Clincher Tubed & Tubeless Tire Installation Tips
Hooray! You've just purchased new tires and maybe tubes (perhaps even sealant?) from BikeTiresDirect, and now you are looking at the bike you are going to install them on. You are just moments away from getting out there and ripping some new roads or trails with these bad boys, but there are some things that stand in your way first.
Here at BikeTiresDirect, we are all avid cyclists who have successfully (and unsuccessfully) installed tires, so we have assembled this list of tips and tricks that we've found very helpful in the process. Always remember that if worse comes to worst, you can always consult your local bike shop, but knowing how to properly change a tire can save you from having to call a partner or friend to pick you up 2 hours away.
The tips list is divided between tubed and tubeless tires, as the installation process is slightly different. However, you will notice most of the tire mounting tips are the same.
Tip 1: Protect the Tube
When mounting the tires, you will want to first make sure that the inner rim is properly taped and clear of sharp points. Double check to make sure the rim tape covers all of the spoke holes, and run your fingers along the inside of the rim to make sure it is smooth. This process prevents the inner tube from punctures during installation or upon inflation.
Tip 2: Logo/Valve/Tread Alignment
Want to have tires installed like the pros? Be sure to line up the brand logo on the sidewall of the tire with the valve stem hole. This makes it easier to find the valve stem when going to inflate the tire, and it looks much cleaner. This alignment would occur when you mount the first bead to the tire (without the tube yet). Lining up the logo with the valve also makes it easier to find a puncture in the tube if you pull the tire off the rim and start feeling the inside. You can then align the tube with the tire to find the hole in the tube rubber. Think of it as a central orientation point.
It is imperative to make sure that the tread pattern is in the proper direction. Look at the rotational indicator on the sidewall (see picture one) for the correct orientation.
Tip 3: Tube Inflation?
Many people think that inflating the inner tube a little bit before installing helps it not get twisted when pushed into the tire. This is true, but many people inflate the tube too much, and it makes it exceedingly hard to mount the bead. There also arise complications with an overinflated tube getting pinched as the bead is mounted onto the rim. The general rule of thumb is to give the tube some air, slot it into the tire, and then take out some air before you start the second bead mounting process.
Tip 4: Start With The Valve.
Insert the valve stem from the tube into the rim and be sure to have one entire side of the bead around the rim first. Then, start the second side of the tire bead beginning at the valve.
Tip 5: No Part Of The Bead Should Be Hooked On The Rim... Yet.
To make sure that you have optimal slack to get both beads around the rim, it is very important to push the bead that is already mounted into the inner groove of the rim. You can do this by massaging the tire using both hands. If you find that it is already locked into the hooked rim, it will be much more difficult to mount the tire.
Tip 6: Hold The Wheel Like A Frisbee.
When pushing on the second bead it helps to hold the wheel with two hands like a frisbee or a dinner plate. Be sure that the valve is close to your chest, and start to massage the bead in with both hands, starting at 6 o'clock, and working your way up on both sides. It helps to use your palms when pushing the bead in place because you can generally apply more distributed pressure with this part of your hand.
Tip 7: Workarounds For The Hard Part - Don't Pinch The Tube!
Now you've got the tire all the way on the rim except for that last little bit. Sometimes you'll have enough slack to massage the tire all the way on using your powerful palms, but in the event that you can't, here is where tire levers or the Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack come into play. When using a tool to force the last bit of tire onto the rim, be ULTRA cautious about pinching the tube. Poor tire levers or other objects will either pinch the tube or damage the rim. It's always smart to get a good pair of levers to save yourself the cost of damages.
Tip 8: The Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack, AKA The Pinnacle of Human Ingenuity.
The tire bead jack is a great way to get around the most difficult part of mounting a tire. With a super tight bead that just won't mount, this tool provides immediate relief and, and to be honest euphoria. This tool is made of forgiving plastic that does not damage your rims. It easily hooks onto one side of the rim and grabs the loose tire bead, creating a perfect lever (see picture).
Tip 9: Push Down The Stem!
Sometimes the tube rubber around the valve can get pinched during the initial inflation, so it's imperative that you push the valve into the rim before inflation.
Tip 10: Inflate to ¼ of Recommended PSI.
Before you crank the PSI up to your preferred pressure, be sure to inflate to around ¼ or less of the max, and check the area between the rim and the tire to make sure there isn't a part of the tube that is hemorrhaging out of the side. If there is a bit of tube protruding or a weird lump in the sidewall, deflate and massage the tube back into its place. DO NOT just try to ride the bike and see if the lump goes away — we assure you that the pop will be so loud you'll jump out of your saddle.
Tip 11: Make Sure The Tire Is Properly Seated On The Rim.
Once you have determined that the tube is fully encased within the tire, you are ready for inflation.
The minimum/maximum inflation range can be found on the sidewall of the tire* (see picture), and we strongly recommend that you inflate the tire within these parameters.
However, we caution you against inflating to the maximum pressure the tire stipulates unless you know the capabilities of your rim. We have encountered many instances where the maximum pressure on the tire is higher than what the rim can handle.
The result? A tire explosion and a bent rim. Generally, bicycle rims give a pressure range on the decals, and if not, we suggest contacting the manufacturer for that spec before risking maximum pressure.
When you inflate the tire for the first time, it allows the tire to fully seat in the rim and strengthens the bond between the hooks and the tire bead. Depending on the tire and rim combination, there may still be a little wonk if you put the wheel back on your bike and give it a spin. We suggest taking the tire for a short ride around the block and then assessing again if there is still a hiccup in the rubber. Generally speaking, a short ride with the weight of the rider will smooth out any imperfections there are in the rubber.
*Some tire manufacturers, Panaracer for example, will identify the max tire pressure with kPa (Kilopascal) or BAR, which is defined as 100 Kilopascals. The conversion is complicated, so we suggest just plugging it into your trusty search engine to see what the kPa translates to in terms of PSI (which is the pressure measurement on most American pumps).
There you have it, your tire is on, and you are ready to rage. We speak for moms, dads, partners, kids, and friends everywhere when we say BE CAREFUL when you first test out a new tire tread. Sometimes they are not as grippy around corners as your previous ones — other times they are too grippy when you don't want them to. New tire day is a very exciting time for us folks at BTD, so we've definitely made the mistake of sending it prematurely and promptly eating it. Tires are a crucial part of the machine, and just like the rest of the bike, you need to get used to how they operate.
Ahhh, let's first take a minute to marvel at the invention of tubeless technology. Since it trickled down to us consumers from the bicycle heavens, it has prevented countless commuters from being late to work and so many backcountry riders from having to hike-a-bike 20 miles back to civilization. Thank you tubeless tires, for being frickin awesome.
We digress...installing tubeless technology sounds daunting, but it's actually not that bad if you know the right steps to take. We have assembled a list of tips that also works as a step-by-step guide, so you get to shredding without having to shed a coat of latex sealant.
Tip 1: Do I Need Tubeless Tape? Yes. Yes, You Do.
Installing tubeless rim tape should always be the first step in this process. While many rims are "tubeless ready," it is still important to improve the overall air seal by installing a tight layer of tape around the inner rim of the wheel. Start at the valve hole and then wrap the tape around the entire rim — cut off any access. Sometimes double wrapping the rim is not a bad idea if you want to make extra sure that you are safe from leaks.
Many new tubeless wheels come with the tape preinstalled, but others do not. The main function of this tape is to prevent air and sealant from leaking out of the spoke holes. If latex sealant gets into the holes, it is very hard to remove it. The tape also improves the seal on the valve hole, which can be another big culprit for air leaks. We recommend using either Muc-Off Tubeless Rim Tape, Orange Seal Cycling Rim Tape, or Stans NoTubes Rim Tape, which come in various sizes depending on your internal rim width.
Tip 2: Pick Your Poison, I Mean Sealant.
While there are many tubeless sealants out there, we recommend using Stan's NoTubes or Orange Seal Cycling sealant due to their consistent performance across various temperatures. Orange Seal Cycling makes an excellent "Endurance" line of sealants that last 2-3 times longer, which can come in handy if you are a beginner or just lazy like many of us. In the event that you ride in really cold conditions, the Orange Seal Cycling Sub Zero 16oz Sealant temperatures are as low as -20F.
Depending on your tire size and the porousness of the rubber, you should plan to inject sealant accordingly. Here is what we recommend:
- Road, gravel (under 40mm), and cyclocross tires
1oz - 2oz (29 - 59ml)
- 40mm-50mm width 700c gravel tires
- 26" tires
2oz - 3oz (56ml - 88ml)
- 29er tire (2.0-2.4")/27.5 tires (2.0-2.4")
3oz - 4oz (89-118ml)
- Fat bike tires (26" or 27.5") / 27.5"+ tires
4oz - 5oz (118-147ml)
Tip 3: Check Your Valve Stem!
Valve stems are integral parts of the tubeless setup. They can make your life much easier, but they are also prime spots for leaks. Tubeless valve stems have removable cores, which can be unscrewed so you can easily inject sealant in them. This is super convenient because you don't have to take the tire off the rim to give the sealant a little refresh. We advise that you use a Valve Core Removal Tool to unscrew the valve core, as it is a very delicate piece of metal.
After your wheel is wrapped with tubeless tape, punch the valve through the valve hole and tighten the locking nut. After you are finished mounting the tire, you will then unscrew the valve core and inject the sealant.
Tip 4: Mounting the Tubeless Tire With A Tube First (So Meta ...)
The hardest part of tubeless setups is locking the bead of the tire into the rim. As you can imagine, using a regular floor pump to try to inflate a tire without a tube is... challenging. The pro mechanics out there make sure to get one side of the tire bead locked into the rim before attempting to inflate fully. They accomplish this by first putting in a tube and pumping the tire up until that loud *pop* *pop* rings out from the rim. Then, they take one side of the tire off the rim, remove the tube, and re-inflate with a floor pump. This tends to work, but in the case that it doesn't, sometimes an air compressor is required.
In the event that you want to bypass this whole 'tube in a tubeless tire' nonsense, you can generally get it to pop easily with an air compressor floor pump like the Lezyne Pressure Over Drive with ABS1 Pro.
Tip 5: INJECT THE SEALANT!
So now that you have your tire mounted and both beads locked into place, it's time to inject your sealant. Deflate the tire completely, and get out your trusty valve core remover tool. Unscrew the valve core, and you will see the open valve hole.
The best tool for injecting the proper amount without a mess is undoubtedly the Stan's NoTubes 2oz Sealant Injector. With this injector, you can get a clean 2oz of sealant in the tire without a mess or unwanted sealant burping. Just be sure to clean it out after each use so it doesn't get blocked up.
Some sealants come with injector attachments to the bottle. For example, Orange Seal Cycling's 8oz option comes with this feature, just be sure to appropriately gauge how much sealant is going in the tire.
Once you have the appropriate amount of sealant in the tire, screw the valve core back on tight and inflate it back to its maximum PSI.
*If you are feeling confident, some people will just pour the sealant in before they lock the second bead into the rim. It definitely works, but expect a mess, especially if you are having a hard time getting the bead on the rim.
Tip 6: Stir It Up! Let It Disperse!
After it is all ready to go, throw the wheel back on your bike and ride it around for a little. It is imperative that the sealant be dispersed quickly so that it does not pool if left overnight. The morning after you do this setup, don't be surprised if the tires tubeless have lost some air - they almost always do! Just inflate to max pressure and ride around for a bit. After that, you should be ready to rage!
Proper mounting of tires and tubes is critical for safety. If you have never changed your bike tires and tubes before or do not feel fully capable of doing so, you should ask a bike mechanic for assistance. If you just need a little how-to reminder, check out our article on Tire and Tube Replacement.
- On your first ride with brand new tires, take it easy around corners. New tires (we've noticed this particular with Michelin tires!) often have some mold-prevention compound on them from the manufacturing process, making them slicker than they will be once they're broken in a little bit.
- Clincher tires (all of the tires we sell that aren't tubulars) require hooked rims. "Hooked" refers to the ridge on the inside of the rim that holds the Kevlar or wire bead of the tire in place. Most contemporary rims are hooked. If you have doubts, refer to your rim's specifications.
- When you return from a ride, wipe down your tires with a rag and inspect them for embedded glass and debris. Objects embedded in the tire will gradually work their way in and penetrate the casing, potentially causing flats on future rides. Some riders also like to let some air out of their tires after every ride and then re-inflate them before the next one; this practice may increase wear time on tubes and helps prevent potential pressure-related blowouts if you're keeping your bike in a hot place.
- It's not safe to rotate tires by swapping the front and rear. We suggest discarding a used rear tire, moving the used front tire to the rear, and putting a new tire on the front. The front wheel is responsible for most of your traction when cornering, while the rear supports most of your body weight and facilitates the power transfer caused by pedaling. Rear tires wear faster and front tires need good treads to provide traction.
- Dust your tires with baby powder before installing them to help them seat more easily.
- If you're having difficulty mounting a new tire, try using a little hand dish detergent on the tire bead to make it a little more slippery and easier to slide over the rim.
- Tires with black treads will generally last longer than any other color due to their higher carbon content.
- If a road hazard damages your sidewall while on a ride, a folded dollar bill or Clif Bar wrapper can be inserted between the tube and the tire as a makeshift tire boot.
If you have any questions regarding the products listed here or you want further clarification on the processes described, please feel free to reach out to our customer service team at the hours listed below.
If at any point in this process, your installation seems unsafe, always default to your local bike shop for professional service. DYI is fun, but at the end of the day, safety is of utmost importance.Happy riding! Email [email protected] Phone 1-800-682-0570 Hours:
Mon-Sat 8am-5pm PT