Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Last week’s Tech Talk, which consisted of tool recommendations for gift giving, attracted an interesting comment from roadie John A. Jauss about tubeless tire troubles.
I had pointed out Topeak’s Shuttle 1.2 tire lever (actually 2 levers in one) as helpful for flat fixing. Something about that product pick got John’s gears turning and he wrote in. Please note, what’s next in quotes is a copy/paste of the comment as written. I did not edit it because I’m not 100% certain exactly what he’s describing. But, I understand it enough to offer some suggestions on his tubular tire issues and input on his “miracle tool” idea. I think you might, too.
NOTES: By “gp 5000,” I assume John is referring to a Continental Grand Prix 5000 Tubeless tire. And, I think where he says “and removed the tube,” I think he means installed the tube (in order to ride home).
“When I saw this tool article I was hoping to see a new miracle tool for breaking tire beads from the tubeless ready rims that are about the only thing available today. After struggling with many in our group ride helping( I’m the one usually giving assistance) we finally got the bead broke loose on my gp 5000 that picked up a roofing nail dead center and removed the tube. Got home, put the stuck tire in a bench vice because we only managed to free up one side out on the road. Removed the rim tape and could see the dilemma. These rims( and I assume tubeless also[because one of our guys had to go pick up his girlfriend because he couldn’t get her tire off when she flatted and he’s worked in a bike shop]) have a raised lip that the beads pops over and God help ya when trying to remove the tire. I contemplated taking the wheels to my local machine shop and see if they could remove them. Instead, I got out my handy dandy dremel and ground down about six inches of it centered at the valve stem. I envision a tool that would be similar to the tire Jack that would have two fingers to hold the rim, go over the tire and have a flat blade that would press tire tire inward to pop it loose( picture an auto tire bead breaker) . Do you know of anything on the market? If not, we should invent one…sounds like another one of my million$ ideas. We could split 5o 50”
Thanks for commenting, John. I have a few points to make and I’m going to list them in order of priority.
Safety always comes first, so let’s start with what you said about using a Dremel tool to remove about 6 inches of the raised lip inside the rim. I can understand how frustrating not being able to remove a tire can be, so maybe you were venting and just joking. Grinding part of the rim off would certainly make it easier to remove a tire. But, it would also weaken the rim and could cause it to break, which might in turn result in a crash and serious injury.
If you did grind away your rim, I recommend rebuilding the wheel with a new rim ASAP to ensure your safety.
The Right Tool Makes a Difference
Actually, the reason the Topeak tire lever is part of my gift guide, is because it works to break tubeless tire beads free. I even said that in my little blurb. You might get one and give it a try next time.
I’m not saying it’s perfect, though – or even that it makes it easy. It doesn’t. You still have to wrestle with some tires to succeed. However, it’s long and wide enough to get a good grip on and the tip of the lever is thin (unlike many plastic tire levers) so you have a better chance of wiggling it between the tire bead and rim and twisting the lever to push the bead off the rim shelf.
Some Tubeless Tires are Poorly Designed
You mention Continental’s 5000 Tubeless tires, one of which I had to return because it was defective (so undersize it couldn’t even be put on a rim). Defective/undersize tubeless tires like that can be super hard to break free with even the best tire lever.
Unfortunately, you might not discover this until you’re out there struggling to fix a flat. But, whenever you find out your tires are like this, my recommendation is to replace them with tires that go on/off easier.
I know that’s an expensive proposition, so you may want to wear the tires out first and then when buying new ones, do not accept any tubeless tires that don’t go on/off with basic tools. The best thing is to buy from a bike shop or an outfit that allows returns. That way you can try them yourself and return them if you can’t get them on.
Fixing Tubeless Flats Without Tire Removal
One good thing is happening on the tubeless tire front related to too-tight tires that refuse to come off: multiple companies now offer tubeless tire patch kits, basically plugs that you push into punctures to seal them. They work similar to how car tire plugs work if you’ve ever seen one of those.
Tubeless tires usually have sealant in them and in most cases that travels to any hole and seals it. Larger holes like that nail in your tire can leave a hole too large for the sealant to close up. With a repair kit (here’s my recent review of Dynaplug’s with a video: https://www.roadbikerider.com/dynaplug-tubeless-tire-repair-kit-review/)
You don’t need to remove the wheel or tire. You just jab the plug into the hole (or a couple for larger cuts) and you’re good to keep riding. So, you might want to consider using one of these kits in the future rather than dealing with removing tubeless tires and installing a spare tube.
Inventing a “Miracle Tool” for Breaking Tubeless Tire Beads Locked onto Rims
As you know, John, even properly fitting tubeless road tires can lock on so tight that it takes a lot of force to break them free. And, you’re correct that it’s the raised lips inside both sides of the rim that are mainly at fault.
You need a tool that you can wedge down between the bead and the rim and then twist the tool to get the bead off the ledge it’s on on the rim. With a tire lever, sometimes you have to try many spots around the wheel before you finally find a place you can get the tool in. As long as you can find one spot somewhere around the wheel where you can jam the tool in between the bead and rim and start moving the bead off the ledge, you can usually get the tire to break free. But again, it can be a royal pain.
Making it more difficult can be any sealant that has dried and essentially glued the tire in place on the rim.
So I’m 100% with you on the idea for a tool for this that would make it easy. And, I’ve given it a ton of thought. One idea I have is to use the axle somehow and have a long arm that’s held on the axle on one end. On the other end would be a wedge-shaped piece to fit between the tire and rim.
Now that wedge-shaped “tire bead pusher” piece would slide up and down on the arm. And the arm would be threaded (or?) so that you could turn a knob that would drive the wedge down and get it firmly stuck down deep between the rim and bead. Next, there needs to be another clamp of sorts that works across the rim and by tightening its knob, the wedge would pull away from the rim/toward the tire and pull the bead off the ledge.
That’s just one idea. Ideally, any tool would be portable to take along. And, it would need to be compatible with different rim shapes and sizes. It has to be safe for all tires and rim materials.
Potential Tools that Might be Used to Start or for Inspiration
There’s at least one existing tool that might work for starters. Park Tool makes the PTS-1 Tire Seater, which possibly could work if it was modified by Park’s engineers/tool designers.
But, I’m thinking of Irwin’s Vise-Grip duckbill pliers https://amzn.to/3lYLjLr that could become a component of a tight tire forcer-offer. It needs something more to pull it down into wheels between the tire and rim – it’s extremely difficult to do that by hand pressure alone. Yet, it already has what appears to me to be the beginning of pinching jaws to force tubeless tires off rims – though they probably need to be further apart.
There you go, a few suggestions and a couple of miracle tool half ideas for your consideration. If you run with the ball and make a tool, John, I’ll look for you on ABC’s Shark Tank TV show or Kickstarter 😉
And, please don’t forget to replace that rim if you did grind it down. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.
Ride total: 9,842
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.