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Technical FAQ: Even more tubeless tire mounting tips

Simple tips and clever tricks for getting stubborn tubeless tires mounted on rims.

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Have a question for Lennard? Please email him at veloqna@comcast.net to be included in Technical FAQ.

Dear Lennard,
With respect to your most recent tech article about tubeless tire struggles, I have a few comments. I first started dealing with tubeless when I bought my first gravel bike a few years ago and immediately had serious issues with tubeless tires when I tried to change the stock tires. I have smaller hands and not a lot of hand strength and would literally spend hours trying to change one tire. After a lot of reading and asking for suggestions on my favorite gravel site, things have improved such that I can typically change a pair of tires in less than an hour. The key for me has been the generous use of soapy water on both sides of the tire. Additionally, once I have most of the second side of a tire under the rim, I go around the tire and make sure it is sitting as low in the rim bed as possible to minimize the bead tension.

Lastly, in your article you emphasize ending at the valve; I assume that is related to a tube being in the tire and makes no difference with tubeless?
— Scott

Dear Scott,
Ending at the valve IS JUST AS IMPORTANT WITH A TUBELESS TIRE AS WITH A TUBED TIRE! It’s critical. Sorry I didn’t clarify why you do it last week.

You should finish at the valve because if you instead finish at the other side of the rim, the valve is preventing the beads on the opposite side of the tire from dropping into the rim valley. That maximizes the rim diameter you are trying the stretch the tire over. So, by NOT finishing at the valve stem, you are making it as hard as you possibly can!
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Just read your responses to Don and Brent about mounting tubeless tires. It can’t be emphasized enough that – all the way around the rim – both beads MUST be in the rim valley to mount a difficult tire. Sometimes it takes multiple tries to get the entire bead into the rim valley on both sides, but that is critical to providing the room for movement of the tire needed for that last bit of the bead at the valve stem. Some tires are still tough, but at least you’ve given them all the slack you can to help that final stretch. BEADS IN THE RIM VALLEY – ALWAYS! 😊
— Bill

Dear Bill,
Absolutely, and, again, it’s not possible to do this unless you finish mounting at the valve.
― Lennard

Campagnolo wheels
When mounting tubeless tires, start by tucking the tire into the rim “valley” opposite the valve and finish mounting the tire at the valve.

Dear Lennard,
In your responses to Don and Brent on dealing with hard-to-mount tires, you suggested finishing at the valve and pushing the opposite section of the tire into the rim valley.

I have been using an extension of this method to remove tires without using tire irons. Starting just a couple of inches away from the valve, I pinch the tire between my finger and thumb and push both sides of the tire into the valley, at the same time pulling the tire tangentially away from the valve. Maintaining that tangential pressure, I slide my fingers a few inches around the wheel, pinch, and repeat. I work my way around the rim, each time adding a little more to the slack. By the time I get back to the valve, I have more than enough slack to work the bead over the rim with my fingers.

I use the same method to remount stubborn tires. I start with one side of the tire seated in the rim all the way around and the other side seated as far as it will go, leaving three or four inches on either side of the valve unseated. I then pinch and pull my way around the wheel, and by the time I get back to the valve, there’s enough slack to push the bead over the rim.

It helps that I’m using relatively supple tires (Veloflex and Pirelli P-Zero), but I have used this method successfully with other brands.

I’m sure you can explain this method better than I can (and I strongly suspect that you’re already familiar with it).
— Geoff

P.S. I’m not sure how Bead Biters work, but I had good luck using VAR tire levers — until I started using the pinch-and-pull method. I still use VAR levers when the fit is extraordinarily tight: Michelin tires on Neutron rims, for example.

Dear Geoff,
I don’t know if I can describe it any better. Yours is actually the same method I use, and I rarely have to use tire levers to remove or mount tires. Since I haven’t been comfortable with how I communicate this method or would be asking of the reader, I have not included it in my maintenance books (yet). Maybe I can incorporate your description.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I was just reading about tubeless tire installation woes in your most recent FAQ. The Kool Stop Bead Jack might be an option for folks with particularly tight tires or who lack hand strength. I resorted to carrying one with me when I was riding challenge tires, which are unbelievably tight, a fact that Challenge has recently indirectly acknowledged by selling tire kits that include their version of a bead jack.
— John

Dear John,
I should have mentioned that tool in the previous column. I, too, have had to resort to it to mount some Challenge Pro handmade clinchers. How to use it is described below.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Many of us in our local bike club were experiencing the issues noted in your Technical FAQ: Tubeless Troubles. We have found an inexpensive and light tool that has resolved the issues noted. The tool is the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack, available from Amazon and some bike shops. Essentially you mount by hand following the usual steps noted in your article until the tire just won’t go onto the rim any further. Then use the tool to incrementally pull the tire bit by bit onto the rim. This tool has been a hand, finger, tube, and time saver. Very easy to use!

One note from my experience is that, as noted above, the tire must be pulled on incrementally by the tool. It is virtually impossible to pull the tire onto the rim by centering the tool in the middle of the tire/rim overlap and brute force the tire onto the rim in one go.
— Ken

Dear Lennard,
The easiest way to get a tire on a rim is to mix 2-3 drops of dish soap with a little water, then run it around the bead. Voila! It will slide on like magic every time and without effort. Dipping your tire iron into the solution also helps the iron slide along too.

This does not hurt the tire, the tube, affect sealant, etc.
— Rob

Dear Lennard,
With regard to Don’s difficult tire, another lever I really like is the Crank Brothers Speedier tire lever. Many years ago I had the same issue as Don, flattening a number of tubes with my standard levers. I remembered that my buddy had given me the first iteration of the Speedier lever, and it was a revelation.

As you noted, it’s best to end at the valve, but even with that, as I push the lever, one thing I’ve found is that it’s worth going around the rim and pushing the tire into the center groove several times, even when it looks like it’s already as deep as it can go. I’ll usually do this 3X as I’m tightening the bead with the speed lever, and all of a sudden the tire will just push on easily (I use Continental GP5000s). My take is that the last little .01mm matters, which of course is why it’s also best to end at the valve.
— Steve

Dear Lennard,
I have been using the blue Schwalbe tire levers for many years. These slim but very strong levers will help remove and install the toughest tire. I also suggest using talcum powder on the new tires and tubes to aid in the mounting process along with putting a little air in the tube.
— Jeffrey


Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder (www.zinncycles.com) and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (bikeclydesdale.com), a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,”DVD, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikesand Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.” He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn on Twitter.