Note We found this tip on a non-US website and translated it. So if there are a few word goofs it was because of the translation. Although we feel all tires should be mounted by a professional. Some of you bone heads are going to try it on your own. So at least this offers you some direction. But remember it’s on you!
Because any project that involves just you will save you money. If you buy mail order tires at a bargain price, you’ll have to find the nearest tire-fitting service, and nine times out of 10 you’ll be charged the earth to have another supplier’s tires fitted to your rims. It can also save a lot of time and grief carting loose wheels somewhere, then having to wait for them to be done, or pick them up later.
As a rule of thumb, bikes with small rim sizes – say up to three-inch front and four-inch rear – only need muscle power to ‘break the beading’. That is, to break the airtight seal between the tire and the wheel’s rim wall. Larger rims obviously run with bigger, wider tires, and ideally a hydraulic bead-breaking machine should be used for this job – not the sort of device you’d find in every biker’s garage. But, as you’ll read here, there are cheaper ways to get round this.
What is required is a set of tire levers that are suitable for the job and a tire valve key (available from any car/bike spares shop) or pronged-type valve cap. Bicycle tyre levers aren’t man enough for the job. A half-decent set can be bought from a mail order firm for about £10 a pair – get friends to chip in, as levers are always in demand. Hard plastic rim protectors (£5 a pair) are a good investment too, as they prevent scratching the paint and the aluminum beneath.
As for your own ability, muscle power isn’t everything. Like most things in life, first-time anticipation is more worrying than the event itself. Practice makes perfect, so we respectfully suggest practicing on something like a Honda C50/70/90 wheel first.
Tubed or tubeless?
Bikes with wire-spoked wheels (generally trail bikes and small commuter bikes) more often than not run with tubes – as wire-spoked rims aren’t airtight unless the spokes are mounted outside of the rim (as on some BMW GS models). More bikes today have cast or forged aluminum wheels that run tubeless-type tires and while the fitting of these and tubed tires is similar, the addition of a tube makes fitting trickier – more care is needed as ‘nipping’ a tube with a tire lever and putting a hole in it is easily done.
1. Deflate the tire by depressing the valve before removing it fully with a valve key – high pressure in the tire can cause the valve to fly out and disappear. If a tube is fitted, loosen the valve’s securing nut but do not remove, just unwind it to the top of the valve, so the tube can move away from the rim and won’t be trapped by a tire lever.
2. Several methods can be used to ‘break’ the rim/tire seal. On small-sized tires, the heel of a boot placed on the tire, as close to the rim as possible, and forced downwards to push the tire into the rim’s well (center) while pulling up on a spoke will suffice. Turn wheel over and repeat. Put down carpet or cardboard to prevent damage to rim or disc.
3. Breaking the beading in a vice is a cheap and safer alternative, and more suitable for larger tires. With the jaws open to the max, place the wheel in the vice so the top of the jaws are within 5mm of the rim. Holding the wheel in place, slowly and carefully (to avoid marking the rim) tighten the vice until the seal is broken. Repeat for the other side.
4. For around £60, a purpose-made bead breaker is the safest and easiest way to break any tyre rim seal without damage. They come in a variety of styles, ranging from elaborate scissor-like mechanisms to over-sized G-clamps. What may seem an unnecessary expense can quickly be recouped from friends, or even at trackdays.
5. Place the wheel flat on the floor, preferably on a mat to avoid any damage. With both hands either side of the tire, squeeze hard to help the tire drop in to the ‘well’ (middle) of the wheel. This makes fitting a tire lever and removal of the tire a lot easier – you won’t be trying to stretch the tire off the rim.
6. With one tire lever, carefully insert the tip between rim and tire, push it away from you and fit a rim protector. Lift the lever so the lip of the tire lifts over the rim. Hold this lever down with your knee and repeat with another lever 3-4 inches further along…
7. …Remove the first lever and lift the tire lip another 3-4ins further along from the second lever. Work the levers and protectors round the tire until its lip is clear of the rim. Stand the wheel up and feed a lever from the opposite side under the tire and through to the rim (with protector) and lift the lever to push the tire off the rim.
8. Take the new tire and paint some lubricant on to the outer lips of both sides of the tyre to aid fitting – especially when blowing the tire up – so it butts on to the rim easily. Professional tire services use ‘tire soap’. If this is not available, use a thick, soapy solution of liquid hand soap and water. Swarfega can be used if applied liberally.
9. Ensure the tire’s rotation of direction arrow (marked on sidewall) matches with the wheel’s (cast on rim). Slide, pull and push one side of the tire on to the rim by placing the rim on to the lower part of the tire, holding it in place with a foot and pushing the rim into the tire from the bottom – lubricant, levers and protectors are a must.
10. With the wheel flat on the floor and the open side of the tire facing up, carefully feed in the tube (if fitted). Blow it up slightly to assume its circular shape so it doesn’t get trapped between tire and rim. Don’t screw down the valve-securing nut yet as you need some slack when fitting the last part of the tire on the rim.
11. Starting at 180° from the valve, carefully start to lift the tire lip over and on to the rim, alternating from left to right, so the last part of the lip to go in to the rim is at the valve. Try to keep the fitted lip (underside) in the rim’s well to make fitting easier. When lifting the last part over, push the tube valve back into the rim to prevent it being trapped.