Let’s talk equipment. This one can get pretty deep, and with all the options out there, I’m sure we can come up with a lot of experiences to look back on and say “I wish I knew that when…[insert common beginner mistake here]”
Here we go-
- To set up tubeless tires, get a valve core remover: This one can get messy. Before I knew what a valve core remover was for, I set up plenty of tubeless tires and then gave myself an extra 10 minutes of cleanup after getting sealant all over the floor, myself, and my rims. If you’re new to tubeless tires, here’s what you should have, and I’ve linked out to the specific items that I gravitated toward over the years:
Anything works. this is to wipe any sealant that creeps out around the bead or valve core.
I’ve used the Stan’s version and also have a very basic one that’s just a tube at the end. Either one works great
I go between Stan’s and TruckerCo depending on availability. Both have worked excellent for me to date.
Valve core removal tool
Both Park Tools and Stan’s have excellent options. There are also some cool ones that work as valve caps that you always have on your bike.
Tubeless Rim Tape
Stan’s is my go-to for this one. I’ve tried knock-off and no-name brands and haven’t found a great substitute yet.
Anything that is durable and allows you to get the pressure you need. My reliable one for many years has been the basic Specialized Air Tool Comp. It’s easy to use and easy to service too.
Air compressor or inflation tool
If you have a compressor, it’s an easy way to go. If not, there are cheaper options that work very well. In some cases you can actually get the tire to seat and inflate with nothing more than your floor pump, but to be on the safe side, I use the Specialized Air Blast Tool. There are of course other models out there if you Google around for them.
Good set of tire levers
You can’t go wrong with quality levers. I always carry two with me just in case I drop one or have a particularly difficult tire to mount or take off. For quality and strength, I use the SWAT Tire Lever and Pedro’s Tire Levers.
When setting up tubeless tires, here’s my process.
- After removing the wheel from the bike, remove the valve core and deflate the tire, making sure the tire bead is seated around the rim on both sides.
- Using your syringe, gently squeeze in the necessary amount (look at your sealant for recommendations based on your tire size) and keep your towel wrapped around the valve for the small leakage that may occur when taking the syringe off the valve.
- Re-insert your valve core and tighten gently (just until you feel resistance). Unscrew the valve (if Presta) to prepare for pumping.
- Hook up your pump/air blaster/air compressor and begin inflating. You will hear some popping initially, which is completely normal as the bead sets itself against the rim. ** If you are unsure what [x]psi should feel like, pump up a tire to the necessary pressure and feel it with your hand. That way you can gauge when to pull off the compressor, etc. without worrying about over-inflation. ** After that, you can finish pumping with your floor pump to fine-tune. I usually go a little above what the recommended tire pressure is printed on the sidewall.
- Take your wheel and spin it, shake it, etc. to get that sealant coating the entire inside of the tire/bead. Do this for a minute or two.
- Check to see that the bead is seated all the way around. If not, you will see a noticeable wobble in the tire when spinning the wheel. In that case, give it some time as sometimes the pressure will eventually push the bead into place, or deflate, check your position, and re-inflate. If that still doesn’t help, some soapy water along the bead can make it easier for it to slide into place. Sometimes it just takes a few tries.
- Re-install the tire to the frame and you should be good to go. Double-check your tire pressure before the next ride to get it where you want it.