August 01, 2013
Keep Your Wheels Aligned
Jim Sendecke: After receiving the ProAligner tool and 12 pages of directions, my first impression was complete intimidation. It looked like a really simple tool, but a really complex process.
I then considered who actually bothers to align the tires on their bike. A lot of the guys I ride with don’t bother to check their fuel level before we leave on a ride. The answer, however, might convince you alignment is a good idea. Who aligns their wheels? Professional racers and tuners, that’s who.
I have ridden motorcycles continuously since 1964, have owned well over a dozen, and currently own six and have never once personally aligned my wheels. I do a lot of basic maintenance, oil changes, battery changes, replacement of broken or scratched parts, but wheel alignment has escaped me.
That doesn’t mean it should have. Properly aligned wheels contribute to performance, handling, safety and tire and drivetrain life. It is a very good thing.
In fact, virtually any time you replace a belt, chain, or tire you will want to complete the process with a proper alignment. I confess that I have always trusted my dealer to take that responsibility when they did any drivetrain repair or tire replacement.
Once I gathered the courage to read through the ProAligner material, I realized they were more thorough than complicated. The process was not difficult. You simply sight from one tire to the other and note the disparity indicated on the ProAligner tool, divide it by two and make the adjustment until you have reached the correct setting.
It is necessary to gather some data about your vehicle before you start. Many bikes have offset wheels to compensate for a center of gravity that is offset from the chassis centerline. It is critical for you to know if yours is set up with an offset, how much it is and what are acceptable tolerances. With that information and this simple $29.95 tool, you can easily determine if your alignment is correct.
Making the necessary adjustment may be as simple as loosening the rear axle and adjusting according to the findings on the ProAligner scale. In some bikes, however, specifically certain late-model cruisers, the proper alignment can involve adjusting the entire power train assembly. This is a task for a professional with the proper tools and experience.