Riding with our little rippers and being out in the world can be one of the best feelings to experience. Sharing that passion and spending time outdoors is second to none. Unfortunately, mechanical issues can hinder those experiences; and one of the most common mechanical issues on a bike is a flat tire.
The best way to prevent flat tires is to run the wheels tubeless. The pro-circuit racers are running tubeless the world around.
While it can be a bit frustrating and time consuming to set you child’s wheelset up tubeless, the outcome is worth every minute of time you spend on the conversion. The benefits of setting up tires tubeless include fewer flats, the use of plugs (bacon) for those flats, a lighter wheelset, and the ability to run lower tire pressure.
So, lets jump in! This article (and video) focuses on converting wheels to a tubeless setup for children’s bikes (but can be used for any bike).
Tubeless Ready Vs Regular Wheelsets
There are several higher-end kids mountain bikes that come with tubeless ready wheelsets. My sons Trailcraft Blue Sky 20, for instance, came with a tubeless-ready Stans Crest wheelset.
The vast majority of kids bikes, however, do not come with tubeless ready builds. While tubeless ready wheelsets are easier to convert, you can do a conversion on any wheelset.
There are several ways to convert any wheel to a tubeless set-up. You can use a kit from a company like Stans, you could use an old tube from a smaller wheel for the rim backing.
The most effective and cheapest approach I have found is using Gorilla Tape with Stan’s sealant and tubeless specific valves, and that’s what I’ll focus on in this article.
What You’ll Need For The Conversion
You will need the following items to remove the tire and convert the rim.
- Tire levers* (preferably steel core levers that won’t break with a tight tire)
- A solid floor pump (or ideally, an air compressor)
- Gorilla Tape* (or other rim tape)
- Stan’s Tire Sealant*
- Stan’s Tubeless Valves* (Presta work best as the cores are easily removable to refresh sealant when needed)
- Utlility knife
Remove The Tire
After removing each wheel from the bike frame, the tires and tubes can be removed. Wedge the tire levers under the bead and slide them along the rim to move the tire bead over to the outer edge of the rim.
Once one side of the tire is off, the tube valve can be pushed out and the entire tube removed. Save these tubes as emergency backups if needed. I have strapped one to each of my child’s bike’s matching the rim’s valve hole.
Once you are done pulling the entire tire off, the rim needs to be cleaned with a dry rag. I tend to leave any rim tape already on if it’s covering spoke holes as it tends to help seal up the entire set-up.
Gorilla Tape (or any specific rim tape) is then applied across the inner base of the rim from bead wall to bead wall. Generally, using a wider roll of tape will create excess on each side of the rim and a utility knife can be used to cut along the beadwall sides of the rim and removed.
Install Tubeless Valve
After the rims have been taped and adequate pressure is applied to all the tape on the rim, then the tubeless valve can be installed. Poke a small hole through the tape at the valve hole and push the valve through.
Screw the lock nut down firm, but don’t make it so tight that the rubber seal on the valve is torn. Check the tire for correct rotation in the tread pattern and install one side back onto the rim.
Shake the bottle and then pour in the recommended amount of sealant (typically two ounces per tire) into the open tire. Move the other bead into the inside of the rim wall.
Once the tire is installed then roll the wheel around and spread the sealant inside everything before inflating. Be careful not to spill as the sealant will seep out of the open sides. If possible, try to pull the tire’s sides into the bead wall as best as possible. If this can be done, at least on one side of the tire they will generally inflate easy.
Inflate The Tire
After that begin the attempts to inflate. If the system is setup correctly, most often the beads will “pop” into place and there won’t be any question if it worked or not.
I have had some tires that just refuse to install. When a tire won’t seat there are some other methods to try.
One is using a tie-down strap around the tire as you attempt to seat the tire. This method is used in the motorcycle world quite often.
Another is putting a tube in with new tires just so they take shape on the rim and then trying to reseat them tubeless at a later time. More often than not, using an air compressor vs. a floor pump provides a powerful steady stream of air to get them to seat. If you can’t get it, don’t be discouraged. Some tires were just never meant to be set up tubeless.
Tires For Tubeless Conversions
As for tires we have had luck with on 20 inch bikes, the Vee Crown Gems (Trailcraft), Kenda Kinetics (Prevelo), and Schwalbe Rocket Rons (Woom) all setup tubeless without a problem. We did buy some replacement 20 inch Bontrager XR1’s that we could not get to seat on any number of rims.
You can find more options in this guide:
Give It A Try!
Tubeless conversions offer lower rolling weight in the wheels and ultimately more speed because of the weight reduction. The biggest challenge to kids riding is their body weight ratio with a bike so a tubeless setup is really a no-brainer.
Not having to worry about tires popping is a reduction in stress for the parents maintaining the bikes. Having more traction at lower levels of PSI is an added safety benefit or running tubeless as well.
With a few simple items like tire levers, tape, sealant and valves the conversion can take a matter of minutes to perform and hopefully increase the level of enjoyment, opportunity, and experience for all the riders in the family.