At HUNT we’re just like all other cyclists and so have spent many years fiddling with bikes, wheels and tyres. Over the course of time, we have often had to learn the hard way, with a fair amount of trial and error and head-scratching. There is plenty of useful information that can save you loads of time and we realise that you have a life outside of cycling and don’t necessarily want to spend hours researching how to set up tubeless tyres or comparing wheel specifications to find the perfect product for your exact needs. To help you we will be creating a number of ‘how to’ videos exploring the more practical side of wheel ownership as well as a series of videos explaining some of the concepts and features behind our purpose-driven wheel range development.
In this article, we will take you through the easy steps to fitting tubeless road tyres to tubeless road bike rims and tell you the hints and tips we’ve picked up through our many years setting up tubeless.
Tubeless tyre technology has been popular in the Mountain Bike world for a number of years. The ability to run lower pressures to improve grip and reduce rolling resistance without the risk of pinch punctures, the lower rotating mass and puncture sealing capabilities of tyre sealant have all helped make tubeless technology the preferred choice for Mountain Bikers.
However, Road Bike Tubeless technology has taken longer to be adopted, mainly due to the traditional use of Tubular tyres inside the professional peloton holding back adoption and a lack of good information making it seem like somewhat of a black art! We think this is a shame as, while tubeless isn’t for everyone, many cyclists would benefit from the real-world practicality and performance it can deliver.
What is Tubeless?
Road bike tubeless technology is based on the traditional clincher tyre and inner tube system with one major difference, there is no inner tube! Effectively the inner tube is removed and the tyre is manufactured to be air tight. The difference between a traditional clincher tyre and a road bike tubeless tyre is that the bead (i.e the section that holds onto the rim) needs to be airtight and that they are slightly thicker due to the air-tight layers used in the construction. The tubeless road bike rim is also slightly modified compared to a traditional clincher rim. All of our HUNT Wheels use a tubeless road bike rim featuring horizontal tubeless shoulder steps which are different to a normal clincher rim which has a single curve from edge to edge (see photo comparison below). This step ensures that the bead of the tyre is held in place safely and securely so that air cannot escape.
The other factor that needs to be considered is sealing the spoke holes on the inside of the tubeless road bike rim. This is solved by using tubeless rim tape. Effectively this is a tough, sticky tape that adheres to the rims, covering the spoke holes and preventing air from escaping.
A tubeless valve is then used, similar to a standard inner tube valve but with a rubber base that pulls tight against the valve hole allowing air to be pumped into the tyre.
The magic ingredient to complete the tubeless recipe is liquid latex tyre sealant. Tyre sealant is poured into the tyre and covers all the internal surfaces and helps prevent any air leakage. It also has the major benefit of sealing most punctures, often without you even realising! However, ineffective application of tyre sealant can leave you frustrated and covered in a sticky latex mess.
How do I set up my Tubeless Road Bike wheels?
In order to help you we have produced a comprehensive video guide to thoroughly explain how to fit tubeless tyres. Alongside the video, we also have a written guide.
Step 1: What do I need?
- A set of Tubeless Ready wheels
- A pair of Tubeless Valves
- A roll of Tubeless rim tape
- A bottle of Tubeless Tyre Sealant
- A pair of Tubeless Ready road bike tyres
- A set of tyre levers
- A pump
- A cloth
- Alcohol cleaner
- A cocktail stick (or similar narrow pointed object)
Step 2: Sealing the Rim (1:40 min)
As previously mentioned the tubeless rim will need to be sealed i.e. the nipple holes covered to prevent air from escaping. The first stage is to ensure that the internal rim surface is cleaned of contaminants. This is done by wiping around the internal rim surface with alcohol cleaner and a cloth. This ensures that the tape sticks firmly to the inside of the rim. Once the rim is clean it’s time to apply the tape. Start one spoke away from the valve hole and begin to stick the end of the tubeless tape to the rim. Ensure that you pull the tape as tight as possible, rubbing the tape down with a cloth ensuring it sticks to the rim. One layer of tape when using our HUNT Black Shield tape will be sufficient. Once the layer of tape has been applied, visually check that all the valve holes have been covered and then give the tape a final rub with your fingers or cloth ensuring it is well-adhered to the rim surface. Finally pierce a small hole in the rim tape over the valve hole using a cocktail stick, spare spoke, or something similar.
Step 3: Fitting the valve and tyre (4:27 min)
In order to inflate the tubeless tyre you will need to insert the tubeless valve into the rim. Take the tubeless valve and unscrew the plastic cap and lock ring. Tighten the valve head so it doesn't get damaged. Then from the inside of the rim push the head of the valve through the small hole in the rim tape (that you made in step 2) and through the rim. At this point, you can run some sealant around the base of the valve to help ensure sealing. Then screw the valve lock ring onto the valve so that it pulls the base of the valve tight against the inside surface of the rim.
Now it is time to fit the tyre. If there is a direction arrow on the tyre side wall make sure the tyre is facing the correct rotation direction, although some road tyres don't have a specific rotation direction. Fit one side of the tyre bead to the tubeless rim, you may require a tyre lever for this. If you do use a tyre level make sure not to damage the rim tape, especially near the valve or spoke holes. If it is hard to fit, make sure that the bead of the tyre is sitting in the central dipped well of the rim, this will make it easier to get the last bit of the tyre bead over the rim. Now proceed to fit three-quarters of the bead on the other side of the tyre.
Step 4: Adding the tubeless tyre sealant (6:54 min)
With the tyre almost fitted (don’t forget the second side of the tyre should be three-quarters fitted) it’s time to add the tyre sealant. Shake the bottle of tyre sealant to ensure it is mixed and pour it into the opening in the tyre bead. The amount of sealant to use will depend on the width of the tyre (usually between 30-80ml) - please see this article for more info. Rotate the wheel so that the liquid cannot leak out of the opening and then pop the rest of the tyre bead into place, again you may require a tyre lever for this. Then slowly rotate the wheel and angle to ensure the sealant coats all the internal surfaces of the tyre and rim. At this point, you can run some additional sealant around the tyre bead to help ensure a perfect seal.
Step 5: Inflate! (8:45 min)
Now that the tyre is fitted and sealant added it's time to pump them up. Tubeless tyres require a blast of air to ensure that the tyre bead seats in the rim right away. This can be done by frantically pumping a floor pump but is much easier with an air chamber floor pump. We favour the air chamber floor pump, effectively a floor pump with an air chamber attached that holds compressed air which can then be released in one quick blast. So firstly charge the air chamber on your floor pump by pumping it up. Then attach the pump head to the tubeless valve on your wheel and release the compressed air on your pump. This blast of air should seat the tyre on the rim. You may find that some air escapes initially but the tyre sealant should plug the gap (a spin of the wheels may be needed to spread the sealant again). Once the tyre is sealed, pump the tyre up to the required pressure, fit them to your bike and get out and ride!
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