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
I have had the opposite issue with some tires….notably Schwalbe clinchers. I do not know if they have a mfg issue but I have purchased more than one set that were actually too large (diameter to great) and would not seat properly on the rim or when they appeared to seat, would just blow off when pumped to recommended pressure. Sometimes they would blow off when riding. (which of course is a safety issue).
Haven’t been able to design a tool to fix this:-)
JOHN A JAUSS says
Hi jim….I actually didn’t say tubeless but ya assumed tubeless tire when was referring to “tubeless ready alloy rims”. Sorry about that. Continental makes both clincher and tubeless GP5000 as I’msure you know. I am running clincher tube tires. I have zero personal experience with tubeless tires. In reference to your concern about my fix grinding that “extra lip” off the inside of my rim I can’t really see that it would cause a failure. Up till now no alloy rims had that added lip and I simply removed it. Don’t get any more gray hair worrying about it, it’ll be ok. I really like your idea of a pry tool that would utilize the axel/quick release. I’m going to have to work on that. Thinking of a design that would fold/collapse for portability.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for explaining and apologies for any confusion, John. If you invent a tool that works, please let us know.
I have had success using heavy leather gloves on both hands with a lot of force to roll the tire off the rim. The Topeak tire irons look promising too. I’ve also reverted to steel tire irons as they are stronger but be careful of damaging the rim.
I’ve also returned Conti GP 5000 tubeless because they were too small for both Stans alloy tubeless rims and Hunt carbon rims. I got one on once but it was a wrestling match getting on and off. Too bad, nice tire otherwise.
I’ve run tubeless road tires for several years and have found Hutchinson and Maxxis to be the most reliable for mounting/dismounting and performance.
I agree with Jim about replacing the wheel if you ground it. Sounds like a crash waiting to happen.
Chris Borkman says
I have tubeless tires on 3 bikes in the family. Generally, the rare flat has been repaired with sealant and/or inject the worm-like repair solution, except when once a rock trashed the sidewall and a rescue was needed. I don’t bring a spare tube along anymore since I have yet been able to break the bead seal on a tire even with a Pedro Downhill tire iron. I’m waiting for a solution or a guide to what tires work best on what rims, but until then, worn out tires have had to be sliced thus trashed to get them off the rim.
Richard Gray says
I have HED Ardennes plus wheels on my Seven with Conti Gatorskins. Very difficult to remove as the beads will not easily break free. I used a rim lubricant and an easy jack tool to remove and lots of Stans rude seal in the tubes to prevent flats. This is a major problem for wheel makers and tire companies to get the fit tolerances right.
Steve Evans says
I have the same Hed rims and really like them, but using Conti GP 5000 tubeless is a serious problem. I ran the tires with tubes for about 200 miles to stretch the tires then went tubeless. I love the ride and feel, but always have a sense of dread that I will need to remove a tire while on a ride. I have read that there were batches of the Hed rims that were not properly sized, but no sufficient proof. Heard the same thing about the Conti 5000s. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for no flats.
Jim Langley says
Thanks, Steve. I actually called Continental about their bad GP5000 tubeless tires and they told me that they had bad ones, FYI. So, it’s not an issue with your HED rims. Just try a different brand of tubeless tire and you will be okay. Or carry a plug type tubeless tire patch kit so you never have to try to take the tire off.
Joan Oppel says
Jim – I have a tool suggestion for getting tires back on a tight rim/tire combination. I used these yesterday to help a cyclist I came across on the side of the road, struggling with that exact problem. Schwalbe tire levers – here’s the Amazon link so you can see them:
https://amzn.to/2KbNrCu. They have the requisite very thin lip for removing tires.
But the secret is the other end, a “clip” which is inserted between tire bead and rim when you have the last bit of tire to insert but it’s so tight that nothing works*. Using these clips on both sides of the too tight tire edge to hold the already inserted section in place, then allows the remaining section to be slowly worked in, bit by bit, sliding the clip along to hold each little now inserted section in place. Took me just a couple of minutes to finish off inserting his too tight section with my hands alone!
There’s a video that explains use of the clip. My arthritic hands have a little difficulty inserting the clip but I’ve gotten better at it over time. Here’s the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wspSS_LX_Y
*The asterisk up there is to explain that by the time that really tight section is left I’ve already used every trick you have “taught” me over years of reading your articles, at least those tricks that are available roadside. The Schwalbe levers are like having two sets of toe straps at hand!
Jim Langley says
Thanks a lot for the Schwalbe tire lever recommendation, Joan. I haven’t seen these or tried them. I’m going to order a set and give them a try. The locking bead tab is a clever idea for helping install tight tires. However, it’s usually dangerous installing tubed tires this way since the tube’s in there and while prying the tight tire on with the other lever, there’s a risk of pinching the tube with the lever. (That’s why mechanics usually only use hands to install tires.)
For tubeless tires there’s no tube to pinch, so levering on a tight tire can work.
But, what I want to find out is if that little tab on the lever would fit in between a locked-on tubeless tire bead and the rim? If it would, then you could possibly use the Schwalbe lever to remove a locked in place tubeless tire. John’s problem he wrote about was not being able to get a tire off. So, I’m curious to see if the Schwalbes might do the trick.
Thanks for the recommendation. They look like nice levers!
Joan Oppel says
Jim – the tab on the lever is only used between tire bead and rim Putting the tires on is strictly hands only! You do NOT use a second lever to pry the tire on, that indeed will pinch the tube. The second lever is used on the other end of the tight section (check the video, it’s only a couple minutes long). That locks the already installed sections in place, giving you or me, maneuvering room with hands to get the tight section on. Did it yesterday again – lock two lever tabs in place, move a little tight section onto the rim, slide tab along locking that in place – etc etc. Hands only on getting the tire on the rim. Have not used tubeless tires, but the tab is worth trying to unlock the bead from the rim.
A large part of the problem getting tires on or off rims can be the fact that the channel running down the inside center of rims is now higher than was common in the ‘old days’ Rim makers have done this to help tubeless to seal more readily upon set up. It also means the bead cannot settle there as you pull more of the tire over the opposite rim edge. A pain in the butt for sure. Some tires and rims will be worse than others. Good luck!
Dave Champlin says
John, clincher bike rims have all had hook beads for at least 50 years. the “hookless” types are a recent development with tubeless tires. In any case, removing the bead material will significantly reduce the strength of the rim. Aluminum is not very forgiving in fatigue and your new nothc just added a significant stress riser along with the pure strength reduction. That rim WILL fail prematurely.
I recently got something called the Kool-Stop Tire Lever Bead Jack Lever Tool. I was finally able to get one of my tires on those “tubeless-compatible” rims. I was still a struggle, but with regular tire levers it was totally impossible.
I’ve used the Kool Stop for several years and like using it at home but I feel it is too big to carry for fixing flats when I’m on the road.. I’d like to try Joan’s recommendation for those damaged tubes I’ve struggled to replace when I’m too far from home.
Stephen Turk says
I have several sets of wheels with tubeless-ready rims. No problems mounting GP5000 clinchers (regular – I have not tried the tubeless version), GP 4 Seasons, Challenge Gravel Grinders, or other clinchers. Two key points:
Use a thin rim tape – I use a tubeless tape such as the DT Swiss tape. Do not use a thick cloth tape such as Velox!
Make sure the tire beads are in the center well all around, not hung up on the raised section. That’s why the center well is there!
Joe Price says
I can relate to this issue extremely well. I had a flat while riding a supported bike tour (Cycle Oregon) last year and if there wasn’t a SAG vehicle I would have been stranded. I was using a lightweight carbon tubeless clincher disc wheelset. However I was using tubes in my clincher tires. I tried for 30 minutes and could not get the bead out of the bead well. In fact, the bead is in there so tightly there isn’t a tool made that you can slide between the inside of the rim and under or against the bead to get it to budge. I was eventually taken to a mechanic who had strong hands and he wrestled with it for another 20 minutes before he was able to budge the tire bead out of the bead well.
A good friend of mine can remove the tire with ease and showed me how to do it. He basically gathered the bulk of the exposed flat tire in the palm of his hands and put both of his thumbs in the sidewall. He them just rolled the tire away from him and out of the bead while using the rim on the opposite side as leverage . After he showed me I tried it over and over with him watching me but I had no success. My thumbs and hands just aren’t strong enough to do it. I do a lot of solo riding in remote areas and have been so concerned about getting a flat and not being able to get back to where I need to go I’ve quit using those wheels.
I saw a tool in a local hardware store that I think will work and it’s small enough to carry with me. It’s basically a strong plastic clamp with wide jaws on each side (similar to the vise grips but smaller). You would press the clamp on both sides of the tire, then roll the tire out of the bead on one side using the rim as leverage. You’d need to be careful to avoid damaging the rim. Then you could use tire tools to work the bead out of the well the rest of the way. The other tool that I think might work would be a set of small rubber pliers—like used to come in a kids tool kit! Just need something that won’t damage the sidewall or the rim and you can grip and pry with it!! Plus it needs to be small enough to carry with you.
If anyone else comes up with something I’d really like to know!!
Jim Langley says
Thanks, Joe. For your designer’s notepad, here’s something I’ve tried and even this won’t work on the worst stuck tubeless tire beads. What I did is clamp the tire in a bench vise so that the jaws are crushing the tire right at the very top of the rim.
Now, you would think that a fully closed bench vise gripping a tire like that would allow you to rock or twist the wheel and get the tire beads to break away from the rim, but they don’t, they remain stuck. Now, if you get someone to help with a flat wide tipped tool and you wrestle with the wheel trying to pull the bead away while the other person jams that tool between the bead and rim and twists it, you usually can get the bead to break free.
But, it’s pretty ridiculous how difficult some of these tires can be to remove. Which is why I think a proper tool would be so handy to have. I can sometimes get some by hand, too, but I want a tool that lets everybody get them off and easily, too.
Joe Price says
If the jaws open wide enough and these aren’t too big they might work:
I might see if this will work:
Another idea but I really don’t want to carry something metalic