Wide motorcycle wheels make your Harley-Davidson touring model look tougher, yes, but there are other reasons why you may be considering upgrading your front wheel. Large wheels are better able to absorb disturbances on the road’s surface, thereby giving you a smoother ride. They also support the transfer of power, a particularly important advantage for motorcycles with powerful engines.

Regardless of your reasons for doing it, you may wonder what is the largest front wheel you can install on a Harley Davidson touring model without changing out the fender?

The 21” x 3.25” Wheel Is The Largest Size You Can Install On The Front Of A Harley Touring Model Without Changing The Fender

A 21”(diameter) x 3.25”(width) front tire will fit on a Harley without requiring you to change out the fender. That said, it is important to note that depending on the model year, the fender may need to be relocated.

2013 harley davidson touring model

In this picture, the bolt securing the fender is coming from the inside of the forks and threaded into a blind hole that stops midway through the fork leg. The fenders contain a hole the bolt slides through. This allows a slight enlargement of the hole so the fender can be moved up if necessary.

Harley touring models released in 2013 and before are designed with a front fender that is mounted with two bolts coming from the inside of each side of the fender. The hole on the fender is on the larger side, giving you a small amount of clearance if you enlarge it a bit by drilling it and hold the fender up while tightening the bolts. It is going to be a close call even if you take these measures, however. Sometimes the wheel goes on without a problem and sometimes the fender must be moved a little. Regardless of the end result, the 21″ wheel is the largest size front wheel you can install without changing the fender on these models.

2014 harley davidson with fender lift
2014 harley davidson before and after

The “before” picture depicts two bolts holding the fender to the fork leg. The “after” picture depicts two bolts in the same spot holding a small bracket that moves the two holes up about 2 inches. Also included are 2 additional bolts holding the lift bracket to the fender itself.

2014 and newer Harley Davidson models are a different story altogether. Installing a 21” tire on these models requires a fender relocation bracket because the fender has threads in it and is secured to the fork leg by two bolts that come from the outside that thread directly into the fender instead of the bolts threading into the fork legs.

fender relocation bracket

You Can Install A Wider 21” Front Wheel But A Rake Kit Is Required

If you are craving a wider front wheel for your Harley touring model, you do have options. SMT Machining manufacturers the Bulldog series, which makes a 21” wheel 5.5” wide. The larger width gives the tire a taller profile that is similar to the 23” wheel and tire outer diameter.

The fat 21” tire requires a set of triple trees to rake out the front end and correct the steering geometry. Triple trees range from $750 to $800. The triple trees required for this modification are the same used to install a 23”x3.75” wheel on the front axle. The overall rolling diameter with the installed tire is very similar. This is how you install the largest front wheel without changing the fender when you want a fat tire.

bulldog series 23 x 5.5 wheel

If Changing Out The Fender Is An Option For You

Sometimes changing out the fender is worth it for the end result. Installing a front tire from the Bulldog Series does require installing a new fender. You will need a rake kit for this job. Rake kits are available in weld-in and bolt-on forms. Rake kits are available in a 26” front wheel version and a 30” version. Both types of kits retail for $1,500.

The weld-in kit requires cutting the neck off of the frame and slipping on a steel replacement neck with more rake built into it. This neck gets welded on. The frame is then repainted or powder coated. It is critical to entrust a reputable shop with a frame table and to run raked trees with the frame rake as well.

The bolt-on rake kit accomplishes the same goal, but instead of cutting the frame, the new neck gets bolted onto the existing steering head. A set of raked trees completes the front end. The main advantage of the bolt-on rake kit is, you do not need to cut, repaint or powder coat the frame.

If you attempt to install a large wheel just by changing out or eliminating the fender, you run the risk of negatively affecting the steering of your bike. Doing so changes the center of gravity and causes it to feel heavier during turns. It also alters your rake, reducing the bike’s ability to turn as tightly as it should.

Added Safety For Larger Wheels

Larger rotors offer a couple of benefits for bikes with wide front wheels. They increase the stopping power of the bike and, for dual disc applications, eliminate the rotor located on the right side. This makes more of the wheel visible.

A typical Harley-Davidson touring model rotor in 2008 and newer models is 11.8” in size. SMT Machining offers a 13” rotor and an 18” oversized rotor kit. The 18” rotor requires a 23” wheel for the best aesthetics and fit, but people have made it work with 21” wheels.

 

Custom Harley Touring Model Parts For All Of Your Large Front Wheel Needs

In summary, when it comes to installing the largest front wheel you can install on your Harley-Davidson touring model without changing the fender:

  • The 21” wheel is the most economical way to get a bigger custom wheel without getting a new fender or raking your bike out.
  • The 23” skinny front wheel and 21” fat front wheel require raked triple trees and new fenders.
  • The 26” and 30” skinny wheels, as well as the 23” fat front wheel, require a weld-in or bolt-on rake kit and a new fender to make them ride properly.

FlexPay makes it easy to purchase parts for all of the aforementioned modifications through its interest-free payment program. We work with the top manufacturers in the industry including SMT Machining, Fat Katz, American Suspension and Bad Dad. With a quick approval turnaround time and no penalty for bad credit, FlexPay is better than financing.

Start the EZ 1-2-3 process by filling out the convenient, secure 5-minute online application. We will let you know in 24-48 hours that you have been approved.

From there, you will start making payments:

  • Pay ⅓ of your total balance upon approval
  • Pay ⅓ when your parts ship within 4-6 weeks
  • Spread the remaining ⅓ balance out over the next 3-6 months

Take the first step today toward installing a large front tire on your Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

 

improve motorcycle performance and get a better ride before its paid in full
 

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Information for this blog was provided by Bob Gillard of SMT Machining.