Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
In several recent columns like this one. I’ve offered tool tips and ideas for a common and extremely frustrating issue with some tubeless tire and tubeless-ready rim combinations.
The issue is that, when the tires are installed, the tire beads become locked onto the rim. There are shelves on each side of the rim designed to lock and hold the tire beads in place. The problem is that they hold too well and when it comes time to remove a tubeless tire locked on like this, it can be monumentally difficult to remove.
If you carry a tubeless plug patch kit, such as the ones by Dynaplug (see my recent review) you may never have to remove a tubeless tire to fix a flat on a ride. But you’ll still run into the issue when it comes time to replace the tire, if you work on your own bike and have tubeless road tires and rims with locking beads.
Even if you have tire levers that work well on other tires, they usually won’t work for removing the locked on tubeless tires you can run into. The problem with standard tire levers is their tips are too thick to fit between the tire bead and the rim. You can try to jam it in-between but the mechanical advantage of the bead lock designed to not let go no matter what, prevents getting anything too thick between the rim and tire. There isn’t enough space, either.
If you’re lucky, instead of using a tire lever, you can push on the sides of the tire with your hands to try to shove the bead at one spot off the rim shelf there. If you try spots every few inches around both sides of the rim, you might find one spot that releases. And if so, that one free spot will create the slack needed to get the tire off all the way around on that one side. Then you just have to repeat the process on the other side to unlock that bead and remove the tire.
Dreaming of a Custom Tire Tool
As I wrote in previous Tech Talks about stubborn locked on tubeless tires, I’ve been trying to invent a tool that both fits in-between the tubeless bead and the rim and also has a pinching action to push the bead off the rim. I have not had much success – lots of ideas, but nothing I thought would work with all tires and rim types I would like to use it on (for road and mountain tubeless tires – MTB tires can be much worse than road).
Finally, the other day while fighting to remove a locked on tubeless tire, I had a eureka moment. This tire was even worse than a typical locked on tubeless because I had put a new tube in to fix a flat. The sealant in the tire stuck to the tube gluing it inside the tire and this made it even more difficult to push the tire beads off the rim.
Realizing I couldn’t force this tire off with my hands – or any of the regular bicycle tire tools in my shop – and I have about everything ever made, it dawned on me that I might have a much more basic tool to do the trick.
Use with Care
The tool that worked the magic was a good old fashioned putty knife. Here are some photos so you can see the type. With its oversize handle you have a great grip for forcing the tool in between the tire and rim. You have to work at it a bit with the goal of getting the entire width of the blade resting on the rim.
Once the tool’s blade is fully down in between the tire and rim, you can use the tool as a lever and also twist it to get its stiff wide blade to push the tire bead off the rim shelf. You use the tool carefully so as not to jab any sharp edges into the tire or rim. You’re just trying to get the tire bead to move toward the center of the rim.
It took a few tries to free the tire, but the putty knife worked well. I had to be sure to keep it down against the rim and focus on moving the tire not in any way scratching or poking the rim or tire.
If you try this with a new putty knife, you want one that has a blade stiff enough not to bend. That way using it as a lever or twisting it to push the tire the blade will be strong enough to have the desired effect. If the new blade has any sharp edges, be sure to dull them with a file or piece of sandpaper, etc.
I hope this tool tip helps you with locked on tubeless tires. If you give it a try, please comment and let everyone know how it worked. And, please comment with your favorite tools for removing locked on tubeless tires.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. A pro mechanic & cycling writer for more than 40 years, he’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Tune in to Jim’s popular YouTube channel for wheel building & bike repair how-to’s. Jim’s also known for his cycling streak that ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.