How (not to) set up your tires tubeless

Mountain Bike Tires

I’m totally sold on tubeless tires. I started this season by getting them set up on my geared mountain bike, only to learn that my rear rim wasn’t actually tubeless (even though the front one was), and my old tires had a bunch of holes. Still, we made it work (to the tune of a new rim/entire rear wheel).

Throughout the season, I’ve learned a thing or two and actually splurged on… (now that I’m thinking about it) a lot of bike things. Oops. But for the purposes of this post, I splurged on tires. Just tires.

After picking up new-to-me bontrager wheels from Carrie (I’m totally convinced they come with good juju), and new bontrager tubeless-ready tires I set up my entirely tubeless, entirely bontrager system easily. So easily, it scared me. Seriously – just sorta seat the tires, pump them up to 50-60 psi with a floor pump, and, ‘ping’, ‘ping’ (that’s the bead seating, yo), and you’re good to go (well, plus a lot of stans and minus a lot of psi).

Cyclocross Tires

This post, however, is a tale of me setting up my “cross” wheels, tubless, on my own. In the middle of the summer. And failing miserably. So, you know, here’s more of a photojournalistic tale of what not to do.

Day 1:


1. Look at yellow tape included with stans tubeless kit for converting non-tubeless ready wheels. Look at wheels – they have this really nice fabric rim tape. It looks pretty solid, so don’t mess with it. Yay yellow tape saved for something else! Ever conservative around here.


2. Get most of the old stans gunk out of the free cross tires you found on the forum. I don’t know if it actually helps, but it makes you feel better. Clean = almost new, = totally legit.


o hai yellow tape. we save you for later

3. Have a beer, you’ve worked hard.


yuh, I look this good all the time.

4. Seat one side of tire on wheel.


5. Add stans (this is gonna work the first time, no problem. Just add it now, save yourself the trouble of wrenching out the valve stem).


6. Seat other side of tire, stans inside. Yay, great job!


7. Get it wet! But for real, use a bunch of soapy water. Luckily I do the same thing to check for leaks in the keg – spray bottle of soapy water already handy. Check.


8. Pump, pump, pump. Sweat. Pump. Pumpedy pump. Cry a little.


9. Try the other wheel, it must just be this one. ‘ping’. Oh hell yeah, the other one totally worked! Yeah, screw that wheel. That one sucks anyways, nobody needs a tubeless front wheel, it’s super easy to just fix flats up there.


10. If it worked on the other one… maybe this one just needed a minute. I get it, sometimes new things are hard. These tires have been sitting in a basement, they’re just not ready to be on rims yet. Pump. Sweat. Cry. Repeat.


11. Fuckit, I’m going to bed.

Day 2:

1. Cut off top of presta dust cover to serve as schraeder air pump converter.

2. Bike to big shark to use the ‘free air’


I can ride my bike with no handlebars… and a wheel in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

3. ping ping! We’re in business! Go home and add stans. You’re a champ and a wizard. Plus you didn’t even have to drive anywhere… what a stud.


you can tell this is on the return trip ’cause of the shadows. how neat is that?

Day 3:

1. Why are my tires flat?

2. I’ll just pump them up some more. No wait, this one un-seated. Ah crap, there’s gonna be stans everywhere. Damnit Kate.

Day… every day for a while:

1. Are they flat again? Yep they’re flat.

2. Can I re-seat it with a floor pump? No, I cannot.

3. Fuckit. I don’t want those wheels anyway.

Day 4:

1. Actually install yellow tape. Yellow tape is important. For airtight seal. And hence, wheels that hold air.

2. “Store” wheels with yellow tape installed and tires loosely associated in basement. Aka leaning against the work bench.


here we can see in the background the remnants of a kiddie bike… the basement ‘storage’ is sorta more of a graveyard

Day recently:

1. Cross is tha shit. I wanna race cross. Why don’t I have tubeless wheels? Oh yeah, I just need an air compressor (NEVER AGAIN not-really-tubeless-ready wheels and floor pump). Huh.

2. Fix things? This is my life.

*Update: at least I now have more stans, so that’s nice. In theory I will get things set up soon.


2 thoughts on “How (not to) set up your tires tubeless

  1. You’re far ahead of me. Here’s how my installation went: take bike to bike shop, have rear wheel made tubeless again, pick up bike, go home lighter $$. Race Berryman, flat the tubeless FRONT wheel approximately 10 minutes into bike leg. Fuck this, tubes are fine for now too.

  2. Boo 😦 despite my personal failures (let’s say due to not-tubeless-specific wheels), I do still love tubeless on the mountain bike… do you have a plug kit? It really doesn’t take long to get back up and running if you puncture.

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