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Analog's Tubeless Set Up Guide

Analog's Tubeless Set Up Guide

Tubeless tire set up guides, the internet is loaded with them, and many of them are good. The Analog Tubeless Set Up Guide is based on research, trial and error, and a whole bunch of tubeless conversions.  Just like everything we write, this guide is long winded and overtly informative. It’s laid out in sections. Tools needed, Set up Steps, Maintenance and Component Selection.

 

Tools needed:  

  • Air Compressor.  Really, use an air compressor. Someone you know has one, or you can use one at a gas station with some semi careful planning. There are pumps out there that claim to be able to seat a tubeless tire. One version uses an oversized pump barrel. The fancier ones employ an external pressure chamber that is charged by the pump. When the chamber is chock full o’ air, you flip a lever and release the air into the tire.  Both of these systems work, under ideal circumstances. If you have ultra tight rim and tire interfaces, like WTB tires with WTB rims, no problem. But ultra tight interfaces have issues, which we will get into later. And tire rim combos that are tight but not Mick Jagger’s pants tight sometimes need an extended blast of air to seat the tire. No existing floor pump can do this. Hence the air compressor. Thinking about getting an Air Compressor, just cause you wanna ride tubeless and are considering getting a nail gun to convince your neighbor to stop parking on your lawn? Consider the Makita Mac700, which is sorta quiet, ultra reliable, and delivers a big blast of air. We don’t get any money if you do buy one, but we can tell ya it’s a solid unit!
  • Air Compressor presta valve hose head.  We eschew the ones with pressure gauges. You can use a gauge afterward, but the hose head should be simple and robust. The hose head is going to get dropped, stepped on, and neglected, and dial gauges don’t mix well with any of those.

 

  • A Clean Rag.  Old T shirts are ideal or bleached out towels.
  • Denatured Alcohol in a spray bottle.  Pick both the alcohol and the spray bottle up at your hardware store. Don’t cut the alcohol with water.
  • Tire Levers  We like the Unior ones.  
  • Valve Core Remover or wee needle nose pliers. If you are gunna buy a Valve Core tool, get the Park one. 
  • Something to hang the wheel on.  We use a stick clamped in a vise, which we just hang the wheel off the end of, so the tire isn’t touching the floor.  
  • Inner tube the size of the tire you are mounting (Mainly need this for fat bikes and Schwalbe tires, but it’s good to have, just in case)
  • Sealant: more on that and the rest of the items in this list in our Tubeless Component Selection Guide
  • Valve stems: Long enough for the depth of your rims.  
  • Tires: Tubeless ready.
  • Wheels
  • Tubeless Rim Tape

 

  • Pressure Gauge.  We like the simple, analog dial Meiser gauge. Get a gauge that goes from 1-60 for a gravel or touring bike, a Gauge that goes 1-30psi for a mtn bike, and a 1-15 psi gauge for a fat bike. Gauges all are most accurate in the middle of their range. So if you use a 60psi gauge for a fat bike that only needs 4 Psi, it’s accuracy will be questionable. The gauge itself is a beefy brass construction. Buy these once and you’ll have em for ages.
  • A cup with some soapy water in it.  Dawn seems slick, that’s what we use. 2-3 drops in a cup of water. Mix well.
  • Cheapo Paint brush.  Get em at William’s hardware, the kind with the hog bristles that cost 59 cents. The 1” wide brush is fine. Use a clean rag in a pinch
  • Sharp awl. You can also use a nail, or a small blade, like on those tiny worthless keychain pocket knives your grandparents get you when you say you are into camping.
  • Emery Cloth.  A small roll of fine grit emery cloth is ideal.

The Technique

Prep the rim.  Start by roughing up the surface of the inside of the rim. You really just need to do the rim bead, where the tubeless tape is gunna stick. Gently scrub the emery cloth all over the rim bed, just enough to lightly abrade the surface. Like when you are putting a patch on a tube. Spray the rim bed with your bottle of alcohol and throughly wipe out the roughed up rim particles with the clean rag. Do it a few times to make sure it’s really clean. Then wait a few minutes for the alcohol traces to evaporate. Wipe it once more with a fresh bit of dry rag.

Install the tubeless tape.  Start two inches above the valve hole, wrap over the hole and around the rim. Overlap the hole by 2 inches. 1.75 inches is fine. Just some overlap, that’s what ya need. Stretch the tape tight. Certain tapes on the market really perform terribly, making it very hard to get rid of all the bubbles, and lack a good adhesive. See the component guide section for more info.  Work out all the bubbles as you go. This is easiest to do in a truing stand or when the wheel is mounted to the bike and the bike is in a decent work stand. It’s doable just by placing the wheel on the ground, but suboptimal. If you have a wider rim and only medium wide tape, you can start the tape on one side rim, do the full wrap, then mosey the tape over to the other side of the rim, letting the tape overlap in the center. You want at least 5mm of overlap there. More is ideal.

Taping fat bike rims are a whole other can of worms, skip over this paragraph if this does not apply to your wheelset. Fat bike rims have a cloth rim strip that our tape doesn’t really like to stick to. So what we’ve found to work best is to first lay down a layer of Gorilla Tape over the center of the cloth strip. Then get out tubeless tape and run it around the rim, two to three layers. If you want to be extra extra sure your fat bike tubeless is going to work the first try, then get both wide (2-3″,) and a narrower (3/4″-1″) roll of tubeless tape and run 1-2 rounds of that on either side of the rim bed. Meaning around the left edge of the wide tape 1-2 rounds, as well as the right edge 1-2 rounds. Run your fingers or a blunt plastic tool ( I like to use tire levers) around the edges of the tape to make sure everything is sticking together as best it can. Phew! Now proceed onto the next step!

Prick a hole in the tape where the valve stem goes. Ideally you have an awl, and ideally you heat that awl tip up with a flame until it’s hot. Doesn’t need to be red hot, but hotter is better. Think about butter. Now stop thinking about butter. Softly slide the hot awl through the valve hole, from the inside of the rim to the outside. This will melt the tape, not cut it, and it will be stronger and less fussy as a result. If you can’t do this, just jam a nail through, it’ll be fine.

Install the tubeless valve stems, and make sure the lock nut on the outside of the rim is snug. Much tighter than you would with a tube. Air will try to leak out here so it’s gotta be tight. Finger tight, not pliers tight. Problem Solvers makes a P-Nut that’s intended to help your fings get a bit of extra leverage here, we recommend it.

Remove the valve core of the valve stem.  We like to use this little park tool valve core remover, but you can use small pliers if you are careful and patient.  Put the valve core somewhere safe, like in the middle of a light grey shag rug.

Mount the tire fully.  Line the tire label up with the valve stem, ya slouch.

Paint soapy water all along the tire bead.  Both sides.  Get it betwixt the bead and rim hook.  Or lack of a hook, if you have plastic newfangled rims.  We just slop it on, like sauce on a brisket.

Hang the wheel up, so there is nothing pushing on the tire. We hang it from an old handlebar we put in a vise, but you could hang it from a hook, or a bike stand. Position it so the valve stem is at roughly 12 o’clock. Main thing here is: the tire should not be touching anything like the ground, that would deform the tire.

Seat the tire. Lightly massage (push down on) the tire so that the bead is sorta near the hook of the rim. If the bead is say, letting the back of the valve stem be exposed, you will just blast air into the room, not into the tire. Hide that valve stem inside the tire. For fat bike tires, this is critical, you can run a tire lever along either tire bead to pull it closer to the rim.

Blast air into the tire.

Things get weird here.

  • The tire could quickly seat. That’s ideal. When it does, the tire will sort of snap into place with a series of loud and startling bangs. The noise sounds like your tire is exploding. Fun! Clean out your pants, and carry on. Inflate it till it’s barely firm. That’s good enough for this first seating.
  • The tire is almost seating, but not quite.  It’s getting some shape, but it keeps spitting soap around the room. You can sense you are close, but the tire is mocking you like that kid in gym class used to. Damn him. If this happens, you have to stop, take the tire off, take the valve stem out, and clean the tape. We use degreaser like simple green, then some denatured alcohol to get it really clean. Wrap another layer of tape over your existing tape. Poke another hole in it and try again. The almost, but not quite, seating tire situation is almost always caused by needing another layer of tape to tighten up the interface between the tire and rim. Easily solved, even if it’s a pain in the tookus. Assuming that’s how you spell tookus. You don’t want to add too much tape right off the bat. The bead seat tolerance on contemporary rims is pretty tight, and over-doing the tape can make mounting difficult.
  • The tire isn’t even close to seating, it’s just a floppy bag on the rim, and it’s very existence is chaffing your soul. Schwalbe ‘tubeless easy’ tires tend to have this issue, ironically. If you are using a Schwalbe, do this next step before you try to add any air at all.  Big, really light, fat-bike tires need this step, as well. Take one side of the tire off. Pull out the valve stem. Stick a tube in there, reset the tire and inflate it. Get the tire fully seated, just like ya done did when you had tubes back in the dark ages. Put at least 30 psi in there on a mountain bike tube, 20 for a fat bike, and 60 for a narrower tire.  Drain the air, and just open up ONE side of the tire, being careful not to muck up the seated bead on the other side. Pull out the tube, put the valve stem back in, remount the unseated side of the tire and try inflating again.  If it’s still recalcitrant, massage the tire where ever you feel air blowing out while you are inflating it. This is easier with a air compressor and a friend. Cats don’t count. The tire should seat. If it doesn’t, add another layer of tape. If that doesn’t work, try adding one more layer of tape. If that doesn’t work, something is seriously wrong, and you should take up speed walking. Really, the rim might be damaged, or your tape job was terrible, or the tire has a massive hole in it

Take the air compressor hose off the valve, and let all the air drain out. Because the wheel is hanging in the air, and the tire isn’t touching anything that will cause it to deform, but it should hold all or most of its seal.

Shake your sealant like you are demonstrating a shake weight.  Take your Orange Seal sealant and use the applicator hose to shoot 2-4 ounces of sealant into the tire. 2 oz for tires up to 35mm. 4 for bigger stuff. It’s light, and more isn’t bad. Eyeball this. Don’t get out the graduated cylinder.

Reinflate.  The tire should bang into place. You proved it would work by inflating it with no sealant. If it does not, it’s probably spitting sealant from somewhere. Sort of pinch, moosh, and pull on the tire where it’s foaming. If that fails, take the wheel off its perch and move it around like a drunken space station spinning off axis. What you are trying to do is get the sealant to flow where the tire is having trouble sealing. The trick is doing the space station dance while holding the compressor head on the valve stem and blowing air in there.  Again, because you set this up before, with no sealant, and it worked, you should be just a shimmy shimmy, yeah from getting the tire to seal. Inflate till the tire fully seats and snaps into place. It does NOT need to be rock hard. Make sure the tire bead is evenly seated all the way around the rim. If it’s dipping anywhere, deflating and soaping that area is usually the ticket.

 

Now, dig the valve core out of the shag carpet, and quickly screw it back into the valve stem. Use the pliers or park valve core tool to tighten it. Snug it down good, cause if you don’t, you’ll try to use your awesome Lezyne pump on the valve one day and it will unscrew the valve core when you remove the pump, leaving you cursing, covered in swarms of mosquitoes on the side of a rubble-strewn, endless, uphill trail in the middle of Pennsylvania. Open the presta valve like you would a normal tube, and inflate to maybe 10 psi above your desired pressure. Now bust out the Meiser gauge to bleed air right to your target PSI.

Ideally, now you put the wheels on your bike, give them a spin or 3 and then leave it alone overnight.  In the morning, if the whole program is softer than Bread’s Greatest Hits, don’t worry. Re-inflate, and go for a ride. The riding will distribute the sealant around the sidewalls of the tire, and let it soak in. It will dry up anywhere air is trying to pass through the tire.

Dang, you are all set.  Top off air as needed, but it won’t be more often than with a tube. After everything is dialed and holding air, you can adjust air pressure as desired. We usually go about 10 psi lower than ya would with a normal tube, but that’s just a rough starter number.

At this point you are thinking, that’s 16 friggin’ steps, dude! What kinda over wrought, painful process is this tubeless crud?

Of course it’s a bunch of steps when you write it all out, and discuss possible problems that can arise. The same could be said for a long, detailed discussion on how to install an inner tube. There are at least 11 steps that I can think of off the top of my head involved in mounting a tube in a tire. Is this more involved? Yes! But with a bit of know how, and contingency plans for all possible outcomes, you’ll breeze through it. And you won’t be stuck on the side of the road, fixing a flat in the rain.