Mounting tight bicycle tires

I can generally mount bicycle tires to a rim just by palming it into place. There are some rim / tire combinations that are especially tough, though. Continental tires seem especially to be sized a little bit small. Here are some tips to help you install those stubbornly tight tires.

  • Warm the tire: Warm the tire to soften it up and (maybe) expand the size a little. Some people suggest putting the tire into a clothes dryer; I personally think that’s insane. Use a hair dryer, a space heater, or even lay the tire in the sun on hot asphalt.
  • Baby powder: I’ve never tried this personally, but some people apply talcum powder on the tire bead to help it slip over the rim.
  • Placement: The valve is the thickest part of the tube and, hence, the most difficult place to push the tire onto the wheel because there’s less space to work with. Start hooking the tire onto the rim around at the valve, so the last place you need to force into place is directly opposite the valve.
  • Technique: Many people try to push the tire into place with their thumbs. The technique is to hook your fingers around the back of the tire and palm the tire into place.

Have I missed anything? Are there other kung fu tricks to convince a tire to pop into place?

21 Comments

  • kidpurple
    February 22, 2010 - 8:23 am | Permalink

    a little warm soapy water on a washcloth will get a tight tire to slip right on.

  • February 22, 2010 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    Ive actually used the spoke-hook side of a tire lever a couple of times in situations where my fingers just were not strong enough to do the trick. I start by placing the hook on the inside of the rim – between the rim and the tire – at a place where the bead is already within the wheel. The lever pointing towards the section of the tire that you are trying to get on. Then, drag the lever towards the unset bead. Not pretty, but gets the job done.

  • Corrie
    February 22, 2010 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    Often the problem with the last little bit is the first little bit. Start at the vlave as explained above and work your way around to the opposite side. Before trying for those last few inches, though, go back to the valve side and squeeze the tire to the rim working back around both directions from the valve stem. The beed is not always set. You'll hear and feel it snap into place. That creates needed extra slack so you can now “palm” it in to the rim. Hint: a little air in the tube will help you keep that tube in the rim instead of peaking out where it can be pinched. If you've put too much air, just ease a little out so the tube just fits.

  • February 22, 2010 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    Ah yes, of course! A big bonus for this one is you can get warm soapy water from a gas station or fast food restroom if you flat while on the road.

  • rsayers
    February 22, 2010 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    Great topic, I have fits getting my wire-bead panaracers on without causing pinchflats.

  • February 22, 2010 - 9:44 am | Permalink

    Aha… using the palm is a good tip! I didn't know that. I've also used the spoke hook on the end of the tire iron and it helps immensely. Seeing that I have 4 tire irons, I have actually broken out 3 at a time to put a tight tire on a rim, hooking two of them at 60 and 120 degrees with the spoke hook and messing with the third to wedge the bead on.

  • Mark
    February 22, 2010 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    I am a huge fan of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They wear like iron, do not get flats, and are not too easy to mount. I warm the tire, and use a bit of lube on the rim – I use 'Polywater A' which is a water soluble lube, designed for pulling cables through conduit. Once the tire is mounted, I wash off the rim with warm water so that I can brake.

  • February 22, 2010 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks Corrie – I didn't know this technique before.

  • February 22, 2010 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    I confess I've busted out the tire levers on occasion as well.

  • February 22, 2010 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    Ah, another trick I hadn't heard of. I need to remember this one!

  • SueJ
    February 22, 2010 - 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I try to save my thumbs for the last stretch, and just usemy palms (the base) and gross motor first. THen I can use my unfatigued thumbs and wrists and arms.. but I do have to summon up adrenaline adn get mad at the tire, usually.
    One of my bikes seems to prefer to have the tube completely uninflated for easier installation. Rest of 'em I give it a little air.

  • doug_in_seattle
    February 22, 2010 - 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I always use my Pedro's lever reversed, so the curve bit points towards the rim. When I get to the last but of bead that is so hard to get into the rim, I bust it out and to jam the tire over the hook. I haven't yet pinched a tube this way. I figure, it always works, I always have my levers, why bother perfecting a tools-free method?

  • Pingback: Hybrid Bikes – The Best of Mountain Bikes and Comfort Bikes in a | Bicycle Mountain Bike

  • George Desser
    June 4, 2010 - 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Your first tip – warming the tire did the trick for me. I had gotten a Speciaized tire and it just wouldn't go on. Heating it with a hair dryer did the trick. Thanks.

  • June 5, 2010 - 10:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the feedback, George. Glad it works for you.

  • SamanthaCherley
    July 21, 2010 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

    You are right about that tip of worming the tire before starting to mount it.You have a great article, keep up the good work.There are many people who appriciate your piece of advise.

    _________________________________________________________
    San Diego tires

  • Mark Davidson
    September 24, 2010 - 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I had a tight tire. I tried warming and lubicating, but couldn’t get the last 10 inches or so on a 26″ rim. So, I used a 10 lb removable weight from a barbell. It was about 8″ diameter and 1′ thick with a hole in the middle for the bar so you get the picture. I lay the tire down on a piece of wood so I could apply force with the round barbell. By the way it had a nice smooth and rounded edge so there was no chance of tearing the tire. I rolled the weight along the tire next to the rim while bearing down with my own weight on it in the direction I was trying to force the tire on, and in about 10 seconds I had it on with no major force applied by me except for my own weight.

  • September 24, 2010 - 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Very clever! Mind over matter for sure.

  • September 24, 2010 - 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Very clever! Mind over matter for sure.

  • Mcyak
    March 9, 2011 - 5:24 pm | Permalink

    My son runs a harley repair shop.Got a small bottle of what’s called tire snop (or pig snot) put some in a eye drop bottle and stuck it in the seatbag.
    Ran it around the tire bead before installing. Tire went on with ease.
    Bicycling Mag just touted the tires in the dryer deal.
    Might want to give em a talkin to! :o)

  • Pingback: Mounting Tight Bicycle Tire to Wheel Rim Without Tire Levers

  • Leave a Reply