Not Your Sons Bike: Upgrading To A Larger Front Rim

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Article And Photos By: Daniel Donley –

Originally Published In The November 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine


A local cat stopped by the shop the other day, he had just bought his fi rst Harley- Davidson and was interested in changing the look of it without breaking the bank. The bike is a 2009 Harley Bagger that is all decked out with lots of chrome Harley-Davidson® doodads and needed a front tire. So… I suggested to him that since he was going to buy a new front tire, he should upgrade to a larger front rim while we’re at it. This would be affordable and will give the bike a more custom look. So, Jason said make it happen. I jumped on the phone and ordered the necessary parts. I got with Alex out at DNA wheels and ordered up a 21 x 3.5/ 60 Spoke ABS front wheel and a couple of rotors. I also got the AVON 120/70/21 White Wall tire coming. For this month’s tech, we are going to make this happen. It is not just changing out the front wheel here; I am going to show you a few tricks and things to check along the way to make the addition of this larger diameter tire work as it should.

Here is the 21x 3.5/60 spoke wheel from DNA, these are nice quality wheels for the money. I’ve used them many times before and have had

great luck with them. The inside of the rim is sealed which allows it to be run tubeless. Another great addition is the stainless-steel spokes and nipples which allow for quick cleanups and not having to worry about rusting.

New Wheel = New Fasteners, New chrome plated Torx Fasteners from Colony are the way to go. I don’t like to use Button Head Allen because it is hard to achieve proper torque spec without rounding the inside of the fastener. The DNA rotors are polished stainless steel and have a very nice


It’s time to get the 120/70/21 Avon Tire mounted to the rim. I did a tech on this years ago, and I thought it would be cool to show it again here.

We are going to mount this tire up with some zip-ties! What you need is 6 Heavy Duty Zip Ties, placing them

evenly around the tire, then cinching them down, so the inner beads of the tire touch each other. You will want to use some sort of very slippery lubricant on the rubber. DO NOT

use soap; it will corrode the inside of the rim {I have learned this the hard way!}. With everything lubed up, place the tire on one side of the

rims drop center and start pushing around with your hands until the tire is over the rim. This does NOT work on all rims. This one was quite tough to do. The larger the rim, the easier the zip tie mounting process works. I have never been able to do this on rims smaller than 21”. Now that the tire is over the rim you can cut and remove the zip ties. Now you can air up the tire. If the tire does not want to seat the bead, a good friend of mine, Joe, from Led Sled Customs told me to lay the tire on its side, sure as shit every time the bead will seat

Ok, here is another one for you. You know they always say you’re supposed to learn something every day. Thank God I put the tire on in the correct direction! The 2009 Harley has ABS brakes, one-wheel bearing has a rubber seal cover and the other has a metal seal cover. The metal cover is for ABS braking pickup. So, the tire has to be oriented in the correct direction of rotation. Make sure that you use the proper torque specs for your specific model when torquing the rotor bolts; I also recommend using blue Loctite here. Typical torque spec for front rotors is anywhere between 16 to 24-footpounds.

Here is the assembled front DNA Wheel. This is a good-looking package at an affordable price.

Time to remove the front wheel, I like to put the bike into 2nd gear and then place the jack under the bike and raise it up until the bike just touches the fl oor. The 2nd gear keeps the bike from rolling off the jack. Remove the brake calipers and hang them with some zip ties, so they are not dangling. Now remove the axle from the front wheel and note the location of the wheel spacers and where they go. No need to go to deep on this, it is very straightforward.

Now we install the new front wheel/ tire combination, just mocking this up fi rst. Because we are installing a larger diameter front wheel than stock, check the clearance. To make sure there will be no issues with

the tire potentially rubbing I grab a handful of varying thickness washers and the masking tape, place them on the tire. Then slowly turn the tire one revolution to see if there is any rubbing. Basically, this is using the washers as a feeler gauge to tell how much distance between the tire and the inside of the fender.

After stacking washers on the tire and  feeling a slight resistance as the tire was rotated around, the distance was right at .150 my educated decision here is that is not enough for tire growth at speed.

To get some additional clearance, we removed the front fender and drilled the four mounting holes to a larger size. We opened them up about .050 from what they originally were. There was also a stud located in the front of the fender; we trimmed this down to half of its original length. After making the mounting holes bigger, this will allow for the fender to be lifted to a higher mounting position which gains clearance. We reinstalled the fender and checked clearance again. Clearance now is .250 I feel much more comfortable with this clearance.

With the fender bolts tightened into place; bend over the locking tabs. Make sure to use some form of grease or anti-seize on the front axle. This will make it easy to remove for the next service. Be sure that the wheel spacers are orientated as they were removed. Use the proper torque setting on the axle nut, fork pinch, and brake caliper mounting bolts. This will vary from bike to bike, so check the manual.

Now get the bike off the jack and take it for a test ride. Don’t forget to pump the front brake lever before you go. Otherwise, the fi rst time you go to use them, they WON’T be there! Anytime you add a larger diameter front wheel to any bike it is going to change the front suspension geometry. The bike is going to handle different than it did before. Please take time to familiarize yourself to the bikes new handling. My opinion of the 21” front wheel the bike handles much smoother and seems to be easier to ride than before. I haven’t tried it at triple-digit speeds yet! Those tickets are VERY expensive!

Here is a before and after photo. As you can see, the addition of the 21” front wheel makes a drastic improvement. This is a very straightforward project that we did after work in one evening. Jason was very pleased with the results. If there is something that you would like to see me do a tech article on please call or email me with your idea.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at the shop anytime:


Daniel Donley – Pandemonium Custom Choppers

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