align itself to the center, which is impossible at the time. The rear wheel, out of balance, will skid and back out even with traction control.
9. Unnatural Motorcycle Handling
When the motorcycle wheels are poorly aligned, you will feel a difference in the maneuverability, and you will have to put more effort when changing lanes or braking.
When your wheels are not properly aligned, the ride will feel unusual. The handlebars will be stiff and restricted, and dominant on one side when trying to ride on a straight path. Even when riding on a straight path, it will feel like the motorcycle is moving sideways.
10. Losing Grip When Cornering
Motorcycles tend to lean at a specific angle when cornering at higher speeds. This means the tire’s contact patch with the road surface is less, which translates to less traction/grip.
Motorcycle wheels should be planted firmly and have proper alignment during these turns.
With misaligned wheels, it becomes harder to maintain the lean angle and grip on the road. The motorcycle loses balance easily because of poor wheel alignment.
How Do You Check if The Wheel is Out of Alignment?
In some cases, you may not find wheel alignment symptoms due to modifications on the motorcycle. Even after noticing the symptoms, without proper measurements, you will not know.
If you can’t notice the symptoms naturally as you ride your motorcycle, below are a few steps to help you.
You can also see how this is done in the following video:
Step 1: Bring the Necessary Tools
Before measuring both sides of the tire for out of alignment, you must first get a stand to position your motorcycle vertically.
It would help if you also looked for a lightweight rope for measuring the alignment of both sides of the wheel.
Using a measuring tape instead of a rope also works, provided you have a wrench to loosen and tighten axle blocks.
Step 2: Elevate your Motorcycle
The first step of measuring your motorcycle alignment is to ensure the tire stands on your motorcycle vertically equal.
An equalizer stand makes the process faster and easier, and both wheels should be above the floor. Maintain enough space below the wheels for comfortable hand movements.
Step 3: Wrap a Rope or String
Next, wrap a lightweight rope around both tires, starting from the center of the tires to the end of the brake disk.
Ensure the rope equally wraps both sides of the wheel and use a measuring scale to tell the accuracy of the rope.
You can also use a measuring tape to wrap the front wheel in a rearward direction and keep the bike elevated higher.
Step 4: Pull the Rope Tight
Pull the rope as tight as possible from the front wheels towards the rear and ensure it does not slip aside or loosen the tendency.
If you are experiencing problems, use duct tape to keep the string aligned to the front wheels.
Step 5: Measure the Gaps
After wrapping the rope tightly, you may notice gaps between the wheels if they are properly aligned. The next process is to focus on the rope and measure the gap between the wheel alignments.
You can use a measuring tool or measuring tape to take note of the gap dimensions. An alignment tool makes it easier to identify the number of gaps between them.
Step 6: Observe the Rear Wheel Alignment
The rear wheel should be given alignment priority because it holds the chain directly operating it.
Check the rear wheel alignment of the motorcycle, and if you find any imbalance, you can be sure of the misalignment of the motorcycle wheels.
Methods of Aligning Misaligned Motorcycle Wheels
After checking the alignment of your motorcycle wheels, you will know whether your wheels need an alignment or not. However, it does not give suggestions about the alignment methods to consider. These three methods are great for aligning wheels.
Using a Measuring Tape
Using this method to align your wheels, use a measuring tape to measure the gaps between wheels and wracks. With the measuring tape, measure from the center of the swingarm pivot to the rear axle on both sides of the wheels.
Record the measurements and if measurements from both sides are not equal, adjust the wheel position using a wrench until the measurements equalize.
Ensure that the wheels maintain proper chain slack. This method is simple and accurate for motorcycles that pivot or bodywork will not come in the way of measuring both sides.
Chain Alignment Tool
Use this method if the measuring tape method does not work for you or your motorcycle is not easy to measure from both sides. A chain alignment tool lets you visually check the motorcycle’s chain alignment and wheel alignment.
This method removes the chain guard and places the tool on the motorcycle’s rear sprocket. You should then sight a line down the motorcycle. Both wheels are properly aligned if the front and rear sprockets are aligned. If not, try to adjust the wheel to the desired position.
Parallel Straight Edge Method
This method requires a setup for measuring and aligning wheels. It relies on two parallel edges running along both sides of the wheel to ensure that the rear and front tires are properly aligned. The ropes you set up earlier will help you accurately measure the gaps.
Once the motorcycle is in this setup, measure how much adjustment your wheel needs. The gaps between wheels and rear sprockets determine the adjusting measurements. Use these measurements to adjust the wheel and ensure the motorcycle stands vertically over a floor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you Know if Your Motorcycle Wheel Needs Alignment?
The wheel out-of-alignment symptoms mentioned above will tell you that you should align the wheels on your motorcycles.
The other way to understand the urgency of aligning wheels on your motorcycle is by measuring the side of the wheel from the front tire to the central part of the swingarm.
Other alignment tools can measure the amount of adjustment your motorcycle needs a well.
Why is it Important to Check Wheel Alignment Symptoms?
Wheel alignment symptoms in a motorcycle determine the urgency of aligning the wheels earlier. The alignment of the wheels ensures safety and stability when riding it.
In addition, it reduces damage to the tires and any other parts that could be affected. Checking these symptoms earlier prevents the progression of danger.
Will Acceleration be Affected by Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment plays a vital role in the acceleration of the motorcycle. A poor wheel alignment does not let you desirably accelerate your bike.
The wheel will keep pulling your motorcycle in one direction, which makes maneuverability risky and challenging because of friction between the wheel and handlebars.
Does Wheel Misalignment Affect Performance?
Wheel alignment affects motorcycle performance; if the wheels are poorly aligned, they will run inharmoniously. This results in an unworthy riding experience due to reduced stability and increased bumpiness.
Poor wheel alignment also means that your tires will wear unevenly, so you will have to spend more on fuel since the engine works harder. On the other hand, proper wheel alignment stabilizes the performance of your motorcycle.
How Often Should I Check my Wheel Alignment?
Naturally, you will notice symptoms of wheel misalignment by riding it regularly and feeling it when moving the handles. However, you must check the alignment after 6000-8000 miles of riding.
In addition, user manuals include directions for the frequency of checking alignment. Finally, you can check the tires for uneven wearing if you are a frequent rider. Doing this does not cost you anything but will save you from unwarranted riding difficulties.
How Long Does It Take to Check the Wheel Out of Alignment Systems?
Checking the alignment of your motorcycle wheels does not take a lot of time. You will spend less than an hour analyzing the front and rear tires.
A regular wheel alignment check usually lasts for about half an hour. This time will, however, depend on the type of motorcycle you are riding. If you are using a wheel alignment tool, it will take less time.
Does Proper Wheel Alignment Reduce the Risk of Damage to Tires?
A properly aligned motorcycle wheel reduces the possibility of damage because proper tire placement reduces the fraction. In addition, these tires can run smoothly with stable contact on the road, protecting them from uneven wearing.
Avid riders can naturally feel the alignment issues on their bikes. Additionally, by considering the symptoms above, you can realize the urgency of adjusting and aligning your motorcycle wheels.
Adjust the wheels when your bike loses traction, skidding, or grinding on chains to enjoy a smooth and stable ride.
Hi, my name is Niklas, the head content creator & CEO of Whirling Wheelz. I am very interested in vehicles of all kinds, mainly cars. I have a car mechanics degree from high school and a big hobby of mine is to follow the WRC (World Rally Championship) both online and through travel.