TUBELESS SETUP TRICKS AND TIPS – HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE’S TUBELESS TIRE SETUP
Everything you need to know
Most new bikes comes with inner tubes installed in the tires. Even if the bike comes with everything you need to convert to tubeless, new bikes are required to have inner tubes from the shop. We’re honestly not sure if this is a legal thing or just to prevent sealant from leaking all over the inside of the box. In any case, converting your tires to tubeless should be the first upgrade you make. This setup requires a little more upkeep and can be tricky to install the first time, but the increase in grip, flat protection and suppleness make this upgrade a no-brainer. We’ll show you our favorite tips and tricks to make the setup easier and more tips to keep your tubeless tires rollin’ smoothly.
You’ll need a pair of tubeless valves and some sealant to convert your wheels. Most new bikes come with these in the box with the owner’s manual, etc. A valve core tool is very helpful later in the setup.
Look for a label to indicate your wheels are indeed compatible with a tubeless setup. This logo indicates these are Kenda SCT tires, which are sealant compatible and tubeless ready.
Remove the valve cap and nut, but don’t let all the air out just yet.
To determine if your wheels still have an inner tube, push in on the valve until it starts to depress. If a little air escapes, your wheels are already set up tubeless. If the valve simply pushes in and out with no air loss, there is still a tube installed
Now that we know this is a tube, we can open the valve and let all the air out. We’re going to remove it from the tire.
As the air is let out, you should be able to move the tire bead to the center of the rim, and it should loosen slightly as it slides into the center rim channel.
You only need to remove one side of the tire from the rim to remove the inner tube. You can usually do this by hand if the tire bead is fully in the center rim channel and loosened. If your setup is unusually tight, a tire lever may be necessary.
Remove the old tube and set it aside. Spare tubes are still useful for trailside emergency tire fixes and for anybody who still uses tubes. A perfectly good inner tube is a terrible thing to waste.
Be sure your rim does in fact have tubeless tape installed on the rim before proceeding. Tubeless tape should look airtight and cover the rim bed and all spoke holes from edge to edge. The only hole exposed should be for the valve.
Most tubeless valves are compatible with most rims, but it’s important to ensure the rubber grommet at the base of the valve makes an airtight seal with the rim and tape. It should feel snug. If your valves came with the bike, this should be a perfect fit.
Most tubeless valves use a rubber O-ring on the outside of the rim, then a concave rim nut to hold everything in place. The nut should be as tight as you can get it with your fingers, but not so tight you need pliers to remove it later.
Pour in the correct amount of sealant for your rim and tire combo. A 29er bike with 2.5-inch tires uses about 4 ounces, (just over 100ml). That’s conveniently half of this bottle from WTB. Tires with less volume will require less sealant. The correct amount should have just enough to slosh around the inside of the tire a little.
Reinstall the tire bead onto the rim, using gravity to keep the tire sealant in the bottom part of the tire. This can be a messy step without practice, but it is the quickest way in our experience.
Another option for installing sealant is to go through the valve. This Muc-Off valve has a removable core, which also makes inflation easier. We’ll use this valve core tool to remove it.
Simply put the valve core tool over the top of the presta valve on the small flats and unscrew. You may have this tool and not know it. Valve core tools are often found on fancy rest valve nuts.
With the valve core removed, there’s an unobstructed path for air to flow in and quickly pop the tire beads into place.
If your valves are not new and feel clogged when inflating or deflating the tire, this is the likely culprit. Sealant can coagulate around the valve core and restrict airflow. This gunk is easily removed with a towel.
With the valve core still removed, you can use a pump to blast a quick shot of air into the tire to seat it. Most of the time, this technique will improve your chances of seating the tire with a floor pump instead of a compressor.
We’re using a Bontrager TLR Flash Charger pump, which has a chamber to release a blast of air much the way a compressor would. Pumps with high airflow output volume are always best when setting up a tubeless tire for the first time.
After you inflate the tire and hear that magic “pop” of the tire bead snapping into place, it’s time to replace the valve core. Remove the pump head from the valve, and remember that there’s no valve core to hold the air in. Even if most of the air escapes, be sure the tire beads stay in place by plugging the hole with enough pressure for the tire to keep its shape.
Replace the valve core with the tool and tighten it enough that it won’t be leaky. Inflate the tires to your desired pressure, remembering that tubeless tires are designed to work better with less pressure than tubed tires.
Replace the valve cap if you want (they’re not necessary), and go hit the trails with confidence.