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.


redvic said...

i really liked this article and the previous one (despite my initial hesitancy!). any chance you could do a similar little piece on truing wheels? i can never remember for sure which way to turn the nipples, and it usually ends up trial and error until i finally get it. i'm not talking fancy truing stand style here, obviously, just enough to stop the wheel rubbing on the brakes. thanks!

Jim Langley said...

I have pretty extensive wheel truing tips in my bicycle wheelbuilding article here, Redvic: http://jimlangley.net/wrench/wheelbuildfull.html See Step 7. But, there's an easy way to true a wheel with one little wobble. First, find the wobble by spinning the wheel and watching for it. Hold the wheel at the wobble and then pluck the spokes at that area and listen. Usually it's a rear wheel since they take more stress. The sound the spoke makes when plucked should match on the left spokes and the right spokes (lefts and rights on the rear make different noises). Find the spoke that sounds different. When a wheel has a wobble, one spoke has loosened usually. Just find that spoke and then tighten it until it makes the same sound when plucked, and the wobble will be fixed. To make sure you turn the nipple the right way, move it to 12 o'clock on the wheel (the top). Then you'll be looking at it in the correct orientation (from above) to turn it clockwise to tighten it. You'll also know you're turning it the right way because the spoke will get tighter. Okay? I hope these tips help!
Jim Langley

Jim Langley said...

Here's a link to that bicycle wheelbuilding article that you should be able to click on:
truing wheels

Jim Langley