14 December 2011 - 7:10Ask George: How To Change a Tubeless Tire
or Tubeless How To (Electric Boogaloo) or just plain old boring Week 7.
Last week, we all got to see the first of what I hope will be a bunch of very helpful videos to help folks understand the products and services Bike29 has to offer.
You know how books generally have more detail than movies do? Well, here is a more detailed step by step by step how to, to complement the video. Just be warned, once I have the money, I will remaster the original video, add never before seen footage, special effects, put it on Blu-Ray, and add Jar Jar Binks as my assistant.
- Have all your equipment ready. In addition to your wheel and tire, you will also need Stan’s Sealant, a tire lever, spray bottle of soapy water and a valve core tool. If you are switching tires that are already set up tubeless that already have sealant in them, a Stan’s Injector comes in handy to transfer the sealant into the new tire without making too much of a mess.
- Inspect the rim. Make sure the rim is clean of muck, grime, compacted vegetative matter (Shackleton/DA, I’m looking at you), old sealant, and make sure the tape, or airproof barrier is undamaged. If the barrier is compromised in any way, the wheel will not hold air, and the sealant will leak into your rim and exit through the spoke holes.
- Mount one side of the tire on the rim. You’ll want to take care to make sure you are putting the right tire on the correct wheel, some are front/rear specific, and you will also at this time want to be sure it is pointed the way you want it. Some tires have directional tread, others can be flipped around to get better traction vs fast rolling. It’s easier to do this now before we bust the sealant out.
If the tire is new, it will require more sealant than one that has been sealed before. Tires are porous, and the sealant’s job is to penetrate and seal any hole. New tires will absorb a few ounces of sealant almost right away, which is why you would start out with 2 scoops, or roughly 4oz of sealant. 2oz would theoretically be absorbed, leaving 2oz to stay and slosh around, ready to seal any big holes caused by rocks, thorns or rabid dogs. Tires that have been sealed already would have already been made airtight (or so one might surmise) and would only need enough sealant to slosh.
- Add the appropriate amount of Stan’s sealant, it’s a good idea to shake the bottle well before measuring out to agitate all the latex particles that may have settled. It is generally a huge help to have a place to hang the wheel while it is off the bike. Here in the shop, I have a hook that I use, or sometimes I will use my repair stand. It definitely makes things easier and less messy, so if you don’t have a place to use, I suggest conning a friend into holding the wheel for you while you add the Stan’s to the tire. Candy or beer usually does the trick.
- Then you’ll want to mount the other side of the tire on the rim. I find it easier to do from the bottom of the wheel up, that way you will minimize any spillage scenarios.
Now we come to the fun part, inflation. This is where it can go smooth as silk, or be a real PITA, so you will need to be aware of a couple of things. Having access to a compressor will make for a quick and relatively easy inflation. A good floor pump is a necessity wether you are tubeless or not, and if you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend the Topeak Joe Blow MTN.
- Make sure that both sides of the tire are pulled around, or are covering the valve stem completely. If you can see the bottom of the valve stem at all, you will have a tough time inflating the tire, because you will be pumping air past the tire and not into it.
- Take the spray bottle of soapy water and spray the beads of the time on both sides. I just use an old Windex bottle filled with water and a very generous squirt of dish soap. This not only helps the tire beads snap into the rim, it also makes bubbles appear wherever air is creeping out of the wheel.
You will hear loud snapping/pinging sounds as the tire snaps into the rim. It can be very scary, especially if you are not used to airing up tubeless tires. I’ve become immune to a degree over the years. If your name is Shatner, you go running and screaming into the other room like a little girl. If the tire is not inflating and pinging, however, you will have to figure out why. Most of the time, you are not getting enough air past the valve to get it to seat into the rim. This is when you would remove the valve core, which will allow more air in at a faster rate, “shocking” the tire into place. Once the tire is seated, you will have to reinstall the valve core, and re inflate the tire, but once the beads have snapped in, they should stay put.
If the tire continues to loose air quickly, make sure the tire/rim isn’t compromised. I’ve probably spent a total of about an hour over the last five years of doing this trying to air up various tires with a big slice in them, or rims with a big dent in them that for some reason I never caught. And, if your rim tape/strip is compromised, you are basically chasing your tail.
- Once the tire is inflated, it’s time to do the Stan’s dance. I take the wheel, and give it a good spin holding the axles. I’ll hold it at a slight angle, so as to keep the puddle of sealant rolling over the bead of the tire and rim. As the air escapes the tire, it’s bringing sealant with it, so it is crucial to make sure you are allowing the sealant a chance to fill any pinholes or other voids in the tire.
- Hold the wheel level and gently shake it up and down, flip over and repeat on the other side. If there are no more soapy bubble coming from the tire, you have probably done a good job, now you can take your floor pump, and inflate it to the desired riding pressure and go ride it around.
There are some folk that will tell you that you need to wait before you go ride, but what they are waiting for I’m not sure. If the tire is holding air, then there is nothing stopping you. If you are loosing air, you’ll need to figure out why. It is possible to damage the Stan’s tape, especially if you are using a tire lever to instal the tire. It is also possible that you might need to add more sealant, some tires are more porous than others, and the Stan’s can literally be absorbed that quickly. Here is another time when the valve core tool and Stan’s Injector tool come in handy. I’ve had tires that have taken as many as 5 scoops before they held air, and the Injector is a nice hassle free way to get a few more oz into the tire without having to do the seating the bead and jiggling the wheel steps.
I hope this has been helpful. I get asked about tubeless set ups all the-time, and there isn’t really anything to be apprehensive about provided you use these steps as your guidelines. I’ve been using my Topeak floor pump more and more to drive home the point that it can be done outside of a shop environment.