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Old 08-16-2009, 05:56 PM   #1
Arizona14
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Default Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

I just recently finished replacing the 21 inch front rim on my '07 KLR with an 18 inch rim. I was hesitant to get into the project since I had never laced or trued a rim before. But after it was done I realized that it wasn't that difficult a job and anyone should be able to do it if they want.
Here is a description of the steps in my project and a few photos to help explain the details. Note: I actually took about 50 photos that covered every singel step in the process, but most of them came out fuzzy so won't bore you with them. What I learned from this is to have someone else take the pictures.

I decided to go with the 18 inch rim mostly because of the wide selection of tires available. From reading the threads on this site I then decided to order the rim and spokes from Buchanan. I went with the recommended Excel 18 x 2.15 rim and heavy duty spokes and nipples. Total cost including shipping was $293. Once ordered it took 5 days for the rim and spokes to arrive.
I then looked for a tire to fit the new rim and decided on a Kenda 270 4.60 x 18 for $74.00 + tax. Lastly I picked up a heavy duty tube that would fit up to a 5.00 x 18 for $23.95 + tax.
Now that I had all of the new parts available it was time to begin.


Step 1. Remove the front tire/wheel from the bike and then remove the tire, tube and rubber spoke strap from the wheel. I found that I did not have to remove the brake disc, in fact it provided a good steady support for the rim during lacing.

Step 2. DOCUMENT!! Take pictures, draw diagrams, write down notes. Make sure that you understand the spoke pattern thoroughly before proceeding. Then look at it all over again, comparing it to your notes and make sure everything makes sense. Take some time to do this and you will feel much more confident about your task once you've finished pulling the old rim off and are looking at your hub sitting there with no spokes in it.

For example, here are some of the notes that I jotted down.

Each side of the hub has 9 pairs of spoke holes.
A line from the tube stem hole in the rim through the centerline of the axle passes between 2 pairs of holes in the hub.
One spoke hole in each pair is higher than the other and this spoke will lay on top of both spokes that it crosses.
With the speedo side up, the top spokes all angle in a counter clockwise direction and the lower spokes all angle in a clockwise direction.
With the Disc side up the top spokes all angle in a counter clockwise direction and the lower spokes all angle in a clockwise direction.
You can't get this wrong as the hub holes will point the spokes in the correct direction.
A top spoke in the hub will be four rim holes from the top spoke on either side of it.
A bottom spoke in the hub will be four rim holes from the bottom spoke on eitherside of it.
A top spoke/bottom spoke in a pair will be ten holes apart on the rim.
Once all of the spokes from one side are in, then every other rim hole will be blank.

The most important thing I needed to understand is where to put that first spoke. Here is what I decided.
With the hub laying speedo side up and the tube stem hole in the rim directly away from me.
I laid a string line between the tube stem hole and the center of the axle hole in the hub.
That line passed between two pairs of spoke holes in the hub.
I chose the pair on the right side of that line and chose the top spoke hole as my starting point.
So the first spoke to install would be the top spoke in the pair just to the right of my string line, and that spoke would go to the fourth hole to the left of the tube stem hole in the rim.

Once all of this was documented and I understood exactly what I needed to do, it was time to start deconstructing my front wheel.

Here is what the string line looked like.


Step 3. Dissasmble the front wheel.
This is fairly simple, I just loosened the spokes and remove them.
But, it was also a chance to see exactly what I was going to be dealing with. I examined the pattern hands on, got a feel for the tightness of the spokes, saw how the hub holes point the spokes and how the rim holes are angled to receive them. My advice is that this is a learning experience so don't waste it in your haste to get that shiny new rim installed.
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Last edited by Arizona14; 08-16-2009 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 08-16-2009, 05:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Step 4.
Install the spokes on the Speedometer side.
I received two packs of spokes. I took one from each pack and examined it carefully and saw that one is just a nidge longer than the other, probably less than an eighth of an inch, but definitely longer. By comparing them to the old spokes I decided that those longer spokes were going to go on the Speedometer side of the hub.

I layed out the rim and hub, speedo side up, so that I could positively identify the chosen starter spoke holes. I slid the spoke through the hub hole and straight to the correct rim hole. I put the nipple on just a few turns and stood back to see the wonderful thing that I had done. It suddenly hit me that unless there was some unknown problem waiting in the dark to bite me when I least expected, this was actually going to be quite simple. I put the top spoke in the next pair and ran it to the fourth hole in the rim from the first spoke and installed the nipple a few turns. My new wheel was starting to take shape. I installed the other seven top spokes the same way and in just a few minutes I was a quarter of the way there.

I then installed the bottom spokes from the speedometer side. Pick a pair, any pair at all and slide the spoke through the hole. I counted over 10 rim holes from the top spoke in that pair and installed the nipple with just a few turns. I put in the next bottom spoke and connected it to the rim four holes over from the first bottom spoke and then repeated that seven more times and I was half way there.

Here is a fuzzy picture of this process in progress.


Step 5. Now for the disc side.
I had not picked a starter spoke for the disc side and for an instant I thought I had really stepped in it, but I noticed that every other hole in the rim was empty, and every other empty hole was pointed in a different direction, so putting a spoke in the wrong hole was going to be almost impossible.
I decided to start with the bottom holes on the disc side because they looked like they would be tricky to install with the top spokes in place. I slid a spoke through the bottom hole of a pair in the hub and it went directly to an empty hole in the rim that was pointed in the right direction. I installed all of the bottom spokes in just a few minutes.
I found that the top spokes were a little slower going in that they had to bend slightly to clear the bottom spokes and that tended to bind them up a bit while trying to seat them in the hub holes. But with a little trial and error I found the trick. By installing the spoke most of the way to the rim, then lightly pulling the hub and rim further apart on that spoke side, it provided enough room for the spoke to easily rotate properly into it's seating position. Once I found that the rest of the spoke installation went smoothly and quickly.

I now had a complete wheel with all the spokes in their proper place. Total time to install the new rim on the hub was about an hour, including time to take pictures.

Step 6. Lube the nipples.
As a little piece of paper in the package from Buchanan informed me, steel nipples and steel spokes will bind up and make it difficult to properly true the wheel. They provided a little bottle of oil specifically for this problem, so I put a drop of their oil into the thread hole of each nipple before I started tightening anything. That seemed sufficient, since while I was trueing the wheel I had to keep wiping oil from the nipples and spokes.

Step 7. Start the truing process.
To start off with, here is what I learned about trueing a wheel. PATIENCE. PATIENCE. And PATIENCE.
At this point, what I had was a new rim on my old hub and all of the spokes were loose and oiled. I laid the wheel disc side down and centered the hub in the wheel by taking measurements with a ruler. When the hub was centered I carefully and simultaniously lightly finger tightened spokes on opposite sides of the rim, working my way around the rim. I turned the nipples until the head just barely touched the inside of the rim. When this was done I had a hub and rim connected by not quite loose spokes.
Next I started the same process just turning each nipple a quarter of a turn. I then repeated the quarter turn process over again until all of the nipples were finger tight.

I next mounted the wheel on the bike. My goal was to get the wheel true to within 1mm and centered between the forks. When I first checked the measurements with a millimeter ruler, the wheel was off center from the axle (I'll call that runout) by 4mm, the side to side variation (I'll call this wobble) was 6mm and the whole wheel appeared to be about 12mm closer to the left fork than the right (I'll call this offset).

I gave a deep sigh, chugged a cold one and got comfortable in my camp chair in front of the wheel. Since none of the spokes were more than finger tight I could work without tools and apply pressure with one hand while tightening or loosening spokes with the other hand. I found that I needed a way to know where I was working on the wheel, a reference point. When dealing with runout I needed to loosen spokes on the low side while tightening spokes on the high side. My solution was some red electrical tape around the rim over the tube stem hole. So when I found that the rim was high when the tape was at 2:00 then I knew I had to loosen spokes at the 8:00 position, etc.. When dealing with wobble I could see from the tape where the problem areas were.

PATIENCE, PATIENCE and more PATIENCE.....

By taking my time and working a little with runout then a little with wobble I found that it only took about two hours to get the wheel to where the rim was only about 2mm out in either. I then tackled the offset by loosening the spokes on one side about a quarter of a turn, then tightening the spokes on the other side about a quarter of a turn. Each time I did this it seemed to move the offset of the wheel about 2mm to 3mm. Once it was close to center I went back to working on the runout and offset. A little bit here and a little bit there and before I knew it It appeared that my wheel was true within my 1mm target.

Step 8. Finish up the trueing process.
Now that my wheel was trued with the spokes finger tight it was time to start tightening the spokes. Since there are 36 spokes in the wheel I decided to go around the wheel tightening every fifth spoke one quarter of a turn. So after five revolutions, all of the spokes would be tightened one quarter of a turn. After each five revolution cycle I would check the runout and offset and correct any problems. I felt this was a great plan, but it required paying close attention and I have to admit that I lost count a couple of times. My solution was a stick of chalk. Each time I tightened a spoke I would put a small chalk mark on the rim next to it. When I finished a cycle I would just take a rag and wipe the chalk marks off of the rim. This is time consuming, but seemed to work ok as I had only two minor wobble corrections during the process.
I tightened the spokes with what I felt was the same finger pressure on the end of the wrench until the spokes rang at what sounded like a good musical note for a spoke. One last check of runout and offset and all looked good.

Step 9. Mount and balance the tire.
I mounted the Kenda 4.60 x 18 tire and heavy duty tube then did a static balance. It took about a half ounce of weight just about opposite the stem to get it reasonable.

Step 10. Ride it.
I took the bike out for a short street ride and found that I really like this 18 inch wheel. The bike is easier to balance at stops, feels more stable in the corners and seems to provide a larger footprint for braking. I took it to a sandy area and carefully ventured out into some soft stuff that would swallow my 3.00 x 21 inch tire. At 20 PSI it went through the sand with only minor wobbles.

Next step.
My plan is to check the spokes daily for the next 200 miles or so and tighten any that seem loose. At that point I will pull the tire off and check runout and wobble again and correct any changes. I'll then torque the spoke nipples to the recommended 60 inch pounds. I'll remount the tire and re-balance the wheel. After that, I'll ride, ride and ride some more. I'll check the spokes weekly to make sure that they are seated properly.

In Summary.
This project was not inexpensive as the total cost for rim, spokes, nipples, tire and tube came to just over $400. That is about what I planned.
The actual time involved was about 10 hours from the time I started taking the old wheel off the bike until I finished putting the new wheel back on the bike, but that is actually a lot less than I expected. I started this project thinking it would take 25 to 30 hours, but I spent a few hours on a Friday evening, a few more hours on Saturday evening and finished up on Sunday morning.
This whole project has surprised me in just how simple it was. My biggest concern was re-lacing the front rim turned out to be a punt, taking only about an hour to complete. The trueing of the wheel was time consuming but not difficult, since it was just a series of minor corrections to the shape of the wheel until it was where I wanted it to be. And, whenever I got tired of playing with it I could walk away and relax for a bit then start again when I felt like it. Like they say down under, "No worries".
The mod will now let me go places comfortably that I would never have dared take my KLR before. The 4.60 x 18 seems to have just about the same diameter as my old tire so there isn't much difference in speedometer readings. I'll check it with the GPS later to verify.
This is the kind of project that anyone could do with a little money, time and patience.
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Last edited by Arizona14; 08-16-2009 at 06:16 PM.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Here are some pictures of the bike before the mod.



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Old 08-16-2009, 06:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Here are pictures of the bike after the mod.



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Old 08-17-2009, 11:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Nice work. Looks great.

I hope you have a friend that's a traffic court judge.
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Old 08-18-2009, 02:02 AM   #6
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

I hope you have a friend that's a traffic court judge. [/quote]

Why is this?? did I miss something?

I say you did a fine job on this--I did the same but used a Yamaha MX'r rear rim (2.15) and added the same tire. You will be amazed at how this outfit sticks in the curves--on Pavement! Unbelievable!

It almost has a Yamaha TW200 look about it, huh?
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Old 08-18-2009, 10:48 AM   #7
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by biggyfries View Post
I hope you have a friend that's a traffic court judge.
Why is this?? did I miss something?

I say you did a fine job on this--I did the same but used a Yamaha MX'r rear rim (2.15) and added the same tire. You will be amazed at how this outfit sticks in the curves--on Pavement! Unbelievable!

It almost has a Yamaha TW200 look about it, huh?[/quote]


Cause they're waaay too much fun to ride fast on the street.
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:30 PM   #8
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

I have an eighteen inch rim on my front too. Actually, I have two sets of wheels, one with D/S tires, the eighteen inch set has street tires. I agree, it really handles with the eighteen inch tire up front. The steering is a little quicker due the slightly increased fork rake.
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Old 08-22-2009, 02:32 AM   #9
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

I've been wanting to do this to my bike as well. Where did you order the rim, if you wouldn't mind!

EDIT: Totally missed the part where you said you ordered it from Buchanan. My apologies! Great write-up.

One more question, though. What model number was the rim? Non-Dimpled? Dimpled? Thanks in advance, I'd appreciate any help.
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Old 08-22-2009, 10:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kjharn View Post
One more question, though. What model number was the rim? Non-Dimpled? Dimpled? Thanks in advance, I'd appreciate any help.
I called Buchanan and ordered an Excel 2.15 x 18 dimpled 36 spoke rim and the spokes to fit a '87-'07 KLR front hub. Buchanan drilled the hub and the spokes to those specifications. They had the whole package put together and delivered to me promptly.
Great customer service there.
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Old 08-22-2009, 01:24 PM   #11
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Hey Arizona14, I love the front rim and tire change.... I dont care for the skinny and tall stocker...

Thanks for the post, I will attempt the change myself in the future... Just got the bike last weekend and told the wife "I would not be changing anything for awhile!!!"

Great job.

Mike
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Old 08-22-2009, 09:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Mike,
Thanks for the good words. If you want any help with your upgrade, just let me know.
Ride safe.
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:51 AM   #13
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Default I NEED HELP..please...some one HELP ME

Im sorry for doing this, but i dont know how to add a new formum. im just looking for an answer. I am brand new to the whole KLR world. I am a Fort Bragg soldier and i just bought an 03 KLR 650. Do you think that you can help me out? Heres the problem, i turn my bike on and it kinda wants to stall out on me. It finally DOES stall out and then i have a puddle of gasoline under the bike that is coming from a hose that is attatched to what i believe is the carburater. I dont know much about bikes. im ready to just sell this one. Do you think you can help me fix this???
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:06 AM   #14
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

It sounds like your float is stuck.
Turn off the fuel at the petcock.
Drain the gas from the carb by placing a drain hose on the little nipple on the left side and opening the drain screw.
Remove the cables at the carbeurator.
Loosen the hose clamps holding the two rubber boots at the front and rear of the carbeurator.
Carefully rotate the carb so that you get to the bottom screws.
Remove the float bowl, should be 4 screws.
You will see the float, two plastic pucks that float in the gas.
Make sure they are empty, and free to move up and down.
Make sure that everything looks clean and free of debris.
Put it all back together and see if that fixed your problem.
If it did then congratulations.
If it didn't then post this question on the Maintenance, Mods & Technical questions forum.
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Old 08-24-2009, 12:16 AM   #15
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

AZ14... SWEET lookin front wheel!!!!
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Old 08-24-2009, 03:23 PM   #16
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Hey AZ14,

I noticed a couple noises that I cannot tell if these are okay or if I will be having some future problems...

I am getting some "thunking" noises from my front suspension while hitting small bumps in the road... I added a tiny bit of air to the front shocks and it didnt make too much difference>> have any thoughts?

I also hear some "clanking" in the engine while accelerating hard...

If you are EVER in the Gilbert area or wouldnt mind me swing by your place one afternoon, let me know. I would like someone with more experience than me, take a look see.

Thanks buddy.

Mike Bueche
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Old 08-24-2009, 03:51 PM   #17
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Mike,
The "thunking" sound from the front is probably loose steering head bearings. Raise the front wheel off of the ground and stand in front of the bike. Grab both forks and pull forward and up and you if that is the problem you will feel some play in the bearings. If that is the problem then use a screwdriver or punch to tighten the locknut right at the top of the triple clamp just until the handle bars won't fall from side to side on their own. Just a fingertip of pressure to turn them, no more. Also, you shouldn't put air in those forks. Their designed to run at standard air pressure.
As for the "clanking" noise from the engine, try running 89 octane for a while and see if it's just detonation. If the bike sounds fine at idle then I doubt that anything mechanical is causing it.
If you have any questions or if these procedures don't help, just let me know and I'll be happy to stop by sometime and take a look at it.
Ride safe.
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Old 08-24-2009, 04:19 PM   #18
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Hey AZ14

Thanks for the guidance on my noise problem.

I will give it a try.

Thanks again,

Mike
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Old 08-24-2009, 10:42 PM   #19
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

AZ14,

I pulled the front off the ground and lifted and pulled... I noticed some movement... I tried to follow your directions and think I am half stupid!!!

Is the part you are telling me to "tighten" is it the big nut in the middle of the triple clamp? Mine is TIGHT, I couldnt budge it.... Is it under that nut???

I have the bike off the stand, otherwise I would check it!!!

Thanks!!! I may be totally stupid!!!

Mike
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Old 08-25-2009, 09:04 AM   #20
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Default Re: Converting to an 18 inch front rim.

Mike,
Below that top nut is a lock nut that you have to get eye level with the top of the triple clamp to see. It looks like a thick round washer with notches in it. If you had movement then that lock nut needs to be tightened. You will need to loosen the lower triple clamps and take your handlebars out of the clamps to tighten the top nut when you are done.

PM me your address and let me know what time you are available to work on it and I'll meet you there.
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