Gear Spring Cleaning: Maintaining tubeless bike tires

Spring is here, let the spring cleaning commence! Although we are settled at home for the unforeseeable future I thought I would get a jump start on cleaning and organizing my gear for summer adventures. I started with tubeless tire maintenance on my mountain bike. 

Since I pulled my bike out of deep winter storage with a flat tire it seemed fitting to start my spring cleaning by refreshing my tire sealant. I updated my tires to tubeless last Spring so this is my first time replacing the sealant and it was much easier than I expected. It only requires a few tools that you probably already have in your bike kit. 

Here’s what you need to get started:

Tire Sealant

Bontrager TLR tire sealant, 32oz

Sealant is added to the inside of the tire to immediately fill punctures, preventing flats, while you ride. You need to add more sealant periodically depending on the environment you’re riding in and the sealant brand.

Sealant injector

Tire sealant, 3oz single

You can purchase a syringe type sealant injector but I refill the smaller, 3oz bottle of tire sealant. The nozzle fits perfectly into the valve acting as an injector. 

Tire lever

Pedro’s tire levers

Helps lift the tire away from the rim when you are removing. You might need this to help reinstall the tire as well. 

Floor pump

Topeak JoeBlow Sport III Bike Floor Pump

To inflate the tire.

1 Remove tire from rim

Deflate the tire fully. 

a. Pinch together the sides of the tire, making your way around the rim loosening the tire bead. The tire bead is the edge of the tire that sits in a small groove or slot in the wheel. You have two tire beads on your wheel, one of each side around the entirety of the wheel. 

b. Use your tire lever to remove the tire from rim, make an opening large enough for you to access the inside to clean or you can remove the tire completely if you have a lot of dried sealant built up. Since my tubeless set up is fairly new (about a year) I did not remove my tire completely.

There is a good chance there is liquid remaining in your tire. Keep the tire upright, collecting the liquid at the bottom to avoid spills.

2 Clean out dried sealant

Now that you can see inside the tire, you might find a dried white film. This is dried sealant. It’s optional to remove, some people leave it, but I chose to remove it.

a. Use a rag to wipe out any leftover liquid. 

b. Peel dried film from the inside of tire, clean rim and tire bead. Once you’re finished, you should have a fairly brand spankin’ new looking tire on the inside. 

3 Reinstall tire

This next step is the most difficult. You need to seat the tire bead properly for the tire to hold air.

a. Install the bead by tucking the sides of the tire back into the rim. If it’s a tight fit, use your tire lever to pull the tire into the rim. 

b. Inflate the tire. You should hear several pops or snaps as the bead sets back in place as you inflate. If you’re having trouble seating the bead, loosen the bead and spray with soapy water, this will help the bead slide into place.

The tire bead should be uniformly seated around the tire, if you find a spot where the bead is too low (looks like it’s tucked into the tire) you’ll need to deflate the tire, loosen the bead where it is low and try again. 

4 Add Sealant

There are two ways to install sealant. You can pour in sealant before you reinstall the tire fully or you can use a sealant injector to inject sealant through the valve, this is how I did it. 

a. Fill your sealant injector with the recommended amount of sealant. I found this information on Trek’s website. It varies by tire size. My tires are 27.5″ x 2.35″ and I put in 3 ounces. 

b. Deflate your tire fully and remove the valve core. I was able to use my hands to remove mine but you may need a valve core remover tool or needle nose pliers will work. 

c. Inject sealant in valve.

d. Install valve core, make sure tire bead is still intact and inflate tire.

e. Spin the wheel to move sealant around the inside of the tire. This will seal any existing punctures.

f. Install wheel back onto the bike. 

After installing sealant, spin wheel every few hours to move sealant around the tire. If the wheel is consistently holding air pressure, your bike is ready to ride. 

I also found this video from Park Tool super helpful and adapted my process from it. 

Bike maintenance is intimidating to me but this helped me gain some confidence in doing routine maintenance at home. Although, I won’t be a bike mechanic in the near future, there are a few easy things that I can maintain at home to keep my bike riding smoothly between visits to the mechanic.