Some people make great musicians, some great chefs, others great athletes, lovers, adventurers, and a few great tire changers. Someday I might become a tire changer.
My original plan was to acquire all the tools and gear necessary to change my own tires. You know, become a “tire changer.” My wife’s F800ST and my R12ST share common tire sizes, so there seemed to be much promise for the need and some potential savings over paying someone else to do it in the years to come. I had almost 10,000 miles on my ST’s tires, so I figured I’d change them prematurely so we’d have a spare set of heavily worn, but still serviceable tires should some unforeseen need arise. Sounds like a plan…
So I purchased all the stuff I thought I’d need and would make the job easier:
Harbor Freight Tire Changer for MCs $100
Marc Parnes Balancer for Both Bikes $175
Metal Valve Stems $ 35
Metzler Road Tec Z6s $365
I figured my $411 capital “investment” would be amortized over the years of scheduled and unforeseen tire changes, eventually bringing its cost of use down to a mere $20 per tire changed: 4 tires/year x 5 years = $900 at current dealer labor rates or $411 using my newly purchased tire changer’s gear (assuming my time has no value and there’s no opportunity cost).
With all the assembled goodies and newly purchased rubber I set out on my tire changing adventure. And I hit my first snag early. A geometry problem of ancient proportions: the Harbor Freight tire changer is either too high or my basement ceiling is too low.
Hmmm? I can’t raise the Mojolever high enough to get any degree of useable leverage. The project screeches to a halt and a search ensues for a better tire changing venue. Too bad, the basement had all-weather potential, despite its serviceable, but dungeon-like lighting.
I live in a small house with a small yard and a small garage. I’ve maximized my space utilization over the years and adding something new means a reshuffling of the random order of things. I liked the permanency of the basement installation, but now I’ll have to settle for a temporary location. I decide the sidewalk adjacent to my garage is ideal, so four holes and four lag screws later I’m back in business.
And I’m learning this isn’t so easy: This Mojolever could have a more tapered or narrow tip; this Harbor Freight tire changing stand is sort of rickety; it’s really difficult to stretch the tire bead with two pry bars while reaching for the Mojolever with your third arm…
But finally I get it and two hours later (including prep time) I’m sliding that nylon tip around the tire bead like it’s a knife cutting through virgin wedding cake icing. Hot damn, I’m a TIRE CHANGER!
What? What’s this? I’ve got to do the other side?
Forty-five minutes later I’m sliding that Mojolever around the lower bead of the tire like it’s a hot knife slicing through butter. But now I’m not so happy. The Harbor Freight stand has once pulled from the cement anchors, the wheel has slipped out of the Harbor Freight stand, and my rear wheel is showing signs of my struggle: scratches, chips and smears. I decided to do the rear tire first because my bike could stay on the center stand and I could swap out the stock rubber valve stem for my fancy new metal one.
By now I’m thinking my time has some value. It’s my most precious and scarce resource. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s a beautiful cool and sunny October day. It’s going to be perfect for riding. It’s going on three hours and I’m just getting to my first naked wheel. Then the next snag abruptly surfaces. This is getting more and more chess-like by the minute. The consequences of failure are compounding. The fancy new metal valve stem isn’t fitting like I dreamed it would when I looked at pictures of it on the Internet.
The instructions have given me stern warning not to tighten it past 7.8 Newton-Meters for fear of compromising the rubber gasket. It’s a critical part. It is the Jesus nut of the rear wheel. And I like to ride fast. I’ve taken heed but it’s still not snug and I can, we some modest resistance, freely rotate it. I can see it seals from the outside of the wheel only and the rubber gasket does not penetrate the depth of the wheel. The fastener on the inside of the wheel is already beginning to score the wheel’s surface. My confidence has been shaken. Left to my own devices, I’d tighten that mother until the sun doesn’t shine and forget about it, but the 7.8 Nm warning was in bold and upper case, so I make one of the hardest $35 decisions I’ve ever had to make.
My fancy new metal valve stem quickly fails the sniff test and finds a home in the “no-go parts bin.” Now what? I’ve got two new unmounted tires and a wheel without a valve stem and a mostly fully amortized tire lying off to the side.
Frustration is setting in. I’m dying for one of those Nat Shermans I tossed aside a few weeks ago. I’m ready for some hardcore contemplation and self pity that often accompanied a ten-minute smoke break during mechanical sessions like this in the past. The day is slipping past like a dagger sliding through a tightened painter’s canvas. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a tire changer after all?
Failure is imminent.
I have no way to ride my bike because I can’t mount the new tire without a valve stem. But what are my options? So it’s 9:00 a.m. and I set out on a journey to the great tire changers to the south: Battley Cycles. Nearly two and a half hours later, in late morning rush hour traffic compounded by an accident and I’m greeting Lou at the service counter. My shoulders are slumped with the humility of a failed tire changer as I awkwardly mutter the details of my misfortune and say a gratuitous comment like “You guys are pros with this stuff. Some people like me have to learn the hard way.”
Lou gives me a grin that tells me he’s encountered this scenario a few times in the past. I leave the dealership feeling liberated spiritually despite knowing my wallet is going to be further liberated of few bucks, too. Lou says they’ll be done by the end of the day. I’m off and I think I can make Noon Mass at the Grotto in Emmitsburg. The day appears to have redemption. I’m cruising up 270 and my Garmin is telling me I should be pulling into the Grotto parking lot at 11:57 a.m. Not perfect, but I’ll take it. With any luck I can grab lunch after mass and pick up a few odds and ends I need to install my new Sirius radio for the bike and truck to share. WHAT? “Road Construction Ahead,” the sign says. And traffic is again stalled. Barely crawling. True bumper to bumper. Garmin says it’s 11:57 a.m. and I’m just passing Frederick. Nuts. Noon Mass is going to be scratched from my reborn agenda. So I veer off toward Walkersville. I’ll head home to Littlestown, grab a bite to eat, give the dogs a break, regroup and try to hit mass at the Seton Shrine at 1:30 p.m. All is not lost.
I’m rolling into Littlestown after a long and somewhat tiresome pilgrimage to Battleys, when my cell phone rings. It’s Conway at Battley’s. “Your tires are done,” he says. “Great,” I respond. “I’ll be there soon to pick them up.” It’s now 1:00 p.m.
I stop at the house grab the Sirius stuff I need to replicate for the bike and truck, and I’m southbound again. I decide I’ve got the time to attend mass and I do. Feeling invigorated, I’m cruising down Rt. 15, and then I-270 on my way to Rockville and traffic is flowing smoothly. It’s 3:30 p.m. and I can see traffic is building on 270 northbound. I know what that means. Rush hour is coming, sooner than I thought. And by the way, where did this day go? By now I was supposed to be cruising the countryside of Northern Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania on a newly shod R1200ST enjoying the rich blue autumn sky and sunshine scrubbing in my Metzlers.
I arrive at Battley’s at about 4:00 p.m. Lou is looking like a man who’s put in a full day of work and thinking about a nice cold beverage with dinner. I grab my wheels and $95 later I’m rolling northbound again. Maybe I can find a Radio Shack in Frederick? I ask my GPS enabled phone to find Radio Shack locations along the way. This will save me a little time I reassure myself. Indeed. There is a Radio Shack off Patrick Avenue. “Cool,” I say to myself. As I get closer I start following the directions being blurted out by my phone. After a while I’m noticing Michelle (the voice inside my phone) has been a little quiet lately. I hit the “talk” button to see if I can nudge her to consciousness. It has been a long day and running up and down 270 was tiresome. What? She’s dead.
Michelle isn’t talking anymore because my cell phone battery expired sometime in the last few miles of my tutored journey to Radio Shack. “Oh well,” I think to myself. “It’s probably in the Frederick Towne Mall.” I pull in. Visit the store, which has little useable merchandise and appears to be a store in distress, like many of the mall’s other occupants. This Radio Shack is a few rungs above a kiosk. And they don’t have what I need. So resigned again, I head home. I’ll figure this out tomorrow.
When I pull into my driveway it’s almost 6:00 p.m. Nearly 12 hours since this adventure began. Still my ST, now balanced on its center stand, secured with straps suspended from my garage joists, is tire and wheel less. I’m fatigued and hungry, so I grab a quick bite to eat. After dinner I’m back in the garage, now easily 12 hours since this saga began and I’m finally installing my new Z6s on my ST. I can’t believe it. Add another $55 for gas plus the $95 for Battley’s labor (including sales tax) and the cost to use this new set of tires has hit a whopping $867.98. Let’s round it up to $900 because I know I bought a few odds and ends to install the tire changer and swap the tires out. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I had just asked the dealer to change them in the first place.
“Maybe someday I’ll learn to be a tire changer?” I say to myself.