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The more you know, the more fun customizing your bike gets! Customization Q&A (Wheels)

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     11 min read

    Customization lets you create a bike to your own personal specifications. The installation of functional parts such as those used in racing machines will improve performance and get you fired up! But, are they really making a difference? If you don't ride fast, do you really need them? Let's get some answers to these questions in order to enjoy customization to the fullest!

    Although changing the wheels on a car is a common thing, it feels like the bar is set a bit high for motorcycles. However, once you know the many benefits, you will definitely want to customize your wheels!

    Q: What are the benefits of making the wheels lighter?

    A: There are nothing but benefits.

    The term "unsprung load" is often heard in motorcycle terminology. This refers to the weight below the suspension springs. Basically, the lighter the unsprung weight is, the more dynamic the bike's movement will be. The main parts that contribute to unsprung weight are the wheels and tires.

    By replacing the wheels with high performance replacements, it is possible to significantly reduce the weight by several kilograms. Since the gyroscopic effect is reduced, leaning becomes quicker and more agile, and the tires follow the road surface more closely, resulting in improved grip. The inertial force is also reduced, resulting in better acceleration and braking performance. Furthermore, fuel consumption is also improved and tire wear is reduced. So, as you can see, changing to lightweight wheels is a customization that stands out from the rest with its many benefits.

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    Because forged wheels are machined, they offer more freedom in design and greater customization appeal than stock cast wheels.

    ■The bike will feel more compact

    The gyroscopic effect (the force that causes a rotating object to stay in place) produced by wheels is greater with heavier wheels and lower with lighter wheels. Therefore, when switching to lightweight wheels, the rider will be able to lean the bike more nimbly and quickly when cornering. The bike itself feels more compact and lightweight. Inertia is also reduced, so acceleration and deceleration become more acute.

    ■The brakes will work better

    When a heavy object moves, inertia is generated. The same is true of a rotating wheel. For the same number of revolutions, a heavier wheel generates a greater inertial force, while a lighter wheel generates a smaller force. Therefore, when the brakes are applied, the rotation of a lightweight wheel will decrease at a faster rate, which means that the braking distance will be shorter. The load applied to the brake system becomes less, and travelling at the same speed it is possible to decelerate/stop without applying the brakes as strongly.

    ■The suspension performance will increase

    One important role of the suspension is to track the road surface accurately and provide firm grip to the tires. However, if the wheels are heavy (actual weight and gyroscopic effect due to rotation), the movement of the suspension is hindered. Therefore, replacing with lightweight wheels allows the suspension to perform at its full potential, improving road-following performance and turning ability.

    Q: Are lightweight wheels manufactured differently from stock wheels?

    A: Most stock wheels are cast, while replacements are mostly forged.

    Most stock wheels for production bikes are cast aluminum, but many replacement lightweight wheels are forged from aluminum or magnesium alloys. The forging process creates a high molecular density in the metal, causing lines of metal particles known as "metal flow," and resulting in a much higher metal fatigue strength than casting. Forged metals are heavier than cast metals because they are "packed" more densely, but the higher strength allows for thinner wall thickness and thinner spokes, resulting in a lighter weight than cast wheels.

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    ■On the right is a cross-section of a stock cast wheel, and on the left is a forged wheel (photo: GALE SPEED). The high-strength forged material allows for thinner wall thickness at the rim where the tire is mounted, making the outer circumference lighter, and reducing the gyroscopic effect.

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    ■A block of metal, such as aluminum alloy or magnesium alloy, is set in a mold that is roughly the shape of the wheel. The blank is then forged in a high-pressure press of several thousand tons.

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    ■The blank created through the forging process is cut by an NC machine (computer-controlled processing machine). In the case of full machining, nearly 90% of the blank is cut off to form the wheel.

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    ■After machining, the wheel is rust-proofed, painted, or anodized. After that, wheel bearings are driven in and disc/sprocket mounts are installed to create the final product.

    Q: Will lightweight wheels have the same effect for older bikes?

    A: They have the most effect on older bikes!

    First of all, the wheels on older bikes are quite heavy, so the effect of weight reduction is tremendous! In addition, if you replace the stock spoke wheels with those that are compatible with tubeless tires, regardless of whether they are cast or forged, you'll have less flats and it will be easier to deal with if you do get a flat tire. Furthermore, if the wheels are widened or resized, there are more tire options, such as radial tires. This may require customization of the suspension or swingarm, but it allows the rider to fully enjoy the performance of modern tires.

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    In addition to weight reduction, another major advantage is being able to widen or change the size of the wheels, which gives you more tire options. Also, many wheel designs match well with classic bikes.

    Q: What materials are lightweight wheels made of?

    A: Aluminum, magnesium, and even carbon

    Replacement wheels are often made of aluminum alloys, with some products using Extra Super Duralumin. The forging process makes these materials strong and lightweight. Forged wheels made of magnesium alloy (about 2/3 the weight of aluminum), similar to those used on MotoGP machines, are also available. Old magnesium forged wheels were not very durable, but the current magnesium forged wheels are as durable as aluminum wheels, thanks to the evolution of materials and improvements in surface treatment. In addition, commercially available carbon wheels also exist.

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    Carbon wheels are about 40% lighter than stock wheels. The photo shows a wheel from ROTOBOX, a Slovenia based company, which also meets JWL standards.

    Yo
    Yo

    editor

    Yo

    Webike Japan's global merchandiser who is passionate about motorcycles. Born in Japan, and spent his childhood in the US. 25 years of riding experience mainly on the tarmac and motorcycle market. He loves products made in Japan and considers himself a "Japan Parts evangelist".