Mounting Tight Bicycle Tire to Wheel Rim Without Tire Levers

by Glenn Reeves on October 1, 2012

Mounting  that new tire onto your wheel rim can be not only hard but almost impossible.

Use the following technique to get it done quickly without damaging your inner tube. This is always a risk if you attempt to force a very tight tire onto a rim using tire levers.

One thing though: it can be hard on your hands. If you have an old wheel rim laying around, you can practice this. You’ll need to have a good feel for the technique in preparation for puncture repairs :-)

fit a tight tire to a clincher rim without tire levers

First fit the inside tire bead to the rim at the bottom. I find placing the wheel in my lap and working from the bottom towards the top is quick and efficient.

To make the tire/wheel combination look neater, align the tire logo with the wheel logo. This will normally be bisected by the valve. The look is cooler.

Moving towards the top I can see if working the tire onto the rim shifts it left or right so that the logo is no longer centered on the rim logo. I have not found a tire any more difficult to mount by ending with the last and tightest section at, or near to, the valve.

one bead of tire fitted to rim

The bead is mounted into the rim and gets progressively tighter as you work around to the last section.

fit tire bead over edge of rim on one side at the top

Mount the tire bead over the rim until it gets really tight towards the top.

Roll the front of the tire over the rear rim. The rear bead, tight against the rim, can be stretched by pushing it over the rim, bit by bit, first on the left, then right, then left and so on.

You use your upper palms, just at the base of your fingers to do this. The action has the effect of pulling the inside bead over the edge onto the rim proper since the bulk of the tire in this section is laying over the outside rim.

stretch tire bead fully onto rim

Work your way in from one side. Then f rom the other side. Alternate between them. You will reach a “critical mass” where the bead will simply pop over onto the rim.

The inside bead is on the rim; the tire is half-way mounted! Now for the tricky bit

begin to fit the outer bead onto the rim

Having installed the tube, begin to fit the outer bead onto the rim. Work back down towards the bottom of the rim.

begin to stretch the outer bead over the rim

Spin the wheel around so the bottom is now at the top and easily worked.  Begin to fit bead over the tightest section.

push the bead over the top of the rim with your palms

Push/roll the bead up with the top of your palms. Work the edge that is just slipping over the rim.

continue to push tire bead over rim

Continue to mount the tire by rolling the bead over with your palms. Work on one end at a time. Push with your right and left hand. Here your right hand does most of the work. The left hand, though, helps a lot, and prevents the tire from slipping back over the rim.

push bead onto wheel rim one side at a time

Work the left side. The right hand holds the tire steady. The technique is just the reverse of  the previous focus on the right side. Use pressure from the left palm to push/stretch the bead over the rim; hold it in place with your right.

the bead almost fitted over the  tightest part of the wheel rim

The bead is now at the tightest part. However it gets easier from here. Continue to mount the tire from the right then the left.

tire bead will now slip easily over the wheel rim

Not far now. To complete the action, apply equal pressure with both palms.

tire is almost completely fitted over the edge of the wheel rim

Just about there!

tire is fitted to wheel rim

SUCCESS

Just check that the inner tube is tucked away inside the tire. With tight tires the bead will often pinch down on the tube preventing it from completely installing into the tire snugly inside the bead.

As I said, mounting a tight tire to a rim using this technique is hard on your hands. I prefer not to use gloves since this method relies on the firm contact between your palms and the tire’s surface.

Jeepers, I did twenty wheelsets in one session earlier this year–the European-based customer preferred not to do it himself. Ok, no problems lol.

Continental tires along with some Panaracer models have been the most difficult tires to mount for me as for quite a few others. The Continental model in this example is Ultrasport, a modest, reliable entry-level tire. But it will give entry-level riders a challenge come the day that they puncture.

The technique covered here requires some practice. Once learned, it is a skill that will reward you for as long as you cycle the highways and byways.

Those tight tires will be far less troublesome.

Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

George October 2, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Not wishing to be rude, but from reading that I don’t think you understand how to mount a tyre or how it “works”. It may be that you do, and these tyres really are super tight, or maybe the rims are a bad design, but you don’t make any reference to the “drop centre” of the rim, which makes me think this.
You should never need a tyre lever or to use lots of force to mount a tyre, the bead should be considered “un-stretchable” for the purposes of tyre fitting.
The key to tyre fitting is to develop slack by working the bead down into the drop centre of the rim for as much of the circumference as possible. By getting the bead right into the middle of the rim where the diameter is smaller you should be able to get all the slack you need to easily pop the bead over that last section of rim sidewall…

This is a much neglected piece of information and one that I find very hard to educate people about. Most cyclists will simply refuse to believe that they don’t know how to fit a tyre and wont listen, but the popularity of the tyre lever is testament to how scarce this titbit of info has become…

Sometimes people “fill up” the drop centre with excessive layers of rim tape but I have never found a tyre that was a problem… Even Tubeless UST mountainbike tyres on UST rims are easy enough to get over the sidewall of the rim with this method… even if the subsequent trip to the bead seat is somewhat fraught…

Glenn October 2, 2012 at 8:31 AM

Thanks for your comment. Not wishing to be rude either, but the tire is duly mounted lol with the tube tucked away nicely, ready to be pressurized; one of thousands I’ve done in a similar way. I guess it comes down to how we define “understanding”. Theory and “drop centre” jargon is fine but the point is to get an extremely tight tire onto the rim quickly without tire levers. This method simply works. I think we both agree that cyclists have an over-reliance on levers and that you can get the job done without them, especially on tires that are not impossibly tight. Anyhow, the “key” to tire fitting is to get the tire onto the rim without damaging the rim, the tire or, very importantly, the tube. What would be your step-by-step method for achieving this?

George October 3, 2012 at 4:24 AM

I definitely agree that it is better not to use tyre levers to re-mount the tyre, just trying to save you a little sweat and your hands a little stress.

My method would be much the same as yours except to make sure that the bead you are fitting is right in the centre of the rim (directly over the spoke holes not the bead seats) as you put it on, and push the wheel down against a bit of old carpet as you go so that you are carrying the slack with you to the other side. Keep pushing that bead all the way into the middle of the rim section as you go.

With luck, by the time you get to the last bit you will have plenty of slack to work the bead over the sidewall with virtually zero effort…

Glenn October 3, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Fair enough, that’s interesting advice. Thanks George.

Kimmo June 17, 2013 at 12:04 AM

I’d say you guys have left out a couple of things.

In order to avoid pinching the tube, especially if it’s new, it’s a good idea to inflate the tube a little so it takes its shape, which makes it a lot easier to pop into the tyre before mounting it*. After getting the first bead on the rim, the tube usually needs to be pushed onto the rim before fitting the second bead; this prevents it from being pinched pretty much no matter what.

Then when the second bead gets tight, I let the the air out of the tube, and centre the beads if necessary before popping the last bit of bead in. Then I push the valve into the tyre to ensure its base isn’t caught beneath the bead, a common trap for noobs.

Not only that, but also: after getting 20-30psi into the tyre, I detach the pump and give the wheel a spin, looking at the lines molded into the tyre just above the bead. Often on larger tyres, occasionally on 23mm tyres, it won’t have seated properly and needs to be manhandled into position. Or you could go about 30% over its rated pressure and listen to it snap into place, as long as there no high spots. If you leave a poorly-seated tyre long enough, it may not ever seat properly again.

*I like to reverse the order if I’m mounting a floppy folding tyre that won’t hold its shape; put the tube in it when a bead’s already on the rim. Come to think of it, there’s little reason to put the tube in first anyway.

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