Upgrading The Wheels On A '04 Fat Boy - Start 'EM Young

Teaching A 12-Year-Old How To Wheel Swap

1. Here's what's going on the bike; chrome 18-inch Performance Machine Villain wheels with matching rotors and pulley and a pair of Metzeler tires. In the back is Troy with the stock '04 Fat Boy (with the exception of the Samson exhaust pipes). In Troy's words, the stock wheels looked "boring," and needed something "cooler."

2. The rotor was installed next. Since the rotor matches the wheel, we explained "clocking" to him, and how it's important for the rotor pattern to follow the design of the wheel.

3. The rotor was installed next. Since the rotor matches the wheel, we explained "clocking" to him, and how it's important for the rotor pattern to follow the design of the wheel.

4. Before putting the rotor on, Troy dabbed a bit of red threadlocker on each of the five bolts. Then they were installed finger tight on the wheel. Then with some help from Junior, LifeStyle Cycles' owner, Troy torqued the rotor down (24 lb-ft) to factory specs in a criss-cross pattern. He then installed the rear rotor on the back rim and torqued it down to 45 lb-ft.

5. Following the same method he used in the rotor install, Troy clocked the pulley to match the pattern and finger tightened the pulley bolts. Once again enlisting Junior's help to steady the wheel, Troy then torqued the pulley bolts down to 60 lb-ft.

6. Next, it was time to mount the 18-inch Metzeler tires. Before we could tell Troy about directional tires, he pointed to the rotation arrow on the side of the Metzeler tire and asked if this was the way the tire needed to go. Smart kid. Troy put all of his 85 pounds into getting the mighty Metzeler tire over the Performance Machine rim. We showed him the valve stem markers on the Metzelers, and he slid the tire around so the valve stem was right in the middle of them. With the tire mounted and the bead popped and filled with air, Troy replaced the valve core to keep the air inside the tire.

7. With the tire properly inflated, it was time to balance it. When Troy ran the wheel/tire on the balancer, it was only off by a fraction-not even worth putting weights on it.

8. Next, it was time to take off the stock wheels. With the axle cover off, Troy removed the cotter key, and with a 15/16 wrench, he loosened and removed the axle nut, then used a 9/16 open-end wrench to loosen the axle adjuster so that the wheel and belt could be removed.

9. Troy then removed the belt from the pulley, and with a couple of taps from a rubber mallet, he was able to remove the axle.

10. After removing the rear caliper Troy pulled the rear wheel and slipped the new wheel and tire between the swingarm.

11....and slipped the new wheel and tire between the swingarm.

12. With some helping hands, Troy installed the PM pre-cut wheel spacers, put the belt onto the pulley, adjusted and torqued the axle, and installed the caliper. Then he spun the tire and made sure the belt tracked center in the pulley.

13. The front wheel was next. Using a scissor floor jack, Troy got the bike up in the air (with some help from Sparky to steady the bike). Troy removed the brake caliper and removed the axle nut with a 3/4-inch wrench. Once the axle was out, the tire was removed.

It took Troy a couple of times lowering the scissor jack until the axle holes lined up for the new front tire and rim combo. With the holes lined up, the axle slid right in and only took a few taps with the plastic mallet to get it in. Troy then connected the caliper to the new PM rotor, and torqued down the front axle nut to 55 lb-ft.

15. The finished product looks awesome compared to the before photo. It's pretty amazing what a set of tires and wheels can do for the look of a motorcycle. And the hands-on experience Troy learned from this project will hopefully help him become the new neighborhood motorcycle mechanic.

Remember when you were a kid watching your pops wrench on the old scoot or fix mom's station wagon? Remember the countless hours you spent sitting on the side just waiting for dad to hand you a wrench and say "Here, loosen this bolt"? We're firm believers in the hands-on technique. Sure, you can learn by watching, but you'll learn a heck of a lot more by doing.

We met this kid named Troy who is interested in motorcycles. He's your average 12-year-old who likes playing XBox and PlayStation, watching South Park, listening to his iPod, and hanging out with his friends. While he's a good student, Troy hasn't had any motorcycle modification or repair experience, nor has he attended any special classes. In fact, Troy had only picked up a wrench once before this story was shot.

To help Troy get a jump-start on what might possibly be his motorcycle wrenching future, we decided to walk him through upgrading the wheels on a bone-stock '04 Fat Boy (who says child labor is a bad thing?). We were swapping out the stock tires and wheels for a set of Performance Machine Villain 18-inch wheels with matching rotors and pulley. Since we were upgrading the wheels from the stock 16-inch units, we had to get some new rubber to go with it. The tire of choice was Metzeler. With all of the parts in place and the bike on the lift, it was time to get started.