Tag Archives: how to

Tubeless tires are one of the best upgrades you can make to your bike. This is the HaveFunBiking guide to tubeless tire setup and troubleshooting.

Tips and tricks for setting up your tubeless tires on your bike

By John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Tubeless tires are one of the best upgrades you can make to your bike. They are more resistant to flats, ride better, and are lighter. With all their benefits, the fear of setting them up keeps many riders from enjoying the tubeless world. If you are still refusing to take the leap for fear of having to care for them, read on. This is the HaveFunBiking guide to tubeless tire setup and troubleshooting.

Are tubeless tires compatible for your bike wheels?

First step in setting up your tubeless wheels is to verify you have all the right parts. First, verify with the manufacturer that your bike rim and tire are tubeless ready. Review the rim and tire for a tubeless ready designation. Common terms for Tubeless are “Tubeless ready”, “TLR”, “TCS”, “Tubeless Easy”, “TNT”, and “TR”.  Once you assure that the rim and tire are tubeless ready, you can move on to getting your wheels and tires ready.

tubless tire

Vittoria’s TNT tubeless logo

Tubeless tire

Schwalbe’s Tubeless easy logo


First, take the wheels off your bike. Once they are off remove the existing tires and tubes off the wheels. For the next step, you need to verify what type of rim tape you have. Rim tape is the barrier in the center of the rim that holds the innertube’s pressure from pressing into the spoke holes. If you have cloth tape or a nylon belt, you need to remove it. If there is an adhesive plastic tape applied to the rim (frequently yellow or blue), leave it in place. Next, clean the rim thoroughly with soap and water. Also clean the beads of you tire with soap and water.

Yelow Tubeless rim tape is well applied here

Tubeless tire bike tape

If you had to remove a nylon belt or cloth tape, you will need to replace it with a tubeless rim tape. There are many different brands and they all work well, the only thing you want to make sure of is that the rim tape matches your rim width. I like to pick a tape that will cover the inside of the rim from edge to edge. That means, if the rim has a 23mm inner width a tape with a 23mm width fits perfectly ensuring an airtight fit between tire and rim. When you install the tape, start opposite to the valve hole, Stretch the tape slightly as you go, and overlap the end by at least four inches. Once the tape is in place, use your fingers to burnish it down into the rim.

tubeless tire

Installing tape on a clean bike rim.

Installing the valve

Now that the bike rim is taped and ready for a tire, you need to install the tubeless valve. A tubeless valve looks just like a standard presta valve except instead of being attached to an innertube, it has a small seal at the end of it. To install the valve, first locate the valve hole in the rim and pierce the rim tape. I like to use an awe that has a diameter just a bit smaller than the tubeless valve. Once you pierce the tape, push the tubeless valve through it and tighten it into place with a valve nut. You can also dip the valve’s seal in a little tire sealant before you install it to maximize the airtight seal.

Tubeless tires

Valve installation process

Seating the tire

Installing a tubeless tire is almost an identical process to installing a standard tire, except there is no tube. Start by installing one side of the tire bead onto the rim, before installing the second bead, you can add sealant (more about this in the next section) or just put the tire all the way onto the rim dry. I urge you not to use a tire lever to install the tire. Quite often, tire levers can damage the tire or tape, limiting their ability to hold an airtight seal.


The tire sealant I mentioned in the last section is the fluid that goes into your tire, that helps everything stay airtight. There are heaps of sealants on the market, but for the most part they all get installed one of two ways. You can either pour the desired amount into the tire before it is completely installed, or you can inject the sealant through the valve. Sealant can dry out within the tire over time, so you should plan to add more sealant to the tires on a quarterly basis. To add sealant through the valve, you will need to remove the valve core from the tubeless valve, and use an injector to force fluid into the tire

Sealant in the tire. You can see the dried sealant on the tire

Airing it up

One of the most difficult parts to installing a tubeless setup can be getting it to hold air. I know this sounds strange, but with all the different rim and tire manufacturers out there, getting consistent tolerances between the two is difficult. This variation in tolerance is what can lead to some difficulty airing the tires up for the first time. Thankfully, as an industry, tolerances are getting closer every year.

There are two schools of thought on airing up the tire initially: with sealant or without. While there are benefits to both ways it breaks down to this. With sealant in the tire, you stand a better chance of having the system seal initially. Without sealant, if there is any issue with the tire seating, you don’t need to fool with the mess of sealant correcting the issue. Overall, I like to be careful with my prep, tape application, and valve installation so I can air up the tire with sealant.

With Sealant

To air up the tires with sealant in the system, ensure the tire is seated on the rim well. Inspect that the tubeless valve is sitting inside the cavity of the tire (it I possible for the tire to be sitting completely off to one side of the valve on wider rims). Then, with a good floor pump, start adding air as quickly as you can. It is ok if the system leaks a bit of air and fluid at first, but after 30 seconds of pumping you should have a tire that is beginning to hold air well. I like to bring the tire up to max pressure initially to guarantee it’s seated completely, then I lower the pressure down to my desired PSI.

Flatstopper sealant poured directly into a tire

Without Sealant

Airing the tire up dry follows the same procedure, but after the tire is seated, you must release the air pressure, remove the valve core, inject sealant, then re-inflate.

tubless tires

Sealant being added through the valve.

Common issues and fixes

Wont air up – It is totally possible that regardless of how much you pump, the tire won’t take air. There are a few things you can do to help. First thing is to hang the wheel by the rim, rather than having it sit on the ground. Often time, taking pressure off the tire completely will let it seat. Also, you can use more air. I find a compressor or floor pump with a reservoir works exceptionally well. If both these things don’t work, you can remove the valve core from the tubeless valve and try again (it allows slightly more air to get into the tire).

Leaking fluid – Depending on the tire you use it’s common to see some fluid weeping from the area where the tire and rim meet, or from the actual sidewall of the tire. In both cases, I find it helps to lower the air pressure and allow the sealant to dry. Pressures that are too high will often time keep fluid weeping faster than it can dry and seal. If you see fluid leaking through the base of the valve, or through the spoke holes, chances are you have a valve that isn’t airtight or rim tape that isn’t sealing. Like the sidewall, lower the pressure and see if it seals. If it continues to leak, you may need to tighten the valve, or worse yet, replace the rim tape.

I think with these tips and a little practice you will find that installing tubeless tires is a breeze. Also, you will find that the ride quality and flat prevention benefits are well worth the slight learning curve.

With 20 years in development your disc brakes are more powerful and serviceable than ever before. Read on for some simple steps to keep them working well.

A simple look at your bikes disc brakes function and maintenance

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Disc brakes were introduced on bikes as early as the 1950’s with Shimano making an actual hydraulic disc in the mid 1970’s. There were versions of the Schwinn Stingray series (released in 1971) that came stock with a rear disc brake. Let’s fast forward more than 25 years to the first market acceptable disc brake -The Hayes Mag disc. From its release in 1997, disc brakes have found their way onto most mountain bike, hybrids and now road bikes. With 20 years in development, disc brakes are more powerful and more serviceable than ever before. Read on to learn the basics on how your disc brakes work and how to keep them working well.

Disc Brake

Original Schwinn disc and 1997 Mag brake, both made by Hayes

How Hydraulic Disc Brakes Work

At their most basic, the brake lever moves fluid through a system and that fluid flows to the pads that press on the rotor. There are more details that make one brake work better than another. However, at the root, all disc brakes are very simple. The reasons the system is so simple and works so well is based on the following. Both the pad and rotor materials produce excellent friction. Additionally, the natural properties of fluids help transfer lever force without compression and absorb excess heat.

How Mechanical Disc Brakes Work

Mechanical disc brakes share the same pad materials and rotors as hydraulic systems; Therefore, they have very similar stopping power. Where mechanical system differ is they use a standard brake cable to actuate the brake instead of hydraulic fluid. Mechanical discs have a small lever on the brake caliper that is pulled by the brake cable, moving the brake pads and stopping the bike. The benefits to mechanical disc brakes is a larger lever shape choice, lower cost, and easier adjustment. On the other hand, because mechanical systems don’t use fluid, they are not as powerful and don’t manage heat as well as hydraulic systems. For that reason, on longer descents, mechanical brakes can under perform compared to their hydraulic counterparts.

Why disc brakes are more efficient

Unlike rim brakes, disc brakes don’t rely on a wheel being straight and round. Even if you were to accidentally dent of bend your rim, with a disc, you can still brake confidently. Another reason disc brakes are more efficient is that they produce a massive amount of friction. That friction, in concert with the venting on the disc rotors clears debris off the rotor and allows the brakes to work through all conditions. Ultimately, disc brakes are more efficient because they require less maintenance. In fact, hydraulic disc brakes self-adjust for pad wear they don’t require you to adjust them.

Why adjust the disc brakes caliper

Adjusting the brakes caliper is necessary if you hear the brake rubbing, or if they aren’t helping you stop well. Before adjusting a hydraulic brake, squeeze the lever to determine if you system needs to bled. If the lever feels spongy when you squeeze it, you need to bleed the system. It’s best to take it to your local shop and have the pros handle it. However, If the lever moves freely through its range, then has a firm feel once the pads hit the rotor, you can proceed without bleeding the system.

How to adjust the caliper to eliminate noise on hydraulic brakes

To adjust the caliper, loosen the two fixing bolts on top of the caliper (they may be under the chainstay on road bikes or in front of the rear quick release). Then snug both bolts up until the caliper stays in place, but is still move able with some effort on your part. WARNING! The rotor can be sharp and cause serious injury to your fingers. While spinning the wheel, keep your fingers clear of any spinning part.

While looking into the caliper, try to position it so there is equal space between each pad and the rotor. Once the caliper is centered spin the wheel slowly – in a perfect world there is no noise. If you are hearing the rotor rub on the pads, readjust until you get no noise. In some cases, you may need to straighten the rotor, this is a job best left to a bike shop professional. Once you are happy with the calipers position, tighten down the fixing bolts and you are done!

disc brake

Here you can see equal between the rotor and pads on both sides.

Adjusting mechanical brake performance

If your mechanical disc brakes have recently lost power, or the levers pull too close to the bar, you can easily adjust them for better performance. Before you adjust the brake, inspect the rotor and pads for any contaminants. Usually, contaminants come int he form of chain lube splattered from an over lubricated chain. If you see any oily residue on the rotor, the rotor needs to be cleaned, the pads will also need to be cleaned or replaced before you can proceed (denatured alcohol works well).

Most mechanical disc brakes have a fixed pad, and a moving pad. The moving pad pushes the rotor into the fixed pad, and creates stopping power.  Because these brakes operate differently than a hydraulic system, they need to be adjusted differently. First, you want to align the caliper so the rotor is as close as possible to the moving pad without touching. Next, thread the fixed pad in until it is as close to the rotor, but not touching. With both pads in place, loosen the cable pinch bolt on the side of the mechanical brake, pull the cable tight, then snug the pinch bolt again. Continue to adjust until you get the performance and lever feel you prefer.

disc brake

The Lever (green) is pulled, pushing the moving pad (also green) into the rotor (red). The Rotor is then flexed into the fixed pad (blue).

Trouble shooting disc brakes

Lever squeeze

Hydraulic brakes have a mechanism built into the master cylinder that auto adjusts for pad wear. It’s a great little valve that eliminates the need to re-bleed the brake continually as the pad wears. This valve can also lead to problems if you squeeze the brake lever without the wheel in your bike. The brake will adjust as if you just wore through 3mm of pad material (the thickness of the rotor) and not leave enough room between the pads to fit the rotor back in. To solve this issue you can either take the bike into a local shop or find a wide, flat, clean, metal tool to fit within the pads, and pry them apart again.

In cold temperatures

In temperatures below freezing, hydraulic discs that use mineral oil as a fluid can behave differently. As the mercury drops, the mineral oil can thicken and make the lever feel sluggish. You will find that once the temps rise, the brake will feel normal again.

Overall, disc brakes are the next step in brake evolution. They are more consistent, more powerful and easier to actuate than any other type of brake on the market. With every new evolutionary step, there will be some hesitation to try “the new”. Even though there may be some hesitation, you should not fear buying a bike with disc brakes. Thanks to years of iteration and market demand we now have disc brakes that are inexpensive and functional.

Learn How To Install Bar Tape For Your Most Comfortable Ride Yet

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Riding and maintaining your road bike can be easy with some basic maintenance and by practicing the right skills. Plus, while you ride your bike, you should do everything you can to feel comfortable. That includes the right fit, the right clothes, and above all else, the right touch points. Touch points on a bike are anywhere your body touches the bike (specifically hands, feet, and saddle). The easiest touch point to freshen up on your road bike is the bar tape. Read below for a step by step instruction on installing bar tape.

How to Start Installing New Bar Tape

The first choice you have when wrapping your bars is, will you wrap from inside out, or outside in?  Either choice is fine as long as you start from the bottom of the bar rather than the top. Wrapping from the top down, will position the edge of the bar tape so it easily unravels with normal use.

Bar Tape

The bars on the left are being taped from inside to outside, while the ones on the right are going outside to inside.

To begin. position the end of the bar tape about 50% off the end of the bar. While holding the end of the tape tightly, begin stretching the tape and winding it around the bar. When winding it, make sure that each section of tape, covers 25% of the previous wrap. It is important to stretch the tape. While most bar tapes have an adhesive backing to help hold itself in place, stretched tape will constrict around the bar as you wrap it, and stay in place better.

From left to right you can see how to start, how to wrap the tape, and the hood clamp detail

Wrapping levers

While winding the tape up the bar, the only real difficulty is the brake hoods. First thing you want to do is flip the back of the brake hood forward, exposing the hood clamp band and a portion of the hood body.

The soft rubber hoods flip forward to tape bars, or replace cables

The most common ways to wrap around the hood are either, maintain the standard, spiral, winding pattern, or wrap the lever in a figure 8 pattern. For a standard wrap, first place a small piece of bar tape to cover the clamp band, then continue wrapping up the bar. For the figure 8 pattern, start winding as normal, once the tape gets over the hood, wrap the tape back down the side of the hood winding it around the bottom of the hood and crossing the tape in a figure 8 pattern across the back of the hood strap. You have done it correctly if no bar is showing once you flip the brake hoods back into place.

On the left, the tape is being wrapped in a helical fashion while the bar on the right is using a figure 8 pattern

Finishing Your Bar Tape

Once you have taped up the bar, past the hood, and are about 2” from the stem clamp, it is time to finish the tape. Most bar tapes come with vinyl finishing tape to hold the tape in place. Whereas bar tape is quite flexible finishing tape is a lot more ridged. When cutting the bar tape, cut it on an angle so that when wrapped, it leaves a sharp flat edge. Before using the finishing tape, I find it helpful to use a vinyl electrical tape to secure the bar tape, then wrap the supplied finishing tape on top in the opposite direction. When you have finished taping, go back to the open end of the bar, tuck any spare tape into it, and tap the bar plug into place.

An easy sign of a good tape job is a clean finish and bar plugs that face upright. It’s O.K. to sweat the small stuff!

Tips and Tricks

Before you begin taping the bar, be sure to have scissors, electrical tape, a small section of bar tape, and the bar plug within reach. There is nothing more annoying than getting to the top of the bar and having to let it go (unraveling the bar) and go get scissors or tape. If you want a little more cush, take some spare bar tape and run it length wise along the top of the bar all the way to the hood and wrap over it. This method gives you added padding without increasing the bar diameter too much. If you want to change the profile of the bar you can use some spare brake housing under the tape to give the bar more of a wing profile. Simply secure it in place with liberal amounts of electrical tape.

Simple things like additional tape (above) and a section of spare brake housing (below) can customize your bar shape

Hopefully by following the above instructions your new bar tape will go on quickly and neatly. However, if you don’t have the time or feel uncomfortable visit your favorite bike shop and they can get the feel your looking for.

Shift gears to the terrain you are riding can take you miles from home with ease. Learn the what, how, when and why of shifting your bike.

How to Shift Gears on your bike for Efficiency and Confidence

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Shift gears to the terrain you are riding can take you miles from home with ease. Over hills and through tough valleys, all thanks to the ability to know how to shift your gears. Learn the what, how, when and why of shifting your bike below.

Shift Gears and Its Terminology

Before we jump into how to shift your bike most efficiently, lets cover the basic parts. Beyond the chain, there are many moving parts that make up the drivetrain on your bike, allowing you to shift gears.

-Cassette and freewheel

The gears attached to your rear wheel are called the cassette or freewheel. While they are mechanically different, for the act of shifting, they operate identically. These gears are built with teeth that sit higher, lower, or at an angle depending on where they are located. The different tooth profiles allow the chain to seamlessly shift from one gear to the next. These gears come in groups of 5 up to 12 depending on the shifting system you have. Overall, the smallest and largest gears are close in size regardless of the amount of gears.


The chainrings are the gears attached at the middle of the bike where your pedals are. Most bikes have between 1 and 3 chainrings. You will notice that the teeth on the chainrings have similar profiles to those on the cassette. So if you see a tooth that is smaller or oddly shaped, don’t immediately assume it’s damaged. Basic chainrings will be stamped out of steel while more expensive ones are machined out of aluminum. The machining makes these aluminum rings both lighter and shift better.


The derailleurs are the mechanisms that physically guide the chain from one gear to another. Most bikes will have two, a front and a rear. The front derailleur has a curved cage that sits just above the chainrings. When moved in and out, that cage guides the chain onto different gears. The rear derailleur has a parallelogram, and a spring loaded arm with two pulleys. When shifted, the rear derailleurs upper pulley guides the chain across the cassette and onto the appropriate gear.


The shifters are designed to pull the cables that operate the derailleurs. Most bikes have them attached to the handlebar, but some older bikes will have them located on the downtube. The shifter on the right side of the bike controls the rear derailleur while the shifter on the left operate the front. For mountain bikes and hybrids there are really only two types, trigger and twist shifters. A trigger shifter uses thumb and trigger finger activated levers, while a twist shifter allows you to rotate a portion of the grip to shift gears. Road bikes usually have the shifter mounted onto the brake lever, but can also have paddle style shifters on the end of the bar or on the downtube.

Flat bar shifters come in two varieties, trigger (left) and twist (right)

Road bike shifters are usually attached to the brake levers (left) but on older bikes can be found on the downtube.

How To Shift Gears

Shifting your bike is easy to do and easy to do wrong. For all bikes that use derailleurs, remember one thing – Shift only when pedaling. The act of pedaling is what allows the chain to jump seamlessly from gear to gear. Also try not to shift both the front and rear derailleur simultaneously as it can lead to problems. To get comfortable shifting, pedal on a piece of flat ground and operate only the right (rear) shifter first. You will find that as you shift into higher numbers (assuming your shifter has a gear indicator) it will become more difficult to pedal but faster moving. Inversely, as you shift into lower numbers it will become easier to pedal but slower moving.

Once you feel very comfortable shifting the rear derailleur, shift into a middle gear and explore what the front derailleur does. You will notice that the incremental changes of the rear derailleur give way to large changes when shifting the front derailleur. Going across chainrings makes a huge difference in how easy or difficult it is to pedal. Once you have mastered the front and rear derailleurs, you are now ready to try shifting in other than flat conditions.

When to Shift Gears

The reason we shift gears is to give ourselves a mechanical advantage over the changing surroundings. With this mechanical advantage comes some idiosyncrasies. First thing is that the gears are designed to allow the chain to move easily from one to the other when shifted, but hold tight under the load of pedaling. What that means is that if you are pedaling with a great amount of effort (say up a hill), and try to shift, you are asking the drivetrain to both hold the chain in place and move freely. Sadly, it becomes difficult for a mechanical device to do both these things. To make sure you don’t run into any issues, always shift while you are pedaling with light load, or shift into the dear you will need just before you actually need it. As an example, shifting into a very low gear at the base of a hill is a better idea than taking a run at it and trying to shift down gears while your climbing under load.

Gear Ratios And How They Affect Your Ride

When we talk about gears, what it translates to is how many times the rear wheel rotates per pedal rotation. So if you are in a very low gear going up hill, you may pedal two complete pedal rotations in order to turn the rear wheel once. Inversely, if you are headed down a steep descent in a high gear, you will probably be spinning the rear wheel 3-4 times per pedal rotation. If you think about gears in these terms, it becomes easier to figure out where and when to shift.

Finding The Perfect Gear

The perfect gear is always changing (and you thought it would be easy). Even though it changes, it can most easily be described as the gear allowing you to pedal comfortably. We all have a natural pace (called cadence) we feel comfortable pedaling at, the goal in shifting I to allow you to continue to pedal at that pace even as the topography changes.

Putting It All Together

Now that you understand the “what, when, why, and how” of shifting, it’s time to practice on the open road. Pay close attention to what your most comfortable pedaling cadence is. Oftentimes people believe that they are comfortable pedaling really slowly in a difficult gear, but find after some experimentation, that they can pedal for longer if they shift into a slightly easier gear and pedal quicker. If you are riding off road, experiment with what gears give you the best traction on loose terrain. Many riders will default to their lowest gear at the first sign of loose conditions only to find that gear has too much torque, forcing their tire to break free and spin out. All in all, body types, muscle mass, conditions, and personal preferences make gearing choices different for everyone. But now that you know the details, you should feel comfortable finding the right ones for you.

Also check out our article on related tips to make your bike more comfortable and faster.


Learn How to Care for Your Bike Tires for a Comfortable and Safe Ride

Learn How to Care for Your Bike Tires for a Comfortable and Safe Ride

Tires are often overlooked, but wildly important in the safety and security of your next bike ride. Learning how to inflate your bike tires properly, review their condition, and fix flat tires is something every rider should know.

How do I use my pump?

The first thing about tire care is proper air pressure. Having too much air will result in a rough ride, while too little leaves you susceptible to pinch flats and poor control. The best way to inflate your tires is with a bike pump. To use a bike pump, it’s important to understand how the bicycle tire valves work, and what pump options exist.


Bike pumps are great because they typically work on both type of valves. If you aren’t aware, there are two commonly used valves. The American (or Schrader) valve is the most common. It’s the same valve used on car tires. It has a spring-loaded valve, that self-seals. The other common valve is a French (or Presta) valve. A Presta valve is narrower than an American valve and uses the pressure inside the tube to seal itself. It also has a lock barrel on the end of the valve to secure it shut. With the American valve, inflation is as easy as taking off the valve cap, attaching the pump and inflating. In Contrast, the French valve adds a step. First remove the valve cap, loosen the lock nut, then attach the pump and inflate.

-Hand Pump

The most economical and portable type of bike pump is a hand pump. Hand pumps vary in size from just a few inches long to almost two feet. They won’t fill a tire to pressure quickly, but for emergency repairs, they do a great job.

-floor pump

Floor pumps are by far the best option to inflate your bike tires. They are usually around 3 feet tall, work on both valves, and have a gauge that displays the tire’s pressure. While not portable, they are the quickest way to fill a tire.


Inflators use small cartridges usually filled with CO2 gas to quickly bring your tires up to pressure. They are great for emergency repairs, but at $2-3 per cartridge, they are too expensive for everyday use.

Tire condition

Before you inflate your tires, review their condition. There are a major concerns to be aware of like dry rot, tread wear, and sidewall wear.

-Dry rot

All tires are susceptible to dry rot. Dry rot is when rubber hardens, and cracks. It is caused by exposure to UV rays, O-Zone and Oxygen. As the bike tires age, they lose elasticity, durability, and traction. Typical signs that a tire is dry rotted is discoloration, meaning a normally black tire will appear grey. Additionally, you will notice small cracking on the tread to begin, and large cracking at later stages.


Bike tires are built out of rubber impregnated fabrics. The rubber gives the tire durability, and the fabric allows the tire to conform over objects. Pay close attention to the sides of your tire for damage or “threading”. Damage would look like cuts, or punctures, while “threading” is when you see the rubber and thread separating, resulting in loose threads coming off the side of the tire.

-tread wear

The tire’s life is over when no more tread is left. On road tires, you can frequently see a difference in color once you wear through the tread. Mountain tires are a bit more difficult to call. For off road use, a tire stops functioning well once the tread wears down. This doesn’t meant he tire needs to be replaced for threat of flats, but t will stop functioning properly where traction is concerned.

What pressure should I run?

Tire pressure is usually called out on the sidewall of the tires somewhere. What you will see is a pressure range like 50-70psi. Follow those recommendations for best wear and ride quality.