In The Shop: Swapping the Rear Wheel


A common question that we get at Fix My Hog and In The Shop: “Will a different rear wheel or a wider size tire fit on my Harley Davidson”?

Over the years, we have fit many different size wheels and tires onto a variety of different Harley Davidson year & model motorcycles. Harley Davidson does not list every offset and dimension of their rims, swing-arms, fenders, etc. There is no book available that informs you what may fit with what, or what you may need to do in order to make a specific wheel fit onto a particular Harley. Kits are not available to make any random wheel fit into any random model.

This type of job is a fabrication. The procedure requires precise measurements and, usually, installing and removing a wheel dozens of times before finalizing and determining an exact, safe, functioning fitment. If attempting this customization, it is important to start with an initial mock up. Position the new wheel and tire on an axle, centered within the rear fender.

Harley Davidson Rear Fender Removal

Next, introduce the rear brake caliper bracket. Determine how the bracket needs to land and determine what length spacer, or spacers are needed to correctly position the bracket. At this time, you will also be determining if the rear brake rotor will need to be spaced further inboard or outboard. In the outcome, the rear caliper must be perfectly centered over the rear brake rotor. There are spacers available for purchase if the rotor needs to be moved outward. If it is determined that the rotor needs to be moved inward, you will need to machine the face of the wheel hub. It is important that a hub register is retained in order to correctly locate and support the rotor (equally important on the sprocket side).

Harley Custom Rotor Rear

Once you feel confident with the set up of one side of the rear wheel, you can focus on the opposite side. Determine what will be needed in order to achieve correct belt tracking. If the rear sprocket needs to move inward, the wheel’s left side hub will need to be reduced. It will need to be machined. If the sprocket needs to be moved outward, it can be achieved by adding an appropriate sprocket spacer. If the correct size sprocket spacer is not available, you may need to purchase one that is too thick and machine it to the desired dimension.

Softail Harley Belt Replacement - Removal Part 2 of 3

Other important factors:
•If a belt or chain guard is to be used, check for appropriate clearance. If possible, modify the guard as needed.
•It is a good idea to disconnect shocks and allow the wheel to travel deep into the rear fender. Verify that there is appropriate clearance from any hardware that may be excessively protruding. If needed, cut or shave down any hardware that may be longer than necessary.
•When spacing, it is extremely important that correct diameter and length hardware is used. Hardware should never be rated less than grade 8.
•Different wheel bearings can be used to adapt a rim to a motorcycle.
It is important that the wheel bearings that are used are appropriate or safe for that wheel.
If your Harley has ABS, you must use ABS bearings.
•If adapting a spoke rim, the rim offset can be changed in order to help with issues like belt clearance.
•Heartland USA sells excellent “wide tire kits” for Harley Davidson. The kits ARE a bolt on application. Kits are expensive but top quality and complete. You certainly get what you pay for here.

When trying to fit a different size rim on your Harley Davidson, every situation will be different. There are many different hurdles that can arise that we have not even mentioned. We post this article only to shed a little insight as to what may be involved in order to accomplish this type of customization.

And, for the record, when a customer asks; “Will a rear wheel from a 2013 Breakout fit my 2006 Deuce”?
The correct answer is either, “no idea”, or “YES”.

However, what parts are needed and what kind of labor is required?
We (or your mechanic) really have no idea until the task is actually attempted.
Labor could be 2 hours, or it may be 20 hours.

This is not something that is taught at Motorcycle Mechanic Institute.
The job should only be taken on by an seasoned motorcycle mechanic who has experience with fabrication.

Related Videos:

Harley-Davidson Rear Tire Replacement
Twin Cam 103 HD Drive Belt Deflection
Brembo Rear Caliper Pad Replacement
Rear Belt R&R – Touring
Rear Belt R&R – Softail
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6 Responses to “In The Shop: Swapping the Rear Wheel”
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Donald,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      What is the year, make, and model of your Harley?

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-231-0653, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!


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    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello L,

      This is for members to our online community. We do have a $2.95 annual entrance offer if you are interested? This would include access to expert advice (like this), plus discounts, hours of Premium videos, etc. Below is the link to join if you are interested:

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    I have encountered a strange issue: A complete spoke has vanished of the rear wheel assembly, not broke, but is completely gone. 92 Sportster 883 Deluxe. I parked, 2 hours later, rear tire flat. Spoke gone letting all air out. Fast, air loss instantly. Has anyone else heard of this? Or have I been sabotaged? Weird. Some insight would help, only my second Harley. I want to give it to my wife, cuz it’s so slow, but it needs to be safe. Can a spoke completely come out? Or does it need assistance? Thanx