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Converting your current rims to a tubeless tire system
"Going tubeless" has a good side, and a bad side. Before following the instructions on this page, you should read our feature article on Tubeless Biking.

Rim liners are available from Stan's No-Tubes. These let you convert a standard rim to go tubeless. The rim liner weighs about 50 grams (1/4 the weight of a tube). Be sure you're getting the correct width rim strip.

If you're adventuresome, you can make your own rim liner by cutting a kid's-size bicycle inner tube (a tube designed for a 20 or 24-inch wheel) into a strip. Or, you can put strapping tape over the rim holes, and use a standard UST valve.

Hint:  The strip should be just wide enough to lean against the 90-degree corner where the tire's bead will sit (see photos below), while the center is fully pushed down against the tape that covers your spokes. (An inner-tube strip will be thinner in depth than the commercial rim liners, and may not provide an adequate seal. It depends on your rim. If you decide to cut your own rim-strip, good luck.)
If you're using a standard UST rim with sealant in your tire, it's handy to have a valve with a removable core. Sealant can plug the valve, but the "glop" is easily cleaned if the core can be taken out of the stem.

The valve on the left is a standard UST tubeless valve. On the right is valve with a removable core. The sides of the cap threads (the silver part just under the valve knob) are flattened so a wrench can be used to unscrew the core. Commercial rim-liners come with a removable valve core, while your "home made" rim strip's valve will eventually plug with coagulated sealant.

You may need to enlarge your valve-stem hole to make room for the valve-stem to seat. If the rim liner won't sit smoothly down into the valley in the center of the rim because the valve stem sticks up, enlarge the hole slightly with a rose-head countersink, or with a drill bit. Be sure you don't make the opening too large!

Hint:  Schraeder (automotive type) valves have a removable core, and fit on a compressor without an adapter. If the hole in your rim allows, consider a rim liner with the "big valve."

A broad plastic liner (factory-installed on the wheel) will interfere with the seating of the rim liner. Cut if off.

Cover the spoke heads with rim tape. It's critical that the spoke heads don't cut a hole in your rubber rim liner. Standard cloth rim tape usually works well. Strapping tape (tape with fiber bands embedded) is strong enough to resist cutting by the spoke heads.

Hint: A good combination is a layer of 1/2-inch strapping tape, worked down around each spoke head, then one-inch electrical tape (plastic tape) overtop to add some extra resistance to sealant leaks.
Stick the valve stem in the hole, and stretch the rim liner onto the rim. It's OK if the area with the valve stem sticks up a tiny bit (up to 1/8 inch) higher than the surrounding rim strip. But if the rim strip has to turn downward to reach the spot where the tire's edge will sit, or if there's a huge cavity under the rim liner, you may need to enlarge the valve stem hole a little more.
Work around the rim, centering the rim liner so it touches the inner corner of the rim on both sides, all the way around.

Now put your tire on. We're using a standard tire here. A larger-volume tire (diameter 2.0 or greater) is best for a tubeless system. Since you'll be running lower pressure, you need a larger volume of air to keep the rim from cutting the tire on those roots and sharp rock edges.

Hint:  While you won't pinch-flat, you can slice or burst the tire itself more easily when tubeless. I recommend a 2.1 tire for most riders, and a 2.3 if you're a big guy doing "major violence" while riding. Stan's no-tubes web site has a list of recommended tires. Look for thicker sidewalls, with plenty of rubber covering the cords.

Brush soapy water or tire sealant around the rim, covering the edge of the rim strip, and the bead of the tire. (For a first-time test inflation, use soapy water. Once you've used the system a while and predictably inflate your tire without problems, I recommend that you brush tire sealant onto the strip and tire bead. The tire will be immediately sealed so you can hop on and ride right away without leaks.)

Hint:  To get a new just-out-of-the-box tire to seal, inflate it with an inner tube and let it sit a few days. Then pull out the tube and try again.

Work around the tire, forcing the bead out against the side of the rim. Using both hands, push your thumbs down in the center of the tire, while your fingers drag the sidewall of the tire outward. When it looks like the bead is sitting against the sidewall (and on the rim liner) all the way around, you're ready to inflate.
Hint:  If you can easily make out the details of the threads inside the tire sidewall of your non-UST tire, it's probably too thin to make a good tubeless tire. Stan's sealant can't help you if the threads split apart in a thin tire sidewall.
Initial inflation is best done with a compressed-air source. If the fit between the rim liner and tire bead is snug, you can get by with a good floor pump. (Don't even DREAM of doing this with a mini-pump! The air-flow is inadequate.) Spot leaky areas and drag the tire sidewall out against the rim in those spots. Keep pumping rapidly, constantly, until you get the tire bead to seal against the rim. Pump to around 40 PSI and check that the tire will hold the pressure for 20-30 minutes.
Hint:  If you inflate your tire at the gas station, it must have a compressor tank. An electric pump (the type you feed quarters into) won't do.
Now it's time to add sealant. For an initial inflation, you need about 60 ml (2 ounces). You can crack the tire away from the rim and pour it in...

Note: Some riders have alleged that Stans sealant may have contributed to tire rupture. I don't think this should discourage you from using it. Click here to read more.

Hint:  To avoid slow loss of tire pressure during the first day of riding, brush or rub a coating of tire sealant around the bead of the tire before inflating it.

Or you can remove the valve core to put it in directly through the valve stem with a squeeze-bottle. This is less messy. It may also maintain the seal between your rim and tire, so re-inflation is easier. Of course, you need a valve with a removable core.

Hint:  Sealant should be replaced every couple of months, because it tends to gel up with time.

Squirt the sealant in, then replace the valve core. Use a small wrench to tighten the core. (If you finger-tighten only, the valve will be leaking in the middle of your next ride!)

Hint:  You can get 2-ounce squeeze bottles at a craft store. Cut the opening big enough that the spout just barely fits into the stem (around 3 mm = 3/16 of an inch), so "chunks" in the sealant will pass into the tire without blocking the spout of the bottle.

Now work the sealant around the tire. Holding the wheel horizontally, tip it slightly down, then slightly up. Rotate the wheel about six inches, and repeat. Continue until you've worked all the way around the wheel a couple of times.

Hint:  Particularly with standard (non-tubeless) rims, some brands of non-UST tires may pop off the rim when you turn hard. You want thick sidewalls and thick bead -- a tire that's a little harder to get onto (and off of) the rim. See Stan's no-tubes list of recommended tires.

Turn the wheel over, and repeat the tip-down, tip-up process all the way around the wheel. This gets sealant on the opposite bead of the tire.

Important Notes:  When you go tubeless, you need to invest in a CO2-powered inflator. Yes, you can add air using a mini-pump. But if you're forced to take the tire off while in the woods, you won't be able to seal the tire without the power of a CO2 inflator. (A CO2 cartridge has just enough air to fill one tire. Pack more than one!)

Despite being tubeless, you should carry an inner tube in your kit. If disaster occurs, you can take off the rim liner, stick the tube inside, and ride the bike.

See our related pages:
[Fixing a sealant-filled tire]   [Repair of a dry tubeless tire]   [Tubeless valve cleanout]   [Tubeless Hints]

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