What's the easiest to install slick mountain bike tire?
July 27, 2011 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to put some slick (or semi-slick) tires on my mountain bike. What would be a good choice? My biggest requirement is that they'd be pretty easy to install. Second requirement would be cost. I'd rather not spend 50 bucks a wheel.

I have a Specialized Rockhopper that I'd like to use for commuting. I picked up some Serfas Drifter tires (26" x 1") but I have a really hard time getting them on. Out the 4 times I've tried, I've only done it once. And that took almost an hour of pain, sweet, and tears. The other three have ended up with punctures because I resorted to using tire levers or gimmicks like zip-ties and butter knife handles.

I know you aren't supposed to use tools to put tires on, but, it was that or giving up entirely. My hands and forearms still ache from my attempt last night. An attempt that ended with a PSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH :-(

These tires are super stiff and hard to work with. Mountain bike tires (the stock Specialized tires) are soft and easy to install. I know there has to be a better tire out there.

This question has a lot of good tires, but no one mentions the ease of install.
posted by sideshow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I use Specialized Armadillos. They are easy enough to fit (I use a couple of spoons as tire levers). I never had a puncture in a year of riding 10 miles a day through the city.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:56 PM on July 27, 2011

Specifically, I think these are mine - when I bought them originally I found a deal where it was £40 for a pair.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:57 PM on July 27, 2011

Tire levers are perfectly acceptable to use when mounting or removing bike tires. It's why they exist. Don't use a screwdriver as it'll rip the tire or dent your rims. Butter knives are right out.

Having said that I've used Continental Town & Country tires and Specialized Armadillos. Both were fine, the Town&Country tires being slightly better if you're going off-road once in a while.

Did you get a tire with a wire bead instead of a kevlar bead? Maybe that was why they were so hard to mount. At any rate, both of these types of tires were not particularly hard to install.
posted by GuyZero at 5:20 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rode Specialized Fatboys back in the day.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:30 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: Also changing tough tires is an art. You'll get it with time.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:31 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Looking at all these tires online they all seem to have wire beads, so I guess it's not that. As Ironmouth says, changing tires is an art. I think the issue is that the more you do it, the more you get used to requiring massive force to do so.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on July 27, 2011

Is there something wrong with using tire levers? I can remove and install tires pretty easily with them, I very strongly doubt I'd be able to install a tire without them.

Buy some tire levers (they are sooo cheap) and practice with them. It doesn't take much to become proficient and at that point you'll be able to install any tire.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:57 PM on July 27, 2011

Call me a weakling, but I need the help of a tire lever to get my road tires on. I'm fairly careful about it and haven't punctured an inner tube doing so yet. Once I have the tire seated I make a few passes around the whole thing to make sure the tube is not being pinched before fully inflating. In case you don't already know, you want to leave the part opposite of the stem as your last bit to pull over the rim.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:02 PM on July 27, 2011

I know you aren't supposed to use tools to put tires on

Why ever not? I've always used levers---even teaspoons---to mount tires. After hundreds+ of tires changed, I've never damaged a tire or rim (or spoke). I consider a pair of levers an essential part of my ride kit.
posted by bonehead at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2011

Try dusting the rim, tube and tire with a little talcum powder to ease installation.

As for the tires, I really like Panaracer Paselas and T-SERVs. They come in almost any size you want, and the steel-beaded versions are in the $20-30 range. Be aware that the tan sidewalls tend to wear out before the tread, so if you're worried about that, look for one that's all black.
posted by pullayup at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2011

One trick to get the tire on easier is to use soap water. Put maybe a 1/2 dish soap 1/2 water in a cup and mix it. Then smear the mix on the edge of the tire.
posted by brorfred at 6:26 PM on July 27, 2011

I like the Pasela TourGuards as well. I ride 26 x 1.25 on my 80s KHS hardtail and they are a dream.

Learn to roll a tire back on the rim, it's a lot easier. This video shows it done near the end. Grab as much tire as you can in your palm and roll the entire thing back. It can take a lot more force than it appears in the video. Some tire and rim combinations are really tough and there's not shame in using plastic levers. If you're going to get levers, the Park tool ones are nice. You get three in the package and they don't flex as much as some.
posted by advicepig at 6:47 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Pasela TGs. Very tough and economical- I have them on both my daily fixed ride and touring bike. I've had one tube explode while riding and the tire took it like a champ.

Regarding installation, you just need to keep at it. My first installation took me over half of an hour per wheel- and the most recent tube swap took under ten minutes.

The last foot or so of the tire bead will always be tough. I just concentrate on where the bead crosses the sidewall, and try as hard as I can on pushing that part over the rim. No levers needed, that just makes for clumsiness and cursing.
posted by One Thousand and One at 7:46 PM on July 27, 2011

I'm not sure if this is usual, but when removing a tire I tend to orient the lever so the "hook" faces upwards from the rim, towards the tire, but when I'm putting the tire back on, I do most of it by hand but use the lever for the last 10cm or so flipped, i.e. so the hook is on the rim, and lifting the lever pushes the tire into place. It is an art, you get better at it the more you do it, and dear christ no butter knives.
posted by chmmr at 8:31 PM on July 27, 2011

I've found that a single quik-stik lever works a lot better than multiple traditional levers at levering tight tires onto the rim.
posted by zombiedance at 11:51 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: Setting the tires out in the sun for 15 minutes immediately before installing will soften them up and make things a little easier.
posted by doctord at 7:20 AM on July 28, 2011

I've also heard putting them in the dryer for 10 minutes, but I image that'll make your laundry stink. tires should loosen up a bit with use anyway.

Some tires are tight, and some rims are a little big. If you get the wrong combination it can be difficult or even impossible to get the tire on. I don't know if there's any way to figure it out instead of trial and error. I've taken new tires back to the shop and switched brands because of this.

I've pinched tubes with enough times while putting a tire back one with levers that it's worth it to me get tires that are loose enough not to need them. If you ruin your only tube while changing a flat in the middle of a ride, you're out of luck.

Sheldon Brown has written about the best way to reinstall a tire, including tips on how to deal with tight ones. (Push the beads into the low channel in the center of the rim to give you more slack.) I'd been changing tires for 20 years when I read it last year, and it helped me.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:29 AM on July 28, 2011

Best answer: As others have said, using levers to install bicycle tires is absolutely OK, but here's a couple of tips to help avoid damaging the inner tube when you do...

* Have the inner tube inflated a little, just a enough to keep its shape.

* Make sure that the already mounted side of the tire is properly seated inside of the rim, then run a finger or two around the unmounted side to ensure that the inner tube is seated not just inside the tire, but also as far as possible inside the rim. This is a small but important step. The unmounted side of the tire should be touching or nearly touching the outer wall of the rim at this point and the inner tube shouldn't be visible.

* Starting at the valve start working the remaining side of the tire over the rim with your fingers. Before you've gone very far, stop and push the valve into the rim and tire. This will ensure the inner tube near the valve isn't caught under the rime when you get to fully inflating it.

* Keep working the last of the tire bead over the rim until your fingers aren't strong enough to get it any further.

* So far, you've also been visually checking the other side of the tire hasn't come unseated and the tube has remained properly tucked up inside the tire and rim.

* You should now have just a little, a few inches at most, of stubborn tire bead left to get over the rim wall. This is where the lever comes in. Insert the lever under the tire, in the center of the as yet unmounted sector, between the bead and rim, upside-down compared to if you were removing the tire. That is, with the curved end of the lever hooked over the rim wall, not cupping the tire bead. This is another small but important step. This way you're providing a smooth curved surface for the tire bead to slide over when you lift the lever, not being opposed by the lip of the lever.

* So lift the lever up towards the tire and with your other thumb keep pushing the tire over the rim, as you were doing before. You're using the lever as an aid, not as the sole force to mount the tire.

* The last length of tire bead should fairly easily slip over the end of the lever and seat itself inside the rim.

* You shouldn't have needed to raise the lever much more than perpendicular to the rim wall, or maybe just a little further. This way, there's no risk of trapping the inner tube between lever and rim - the greatest cause of tube damage when tire mounting.

* Before inflating the tire fully, visually inspect the tire to ensure there's no tube showing caught under the tire bead and that the tire looks evenly mounted all around the rim on both sides. Lastly and as a little insurance, 'massage' the tire all around, squeezing it and flexing it between your fingers and palms - this makes sure the tire is properly seated and will loosen any tube that snagged anywhere before it's under high pressure.

* Inflate!

That's a horrendous number of words to describe a process that with practice takes 20-30 seconds, but take your time the first few times and you'll be able to mount any stubborn tire this way.
posted by normy at 1:13 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'll try out all the advice upthread before I give up on these tires.

But, it appears that the thing I need the most is patience. Thanks for the help everyone.
posted by sideshow at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2011

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