You may have heard about balancing beads and wondered to yourself, do they really work on motorcycle tires? Maybe you don’t know what they are and need more information. Balancing beads are tiny beads that are inserted into motorcycle tires to help keep the wheel and tire balanced from the inside.
Balancing beads do work to keep motorcycle tires balanced as the wheel turns. The beads will find the lighter-weighted areas of the tire, and with centrifugal force, stay there to balance the tire. As the tire wears down in certain areas, the beads move and change to continue to keep it balanced over the life of the tire.
Keep reading as we go over all the information you need to know about this amazing technology. Find out if tire beads will work for you, what the different materials are, and about the ups and downs as well as if you still need the typical, lead motorcycle tire weights.
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What Are Balancing Beads?
Balancing beads are tiny pieces of glass, metal, or ceramic that go inside a vehicle’s tire to help keep it balanced. They are so small they can be inserted into the tire stem. Balancing beads are not stationary and rotate with the tire to keep it balanced from the inside.
That’s great, but do they work on motorcycles?
Will Balancing Beads Work on Motorcycle Tires
Balancing beads absolutely will work on motorcycle tires. In fact, these tiny beads have been used in trucks, cars, trailers, and many other tire types to reduce vibrations and improve overall performance. Ok, so these little beads aren’t new to the tire balancing industry and they work, so what different kinds are there, and which ones work the best?
What Types of Balancing Beads Are There and Which is Best?
Balancing beads come in many different materials, and they all do the same thing, but which material is the best? That depends on who you ask, so here we list the materials and give a quick rundown of each type.
- Tempered glass beads are lighter than steel or lead beads but they don’t rust, break down, or harm the environment. Tempered glass beads are generally less expensive than other materials and offer a smooth ride. They are not as heavy as ceramic or steel beads and you may need to add more to get proper balancing.
- Ceramic beads are usually coated with a non-porous material that prevents them from absorbing moisture. These beads are heavier than glass but lighter than metal, so you won’t need as much to balance your tires.
Ceramic beads won’t rust or degrade over time, and they will not become magnetized, but there have been a few reports of ceramic beads breaking apart inside. When ceramic breaks apart, the tiny shards can wear away the inside of the tire.
- Stainless steel beads are heavier and offer a more balanced wheel. They also won’t shatter, and you don’t need to add as much to get a smooth, balanced wheel.
These beads are more expensive than other beads, and depending on the quality, some have been known to rust.
- Lead beads were some of the first beads to be manufactured and aren’t that popular anymore. Lead beads can wear down over the miles because of the softness of the metal, and it’s toxic to the environment. Lead balancing beads are not recommended.
- Plastic beads are the lightest and cheapest option. Plastic beads won’t break down or damage your tires and are not toxic.
Plastic beads are not very dense and won’t offer as smooth a ride as other options, but If you don’t need much weight to balance your tires, plastic can work.
If these beads are so small, will they damage the sensitive technology inside the tires?
Balancing Beads Won’t Hurt Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
Many vehicles made now have TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems) to let you know when your tire pressure is low or high. Balancing beads inserted into your tires will not damage these delicate systems.
The problem comes if you have a TPMS and you want to install the beads yourself. Most beads are so small that you remove the valve core and insert the beads through the valve stem, but this may not work with a TPMS.
In this case, it’s best to have a professional unseat the tire from the rim and add the beads directly into the tire.
It’s also recommended to add a valve core filter. This way the beads don’t get stuck in the core when filling tire pressure and cause air to slowly leak out.
Now let’s get into the benefits of tire balancing beads.
Have you ever traveled down the highway with an out of balance tire? On a car, it’s just annoying, but when you’re on a motorcycle, an out of balance tire can give you a sick feeling and be dangerous. Tire balancing beads work to reduce these vibrations, and offer many other benefits.
As the wheel turns faster, centrifugal force sends the balance beads outward to the tire wall. This force causes the beads to settle on higher points inside the wheel. This evens out the spin and reduces vibrations to give you a safer and smoother ride.
When the tires spin evenly, they wear evenly too. Balancing beads help to extend the life of your tires because you won’t have uneven wear and soft spots on them.
It also takes more energy to push an imbalanced tire, which in turn relies on more fuel. When tires are evenly balanced, you save fuel and money at the pump. Some studies have shown at least a 2% increase in fuel economy by using motorcycle tire balancing beads.
But what about wheel weights? Don’t they balance your tires too, without having to add anything to the inside of the tire?
Wheel Weights Versus Balancing Beads
Wheel weights are stationary weights mechanically adhered to the wheel. They’re inexpensive and have been used on tires for many years. They work to balance out the wheels greatly, but they can fall off, and because they are stationary, they have to be altered, replaced, or added over the life of the tire.
Because of the constant vibrations, or when you hit bumps or potholes, wheel weights can come off. When you lose wheel weights the entire vehicle can become out of balance. You don’t have to worry about balancing beads coming out of the tires.
Some wheel weights are made of lead or have toxic metals in them so when they fall off, they can contaminate the environment. Balancing beads are contained inside the tires and only come out when the tires are replaced.
Balancing beads shift inside the tires and can adjust as the tires wear down. They adapt to the tire’s imbalances and balance the axle and the entire wheel assembly and components.
These beads also last the life of the tire, and can sometimes be reused. The problem can come when you’re replacing the tires as the tiny beads can be a pain to clean up and remove.
Balancing beads can be installed at home. You don’t have to take the wheels off, and you don’t need expensive, specialized equipment to balance your tires when adding the beads.
Balancing beads can save you money. After the initial investment of the balancing beads which can be less than $100 for beads and even valve cores with filters, you will start saving money. You will likely end up with savings in fuel costs, and these beads cause the tires to wear evenly.
You’ll end up replacing your tires less often compared to using standard wheel weights. These beads end up paying for themselves in fuel and tire costs.
One of the downsides to balancing beads is they need to spin at approximately 20 to 40 mph to balance out. Before they reach equilibrium you may feel some vibration in the motorcycle at slower speeds.
Another downside to balancing beads is removing them. While wheel weights are easily removed if they need to be replaced or rebalanced, balance beads are more difficult to remove. You’ll have to have your tires dismounted to remove the balance beads.
While they go in easily, the only way to remove them is to take the wheels off your ride, then have the tires taken off the rim to get rid of the beads.
All of this is great, but how long will these balancing beads last? Will you have to constantly purchase new beads year after year?
Balancing Beads Are Long Lasting
No matter what material you choose whether you use tempered glass, ceramic, or stainless steel, the balancing beads will not deteriorate and will last as long as you own the tires. The balancing beads even increase the longevity of your tires and can be reused.
Glass beads won’t break down as the beads roll and bounce over each other, and ceramic beads are often coated in Teflon or other slick, nonstick coatings to increase their longevity.
The beads stay inside the tires so unless you have a blowout, they’re always contained. When the time comes to replace your tires, just scoop the beads out and put them into the new tires.
Balancing beads can increase the safety of the bike as well. By reducing vibrations, and staying fluid throughout the life of the tire, there’s more stability while riding. These beads also keep more of the tire tread on the road because they even out how the tread wears down. You won’t have “bald” spots on the tires.
Are you ready to get balancing beads for your motorcycle? If so you may be asking yourself how difficult they are to install and if you can do it yourself.
Can You Install Balancing Beads Yourself?
If you were like me, you probably thought the beads were the size of BBs or small bearings when you first heard of them. That’s not the case though, as these beads are very tiny. They’re not as small as grains of sand, but they are small enough that you can install them yourself.
You don’t have to take the tires off and break the tire seal to add them unless you have TPMS in your wheels.
Assuming you have regular valve stems, all you have to do is remove the valve core, deflate the tires and then add the proper amount of beads to the tires. Follow the manufacturer’s directions because you may have to add an ounce per a set PSI of air pressure.
Many balancing bead kits have valve cores with filters in them. These are recommended because when you add air to your tires, the tiny beads can sometimes become stuck in the valve core. When this happens the valve stem will slowly leak air until the bead is removed and the stem closes completely.
How To Take Care of Your Bike Quick Tips
Good tire care is essential to keep any vehicle running well. They’re what keeps you going after all, so here are a few tips to keep your wheels rolling when you install balancing beads.
Before you ride again, or after you park your motorcycle, inspect the tires carefully. Look for wear and tear, cracks, bald spots, debris in the treads, or foreign bodies. If you see cracks, tears, or chunks missing, you should replace them.
If you find gravel in the treads, you should try to remove them. They can dig in and cause more tire damage, or fly out when you’re traveling down the highway.
If you see a bulge, especially on the side wall, again you’ll need them replaced. Bulges indicate weak spots and can lead to a blowout.
Keeping your tires properly inflated will increase the life of your tires and help the beads to do their work. Underinflated tires will wear out faster and lead to worse fuel economy because it takes more power to push a flat tire.
When you’re washing your bike, clean your tires as well. Clean tires are more fuel efficient and better balanced. The balancing beads can do their job better.
Now you know what balancing beads are and what they do for motorcycle tires. We’ve also established that balancing beads do in fact work very well as keeping them evenly balanced. There are several materials to choose from depending on your budget, performance needs, and preferences.
You can choose from tempered glass, coated ceramic, plastic, and steel. They all rotate with your wheels to balance out any imperfections and give you a safer, smoother, more fuel-efficient ride for the life of your tires.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.