Tuesday, March 30, 2010
TECH TIPS: Hands-Only Tire Installation contin.
I received some fun feedback on yesterday's post on installing and removing bicycle tires by hand only - no tire levers needed. A common theme though was doubt - people like the idea but doubt it's possible with their tire or wheel. So, I thought I'd elaborate a little and provide a few more tips to help people get past that.
Actually, when I got my first real bike shop job at Andy's Bike Shop, I didn't think I could pop tires on and off by hand either. But, my boss Bruce Anderson showed me how and made it very clear that I had to fix flat tires as quickly as possible. So I had to master the hands-only technique. Once I knew the secret of the rim well (illustration, right), it wasn't that hard. Plus, the other mechanics in the shop would have ridiculed the new guy had I cheated and used tire levers and I sure didn't want that.
There are things that make the job much harder: it's important to put a little air in the tube to keep it from getting trapped beneath the tires during installation. But, once you've got one side of the tire on and the tube inside the tire and up on the rim all the way around, the air in the tube makes it harder to put the other side of the tire on. So, be sure to let it all out. That'll make popping the tire on by hand easier (but be sure not to let the tube get beneath the edge of tire). Likewise, when removing the tire, be sure you go around and squeeze it and press the valve tip and get every bit of air out.
When I was the service manager at the Bicycle Center in Santa Cruz, one of my mechanics used to say to the other guys when they were getting frustrated trying to fix something, "Now, Fred, remember, you've got to be smarter than that front derailleur" (or whatever bike part they were annoyed at). I always liked that, and it holds true for bicycle tire installation and removal too. If you come at it with confidence and focus and use the mechanical principle of the rim well, you will succeed. If you get frustrated and turn it into a wrestling match you probably won't.
Another thing that makes it much harder: If the tube is too wide for the tire and has to be stuffed in there and doesn't want to stay, switch to one that's narrower than the tire. That helps a lot. Thornproof tubes, which have thick rubber on top, make it much harder too, and I'd ditch them, unless you really need them because without them you'd have flats all the time. Another item that can make it more difficult is a thick rim strip - that rubber or cloth liner covering the holes inside the rim. Ideally it will be made of a material only 1 or 2mm thick, like a Jantex or Velox cloth rim strip. Or you can use tough filament packing tape if you don't want to buy an actual bicycle rim strip.
Hope these additional tire taming tricks help you master this fun, impressive and professional technique! As a bonus, here's a little flat tire humor.