It is time for another not-very-pretty blog about bike equipment. I made a tank that I think can seat just about any bead lock bike tire. This is an over-the-top tool but I had to go to extremes. Getting my floppy (and awesome) Big Fat Larry tires to seat had proven to be very difficult. I tried everything I could find on the web but anything that worked was very difficult. The inflation tank method I came up with seats them easily.
This is for bead lock tires and rims. Bead lock means that the bead of the tire (the part that touches the rim when installed) locks into the rim. Once locked in, the tire will stay seated even if it is deflated.
WARNING: This is a bead seater ONLY. Do NOT use this to fully inflate bike tires. The airflow is too high to control for safe tire inflation.
It is pretty simple: an air tank with a trigger release tire pressure gauge with all the Schrader valves removed. To seat a tire you remove the core from the valve on the rim and deliver a high pressure, high volume blast of air with no valves in the way.
Here is how to make one and use it safely. Get a portable air tank. Mine is 10 gallons, but a 5 gallon model would be fine and easier to handle. The tanks have a pressure gauge, a valve, and a hose with a Schrader valve. I take it to a local tire store and they fill it for me. I always offer to pay but they never accept anything for it. They never object to a tip though. The tank is rated for 125 psi and I have them put in max pressure recommended for the tires that I am using. The fact that you could put in higher pressures than your tires are rated for is the danger of using this tank. You MUST take precautions to use it safely. Never overinflate your tires.
Then get a trigger tire inflator gauge. They come in many varieties, but you are not buying it for the gauge. All you really want is the trigger operated valve to release air in a sudden burst: faster than the built in valve on the tank. You can get triggers separately but it is usually cheaper to get them as part of a gauge.
Cut the Schrader valves off the ends of the hoses. Install the trigger gauge at the end of the tank hose with a hose clamp. Put a hose clamp lightly tightened around the end of the trigger gauge hose, just enough to keep it from falling off.
To mount the most difficult tires, seal your rim and seat one bead of the tire, then use this to seat the other bead. Here it is step by step including all the safety precautions you must follow and all the tips I know. I need to use all these tips for my huge fat bike tires, but you may be able to skip a few steps.
- Mount the tire on a sealed rim with a tube so that both beads are seated.
- The beads may make one or more cracking or popping sounds as they seat, sometimes very loud.
- Some tire/rim combos seat silently. Inspect the bead. The bead will seat a consistent distance away from the rim all the way around.
- For a new tire that may have creases or tend to fold up, leave it mounted overnight or take it for a few rides. That will help it hold its shape.
- Let the air out of the tube, unmount one bead and leave the other bead seated. It should stay seated through rest of the process.
- Remove the tube from the unseated side.
- Install the tubeless valve.
- Remove the valve core from the valve.
- Brush the loose bead with very soapy water, thick and soapy enough to make the bead slippery and sudsy.
- Lay the wheel on its side with the loose bead facing down, inside the rim with the weight of the tire pushing the bead toward the rim. Laying the wheel over a bucket is a good way to do this.
- Put the hose from the bead seater over the valve and tighten the hose clamp around the valve.
- Open the valve on the tank.
- Press the trigger on the gauge to release air, but only for about a second, then release the trigger. The bead should seat.
- If that does not seat the bead, press the trigger slightly longer.
- It is possible for the bead to seat on some of the rim but not all the way. Even if you get a partial bead seating, that is OK, remove the hose from the valve. That will let the air out of the tire. The bead should stay partly seated. You should be able to finish seating with a floor pump. This is safer than completely seating the bead with the tank.
- If you cannot seat the bead with a floor pump, seat it again using the tank, but seat the bead more completely and then finish with the floor pump. The goal is to use the tank as little as possible for safety reasons. You may need to completely seat the bead with the tank, but that is pretty rare.
- Once the bead is fully seated, remove the floor pump or tank. This will let all the air out of the tire again. Add your favorite tubeless tire sealant through the coreless valve.
- Reinstall the valve core.
- Reinflate the tire with a floor pump.
- Bounce the tire around and use your favorite method to seal the sidewalls. Take it for a ride. You are done!
There are other ways to deal with hard-to-seat beads. Air compressors can deliver high pressure but in small volume. Some come with tanks like this so they can deliver high volumes, but that gets pretty pricey. There are floor pumps made to push lots of volume but nothing like a tank will deliver. There are even floor pumps like the Lezyne Overdrive that pump up a small tank and release that pressure all at once, like a mini version of this. But this is a much bigger tank. If those other solutions work for you, great, but if you are like me and needed something bigger, this tank was an affordable way to go.