Just over a year ago I decided that I needed a new rear tire on my 2013 ST Can-Am Spyder. With just over 12,000 miles of wear on that tire it was clearly near the end of its life! I had read several articles on the internet that verified that the rear tire on this motorcycle was short-lived.. i.e., unlike 4-wheeled vehicles that will get 40,000+ miles even on budget tires. So, in the absence of any experience with changing a rear tire, or any tire for that matter on a motorcycle, a year of living without an operating motorcycle began!
I did actually visit a Can-Am dealership to obtain information on the cost of replacing the rear tire… and the least expensive one quoted something over $500 as a starting point. My motorcycle has a trailer hitch installed (by me) so the labor cost to both remove and replace that hitch obviously would increase the estimate. Further, only an OEM tire would be available from the dealership because Can-Am does not allow any other brand of rear tire under the warranty of this motorcycle. Having to repeat this expensive procedure after only 12,000 more miles seemed to eliminate this option.
The next several months presented a series of challenges!
Before I actually bought a new tire I spent several hours viewing YouTube videos of other motorcycle owners changing the rear tires of their Spyders. I suspect that most of these videos provided were experienced mechanics because they made the process look so easy that I was convinced that I too could do the deed! None of these ‘shade-tree’ mechanics replaced the tire with an OEM brand but used one of two or three automobile (racing) tires instead.
My first step was to obtain a replacement tire. After checking for the size of the rear tire at several local tire stores I decided to order one over the internet… a tire brand that several Spyder owners had recommended in their blogs.
Old Tire Removal
One of the videos of tire replacement had indicated the need for one large, metric socket to remove the nut of the tire axle. Fortunately I had a PDF version of the shop manual for my motorcycle that correctly specified the size of that socket. Rather than use pliers on the opposite side of the axle I ordered two 36mm sockets for that part of the removal procedure.
The exhaust does not have to be removed at this time but it might as well be since it definitely needs to be out of the way during the caliper brake reinstall procedure.
After removing the bolt holding the trailer hitch and removing that hitch and associated wiring loom I removed the two bolts holding the caliper brake in order to drop that caliper off the rotor, and out of the way. For my caliper brake there was a shim washer between the brake and the support that fell to the garage floor when I removed the rear bolt.. be sure and replace that shim washer when you replace the caliper assembly! Support the (hanging) caliper brake with a cord of some type (I used a bungee) to prevent damage to the several lines connecting the caliper to the frame of the motorcycle.
Support the rear of the motorcycle with a floor jack located as close to the rear of the motorcycle as possible. Remove the drive belt by carefully prying it off of the rear sprocket. Do NOT under any circumstances change the settings of the two bolts on each side of the rear frame (swing arm) that control the position and more importantly the alignment of the rear wheel. Carefully pull the rear wheel off of the frame. The rear license plate and hardware may also need to be removed for clearance from the tire. My motorcycle has custom fitted (by me) mudflaps to prevent the rear tire from ‘slinging’ water and mud onto my trailer or to the back of my jacket during foul weather rides! These also had to be removed.
Replacing the Tire
The next step is changing the tire on the rim. While most tire shops will change the tire for a small fee they are not able to balance the new wheel / tire combination because of the size of the center hole in the motorcycle’s wheel and the type of balancing weights used on rear motorcycle wheels. You will have to find a motorcycle shop (non Can-Am) to perform the balancing procedure, again for a (small?) fee! After all that had been completed I was then challenged to replace the wheel with my brand new high mileage tire!
All of the bolts and nuts removed during the removal of the rear wheel have to be torqued to very specific tightness’s as specified in my shop manual. I had sold my torque wrench years ago so I had to purchase a new one for this one time job… another unexpected / unplanned expense!
By carefully positioning the wheel into the frame, seating the axle against the alignment bolt mechanisms and tightening the axle nuts to their specified torques with my brand new torque wrench the rear tire was back in place. With a bit of tugging and pushing I was able to replace the drive belt. (Note that after a short test drive much later that drive belt should be examined to be sure it is in the correct alignment!)
The trailer hitch and trailer lighting loom could now be reinstalled. I had originally installed the hitch so the process was familiar and fairly simple.
Reinstalling the Caliper Brake
My initial efforts to reinstall the rear Caliper Brake were a total disaster… No matter how many times I tried I could not get the Caliper Brake reinstalled. The basic problem was that the space between the brake pads was no longer wide enough to clear the rotor as I tried to lift the caliper brake up onto the bottom of that rotor.
Initially the two pads were too close together to clear the thickness of the rotor. Next, the exhaust was in the way (see note above) so the exhaust had to be removed. Two bolts holding the exhaust pipe to the lower exhaust pipe were extremely difficult to remove due to their location and the type of OEM bolt head. Note that the two bolts for the exhaust were replaced with new bolts as well as the two bolts holding the caliper brake in place per instructions in my shop manual!
Even with the exhaust removed to provide easier access to the rotor the pads of the caliper brake had closed enough to prevent them from clearing the rotor in my initial several attempts to replace the caliper brake.
At this point without any apparent technique for replacing the caliper brake I went into a procrastinating holding pattern with respect to any further attempt to complete the rear tire replacement project… my touring was clearly on hold!
The Final Victory!
After literally several months of avoiding confronting what seemed to be an unsolvable problem I finally got off my behind and re-entered the fray of a un-assembled motorcycle!
A review of the YouTube videos available finally revealed that the pads needed to be removed from the caliper brake so that the piston of the caliper could be pushed / screwed back into a seated position. Using needle nosed pliers opened so that the points of the nose could be set into the two holes of the front of the piston and turning in a clockwise direction while pushing toward the piston that piston can be reset into a totally open position. You know you have reached the completely open piston position when the piston no longer moves into the piston chamber. The pliers used in this way avoided having to purchase another (single use) tool for resetting the piston to full open. This helped but did not allow the caliper to be replaced onto the rotor!
The problem I had was that the pads would move / flop out their open position as I lowered and inclined the caliper brake in order to clear the wheel / rim while trying to position the caliper so that the pads cleared the rotor. The pads simply moved (together) every time I tried. I needed some way to hold the pads into an open position while I positioned the caliper. It was a real challenge.
Don’t ask me how I came up with the solution but here it is!
I used four (new) wooden pencils to solve the problem! Each pencil was positioned between the two pads by pointing the (unsharpened) end into the space between the pads with the (eraser) end pointing outside at an angle upward from the caliper pads. Each of three additional pencils were located on top of the first one, in turn, again at an upward angle so that the four were now securely holding the two pads open sufficiently to clear the rotor.
As I positioned the caliper at an angle (to clear the wheel) underneath the rotor the pencils held the pads in place so that they cleared the lower rim / edge of the rotor. As I moved / pushed the caliper upward to touch the first (lowest) pencil I pulled that pencil out of the space between the two pads again moving the caliper upward until it touched the next pencil… and so on until all pencils were removed and the caliper was FINALLY in place, ready to be bolted into place using the new bolts and blue Loctite. Note that there was a spacing washer between the back bolt and the motorcycle frame that fell out during removal of the caliper brake… that washer having to be replaced, carefully back between the caliper and frame as the bolt was reinserted in the rear hole of the caliper brake.
With the caliper brake mechanism finally reinstalled the several parking brake connections as well as the exhaust were re-installed and a test ride verified that everything had been correctly re-installed. Note that the parking brake should be off so that the connector at the brake arm is positioned rearward when the brake cable is reconnected to the arm of the Caliper Brake Assembly.
After a test ride any wear on the inside edge of the drive belt should be noted and a realignment made to the back tire if that occurs. Thankfully after several short test rides no such wear has been noted! Continue to check all bolts / nuts for tightness and note any mis-alignment of the brake pads after subsequent short test rides.
This likely is my LAST ‘Shade-Tree’ repair project on this motorcycle… not a good thing for my hypertension… I’ll just dig into my emergency fund to pay for any over-priced repair, when and if needed! Obviously with all my experience in changing rear tires I will certainly do that job again if my brand new non-OEM tire ever wears out!
Normally I would include digital photographs in an article of this type but the only ones of importance or interest to the reader would be of the insertion of the pencils between the brake pads for the reinstall of the caliper brake and I was so unsure that the technique would work that I didn’t bother to record that process.
YouTube videos available online provide more than enough visual support for any assistance for any motorcycle owner out there brave enough to tackle this project.
An expensive torque wrench now hangs on a nail in my garage gathering dust…. Oh, Well, another learning experience!