Bearing Tips & Advice

How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Bearings by Application


A wheel bearing failure while traveling at high speed on a motorcycle can result in a big crash. Taking care of your wheel bearings is essential in staying safe and improving performance. Many modern bikes use ball-type wheel bearings with seals, as these wheel bearings can last a long time with proper maintenance. 


However, you may experience problems with your wheel bearings if you ride your bike in deep water, perform wheelies, or ride on rough terrain. Using a pressure washer on the center hub area can also create problems. Lubricating your bearings regularly is a great way to stay proactive and extend their lifespan. A good rule of thumb for you to remember is to inspect your wheel bearings during each oil change or tire replacement.


Common Signs of Bad Wheel Bearings

Many times you can notice bad wheel bearings due to a rumbling or humming feeling through the handlebars. The problem with your wheel bearing will only continue to worsen over time, as you can eventually hear additional noise while riding on your motorcycle. 


You can inspect your wheel bearings by taking the wheel off your bike and pushing your finger in the hole where the axle is usually located to turn the bearing. You will need to replace the bearing if it feels rough or sticks while you turn it. Any signs of rust or metal dust around the bearing indicate that you need to make a replacement.


Bad wheel bearings can also damage your bike, as getting them replaced as soon as possible is always a wise choice. However, it's also important to remember that your bike may have bad wheel bearings without displaying any symptoms. Staying proactive by inspecting your wheel bearings regularly is a good idea in helping you stay safe.


How to Choose the Right Wheel Bearings

Understanding the various types of wheel bearings available is vital before making a decision. Looking at all available options can be an overwhelming experience if you are unfamiliar with the brands and different types. Each code number also means various things, such as how the bearing is designed and how it will perform under many conditions. 


For example, many bikes use deep groove ball bearings, containing at least one or several rows of steel balls between the inner and outer ring. The entire bearing is held tightly in place by the outer ring while the spindle goes through the inner ring. As the wheel continues to turn, the balls enable the hub to spin while the inner ring remains on the spindle. 


There needs to be a tiny gap between the two rings and balls to ensure it spins smoothly. The clearance also needs to be large enough to enable the lubricating grease to stay between all of the moving parts without allowing any slack.


Sealed Bearings

Any dirt or grime can ruin ball bearings, as sealed bearings offer an added layer of protection against these problems. Some bearings will only have a seal on the outer side, which protects while also making it possible for you to clean and regrease the other side. Seals on both sides of a bearing offer the best protection, but these bearings cannot be serviced once the seal is broken. Keeping these things in mind is always good before purchasing new wheel bearings.


How to Replace Wheel Bearings

Replacing bad wheel bearings usually takes around an hour with the proper tools. You will need tools to remove the wheel while also bringing a hammer, drift punch, socket, flat blade screwdriver, bearing driver kit, a couple of snap rings pliers, grease, and contact cleaner, while also buying new wheel bearings and seals.


Once you have all of your tools, you will need to remove the wheels from your motorcycle, as it's a good idea to use woodblocks for support. The next step is to use a flat-blade screwdriver to pry off the wheel seals but be careful not to damage the hub. Once the seals are removed, you can drive the bearings out using a bearing driver set or punch. Applying heat to the hub will cause it to expand and make it easier to drive out the old bearing by setting the tool and tapping it with a hammer until the bearing falls free.


Cleaning out the inside of the hub with contact cleaner spray and using a clean rag is always recommended before installing new bearings. You can apply grease on the outer race of a new bearing. Afterward, you can start the bearing by hand before using a socket to hammer the bearing into place. Then you will flip the wheel and install the spacer and repeat the same process on the other bearing.


Final Thoughts

Riding on a motorcycle is a favorite pastime for many people. Performing proper maintenance and inspecting your wheel bearings regularly is essential in avoiding problems and maximizing the performance of your bike. Knowing how to recognize the common signs of wheel bearing damage while also understanding how to make replacements is key to motorcycle maintenance. Choosing the correct type of wheel bearings for your bike will maximize its lifespan and help you enjoy many hours on the road.