Tubeless tyres have been big in the mountain bike game for more than a decade now, but it’s been a tricky and slow transition on the road bikes – now that the technology is finally strong enough here’s the best way [I think] to set the tyres up…
Tubeless can be tricky but I believe that, after a few years of covering myself in sealant, I’ve finally nailed my technique thanks to some useful tech and a bit of experience. Just like painting the house, setting tyres up tubeless, is all about preparation. Laying out all the kit you need and being ready to do the whole thing in one smooth job makes the difference between that beautiful (yet concerning) “ping ping” of success and the unsatisfying “shhhhh” of failure!
My kit includes a clean wheel, a clean unfolded tyre, tubeless tape, a straight pick, 60ml of sealant in an injector, clean valves (ideally the “Milkit” valve system), a valve tool, a sponge (with soapy water), an airshot with 200psi of air and a tubeless pump with another 200psi of air.
First check everything is clean from old sealant, if using new or used tyres set the tyre out unfolded overnight if possible. Mount the tubeless tape onto the rim starting opposite the valve hole – I tend to use 2 layers of tape to begin with (more of that later). Select a tape that’s the same width as the spoke bed, often the best bet is the manufacturers own tubeless tape but if in doubt Effetto Mariposa and Stans both make plenty of widths of their excellent tape. Pull the tape tight as you fit it (a bit like bartape) and make sure it’s centered. Once two layers are on cut the tape neatly and then grab the pick to make the valve hole. I tend to heat the pick slightly to cauterize the hole as you make it – this has the benefit of making the hole beautifully round and avoids any splits that air could leak from once the valve is tight. Then fit the valve and hand tighten the valve nut.
Now fit the first bead of the tyre just as you would with a normal clincher, starting at the valve, and then fit the other bead straight away. At this point if the tyre feels excessively loose (or easy to fit), remove the tyre and the valve and add a third layer of tape. The tyre should be tight to fit but not impossible, to ensure a good seal. Once the fit feels good work the soapy sponge around both tyre beads and then double check that the tyre is sitting nicely over the valve – remove the core of the valve, before attaching a charged Airshot (or “Tire Booster”) – lift the wheel away from the ground and rotate it whilst you open the valve of the Airshot. The 200psi in the Airshot should inflate the tyre properly without sealant and the soapy water should help the tyre’s beads seat properly on the rim with 2 or more harsh “ping” noises – the missing valve core helps the air rush in, but remember to carefully remove the Airshot when the core is not in place as the air will rush out!
(The beauty of the Milkit system and especially the valves is that the coreless valve still features a one-way gasket and therefore you can release the pressure in a very controlled way – this also allows you to reduce the pressure to such a point that sealant can be added without the tyre unseating itself in the meantime, so once seated with the Airshot you will only need a basic pump rather than a high pressure tubeless pump – this helps keep everything clean. The valves also have the advantage of being able to have a syringe pushed through them to measure the amount of sealant left in the tyre after a few months of use, taking the guesswork and mess out of tubeless!)
Once you’ve removed the Airshot and decreased the tyre pressure fit the injector to/through the valve and fill the tyre with 60ml of sealant – different manufacturers recommend different amounts of sealant, but I prefer to have slightly too much rather than not enough! I rate the Stans Race/Doc Blue Sealant, but if you’re having problems, Effetto Mariposa Caffe Latex or Orange Seal can help as they provides a much thicker coverage which almost forms a sticky layer on the inside of the tyre rather than staying completely fluid. Whatever sealant you use make sure you shake it every single time you use it and even between tyres to ensure that all the particles are properly mixed.
Now attach the pre-charged tubeless pump, pick the wheel off the ground again and rotate while you release the second 200psi into the tyre (these pumps have a release valve which will avoid overloading your tyre once it gets to about 100psi so don’t worry about blowing it off the rim). Top up the tyre to 100psi, remove the pump and spin the wheel, moving the wheel from fully tilted over to the left to the right side to fully cover the inside of the tyre with sealant. Now give the tyre a clean with a rag to remove any excess sealant. Mount the wheel in the bike and test ride the wheel as soon as possible to help seat the tyre. Weave and brake on the bike to ensure that the tyre is behaving correctly. In an ideal world use a tire gauge to then set the pressure of the tyre prior to proper use.
There are quicker ways of setting a tyre up tubeless but this is the routine that I find provides the best, most consistent, results and once completed usually provides worry free use.
Thank-you to Damien Wells for the photos – you can also see his photos on the girodilento.com blog which is written by Scott Purchas.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer