How To Remove and Replace Wheel Bearings On A Dirt Bike

Wheel bearings inevitably fail over time, and that time is much less if you often ride your dirt bike through water. Water and mud will eventually seep inside if you leave it wet, causing the bearings to rust and end up seizing. An easy way to tell if your dirt bike wheel bearings are shot is by moving the wheels side to side. If the wheel moves at all then the bearings need to be replaced. Some tools you will need to replace wheel bearings include:

  • Wrenches to remove wheel
  • Screwdriver
  • Punch
  • Bearing retainer tool/pliers
  • Hammer
  • Bearing installer/socket

Before taking any parts off your bike, give it a bath so that it’s easier to work on. Keeping your dirt bike clean makes working on it much easier, keeps you cleaner, and you will be able to tell much sooner if there’s a leak or other problem with your bike. Once your bike is spotless, set it on a stand and remove the wheel that you are replacing the wheel bearings on. Now put the wheel on a wheel stand, a wooden box, or even saw horses to make it easier to work on without damaging the rotor or sprocket.

Wheel Bearing Retainer Removing Tool
Wheel Bearing Retainer Removing Tool

Remove the seals by prying them off with a screwdriver so you can get at the bearings. One side will have a retainer clip or nut, such as the one on Honda motocross bikes, which you’ll want to buy the special tool for. They are pretty cheap for a specialty tool, but make sure you get the right size because they changed over the years. You can try tapping it out with a small punch if you’re careful, but I wanted to re-use the retainer, and for under 20 bucks, it’ll pay for itself even if I only use it a couple times. Tools like this will save you time and the hassle, especially if you need it again sometime down the road.

Once you remove the retainer, flip the wheel over to remove that bearing (If you bought a fancy bearing remover tool, just use that, otherwise for the rest of us that are cheap, continue reading these instructions). Before you go to punch it out from the other side, you’ll have to take the punch and push the wheel spacer that is in between the bearings over so you can hit the bearing with the punch. Now just hammer on the punch to knock the bearing out of the wheel. Punch the bearing in a circular rotation so that the bearing comes out straight and doesn’t gouge the bore of the wheel. The wheel spacer will come out once that first wheel bearing is out, so set that aside until you need to re-install it.

Now you can flipĀ it back over and knock out the other bearing(s). Just make sure you punch them out as straight as possible. Before you install the new bearings, I recommend putting them in the freezer. Metal slightly shrinks at cooler temps, so this will help make the installation a little easier. Clean the area and surfaces of the wheel on both sides where the bearings go in and set your wheel back on the stand/wood blocks.

Some people say to heat up the hub where the bearings go to make it easier to install them, although others will say that it weakens the metal. I haven’t seen any issues caused by heating it, but it’s up to you whether you want to use heat or not. I didn’t use any on my recent rear wheel from a CR125, but it took a little more force to press the bearings in.

Take the wheel bearing and set it on the journal where you will press it in. You can start out with a piece of wood or flat piece of metal and hammer it in until its flush. Make sure you know that it is going down straight, otherwise it can damage the surface. Next, you’ll have to use a round piece of metal or a socket that is almost the same size as the bearing. You want to be hitting on the outer race (outside circumference) of the bearing and NOT the inner race. If you press or hammer on the inner race you will destroy the bearing. Keep hitting the bearing down while making sure it’s straight. You will hear or feel when it bottoms out in the bore, and that’s when you stop. Now you can put the clip or retainer ring/nut back on, along with the seal.

Removing Seal and Bearing
Removing The Seal and Bearing

Flip the wheel over to do the other side, but before you put the other bearing(s) in, REMEMBER TO INSTALL THE WHEEL SPACER. This is just the sleeve that you took out that goes in between the bearings, and it can be easy to forget until after you press all of the bearings in, resulting in hair-pulling frustration. Now you just repeat installation on this side, whether you have one or two bearings left. If you’re doing it all by hand, just be patient and get them in straight. It may take some time, but the bearings will go in (assuming you bought the correct part).

Now you can install the other seal to complete the wheel bearing installation. When you go to put the wheel spacers on, put some waterproof grease on them to help protect the seals and bearings. If they are worn with grooves then they should be replaced, otherwise water will find it’s way to the bearings much easier.

That’s it, just put your wheel back on the same way you removed it and remember to properly torque the bolts. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below…

Good luck, and ride safe!

-Tom Stark

Bought New Motocross Boots & Can’t Shift – Break-In

Buying new motocross boots is both a great feeling and a tough one (pun intended) as well. Riding with fresh gear can be like riding a new bike because everything is tight and still altogether. However, when you buy new boots, they are usually hard as a rock and suck to ride in without breaking them in first. That is, unless, you spend several hundreds bills on a pair of MX boots that don’t require break-in.

If you’ve never put your feet in a new pair of boots, just imagine putting your feet in ski or snowboarding boots; stiff and weird to walk in at first. If you can’t bend your ankle up and down then you will have a very hard time shifting, and using the rear brake will have much less feel because you have to move your whole foot.

So, how do you break them in so they’re actually usable for a race or long day in the wilderness? The easiest, although probably the longest way is just by riding with them until the leather of the boot is broken in. Before I go any further, you should know that for dirt bike riding boots work properly and help protect your feet from injury they have to be stiff. If you happen to fall off your bike and land on your feet, and you rarely land perfectly flat, you need the boots to hold together and not flex because your feet are going to do the same.

It can take several hours of riding before your new boots are feeling comfortable, so I wouldn’t do any important rides or racing with them until they are.

If you want to break them in with little to no riding, you can work your riding boots in off of the bike. It’s as simple as bending the boots back and forth at the ankle (where it would normally bend while riding. Just grab the top and bottom of the boot with your hands and flex the shin towards the toes, and then back the opposite direction. Keep doing this for a few minutes until you feel the leather start to loosen up.

New Motocross Boots
New Motocross Boots

Once you’ve worked the boots in with your hands, put them on your feet and buckle it up. Don’t need them too tight as you won’t be riding quite yet. You’re basically doing the same thing as you did with your hands. Just crouch down so your knees are bent and rock your ankles back and forth so the boots stretch out.

After doing this for a few minutes, the your new boots should be flexed enough to be able to ride with them. Go ahead and gear up and hop on your dirt bike for a ride. This simple process will help break your fresh boots in with minimal riding. A good 30 minutes of riding with shifting and braking involved and you are ready to race again with better support!

There’s many other ways to break in your new dirt bike boots, such as heating them in the oven, walking around in them all day, as well as soaking them in water and walking around in them until they loosen up. Any way you do it, there’s going to be some break-in process before you are able to ‘feel’ the shift lever and brake pedal while riding.

If it’s hard to shift at first, try sticking the toe of your boot under the shift lever and lift your entire boot up. It’s a good technique to get used to in case you are standing and need to shift.

Ride safe, and go moto!

-Tom Stark