Prep new wheel | Prep new tire | Prep old tire | Remove tire | Clean

TUBULAR TIRES
Tubular Tire Advice 

We are happy to offer advice on tubular (sew-up) tires.  This page describes tubular tire preparation, mounting and maintenance.  Read on to improve your skills and compare experience.  

If you want more personal help, please call or contact us.  We mount a lot tubular tires, we can help. We also appreciate your feedback, tell us how to make these instructions clear and complete.

Nothing beats hands on training with a skilled expert.  We give free tire mounting lessons at the race events we attend.  If you see us at an event do come and say hello!  

Vittoria Mastik One tubular tire glue - Click to enlarge

Although we prefer to mount 98% of our tubular tires with glue, we also carry Tufo tubular tire tape.  Tape is an alternative that is very secure, and offers easier first mounting.  It has a 20 gram weight penalty and be warned it can be trouble to remove in race changes, and more messy than glue in second mountings.  We will recommend tape in a supported race venue (a mechanic is doing the tire changes while the rider is back in the race) that requires quick set-up (doesn't have time for glue to dry at least 4 hours).

Warning!  Please make sure you are comfortable with and aware of your skill limits in both tire mounting and bike handling.  Please test your limits before you commit yourself to a sharp high-speed turn. For safety, always check your tires before you ride.  Do this by trying to push your tires off the rim with your thumbs -- they should feel secure!

We sell tires.  To order, check out our Race Ready ProgramTM and contact us.

Why Ride Tubulars? 
Improved performance drives the five most common reasons we recommend tubular tires. 
     Feel 1) Better handling/feel.  A tire's feel is driven by its materials and the shape of its contact patch (the part that hugs the ground).  A tubular tire puts the whole air volume between the rim and the ground.  This provides the best shape for conforming to the ground.  "Feel" is the reason cited most by pro road racers who push limits of their bike handling.  The ride is more comfortable, turns are less slippery.  For feel, the materials in both tubular and clincher tire types are often excellent, but the best materials (highest thread count, greatest strength/weight) are available in high-end tubulars.
    Strength 2) Tougher tires.  The vital weight of tubular tires is in the tread where it helps with puncture resistance and durability.  Clinchers have a vital weight penalty in the bead hoop that holds the tire to the wheel.  Saving weight in a clincher design often means a thinner tread.
    Weight

3) Lighter wheel rim weights.  Not only are tubular tires lighter than clinchers, but the rims of a tubular wheels are also lighter.  This is because they do not need to hold tire pressure across an open pressure vessel structure.  A tubular tire's pressure is self-contained.  This weight difference is typically 60 to 120 grams in the most vital portion of the wheel.  This weight difference can dramatically effect wheel inertia and acceleration.

    Aero
    Drag
4) Lower frontal area.  Better handling feel and handling often equates to narrower tires with equivalent or better comfort and road adhesion.  Narrower tires translate into lower wheel frontal area and better aerodynamics (roughly proportional to the tire width).  This can be 15 to 25% better than clinchers.  Narrower tires also translate into additional weight and inertia savings.
    Change
    Time
5) Faster race changes.  While many new comers fear tire changes with tubular tires, experienced hands will confirm they are actually faster (change in less than a minute) and no more difficult to learn than clincher tire changes.  Read below to get tips on reducing tire changing hassle.  Fear not, you too can be a skilled tubular tire changer.
Common Complaints 

The most commonly cited weaknesses of tubulars are cost and hassle. 

    Expense 1) More expensive flats.  It is true, a flat on a tubular is no longer commonly repaired.  Versus changing an inner tube, this is more costly.  In evaluating this expense, consider that tubular tires are race tires and account for the expense of race day flats, which most amateurs find to be fairly infrequent.
    Learning

2) Another thing to learn!  Hassling with tire gluing and changing flats is just another new thing to learn!  True.  We argue that these skills are no more difficult than the skills learned to change clincher tires.  Give yourself 4 or 5 tires to get messy with, and get some experienced advice while you learn, and you will be an old hand in no time.

    Contact 
    Us
If you are new to tubular tires and want more advice on them, contact us, we are happy to help first-timers.  We also ship wheels race ready with tubular tires mounted.

Benefits | Prep new tire | Prep old tire | Remove tire | Clean

Prep a New Wheel Clean your wheel.  With a new wheel, it is a good idea to clean the tire bed as preparation before putting glue on it.  We use ethanol alcohol and a cotton wipe.  Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol works also.  This will improve both the bonding of the new tire mount, and later tire removal from the wheel.  Please check that lubricants or other fluid materials have not been left on your wheel rim.  Although these are removed prior to packaging, they sometimes reappear in shipping from residue left in the interior of the wheel.

Assemble your wheel.  If your wheel is a CROSSWIND and is not assembled, it makes sense to assemble it before mounting your tire.  An assembled wheel can be put in a truing stand or other wheel mount to hold your wheel while working with it.

Replace a Tire Unlike unused new clean wheels, once a rim has been glued, you usually do not clean your wheel.  You need to clean the wheel tire mounting surface only if you run into one of the following circumstances:  1) the rim, tire or glue joint has become contaminated with dirt or grease; 2) the rim's tire bed is very lumpy and scraping doesn't help; 3) the glue used previously is not the correct type of glue; 4) the glue used previously is old and brittle; 5) the glue used previously is not sticking well to the tire bed.  If you need to clean see cleaning old glue below.  If you are unsure about this last choice, be conservative, and ask an experienced source for advice.

Benefits | Prep new wheel | Prep old tire | Remove tire | Clean

Prep a New Tire -- Preparation is everything!.
   The Valve  Prepare the valve.  The valve is the #1 reason a tire fails; it is worth being neurotic about prepping it properly.  We use 3 steps to prep a presta valve with a valve extender (which many of our wheels use). If you do not need an extender, skip step 3.  

Presta valve core - click to enlarge

Valve step 1: Seat the valve core into the valve stem.  This will stop the valve from leaking because it is not fully assembled.  The valve stem is usually brass and is the outside piece.  The valve core is usually silver and the inside piece.  Hold the two flat faces of the valve core with a needle nose pliers and give a clockwise 1/8 turn.  Be careful not to overpower the turn and break the small parts.  

Closed presta tire valve - Click to enlargeOpen presta tire valve - Click to enlarge

Valve step 2: Open the valve nut.  With a high pressure presta style valve, the tiny valve nut must be open to get air into the tire.  We open it all the way to the top and add a little torque with a pair of pliers to keep it from working its way closed on its own once it is installed.  Be careful not to overpower the turn and break the small parts.  If you can not get air into a valve extender, the most common reason is a closed valve.  

Nimble valve extender - Click to enlarge

Valve step 3: Mount the valve extender. Screw on the valve extender supplied by us.  Put it on all the way as tightly as possible be hand, then add a little torque (about 1/4 of a turn) by pliers.  This will seat the aluminum extender against the brass stem and improve the connection between your pump and your valve.
   Stretch
   it! 
Stretch the tire.  New tires can be tight and hard to mount.  It is good to give them a stretch.  You can do this by stepping through the tire and trapping one end on the floor with your heel and then pulling on the other end with your arms (or your thigh or hip if you want to save some energy.)  If you are very strong, be careful not to rip the base tape of the tire.  Most normal strength people can not pull hard enough to damage a tire.  The goal of pulling on your tire is to get it loose enough to be able to mount it dry on a spare wheel.  Most people can do this without stretching it, but it is harder!.  Leave your tire inflated at least over night (1 hour is better than nothing, 2 days is as good as forever) it will help you!  (Nimble pre-stretches and pre-inflates tubular tires for you before shipping.)
   Glue Base
   Tape 
Add glue to the tire base tape.  Adding a layer of glue to the tape of the tire helps its bound to the wheel.  If you let it set up (dry for 1+ hours), it will have a stronger bond and a wheel/tire mount that dries faster (2 to 24 hours depending on the glue).  Letting the tire set-up, however, makes it stickier and harder to mount the tire on the wheel.  If you have time to let the final assembled wheel/tire set, we would recommend leaving yourself some working time by working with the tire while the glue on it is still a bit wet.  Inflate the tire to make it easier to handle before you apply glue.  If you work with wet glue, you will need more final assembled dry time to ensure a strong result.

Benefits | Prep new wheel | Prep new tire | Remove tire | Clean

Prep a Used Tire -- 

   The Valve 
Prepping a used tire follows the same sequence as a new tire:

Prepare the valve.  Follow the same three steps described in detail above in prepping a new tire section: 1) Seat the valve core, 2) Open the valve nut, and 3) Mount the valve extender.

   Stretch
   it! 
Stretch the tire.  No need to stretch your tire, since it is already used, it should be the right size and easy to work with.  This is one of the best reasons why a used tire makes a great race day spare.
   Glue Base
   Tape 
Add glue to the tire base tape.  No need to add much glue to most used tires.  Do confirm that it has a base glue layer and clean bonding surface. Add a thin layer of glue just before mounting the tire.  This glue helps complete the bond joint.  By timing this to right before mounting you can maximize your mount working time.  If you work with wet glue, you need to leave more final assembled dry time to ensure a strong result.
Mount a tire on a Wheel  Here are two steps to mounting: prepping the wheel and mounting the tire.  
   Prep Prepare the wheel.  Add a layer of glue to the wheel.  We mount the wheel in a truing stand so that we have both hands available to put the glue on. Use the corner of a small plastic bag to cover your working finger.  With one hand lay down a bead of glue, with the other, use your working finger to put a uniform complete layer across the rim tire seat.  Have a scrap piece of cardboard available to wipe off any excess.  Add glue, spread, wipe off excess, etc.  Complete the whole wheel before mounting your tire. The glue should be about 0.010 inches thick, about a thumb nail, or 3 sheets of copy paper.  Don't worry about wiping off glue that got away from you on the side of the wheel.  It will be easier to clean this once it sets up; in about 1 hour it will get less gooey.  But, if you leave excess glue on longer than an hour it gets harder to work with.
   Mount Mount the tire.  Put a cardboard scrap on the floor.  Put the wheel on the cardboard with the valve hole at the top, mount the tire by carefully putting the tire valve into the valve hole and stretching the tire along the rim toward the floor.  Use the floor to backstop and hold the wheel while you stretch the tire downward.  

Maintain tension on the tire as you mount.  You will need to stretch the whole tire on the wheel to make it fit.  Get the tire on straight as you mount it.  While still maintaining a good hold on both sides of the tire, lift the wheel off the floor to get the last 6 to 12 inches of tire mounted.  Don't let go of your tire -- keep the pressure on!  

Once mounted, check the base tape of the tire on both sides of the mounted rim.  If the tire is straight, there should be an even amount of tire base tape showing all around the tire.  You should try to lift and move the tire if you need to straighten it.  Work quickly before it sets up.  The sooner you straighten your work, the easier it will be.

Benefits | Prep new wheel | Prep new tire | Prep old tire | Clean

Removing a Tire Learn some tricks to help dismount your tires.
  Holds Air If your tire holds air.  Keep about 60 PSI air pressure in your tire. It will help!  Work opposite the valve extender.  Push both sides of one spot on the tire with your thumbs.  Once you get it loose and over the edge of the rim, use the loose portion to peel the remaining tire.  If you are having trouble, you may need to deflate the tire and try the trouble instructions below.  When peeling the tire be mindful to pull up from the rim in the direction of the rim -- this will help keep the tire base tape intact.  If your base tape gets detached from your tire it must be reattached with a  proper base tape adhesive before you can properly mount your tire again.
   Flat Tire If your tire is flat.  Work opposite the valve extender.  Push/pull both sides of one spot on the tire with your thumbs.  Once you get it loose and over the edge of the rim, use the loose portion to peel the remaining tire.
   Careful
   Peeling! 
When peeling the tire be mindful to pull the tire up from the rim in the direction of the rim and try to avoid pulling it away sideways from the rim.  This will help keep the tire base tape intact since the base tape is strongest in the direction of the tire hoop.  If your base tape does get detached from your tire it will be unsafe to ride and must be reattached with the proper special base tape adhesive before you can mount your tire again.
   Can't get
   it Loose? 
Having trouble getting it loose!  Working opposite the valve extender -- very carefully and slowly, insert a flat bladed screw driver blade between the tire and the rim.  Gently work the blade into the crevice by twisting the screw driver back and forth.  Work the screwdriver all the way through the joint between the tire and rim.  Do not force this and harm the rim or the tire, use care, attention and persistence.  Once the screwdriver is in place, you can grip the handle and roll it along the rim with great leverage.  This will separate the glue joint.  Once you have 6 to 12 inches of tire loose, you should be able to push the tire off the rim and thereby relieve the tire tension around the rim and then peel the tire.

Benefits | Prep new wheel | Prep new tire | Prep old tire | Remove tire

How to Clean Old Glue Cleaning old glue off your wheel
Sometimes you have to clean your wheel.  Just like glasses and microscopes, the best way to clean your wheels is just to keep them clean!  But if your wheel is a mess, or you have bad or old or cracked glue or the mounting surface is dirty or muddy where your tire should mount you will need to clean your wheel.  The best solvents to clean your wheel are powerful, dangerous and harmful to people.  Use these solvents only in extremely well ventilated areas like outside.  Protect yourself with a properly rated organic chemical capable respirator, wear solvent proof gloves, eye protection and proper body coverage.  We use high volume ventilation, personal VOC rated respirators, shop aprons, shop glasses and nitril gloves. We use paint thinner or Xylene.  In small quantities this solvent will not harm your composite wheelbody or rim.  It will damage the decoration and the lubrication of mechanical parts.  Keep any solvent away from your decals and your hubs.
Respect Solvents and Oils!  Remount a tire only when your wheel is completely dry and clean.  If you mount a tire on a wheel that is still wet with solvent the glue joint will not be secure.  Some bike shops use WD40 as a thinner for removing tire glue.  WD40 leaves a lubricant behind that must be cleaned completely to have a safe mounting surface.  If we suspect that a cleaned wheel has a lubricant (like WD40) or a silicone cleaner, we make sure to remove this lubricant from the tire mounting surface with alcohol or a stronger non-contaminating (fast evaporating) solvent like acetone if needed.  Please note, acetone is only effective on oils, grease and muck, it is not an effective solvent for removing tubular tire glue.
Always Check Your Ride! Always test your tires before each ride by trying to push them off the rim with your thumbs.

 

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