I'm going to start sharing some tips from time to time in a series I'll call "Guitar Ted's How-To
". This time I am going to share with you how I mount tubeless tires.
Now, this isn't the only way to do things. It is the way I do things. So, I'm not implicating anyone else's techniques as being "less than good", bad, or great. Nope! This is how I do it. If you can draw anything good from this, then great.
I will say that I've been a bicycle mechanic off and on for the better part of 30 years and a car mechanic for five and a half years. So, in my opinion I will tell you that this way works well. It's not the only way to mount tubeless tires, but I think it is the easiest way.
Before You Start: I've done hundreds of tubeless tire set-ups over the last 10+ years. I've made a ton of mistakes. So, when I say "do this before you start.", it probably is me telling you, "Hey! I've tried skipping this step. Don't do it!". But - ya know- I can't make you do anything here. Just don't complain to me when things go pear-shaped on you.
Use New Tubeless Compatible Components Wherever Possible:
|Use a quality sealant and make sure it is fresh.|
Obviously not everyone can use new stuff, but I will tell you NOT to use non-tubeless stuff. We used to have to do this.
Now there is no reason at all to use non-tubeless tires, rim strips, sealant, or rims. It's BEST not to re-use valve stems, old tape jobs, old tires, and old sealant. At a minimum, you should use NEW sealant, NEW valves, and re-tape your rims. Not doing that means a BIG chance for a failure resides in your wheel like a ticking time bomb.
If you try to re-use old stuff, and there is a failure, you can almost bet it is because your tape failed, a stem leaks due to corrosion, or the sealant was too old. Rarely is it anything else. Well......unless you did something wrong or you punctured beyond the sealant's abilities to repair the leak.
- Tools & Supplies: With that out of the way, you need to use the following items:
- Work gloves- preferably those annoying, tight fitting rubber ones.
- Safety glasses
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Rags or Shop Towels
- Plastic injector tool or a small scoop.
- Valve Core removal tool
- A really good floor pump (One of those tubeless compatible ones is even better)
- Tubeless Rim Tape (If you haven't done it already. Taping is a separate task from this post, so I won't get into it here. Skip if this is a new wheel with a new tape job..)
- New valves, or at least new valve cores.
Not necessary, but it would make life easier: A small air compressor, a bicycle repair stand, and a truing stand.
Procedure: I will assume that you've thoroughly cleaned the rim's inner well and that it is free from dirt, adhesive, old tape, and that you cleaned that inner rim well with isopropyl alcohol. I assume then that you installed a quality tubeless compatible rim tape that is appropriately sized for your rims. I also am assuming you are using new valve stems, or at least good valve stems with NEW CORES.
Now that is a LOT of assuming, and you know what that makes me then right? Okay, carrying on then....
Make sure that your tires do not have big patches of dried up sealant sticking in one end of the tire, and clean off the bead seat, making sure there is no layer of dried sealant sticking to the bead area at all. The rest of the inner tire carcass? I don't care what you do there, just don't leave anything on the bead area or anything in there that could cause a wheel imbalance at high speeds. Best to use NEW tires, but again- not everyone can afford that.
Tire Orientation: This is EASY to miss and get wrong, so pay attention closely to how your tire is supposed to be mounted. Most tires are "directional", meaning that they are intended to be rotated in one direction for best results. This will be indicated in tiny, hard to read lettering which is molded into the tire sidewall. Sometimes all you get is an arrow. Sometimes words AND an arrow. Just pay attention to this,or you may be sorry later.
For further instructions, read on and refer to the following images....
Here is where you start, and if you do it this way, you should not need to use a tool to mount your tires. Place the new tubeless compatible tire so that your wheel rests inside the casing.
It should look like this image to the left all the way around.
Now you can double check your correct rotating direction. Then align the branding patch, or "hot patch" as I was told to do this many years ago, so that it aligns with your valve stem. Yes.....it is a meaningless "Pro" thing to do, only it isn't meaningless and there is a very practical reason for doing this. I don't have the time to get into all of that here. You can accept that or not, but there is a reason for this to be done.
Okay, now you can start moving one side of the tire up and over the rim and into the rim well. I like to start at the valve stem to make sure the tire sits in between the butt end of valve stem and the inner rim wall. Then, look at that grip I use to the left there. This is THE grip you want to use with BOTH hands. (I had to use one to take the image, so....)
Use your thumbs to push the tire up and over, starting with your hands together at the valve stem and working outwards and downwards to the "six o'clock" position as the wheel sits. Use your grip with your other fingers and your palm as a foundation for your thumbs to work from.
The tire bead can sit in the inner part of the inner rim well which will make this side of the tire easier to get on the rim. Now you are ready to work on the opposite side.
Using The Grip, shown in the previous step, you can again start at the valve stem, making sure the tire bead is exactly in between the valve stem in there and the rim edge. If the tire bead sits up on the valve stem, or if you get two beads on one side of a valve stem, (don't ask.) you may not notice this and setting up the tire will become impossible. So, pay attention here!
Work the bead of that tire up and over the rim edge using 'The Grip' . You may actually now want to fold the tire over the rim, (see top image in this section), which will allow you maximum grip on the tire, and maximum leverage over that bead. You still want to use your thumbs to push up and over, but by rotating that tire carcass over the rim, you will gain an advantage.
The next image shows how I stand and use my leg to brace off of as I use my two hands to push the tire over the rim edge. (Again, only showing one hand here as I had to take the image with the other) Now, it is important to note that I do not mount the entire tire. I leave a little bit out over the rim edge and then I inject sealant. You can go ahead and put the tire all the way on here. Sealant can be introduced through the valve with the core removed, but I've found that method to be less than satisfactory for a few reasons. So, I don't do that.
|I use this cheap but effective injection tool. |
|The red arrows indicate the space I leave to inject sealant into the tire.|
|Sealant installed and now I am ready to seat the remaining portion of the tire.|
A couple of notes on the images above. First, I have gravitated to these smaller, more nimble, but very effective plastic injectors meant for veterinary usage. They have a nipple perfectly sized to fit into a valve with the core removed, fit inside wheel's space between the hub and rim well at full extension, and have excellent sealing properties as far as the plunger goes. This makes these great at sucking up sealant when I want to recover it from a tire I am removing.
The plastic tub is where I keep recovered sealant. While I recommend that you use new sealant, I switch out at least a couple of pairs of tires every month, sometimes more than that. So, it makes sense for me to keep the "old" sealant and reuse it. You? I'm guessing you don't change tubeless tires very often.
By the way, I use about 100ml of sealant in a gravel tire. Use whatever sealant you believe in. Most are pretty darn good. I use WTB's stuff nowadays.
|Yes, I used an image twice. Deal with it!|
That final bit of tire can now be pushed up and over the rim edge and you'll probably have to fold that tire over hard to get it to go. Your thumbs may hate you, but you will be successful without using a tool, and not using a tool is better because it means that you pretty much cannot damage the rim tape, tire, or rim.
Now you can air up the tire. You may be really lucky and just be able to use a floor pump. You may need to remove the valve core and use a floor pump.These two scenarios are what I see from my experience 90% of the time now. The other ten percent I need a blast from an air compressor, but that is getting more and more rare now days.
Once you get ALL the tire bead up and into its position on the rim, you are set to go for a short ride to help seal the tire to the rim. It takes about 15 minutes, and then you are good to go. Clean up the tire and rim with isopropyl alcohol and a rag when you are done.
Final notes: Loud snapping and popping when the tire is being aired up is normal. You may think it is a violent, scary sound, (and it is), but it is okay. This is just the bead of the tire finally snapping up into the shelf on the rim's inner wall where it belongs. You can check for this after you think you are finished by spinning the wheel and watching the line where the tire and rim edge meet. There should be a fine, molded in line on the tire sidewall visible at an equidistant point from the rim edge all the way around on both sides. If the tire is not correctly seated, this will appear - or rather disappear- as the wheel spins, as a low spot in the tire. You just need a bit more air pressure to POP! that out.
|The red arrows point to the "line" I am referring to in the previous paragraph.|
Typically I find that tires will sit into place at about 40psi. However; sometimes I have had to go as high as 50+ psi, but those times are getting rarer as tubeless stuff gets more dialed in. Oh, and if you had to remove the valve core, make sure you don't let all the air out. Be like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike until you get the core snuck back up in there. Snug the core up- don't crank on it. Refill to the desired pressure. Ride....
Hmm.... I think that's about it. Got questions? Have ideas for other posts like this? let me know in the comments, please.