Tubeless Conversion - Act 2: The Proper Way

Tubeless Conversion - Act 2: The Proper Way

Well hello again!

Have you collected all those tools and supplies we discussed in Act One, Method, Tools & Supplies? Yes? Good! Now, like doing anything in life if you go about doing it the proper way it ends up going relatively smoothly and doesn't take forever. This is no different. All I can ask is that before you get too excited (and believe me I'm soooooo guilty of this) please, just hold off and read through these steps at least once. So why not go grab yourself a nice tasty beverage and settle in somewhere comfortable. Go on, I'll wait

  1. Tyre, Tube, Rim tape removal
    • Take your existing wheel, peel off the tyre, tube and rim tape.
    • Unless the tyre you have pulled off is practically new, I would set it aside and use a new one. It's not worth the hassle of getting all the way to the end only to find your tyre actually has a million holes in it.
    • Make sure your new tyre is tubeless rated.
    • Inspect the rim for damage. Dings in the rim beads, cracks, and other damage can make tubeless conversions difficult or impossible. Dings can be worked with, cracks interpret into a new rim.
    • If the rim is showing some damage sometimes the Hack Way or the Cheapest Way is more successful.
  2. Clean up the rim
    • I mean really clean it like you are going to show it off on Instagram. If there is residual gunk, tubeless tape glue, or sealant, eucalyptus oil will be your friend.
    • Once all the gunk is gone, use a fresh rag and some methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol to do the final clean. I prefer isopropyl as it evaporates completely, leaving no film.
  3. Taping the rim

    Now for the actual taping part. I find it easier to tape a wheel on the ground rather than in a truing stand.

    • Before we get to actually taping, you need to be sure you are using proper tubeless tape, preferably from a wheel manufacturer. Using the wheel brands' own recommended tape will always give you the best result.
    • You will also need to ensure the tape is the appropriate width for the rims you have. To do this get out your Vernier callipers or a trusty ruler and measure the inside diameter of the rim. If you measure 25mm use 23/25mm tape, if 30, then 27/28/30mm. As long as you are within a few mm with your tape of the internal rim diameter you should be sweet!
    • Place your wheel on the ground pinched between your legs.
    • Locate the valve hole, and place it straight up looking you in the face.
    • Start your rim tape AT LEAST two spoke holes past the valve hole (this should be two spoke holes further away from you than the valve hole).
    • Depress the tape into the rim with your thumb or fingers and begin to pull the rim tape tightly as you lay it into the rim profile.
    • Take your time. Really, take your time. You want the tape to go down firmly, wrinkle-free, and straight. If you get this bit right it could prevent disaster later.
    • Rotate the wheel away from you and repeat the process until you have completed at least one lap of the of the wheel passing the valve hole again by at least two spoke holes (this time the spoke holes are closer to you than the valve hole). This should result in two layers of tape over the valve hole.
    • If you've got the time and the rim tape, do two laps. Keep in mind, the more layers of tape you add the easier it will be for the tyre to slip out of the rim well. If you build up the tape too high though it will make it harder to push your tyres on, so try to find the balance. Some brands, such as e-thirteen, recommend 4 laps, but one-two is usually enough for most other brands.
    • Pierce the rim tape at the valve hole. I like to pierce the valve tape with a sharpened spoke or sharp scribe. Take your time once again to ensure you are piercing the valve hole and not a spoke hole.

    Shop Tubeless Tape Here

  1. Installing the tyre
    • Now, to look pro you MUST make sure that the manufacturers brand label is lined up with the tubeless valve. This will give you so much trail appeal that bike nerds everywhere will begin to seek you out as the knower of all things bicycle dark-art.
    • Ensure you have the tyre tread pattern facing the desired rolling direction before pushing one bead onto your rim, and not the wrong way round. Been there, done that, not fun.
    To really take it to the next level I recommend installing a tube (that's right a tube) into the tyre, inflating it to 40ish PSI and leaving it for a few hours or taking it for a ride. The pressure applied to the rim tape from the inflated tube will help the rim tape bond better to the rim. This will reduce the likelihood of you accidentally ""lifting"" the rim tape when you change tyres. It can also help seat the bead, aiding inflation later on.
    • Once this step is complete, remove the tube and place it back into your Dakine Hot Laps Gripper (or the like) and install your tubeless valve.
    • Tighten the tubeless nut by hand. How tight you ask? You'll know if it is tight enough when you go to inflate the tyre- but normally you want it about as tight as a vegemite jar should do it.
    • At this point, you should have one bead of the tyre mounted, the tubeless valve installed and be looking at your bottle of sealant in a loving manner.
  2. Sealant types and installation

    ***Pro-Tip*** - If your thumbs of steel simply aren't and you are struggling to mount the tyres even with tyre levers apply some sort of lubricant to the rim and the tyre bead- don't go crazy, start with a little bit. This can be a proper tyre bead fluid, some bike wash, or that mix of dish detergent and water. I also ALWAYS use fresh sealant when doing a tubeless conversion or tyre swap. That old manky sealant probably doesn't have much seal in it anymore.

    As with tyres, not all sealants are created equally. As this topic can fuel online debates as ferocious as whether or not (insert bike here) actually "looks like a Session" or not, I'll keep it brief.

    • There are basically two styles of sealant out there. Eco-friendly sealants and regular sealants. What you need to know is that generally speaking (and this is very general because things like temperature, humidity, and many other factors are at play here) eco-friendly sealants don't last as long as regular sealants, they dry up faster. They are however the sealant of choice if you are allergic to latex or want to help keep the fishes of the sea and animals of the forest healthier for longer. I'll leave you to choose your own destiny. That aside, just ensure you purchase a quality brand of sealant.
    • Before you go to install the sealant be sure to shake it well, there are little particles of wonder that need to be mixed throughout.
    • There are two approaches to installing the sealant I use the most depending on the tools I have on hand:
      • The most common one is simply pouring the recommended amount of (pre-shaken) sealant into the partially mounted tyre. Then starting from the bottom (to contain the sealant) I push the tyre bead into the rim bead, working my way up to the top. This is where your thumbs of steel come in, and possibly those proper tyre levers you have acquired.
      • The other method is to push on the other tyre bead on to the rim, then remove the valve core and use a tubeless sealant syringe to inject the sealant through the tubeless valve. This method can be useful if you have trouble getting the tyre on the wheel and start splashing sealant everywhere. Be sure to clean out the syringe with warm water after using it to ensure it has a long service life.

    Shop Sealants Here

  3. Tyre inflation

    If you haven't used that soapy water to mount the tyre, now is the time to use it! Spray the bead of the tyre liberally, that's it, both beads, nice and soapy. This will help the tyre slide onto the bead.

    If you are using:

    • a regular floor pump-
      • Mount the pump to the tubeless valve and begin pumping like mad.
      • If the rim/tyre combination work well together there is a good chance you will be able to "pop" the tyre beads out of the rim well and into the rim beads to seal.
      • Continue to pump like mad until the tyre begins inflating and don't stop until you see the pump's pressure gauge showing 40psi or so.
    • a floor pump with a chargeable tubeless canister-
      • Read the instructions on how to charge the canister and do so.
      • Mount the floor pump to the tubeless valve and hit the go button to release that blast of air pressure from the canister to hopefully "pop" the tyre beads into the rim beads.
        • If the tyre seals straightway- hallelujah! That hard-earned $$ you spent on that tubeless floor pump was worth it after all!
        • If it pops the bead but doesn't quite seal, begin pumping like mad to try to push the tyre beads the final few mm into the rim beads.
        • If it is completely unsuccessful, recharge the canister, apply a fresh coating of soapy water and go again.
      • Once the tyre has sealed, double check the pressure, you are looking for the tyre to be quite firm. If the floor pump has a pressure gauge, double check the pressure on the gauge and continue to inflate until the gauge shows 40psi or so.
    • a CO2 cartridge and inflator-
      • *** Discharging CO2 is cold enough to burn you. Even the canister itself can get cold enough to burn so exercise caution. BOOM!! CO2 canisters discharge at a rapid rate so be careful not to overfill the tyre and blow it off the rim. ***
      • Read the instructions on how to safely use the CO2 head and canister.
      • Mount the charged CO2 head to the tubeless valve and hit the go button to release that blast of frozen compressed air from the canister to hopefully "pop" the tyre beads into the rim beads.
      • If the tyre seals straightway yell YAAAAAASSSS! From the top of your lungs and give yourself a pat on the back.
      • If it pops the beads but doesn't quite seal, quickly install a new CO2 canister and give it another blast. Be careful not to blow the tyre off the rim.
      • If that doesn't work, you can try to quickly remove your CO2 head and mount your floor pump and begin pumping like mad.
      • If it is completely unsuccessful, remount the CO2 head with a new canister, apply a fresh coating of soapy water and go again.
      • Once the tyre has sealed double check the pressure, you are looking for the tyre to be quite firm. If the floor pump has a pressure gauge, double check the pressure on the gauge and continue to inflate until the gauge shows 40psi or so.
    • an air compressor-
      • Ensure that the air compressor tank is charged to max capacity.
      • Install your presta/french valve inflator on your air compressor. Give that trigger a squeeze and hope that the tyre beads slip into the rim beads creating a nice tight seal.
      • If the tyre is hardly shifting from the rim well and you can hear air escaping from all around the tyre stop, take a break so the air compressor can recharge, remove the valve core from the tubeless valve (set it aside somewhere within reach) and try again.

    If you're still having trouble inflating the tyre...

    Removing the tubeless valve core will allow much more air volume to pass through the tubeless valve hopefully pushing the tyre beads out of the rim well and into the rim beads.

    To inflate with this method:

    • Remove the tubeless valve core.
    • Inflate the tyre until it is firm (use the thumb test), remove the pump and quickly seal the tubeless valve opening with a spare finger or thumb.
    • Begin to channel all of your superpowers to be the fastest human on earth as this next part is critical. Hold the valve core in one hand, remove your digit covering the valve opening and quickly re-install the tubeless valve core.
    • HOLD ON TIGHT! The air pressure escaping from the tyre will try to blow the valve core out of your hand. Once you have re-installed the valve core, top up the tyre pressure until it is at about 40psi.
  4. Checking for leaks
    • At this stage remove the inflation device, lay the wheel down on the ground and oscillate it to spread the sealant around. Flip the wheel over and repeat.
    • If you hear air leaking out use your soap mix spray bottle to try to locate the area (the soapy water will bubble where the air is leaking from) and shake some sealant into it.
    • If there is air leaking from the tubeless valve, check the valve core to make sure it is tight and check the valve nut to ensure it is tight enough. If the nut is tight but the air is still leaking passed the tubeless valve you may have an issue with the tubeless valve itself or the valve/rim profiles not matching as discussed earlier.
    • Once no air is leaking out- smile, laugh, high-five a stranger (or make a note to do so) and begin to clean up your workspace. No one likes a messy workspace!
    • I highly recommend leaving this newly inflated tubeless conversion at high pressure overnight and checking the pressure again in the morning. A slight drop in pressure overnight is normal. If it is flat, there is a seal issue somewhere. Default back to step 6 followed by step 7.

Thanks for reading Act Two, The Proper Way all the way to the end before you got your hands dirty. You now have the all clear to give'r a go!

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