​How to Install Bike Tires [Clincher Vs Tubular]

​More and more of my cycling buddies are throwing away their inner tubes and clincher tires and moving on to tubular tire setups with their bikes. I’ve been tempted many times and can feel that temptation coming back once again.

The one thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that it seems to be a little more difficult to make a bicycle repair to your tires while out on a ride? Reading about the experience of other tubular users and they don’t seem to think that this is a big deal. I guess it is for the user to decide.

The Change Over – Tubular Vs Clincher

​So first off lets discuss really quickly the difference between bike clinchers an​d tubulars.

Clinchers – this is the typical setup of the majority of bike tires on the road currently. The tire is held in place by an inner tube and the tire itself has rubber “beads” that, when inflated, hook under your bike’s rim to lock the tire into position.

Tubulars – this type of setup has the tire and the tube sewn together as one unit. There are no beads on the tire itself. The tire remains on the bike rim with the help of rim tape or glue. The main reason for switching to this setup is to decrease the bike’s overall weight (which then allows you to go faster).

​How to Install Tubular Bike Tires

How to Install Tubular Bike Tires
Tubulars – this type of setup has the tire and the tube sewn together as one unit. There are no beads on the tire itself. The tire remains on the bike rim with the help of rim tape or glue. The main reason for switching to this setup is to decrease the bike’s overall weight (which then allows you to go faster).

​Assuming that you have made the switch to tubular (and have the correct type of bike rim to hold tubulars), then the initial step of removing your tire is the same for both types of tire setups. Simply remove the old tubular tire and inner tube tube combination. Let’s go through the bike repair process step by step.

Step 1 – Remove the old tubular

What you are going to notice first hand is that, even with no air in the tire, the tire is still glued to the rim. Using a tire lever (best) or a screwdriver (if you have to), unpeel the tire and glue from the rim. Once you have the tire started, then you can peel the remainder off the rim using your hands.

Step 2 – Prepare for the New Tubular

Once the tubular tire has been removed, you will notice that you probably still have a fair bit of glue sticking to your rim. Get the bigger chunks dislodged using your tire levers (the article also suggests the handle of a spoon) and then once that has been completed, use some alcohol on a rag to remove as much of the remainder as possible. Now allow the rim to dry.

Step 3 – Put On the Glue

There are many good glues on the market today and if you don’t already have a favourite then just ask your local bike repair shop. Spread the glue (very thinly) along your base tape (spoke tape) as well as along both sides of your bike rim. The article suggests using your finger wrapped in plastic to help spread the glue.

As you would do with gluing a patch on an inner tube (see the article How To Repair a Punctured Bike Inner Tube, let the glue set for about 15 minutes. The glue should still be tacky, but dry enough that when you touch it, that it does not come off on your fingers.

Step 4 – Re-Install ​Tubular Tire

It’s now time to get your muscles working. First off, pump a small amount of air back into the tire (just enough to give it some body). Starting with your valve stem, insert it into the valve stem hole. Using your hands, start prying the tire onto your rim using whatever method you are familiar with. BikeRadar.com suggests putting the rim on the floor at your feet and then prying the tire onto the rim while you push down with your hands. I’ve never tried this technique before but I’m going to have to see if it makes it any easier!

​Step 5 – Tire Alignment

​While the glue is still a bit pliable, pump a bit more air into the tire (~40 psi) and then spin the tire around to make sure that the tire tread is in perfect alignment. If the tread is a bit off, simply grab that section with your hands, lift and twist it into alignment. Do this until the tire is fully aligned.

Pump a bit more air into the tire (60-70 psi) and allow the tire and glue to get a good bond to each other. Once your tire has been left to dry for about 8 hours, you are good to pump it up to a riding air pressure.

Step 5 – Tire Alignment

​As you can see the main difference from an installation point of view, between clinchers and tubulars is the gluing of the tire. The other steps of getting the tire back on are pretty standard.

Let me know if this article was useful to you? Have you made the decision recently to make the switch over to tubulars? Let me know how the switch went for you.

Robert Flaherty