Tips & Tricks for installing tubeless tires

I wanted to share some tips for mounting tubeless tires that I've learned from doing 4 tire comparison tests and mounting over 60 tires over the last year and a half:

Warnings:

  • I do not recommend inflating a tire over 40 psi when seating the tire beads.
  • Wear eye protection and hearing protection in case a tire blows off of a rim during installation

Installation Process:

  1. Clean the rim bed with alcohol to remove any trace of oil or grease. Tape tubeless-ready rims with tubeless tape and install valves onto the rim. Be as careful as you can to tape rims securely as losing air through improperly installed tape seems to be the most common cause of tubeless setups not being able to maintain tire pressure.
  2. Check the tire for markings that indicate direction of rotation before installing.
  3. Install the tire bead on one side of the tire onto the rim.
  4. Install the other tire bead ending at the valve. (The valve tends to allow less room for a tire bead leading to a tighter fit if you end away from the valve.)
  5. [If you only have a floor pump] Try to inflate the tire. If you can get the tire beads to form some level of seal with the rim bed, you'll be able to get the tire to hold air. From that point keep pumping fast(!) up to 35 psi. You'll generally hear a 'snap' as the tire beads seat at about 35 psi. I don't recommend going above 40 psi to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts. I've found that about 1/4 to 1/2 of tires install easily with just a floor pump.
    1. See tips and tricks below for ways to help the bead seat with just a floor pump
    2. See below for the tire brand/rim brand combinations that I've found install easier
    3. Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  6. [If you have access to a compressor or gas station air hose] The process of installing tubeless tires is a LOT easier with access to a compressor. The high pressure that a compressor can deliver quicker than a hand pump helps force tubeless tire beads against a rim bed from which you can then add air up to the tire pressure at which the tire beads will seat (about 35 psi).
    1. Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  7. Congratulations if you are up to this point. Getting the beads seated is the most challenging part of this process. To complete the installation you need to add sealant into the tire & distribute the sealant around the sidewalls of the tire.
  8. Let the air out of the tire. Generally the tire beads will remain seated on the rim.
  9. Remove the tire valve core. Generally tubeless valves will be of the presta variety, not the schraeder valves that are typically used with car tires)This is the top part of the presta valve that screws into the larger diameter base of the valve. You can do this by using a core removal tool such as the  Stans NoTubes Core Remover Tool or an adjustable wrench if you don't have a core removal tool.
  10. Inject about 4 oz of tubeless sealant into the tire through the tire valve with the valve core removed
  11. Reinstall the valve core
  12. Pump up the tire to about 35 psi
  13. Shake the wheel/tire laterally to distribute sealant onto the tire sidewalls. Rotate the wheel/tire as you continue to do this around the entire tire.
  14. Rotate the wheel/tire held horizontally to allow sealant to work its way into the junction between tire bead & rim. Set the wheel/tire down horizontally for 5-10 minutes. A cardboard box is a good way to keep the wheel/tire level. Flip the wheel over to the other side and repeat this process. Losing air due to tire beads not being adequately sealed against a rim is another common cause of tubeless setups not being able to hold pressure.
  15. Adjust tire pressure based on your weight. This is a formula from Stans NoTubes that provides a starting point for matching tire pressure to your weight:

Rider weight / 7 = X  

Front pressure = X -1 psi
Rear pressure = X -2 psi

Example based on a rider weight (with gear) of 160 lbs
160 lbs / 7 = 22.9
Front pressure = 22.9 - 1 = about 22 psi
Rear pressure = 22.9 + 2 = about 25 psi
 

 

Tips & Tricks:

  • Use rims designed for tubeless use: Tubeless rims have a ridge next to the bead seat that will help to "lock" a tubeless tire's bead onto the rim after it is seated. I personally will not do tubeless "conversions" with non-tubeless rims. Non-tubeless rims that don't have the ridge to help lock in a tubeless tire's bead greatly increase the risk of burping (losing air in hard cornering) or rolling a tire off in corners.
  • Use tires designed for tubeless use: Tires designed for tubeless mounting have a casing that is more likely to be air tight as well as tighter fitting beads (keep reading for the benefits of tighter fitting beads for ease of tubeless installation).
  • Seat the tire beads before adding sealant: Trying to seat a tire that already has sealant added just adds potential for messiness. The sealant does not help the initial bead seating process.
  • Seating the tire beads with just a floor pump: If a tire's bead fit snugly against the rim bed, you have a good chance of being able to just use a floor pump to get enough air pressure to seat the beads. An air tight seal between bead and rim allows you to gradually build up enough air pressure in the tire until the beads seat around 35-40 psi. 
  • Tricks for seating tire beads when a tire doesn't start holding air pressure immediately:
    • Make sure the tire is covering the valve hole
    • Try to move the tire so that the beads press against the rim bed
    • Use an inner tube to strap the tire against the rim
  • Seating the bead without a compressor: A inexpensive way to get a high volume of air into a tire at high velocity is to use a gas station air compressor. If you have Presta valve, you will likely need a presta-to-schrader valve adaptor such as the one we sell at: Kool-stop Valve Adapter. The high velocity of air that is delivered by this method or with a compressor pushes the tire beads against the rim allowing pressure to build up to seat the beads.
    • Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  • Add sealant via a tubeless valve that has a removable valve core: Many instructional videos will recommend removing one side of the bead at this time to add sealant. I don't agree with this approach. You've done a lot of work at this point to get both tire beads seated properly. Why would you want to undo part of the work you've done to seat the beads? Adding sealant through the valve core is by far the lowest effort way to add sealant.
  • Easier to install tire brand/rim brand combinations
    • On Stans rims (Easton & DT rims have a similar diameter. Mavic & WTB have a slightly smaller diameter)
      • Schwalbe Snakeskin - Easiest
      • Maxxis Exo - Fairly Easy
      • Specialized 2Bliss - Fairly Easy
      • Continental Protection - Difficult to do initial seating of the beads on Stans rims
      • WTB TCS - CAN work but beads may be tight as the bead diameter is based on the tighter UST bead specification. I have mounted 2 WTB tires on Stans rims, but have heard that others have had challenges with this. Works better on WTB and Mavic rims.
      • Michelin, Hutchinson - I don't have direct experience but I believe these brands will work better on WTB and Mavic rims.

This is a great video on installing difficult-to-mount tubeless tires: