How to Set Up Mountain Bike Tubeless Tire
Tubeless tires are a really great thing to have on a mountain bike. Great upgrade to do but there are plenty of things to consider when setting your bike up tubeless. So here is the Bikeadvisorpro tech guide to everything you need to know about tubeless mountain bike tires.
How to Set Up Mountain Bike Tubeless Tire
So there are various things you’re gonna need to consider when setting your bike up tubeless. So let’s start with the wheels.
So firstly, you’re gonna need to decide what sort of rims you’ve got or if you’re gonna buy some new rims, which ones to factor in, and how to get them sealed ready for tubeless. So some wheels, like this particular set here, have a sealed rim base, just because the design of the wheel is basically referred to UST that’s Universal Sealed Tubeless. And it’s a system developed by Mavic and it’s a very good system for tubeless because you do not need to use any sort of rim tape to seal off that rim. It’s already sealed. Another thing you need to factor in here is which type of valve you have to use there.
But most rims you see these days will use some sort of taping system. And the reason for that is the rims are cheaper to manufacture like this. They’re easier to repair like this in most circumstances because you got easy access to a spoke in the nipple through that hole in the rim. Just have to decide how you’re gonna tape it.
Now there are a bunch of official taping systems that you can get in conversion kits or that come with wheels. This particular set of DT wheels comes with their own specific rim tape on there and that is ready-made to set the bike up tubeless. You just simply put the valve in, put your tire on, fill it with sealant, and you’re good to go. Just consider that.
So if you’re gonna tape this stuff yourself, you got two options to do. You can do the official taping kit; we can do it the ghetto way. And the ghetto way, the best option we use, is using simple gorilla tape. All you need to do is run this around the rim and seal it. Now the other advantage of using gorilla tape is it’s cheap as well, unlike the proper kits. Don’t get me wrong, the proper kits are excellent and they work first time every time.
There’s a bit more sort of a hack to do the gorilla tape version, but sometimes you’re gonna get a tire that doesn’t fit particularly well on that rim. And with the gorilla tape, you can just do another run around the rim. You can make it a tighter fit which means it’s more likely to seal the first time.
Next up, you’re gonna need to select some decent quality valves that fit your rims correctly. If you’re buying a tubeless conversion kit, the kit will come with tape sealant, and of course the valves. If you’re just gonna convert something yourself whether you do it the gorilla tape option or whatever other option you can use, you’re gonna need to select the correct ones to suit your rims.
Now notice on these three valves I have in my hand they’re all slightly different shapes at the top and that’s so they can fit different style profile rims. Take note of the profile inside your rim and make sure you select the appropriate valve. You want the best possible seal because valves can leak. If that happens, you won’t be able to get your bike set up tubeless but it does mean that over time you’re gonna slightly lose some pressure from here. What you want is the valve area to be as clear as possible
a) For being able to seat your tires effectively
b) Being able to change your air pressure.
The next thing to factor in with your valves is to make sure the valves you select have removable valve cores. Now the core, if I just use this little tool here, the core is the inside part of the valve. It’s that piece there. And the reason you wanna be able to remove that is these do clog up from time to time and if you’ve got one on your bike that’s not removable, it’s gonna be really hard to make your whole valve system work efficiently all the time.
The ones you can remove it means you can remove this, you can de-clog the actual valve stem, and it means you can wash these and make sure they work properly. The other reason for using this system is you can put sealant directly into the valve stem straight into the tire, without the need of interfering with the tire fit.
Next up, you’re gonna need to select some sort of tire sealant. Now the common options these days are the milkier colored liquid ones. Now the idea is the air comes rushing into the tire through the slash or whatever it is in the tire case. The particles in this fill that void and then it starts bunching up as lumps of rubber and seals. So this stuffs really good and there’s a whole bunch of different ones on the market.
So the originator was the Stan’s No Tubes sealant. There’s also Joe’s No Flat. There’s Continental Revo. There’s an Orange seal. There’s a whole number out there and they’re all very good at what they do. Now one thing is important to say about all tire sealants is you don’t want to be mixing and matching tire sealants together in one tire.
Now I’m sure there are some combinations you can do but what you don’t want to do is mix something let’s say for example Stan’s with Orange Seal because apparently that can start curing that rubber. The process of that will start going off. You don’t wanna mess around with that. You don’t want it to emulsify. You don’t want it to separate or split or anything like that. Whatever tire sealant you can select, stick to one tire sealant per tire.
So when you’re putting your sealant into a tire regardless if it is a new tire or an older tire, you wanna make sure the inside of the tire is as clean as it can be. Now I still wanna blank older tires and one that’s been heavily used is clear enough to put sealant in there. What you’re looking for is something that doesn’t look like this. So this tire as you can see has remnants of old sealant all clogged up in there.
You don’t want that stuff floating around inside your tire. This can start clogging things up. You don’t really want that so make sure that you scrub the inside of your tires. Just use a decent washing brush that you would use to wash your bike with. Some hot soapy water is what you need to get all that stuff out there. Let your tires dry and you’re good to go.
Now next up is making sure you got some quality tires. Now, these days most tires you get from Small Bay or Maxess, all those sorts of brands, are tubeless-ready. Lucky for us, we’re running Continental tires. They’re our brand sponsor here at Bikeadvisorpro and their latest tires are especially good. The casing on them is fantastic for setting up tubeless. They seem to go up touch wood first time.
They’ve certainly gone up first time every time I’ve put them on. I’ve got them on four tires on a bike at the moment. They’ve all been up and I’ve not needed to use compressor but we shall see in a minute when I inflate them. But make sure you’ve got a decent tubeless-ready tire is really important whatever brand you guys are gonna use.
A tire that’s not completely tubeless-ready won’t really be sealed on the insides. So you’ll be relying on the sealant itself to seal in the air, as opposed to just sealing holes it makes in there. Now whilst this does work very well and that is the basis of the original conversion kits, it does mean that you’re gonna get some see the page through the side holes of the tire if it’s not completely sealed tire.
Now once this is okay ’cause it will work, you’re gonna need to put a lot more sealant in there to get a good seal and it will take up to two or three days sometimes for it to stop seeping and make that correct seal on the inside. So I wouldn’t skimp on tires. Get yourself some decent quality tires. If you’re in doubt about which ones to use, see what your friends use or see what other locals use in the conditions and you’ll find that’s gonna be a good basis to start.
Now for inflating the tire itself you’re gonna need some sort of pump. Now, these days, setting up tubeless tires is mostly a lot easier than it used to be. When there weren’t so many tubeless tires around and you were just using a conversion kit to turn a non-tubeless tire into a tubeless one.
That could become really messy and a real pain in the ass. But these days, you get these sorts of pumps that have got a compressor-based chamber built onto them and you can inflate this separately to inflate the tire and then you can open the valve and let all of the air out in one hit. Inflating that tire much like using a compressor in a workshop. It’s a really really good system. Of course, you don’t always need it. You might be one of the lucky ones that have got a good set of tires and a good rim combination that pops out straight away.
Now, CO2 cartridges can be very helpful for seating tubeless tires. But you do have to be aware that on some sealants I mean Continental recommends that you don’t use CO2 with their sealant and same with Stan’s but there are other ones that are safe for that. The reason they suggest that you don’t use it is it can prematurely start that sort of curing process on the inside of the tire and start forming large lumps of rubber in there. And if they’re sort of forming those large lumps of rubber on the inside of the tire, you guessed it, it means there’s less of those smaller particles which can seal up the holes. So it’s not gonna be as effective.
Now the next option is the use one of these little gizmos. Now there are loads of different options available on the market and it’s basically a mini compressor that you inflate yourself. Its got a pressure gauge on there. Its got an air valve on the top and you simply inflate it within the band it tells you to, you attach it to your tire, and then hit the button and it unloads all the air straight back into your tire and inflates it.
Something that’s really good about these is they’re really good to travel with as well because they’re quite portable. So if you’re on the road a lot, something like this might be really good for you. So now it’s time to tell you a couple of methods for inflating your tire. I’m gonna show you the dry version which I think is the better option of doing, then I’m gonna show you the traditional wet version where you pour the fluid straight into the tire so you have both bases covered because I’m sure some of you will try either option.
The reason it’s called a dry seal is you’re not using tire sealant in there. It’s actually a wet method because we’re gonna use some warm soapy water to help the tire sidewalls pop out.
So for this method, you put the tire onto the rim then you get some warm foamy soapy water and apply it to the sidewalls and the rims and then you simply inflate it. You’ll seat it, you’ll hear that classic pop. As the beads are seated in the actual hooks on the rims then when you remove the pump, the air’s gonna come rushing back out again because we’re doing this with no valve cord in there.
But there’s nothing to worry about because you’re then going to put the sealant in afterward knowing that the tire is hopefully already sealed in place. So I’m just gonna screw this onto the valve. Now I’m simply just gonna scrub that straight into the tire. So the last thing you need to do now is just put the valve core in before inflating the tire.
Remember that you don’t need to do this with the valve core out because it’s already seated. So the hard bit is done and tightens the valve core up using the valve core removal tool. Now, this is an aftermarket valve core remover. These are well worth having; they’re very easy to use. But quite often you will see one of these in a packet with the valves.
Now, this is DT1 and this is a little valve core remover. They are really easy to lose or just throw away because you don’t know what they are. Let me just demonstrate how this works. Just pops over the end of the valve and the same thing as a miniature spanner. Put another core back on. So well worth keeping those things. So now it’s just a case of pumping up the tire using your floor standing pump or retract pump as they’re often called. Put your preferred pressure in there.
Personally, I like to inflate to about 40 psi. So that’s 40 pounds and leave it overnight before I ride just to make sure it’s 100% sealed and doing its job correctly. So that is successfully set up using the dry method of inflating first to seat then putting your sealant inside.
Now it’s not always this easy. This is a good combination. The DC rim, in this case, quite a wide one 35 mil with a mountain king Continental tire on there. That’s a good combo by all accounts. So this has gone up. But quite often you’ll find a tire it will inflate but it might lose some pressure overnight.
Now if you’ve got one of those sorts of options to pump it up 40 or 50 psi, make sure you slosh the sealant around on the inside to coat both sides and leave it on its side, I recommend using a bucket, and just let it just rest and the sealant will take care of any small holes or any parts that aren’t sealed correctly. Might need to top off with some air and then hopefully, you’re good to go.
So having done the dry method where you inflate the tire first and seat it with no sealant in there, I’m gonna show you the other method and hopefully, this goes to plan. But if not, you will see why this is a messier method to do. It’s just a case of getting one half of the tire onto the rim, and then you wanna be putting some sealant into the tire before you finish putting the tire onto the wheel completely. Make sure you’re sealant is really well shaken up so the particles are suspended in the fluid.
And then pour in the amount you need for your size tire and then spend that ’round and then start getting the rest of the tire beat back in place. Now is can be messy. You see it already starts to drip on the floor a little bit. It’s horrible stuff because it dries and it’s quite sticky. I’m gonna get this seated. So this time I’m gonna use the compressor chamber on the pump so I have to inflate that first and then I’ll release all the air at once and then fingers crossed, it seals.
If it doesn’t, a lot of this stuff sprays everywhere. And we got lucky. So this time, it’s gone perfectly according to plan but it doesn’t always happen like this. And as you can see, it’s definitely a mess here method. I’ve got to clean the tire; I’ve got to clean the floor here as well.
Okay, so there we go, successfully set up the tubeless tires with two different methods there. So we got lucky this particular time but it’s not always like that. So like I said to you in the early section of the video, it’s all about the fit of the tire on the wheel. You can get a slightly better fit by running another level of tape around there. That really does help and doing the dry fit method really does help as well because you can be certain that something’s gonna work before you waste sealant and get the stuff everywhere. It’s definitely the better way to do it.
Now tubeless tires are great. They work pretty well; they seal up thorns pretty well while you’re riding. But what happens if you get more than that. What sort of punctures is gonna stop you? So if you slash the tire carcass, there are a few different things you can do. If it’s on the main part of the tire, you can use one of these little things. They’re called tire plugs.
Come from the motorbike and sort of all-terrain world. And basically, you load on of those onto this pronged fork, you ream out the hole and then basically you stab it into place. However, that’s not the full-time solution and at some point will push that back out again. So what you can do then is do an actual tire repair job. But if you slash a tire sidewall, it’s nearly impossible to actually fix the tire in a normal way.
So there is a really good hack for this and it’s what I recommend doing. Take to the tire’s sidewall with a needle and thread. Get a really good, strong leather-based needle so you can get through the tire carcass and really strong thread. Stitch this tire back together and then on the inside, I then patched it up usually a tractor vulcanizing patch in this particular case.
They’re heavy-duty rubber and you gotta make sure that you sit this overnight so it’s completely set and sealed. And then on the outside, I used a heavy-duty vulcanizing glue. So this stuff’s really tough and it’s really flexible as well so it makes a good seal over the top.
Now, this tire will inflate tubeless again now. So it’s not completely wasted. Of course, this isn’t the sort of the ideal situation but you can fix a tire like this and get more use out of it. So don’t think that by slashing your tire, you’re gonna completely bend the thing. You can still use those tires and save some money.
Now of course on a trial situation, if you do that sort of thing, you need to keep riding, I do recommend you carry an inner tube with you. So of course, kind of a bit funny having to carry an inner tube when you’ve gone to the point of doing tubeless but they’re good old faithful and they will get you back on the trail again until you can get home and fix it properly. So you still get a second chance. So there you go that is everything really about tubeless tires and set up that you guys need to know.