Sonny's blog

Road / Gravel tubeless setup tips and tricks


I'm going to skip the obvious stuff that you can already watch on YouTube.

There are some combinations of rims and tires that are on the extreme side of scale, at least in real life. All of these tricks are needed if a compressor is not nearby.

Tire too loose #

some tires are too loose for the rim, either fresh from the pack, or you're trying to convert a used tire into tubeless or moving it to another rim. I can think of these tricks:

  1. Try seating the tire bead on the side of the rim. This basically means pushing both beads on the side of the rim, but only one side is sufficient to stretch out the tire.
  2. Next trick is to keep the wheel out in the cold with the tire on the rim. Depending on the temperature, this might take a few minutes to few hours, but surely it will tighten the tire up.
  3. The valve also needs to be a bit on the slimmer side (e.g. no MTB valve on road rim). MTB valves (inside the rim) are usually round and this might upset the tire line and cause leaking air while pumping. Road valves can have a cut at their side to create a oval or rectangular shap which helps the tire to be flush in the center all around.
  4. If you can afford some extra tubeless milk than recommended, give it a go and hopefully the liquid helps out to fill the gaps that air escape. Make sure after pouring the milk, give the wheel a good shake for it to touch and wet and the beads where it meets the rim.
  5. A tire insert will help bulge up the tire that tend to sit super flat (perpendicular) on the rim. If the tire is 28mm, get 25mm diameter backer rod foam and cut to size. My Vittoria Corsa Graphene 2.0 Control tires are the odd tires that tend to lie completely flat on the rim, making the tubeless setup a nightmare.
  6. Try strong and fast stand pumps and pump as fast as you can! Of course this requires a bit of tightness and might not work on all cases, but I would use this method in every tubeless setup.
  7. While an electric air compressor might be hard to find, a bike specific air compressor expensive for the moment, an MTB specific CO2 canister should help with seating the beads, but they're usually frowned upon due to environmental reasons. Try it only as the last resort.

In all cases, it's okay to pump higher than the rim and tire specifications only to seat the beads.

Tire too tight #

Use a bit soap or oil on the outer bead surface and work your way through it. Make sure the beads are right in the middle at all times! Some tires tend to shift, so you'll need to constantly check for that.

My worst case experience actually brought me to a bike shop! The Michelin Power Gravel 33 was way too tight for my FSA Vision Trimax 35 Disc TL rim. Both are spec'd for cyclocross and I used them for winter riding.

You can also wait for a day after opening the tire from the pack and also try the radiator to expand it as much as possible.