In the beginning, tubeless mountain bike tire systems and hack setups caused more frustration than they saved and generally made the garage floor look like the Ghostbusters set after Slimer wafted through. Folks who were pulled by the magnet of “no flats” and running cyclocross-race pressures in mountain bike tires pressed on with the latex lament.
We cut valves from road tires, wrap rims in three or four layers of duct tape or slice open 26-inch tubes to seal our rims, add sealant (sometimes sprinkled a rainbow of glitter), fire up the most powerful compressor we can find, soap the rims and tires down to help everything slip into place, and cross our fingers that the bead seats instead of explosively launching over the rim wall. It’s been a trying work in progress.
At one point I nearly gave up on tubeless and went back to patching flats. My front tire blew off the rim in a hard compression while I was descending as fast as I knew how. My body sailed violently over the bars, landing on a girthsome cedar stump. On the walkout, lightly nursing a pair of cracked ribs, I hated every last thing about tubeless tires.
Fast forward ten years, after a massive amount of R&D, and that hate has shifted to near adoration. I suffered a single flat that couldn’t be repaired with a tire plug in the past two years, and that puncture was with a non-tubeless XC race tire. I still pack an emergency tube, which only comes off my frame when I need to give it to someone who punctured a tube. I feel no need to cross fingers or fret a jinx. This system works well.
With today’s tubeless-ready tires and rims, and notably better sealant options, seasoned tubeless tire wrestlers can set up a new rim and mount a tire with sealant in under 30 minutes, or replace an existing tread in half that time.
Yet, despite recent innovations, tubeless tires can still have quirks and complications. This article is a compilation of the tubeless setup and hack info that we have shared over the years, and some additional tips and tricks to help streamline the process.
General Tubeless Tire Setup
Tubeless Conversion Install
This video from Stan’s No Tubes outlines the process of setting up a tubeless tire from start to shred.
How to Convert Non-Tubeless Rims
Dusty Betty has created a clear set of steps for converting non-tubeless rims to tubeless.
How to Install Tubeless Tires
Here is a rather entertaining take on tubeless.
GMBN shares a few unique notes on setup.
Finally, here’s Park’s suggested procedures for mounting a tubeless system.
Tubeless Setup with Tire Inserts
The Cush Core installation method, including some helpful tips for more general tubeless tire mountain:
The Huck Norris method:
Effetto Mariposa’s take on insert installation:
Additional tips and tricks
Every Presta valve cap can be cut into a Shrader pump adaptor. With this hack you can set up your tires with the compressor at a local gas station. It will also come in handy if you find yourself stranded on a ride without a Presta pump option.
If you’re feeling crafty, try this sealant recipe that reportedly saves a boatload of cash:
How To Patch Larger Holes in Tubeless Tires
How To Use Tire Plugs to Save Your Ride
Setting Up Fat Bike Tubeless Tires
More info on repairing tubeless punctures:
Mounting and removing a tire without tools:
Tips for removing old sealant from the inner surface of a tire:
Seating and unseating super tight tires:
Seth shares some thoughts on adding glitter to the sealant:
Check out Phil’s video on making your own tubeless tire inflator:
Product Reviews of Tubeless Systems, Inserts, and Extras
Tubeless Tire Sealant Throwdown
We test sealants fro Orange Seal, Finish Line, Peaty’s and Stans, see which sealant rises above in long-term test.
Tyreinvader by Effetto Mariposa
Cush Core Tire Inserts
Vittorias Air-Liner Tire Insert
Crank Brother’s Klic Booster Pump
MilKit Booster Tubeless Bottle
Milkit Tubeless Valves and Syringe
Flat Stopper Sealant
What did we miss? Share your tubeless tricks and resources in the comments so we can add them to the list.
Any recommended ways to get it out of clothing?
Had to add a tube after I split a sidewall and that was a mess! Heard hand sanitizer will break it down but nervous about using them on the clothes
Hot cycle in the washer helped but not enough. Its orange seal if it makes a difference
Something similar is probably in there in one of the vids, but I always had trouble getting the tire beads to seat in the rims (getting to that glorious PING! sound). I had in my bikepacking kit a length of paracord that had clips on either end with a pinch system for pulling the cord to either one. You can get them at any big box home improvement store.
Grabbed these in a motel room one night as I was frustratingly trying to correct a tubeless issue the night before a 4 day ride through the New Mexican desert. Wrapped it around the circumference of the tire and pulled the cord tight, pushing the tire walls close enough to the side walls of the rim that I was able to get the tire to seat with a floor pump no problem. I’d been struggling with this tire for the better part of an hour. Did this and it popped right in. Did the second tire even faster.
It’s my go to method. It’s worked for me so well that I can even seat my entire tire with my little trail crank bros pump.
Great tip! I’ve used a similar method to seat a tubeless wheelbarrow tire. If you’ve ever tried to mount one of those, you know how loose they can be! I used a ratcheting nylon strap around the circumference and it worked great.
One overlooked bit of info (at least overlooked by me) is that CO2 will dry Stans out super fast. So, if like me, you use CO2 to set the bead, do it without sealant, then deflate, add sealant, and re-inflate with a pump. I use the syringe through the valve for adding sealant, but breaking a small section of bead should still allow the bead to be set with a floor pump after.
If using CO2 on the trail, check your sealant afterward and probably be safe and top off.
Berryman’s Tire Seal-R is worth a try. Its available at Tractor Supply in the U.S, at $30 per gallon and comes with pump nozzle amd hose that fits over a presta valve (with core removed. I’ve tried all the various bicycle-specific sealant brands, and like this the best. Its pretty viscous and does not dry out or create the “Stan’s Boogers”. Just throwing it out there as an option for folks.
I just resorted to the Teflon trick, but I’m kind of surprised that in 2021 no one has come up with a better rim/valve interface, or a rim strip with and integrated valve.