So You Want to Run a 180mm Wide Front Tire?
Daily Slideshow: Harley baggers look and ride great, but they aren't perfect. Riders love to tweak them in a million ways into a bike that's even better, and more importantly uniquely fits their tastes.
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Harley-Davidson was one of the first factory styling departments to embrace rear tires in big sizes like 180mm, 200mm, or larger. The front tires on their touring bikes still are more functional than fashionable, and custom bagger builders tend to replace them with a host of different sizes. Many like to go with huge wheels and narrow tires, like 21", 23", or larger with 120mm or smaller tires. Some builders and many owners prefer the look and function of a wider 180mm rear tire on the front of the bike. Can you run a 180mm tire on the front of a Dyna or a Softail? Possibly, but no one makes a kit, so you are going to have to figure it out yourself.
If you have nearly any of the bike Harley touring bikes built since 1984, you can convert over for what basically amounts to the cost of a wheel ($800-1300), and fender from Native Custom Baggers (about $600), plus a new tire. But, if you have a late model bike made after 2014, you are going to have to dig deeper. The later bikes news don't have room between the fork legs for that much tire, so add in modified fork sliders, and slightly wider triple clamps. Kits for these bikes are available from Native, or Hawg Halters (about $900-1000), on top of the cost of the wheel and tire.
If you have an older bike and choose the easy conversion kit, it is only a moderate job that any shade tree mechanic should be able to complete in a weekend. You news unbolt the stock wheel and fender, swap the brake discs over to the new wheel, bolt up the new fender, and fit the new wheel. If you have a newer bike or choose to fit the wider triple clamps on the earlier bike (so you can run a full coverage fender, for instance), you are looking at a much more complex job. You will have to disassemble the front fork and triple clamp assembly, and if you have a batwing fairing, remove and reinstall that too.
The good news is that forum members report the ride is great, and the handling might even be better. Member report more stable handling with no loss of cornering abilities. The increase in rubber and taller sidewall mean your tire absorbs more of the little bumps before getting to your forks, or to the rider. The other good news? Wider front tires don't wear out as fast as narrower ones.
What more do you need to know? The new wider front tires tend to be 18" in diameter by 5.5" wide, and available in a variety of styles. As far as tires go, you now use a 180/55-18" rear tire, mounted reversed from the arrow on the sidewall, because the front braking force if much greater than the acceleration force. How much wider is a 180 compared to the stock 130? Well, the tire itself is only about 2 inches wider, but that is nearly 50% bigger than the original. BadBag, who's bike is pictured above, is a forum member who took the plunge, and you can read about others on this forum thread.
For help with your maintenance and repair projects, please visit our How-to section right here in the forum.