Workshop: How to fit tubular tyres

Follow our top tips to avoid getting in a sticky mess

Tubular road tyres are lighter than clinchers, and swapping to them means you'll never have to suffer another pinch puncture. However, a lot of riders are put off by the fact you have to glue them to the rim.

Here our mechanic George Ramelkamp talks you through the basics of how to remove and fit tubs, and passes on some of his top tips.

1 Walk this way

Removing a tub can be a challenge, and will take a fair bit of finger strength. With the air out, try inserting a nylon tyre lever first, to prevent damaging the rim. Work on one side then the opposite, applying sustained force with each effort until about 2-3in of tyre is released. This should give you enough to grab hold of.

If you want to save some hand power for when you’re installing the new tub, use a blunt screwdriver or the Phillips part of your multi-tool. Carefully slide it under the gap and push it away from you while rocking it left and right in a kind of ‘walking’, prying motion along the rim, as pictured below. The tyre should peel away easily this way.

2 Prepare surface

On a clean rim that’s never had a tyre on it, you could use a damp cloth to wipe away the dust if you’re worried about solvents on carbon. Plain, old-fashioned alcohol from a pharmacy will also work well at removing any oily residue.

On a previously used rim, if you have a heavier layer of old glue with clumps of fabric left over from the old tub tape, carefully use the edge of a spoon handle or steel tyre lever to scrape off any protruding pieces. Then use a bit of white spirit on a rag to clean and reactivate the old layer of glue; don’t try to remove it all. Allow it to dry completely for about half an hour or so. Pat the cleaned surface with a dust-free cloth.

3 Spread glue on rim

My favourite glues are Velox, Continental and Tubasti. First, use your finger wrapped in a bit of plastic to apply a layer on the base tape of the tyre if it’s new. This will be partially absorbed and will provide extra adhesion. Next, apply an even, thin layer to the rim, as pictured.

When both are dry to the touch (this will take 15 or more minutes), put a second, final coat on the rim. Allow this to dry for only five minutes, so it’s still a bit soft; you’ll need it that way to true up the tyre once you get it on.

Tub tape presents a number of difficulties that make it, in my opinion, less advantageous. It doesn’t bond as strongly, is less resistant to sudden lateral forces and makes truing the tub difficult.

4 Install tyre

With the tub lightly inflated (10-20psi), carefully insert the valve into the hole, then position the tyre about 6in on either side of the valve. Now place the wheel as pictured below, with the rim firmly against the floor. The glue won’t be affected, because only the edge of the rim is touching.

Make sure the area around you is clear, ensuring that the floor surface has enough grip: old lino or wooden floorboards are ideal. Now grab the tyre at about 10 and two o’clock and push downward, letting your body weight do the work. Let your hands slip down to about three and nine o’clock while maintaining pressure and continue. Work your way down as far as possible, prying the tyre onto the rim as you go along.

5 Get aligned

This is an important step, because any substantial wobble or misalignment will most likely be felt at speed and could even induce a high-speed shimmy, as well as being really annoying. While the glue is still soft and with about 40psi, grab and pull the tyre as pictured below, aligning the valve if it’s crooked. Spin and eyeball the tread, and straighten as necessary by twisting and rolling with two hands.

Once you’ve ensured that the tyre is true on the rim, inflate to about 60 or 70psi: enough to make it firm. Higher pressure will cause it to creep and twist over on itself. Roll the wheel along the floor, applying weight to enhance the bond. Let it set for at least eight hours. Top it up to 100psi before riding.

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