Whether you’re using tire irons or a tire bar to remove and replace a dirtbike tire, an adequate dirtbike tire lubricant applied to the tire bead and wheel rim is essential to reduce the effort required, avoid damage to tire and tools, and ensure a good seal.
There are many substances that can serve as a dirtbike tire lubricant, ranging from liquids and pastes made for exactly this purpose, to household supplies like soap or Windex, to emergency-only options like Gatorade from your Camelbak–or even sand (so we’ve been told). Whatever tire lubricant is used must deliver a lubricating effect (duh!) during the tire change, without facilitating slippage of the tire against the wheel, post-mounting.
Over the last few decades, we’ve used popular commercially available tire lubricant brands such as RuGlyde, which is quite inexpensive on a price-per-ounce basis–12 bucks buys a gallon jug that most motorcyclists won’t exhaust in a lifetime. But we’ve been just as satisfied with the performance of a simple 20:1 mixture of water and liquid hand soap, which is an even cheaper tire lubricant and doesn’t require a trip to the auto parts store.
So we thought we’d look at several dirtbike tire lubricant options to see how some of the purpose-made lubes stack up against stuff people already have under their kitchen sinks. Are “real” tire lubes worth the extra trouble and expense? And, if so, how do they compare to one another?
We’ll tell you right up front that the biggest difference between all the options reviewed here is their form factor. Liquids can be drizzled down into crevices where you can’t readily smear a paste. Pastes can be applied by hand without worrying about overspray, and they’ll stay put without dripping. Some squirt-bottle sprays can be set to “stream” for precise aiming, while aerosols spread out over a much larger area than needed. We’ll cover representatives from each of these categories. Some substances do perform better than others. However, delivery/application method is the factor most users should consider first.
Taking this one step further, the ideal choice for dismounting is a liquid, applied with either a squirt-bottle or a paint brush; it will naturally flow downward between tire and wheel, which is a definite advantage at this stage of the process. On the other hand, the ideal choice for mounting is a paste, which will cling nicely to the tire bead and rim shoulder without pooling inside the tire or running down onto your shoes and floor (where you definitely don’t want lubrication while wrestling with a tire). Nevertheless, if we had to choose only one type of dirtbike tire lubricant, we’d go with a liquid, as the awkwardness of using a paste while the tire is still hugging the wheel (after breaking the bead, of course) offsets a paste’s mounting advantages.
We’ll rate these dirtbike tire lubricant choices on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being awesome and 1… well, you get it. “PriceValue” determinations combined price-per-ounce and product performance. “Effectiveness” reflects how slippery the substance is when freshly applied and how long it stayed slick. “Ease of use” refers mainly to the issues described above regarding the different form factors. “Cleanup” takes into account how messy the tire lubricant is to use and how much effort is required to clean tire, wheel and floor after the job was done.
On an absolute basis, the cost factor is pretty insignificant here. Even the most expensive dirtbike tire lube option is still a tiny fraction of your average dirtbike expenses, and a little of any of these goes a long way. But on a relative basis, the value dimension is actually rather dramatic, since some alternatives are virtually free. For any specific buyer, value determinations must take into consideration how often you’ll use the product and how well-equipped you are for changing tires (in terms of both skills and tools). If you abhor the chore, as many do, you might be willing to pay more to gain even a slight advantage. Fortunately, that’s not necessary.
7. Soapy Water
Price/Value: Pennies per use/5
Ease of use: 4
Pros: You already own it, and it works pretty darn well.
Cons: Dries out quickly, can be messy during use.
This is probably the most cost-effective dirtbike tire lubricant for riders who change tires only once in a long while. We’re content to take the recommendation of a 20:1 ratio from Jeff Douglass, inventor of the TUbliss system and owner of NueTech, since he changes more tires in a week than we’ll change, uh, ever. Although soapy water works fine while it’s wet, it dries out faster than anything else in this field. So, if you’re slow or the tire is particularly difficult to mount, you’ll have to re-apply more mixture–and, in all likelihood, slosh more onto your shoes and floor. You’ll also end up with puddles of water inside your mounted tire, which poses no threat and will eventually evaporate. However, this could theoretically interfere with precision balancing of the tire/wheel assembly before said evaporation is complete. That said, we’ve used soapy water for many years without a problem. Try a simple condiment squirt-bottle for dismounting, then apply with a paint brush for mounting. Cleanup is easy–just rinse your tire with a hose and swab your floor with a wet towel.