Includes: 2.7-ounce tin of Bead Slip, 1 application brush and a cool Uncle Dick’s decal/sticker
Other: Brush 10-packs are $7.99 (choice of hard or soft bristles)
How Obtained: sample from company
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: a super-tight tire
Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip is a clever new product from Rich Travis, a former product manager at SRAM and Hayes. According to the trade publication Bicycle Retailer, “Rich designed the Hayes Stroker brake family and worked on Manitou products before giving up his industry job to get back to the simple life, managing a service department at a bike shop.
“After seeing the difficulty that mechanics had mounting some tire/rim combinations, Travis brought in some bead slip from an auto tire shop, and his mechanics couldn’t stop raving about the stuff.
“Word got around to other bike shops and pretty soon Travis was supplying other shops with the stuff and decided to get serious and develop packaging that worked for bike shops. He is now developing other service tools under the Uncle Dick’s brand.”
Slippery stuff eases tire installation
Car tire places use a soap to lube up tires and make them easier to install. This also helps protect nice alloy wheels from the powerful tool the tire shops have for prying and levering heavy, stiff car tires onto rims.
Bicycle tires are much easier to mount than car tires and don’t even require tools. But there are tight tire and rim combinations that can make installation more difficult. And if you botch the installation, such as by getting the tube trapped beneath the tire bead or by forgetting to get the beads into the center of the rim, the tire can seem almost impossible to install. That can get frustrating fast.
Tricks for dealing with tight tires like this include applying some soapy water with a brush around the tire, or simply spraying it with your water bottle if you’re fixing a flat on the road. Some shop and home mechanics like to dust the tube with talcum powder to make it and the tire more slippery. And, in desperation, you might reach for some Windex or some other slippery spray or goop you have around.
Uncle Dick’s to the rescue
Bead Slip is the first tire soap I’ve seen for bicycle tires. At first blush, I wondered if maybe this was one of those new products trying to solve a problem nobody has. I mean, car shops have had tire soap forever, and bicycle shops have never had it in my many years in the biz.
But then I thought of all the emails from people frustrated by their tight tires. And of all the Tech Talks I’ve written trying to help. Also, bike tires and rims keep changing with tubeless technology and different materials like Scandium and carbon.
So I think Rich is on to something with Bead Slip, and when he asked if RoadBikeRider would like to try some, I had him send it right out. My one concern was whether or not I would be the right person to judge its effectiveness since it’s not hard for me to install tires in the first place.
I decided to try it with the toughest setup I could rig up. This consisted of a Hutchinson Atom tubeless tire on a Shimano Dura-Ace wheel, plus a tube.
Tubeless tires have stiffer sidewalls than standard ones, which makes it harder to push and roll them up and onto the rim. Also, the Atom is a low-profile tubeless tire designed to be run without tubes. Putting a tube in essentially creates an obstacle that gets in the way, stiffens the tire even more and just makes a tough installation even tougher.
Keep in mind, though, that if you were running the tires tubeless and flatted on the road, you might have to install a tube in order to ride home. So my jury-rigged test could happen.
Hopefully, though, you’llhave the thinnest tube possible (around 18mm wide and a superlight model), because on my test setup, trying to stuff an oversized 25mm tube in there, it made it so that I couldn’t get the Atom tire on the rim by hand, with or without Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip.
So, I removed the tube and tried again. The Atom tire is quite tight and to get it on by hand you must get the beads down into the center of the rim. They want to stick higher, up on the bead shelf where they lock in place when you inflate the tire. And the beads getting stuck up there when you’re trying to put it on, makes the tire almost impossible to install by hand.
By brushing the Bead Slip on the tire’s beads and on the rim, the tire and rim became nice and slippery. That helped me push the beads into the rim and made it possible to install the tire by hand. However, because the Bead Slip made the tire so slippery, I did have to use two paper towels, one in each hand to get enough grip on the tire to push it in place.
I also used probably 25% of the Bead Slip for this one install, meaning it would have cost $5. But, to be fair, it’s unlikely you’d run into such a tough tire installation setup, so I believe in most cases you could use a lot less. I also think it would be more effective on tires and rims more compatible with each other. According to Uncle Dick’s you should get 20-30 tires??? use out of a container.
Due to its easy use and how it made my almost impossible-to-install tire, slip on; plus the fact that it also helps seat the tire when you inflate it (sometimes the hardest part of installing a tire), I give Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip a solid 4-star rating. I think it’s an ingenious idea and something shop and home mechanics will reach for frequently if they have it on their workbench.
My only caveat is that I think it’s likely that once you start using it and see how it helps, you might use a lot of it per tire and go through it pretty quickly — making the $20 per 2.7 ounces expensive. And, while I haven’t tried it, and don’t know if it works on bicycle tires/rims, I found car tire soaps in 8-pound tubs for about that price.
But, Uncle Dick’s deserves credit for bringing the concept to cyclists and I think you’llreally appreciate having some on hand the next time you’re installing some new tires. And, speaking of new Uncle Dick tools, I think it would be nice to see it offered in a squeeze tube with brush applicator end that would tuck in a seat bag and be handy for on-the-road use.