archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Tire Changing

NOTE (April 2014): Since I added this page in November 2011, I have come across a couple of video tips that will show you how easy it really is to mount Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, and without tire levers, no less! These procedures work. Watch the two movies for valuable knowledge (the secret key to success is getting the tire’s wire bead into the deepest portion of the wheel first, for the slack):

Oh, be sure you have the  MP tire facing the proper rotational direction prior to mounting!! Years ago, I had one all mounted, only to learn I had placed it on the rim backwards to the direction of travel – MP tires are directional! Actually, I’ve made this mistake more than once (blush).

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: When I refer to Kenda Q-Tubes, I mean the thornproof variety made by Kenda, which are ultra thick and superior to others. Kenda makes several tube types, some of which are also called Q-Tubes, but the others are inferior, and NOT to be used if you prefer to remain flat-free for life!

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Original 2011 article:

I love changing trike tires! There is no better thing to be doing with my time. Do you know the joy? Why is this so joyous for me? Well, it’s because I always do it in the garage at home under safe and comfortable conditions on the work bench. I’ve not yet had the even greater joy of changing one out on the road at night in the rain on a busy highway. How much fun would that be? This may be because I run Schwalbe Marathon Plus flatproof tires, along with Kenda thorn resistant Q-Tubes, and EarthGuard tire liners.

But all that said, I have changed the Marathon Plus tires 13 times so far … never because of a flat mind you, but to get them on the trike in the first place, switch a tire’s direction that I mounted backwards to its drive direction, and put on a new set prior to the next expedition, even though the old set is still perfectly fine with plenty of tread left. Not even hundreds of goatheads had any negative effect on the tires. Anyway, I’m rambling now, so back to the topic here, which is how to change a tire.

I recently put on three new tires and tubes for an upcoming overland trike journey (CCTE). Marathon Plus tires are noted for their extra heavy duty construction, as well as their inflexibility relative to standard bicycle tires, which are quite flimsy by comparison. I’m a lot better at changing these things now than I was in 2009 when I first gave it a go. Popping the final six inches of bead over the rim is, of course, a nightmare … or I should say was a nightmare, as I now have it all figured out. And when I learn something that might be useful to my fellow trikers, I like to share it. Yes!! You too can now know the profound joy to be had changing Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires! Read on …

I have a few photographs that I will place captions under to explain how I do it. A movie would be great, but I’m not that good at it to do a movie. With the photos, it looks great, like I’m an expert – with a movie, you’d see my mistakes. Ahh, the vanity of it all, huh?

First, I remove a wheel. By using my modern high tech trike stand, I can support the trike one side at a time. I’d recommend taking the time to remove the wheel, as it’s so much easier to change a tire on a workbench at waist height!

Next, I get all my stuff ready to go. Here we see the new Kenda Q-Tubes in the back, the wheel I just removed on the left, and the two new Schwalbe Marathon “flat-less” tires from Bike Tires Direct.

We begin by deflating the tire’s tube, and then breaking a bead of the old tire over the top of the rim. This is readily accomplished by inserting a plastic tire lever under the rim and around the bead, then pulling back and securing the first lever to a spoke. Next, a second lever pulls up the bead quickly, and now I can use my hands for the rest of the removal.

With the bead of one side completely off the rim, we remove the old Q-Tube and EarthGuard tire liner.

Here is what the tire liners look like. They are essentially one more thick layer between your air supply and an intruding sharpie intent on flatting your ride. Of course, practically nothing can get through the Marathon Plus tire to begin with, so these EarthGuards see little to no combat duty in real life. They just spin around in complete bliss for thousands of miles, and look as perfect two years later as they did the day I put them in. And even if something did get through the tire’s quarter inch SmartGuard tread and this EarthGuard’s thick body, it would still have to defeat the super thick Q-Tube! Three awesome layers virtually ensure complete peace of mind!

The brand new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire is on the left, and the old one, with about 1500 miles on it, is on the right. With my soft vulnerable finger tips, I checked the inside of the old tires, which had literally been covered in hundreds of spiny goatheads on my Death Valley trek, and found no evidence whatsoever that any of those hundreds of thorns had breached the thick SmartGuard layer of the Schwalbe tire. Nothing had even touched the EarthGuard liners, let alone get close to the Q-Tubes. What a super testimonial that is to all three of these superior products! By the way, if it’s a hot sunny day, allowing the tire to sit in the sun for a little while will soften it up and make the installation a wee bit easier if it’s your first time.

Up next, we insert the EarthGuard tire liner into the new tire, being careful to face it the proper direction according to installation instructions that come with it. The gray side faces the tire, and when you get to the end, you overlap it with the beginning, never cutting off the excess! By the way, prior to mounting on the rim, make sure no spokes are pushing through the rim liner of the wheel.

Peaking inside the new tire, we see the green EarthGuard along the inside of the tire, and the Kenda Q-Tube slightly inflated next to it. Don’t forget to slightly inflate the tube prior to insertion – not much at all, perhaps 10 pounds or so just to make it more handy to handle.

A good habit to get into when mounting tires is to line up the center of the tire’s name with the valve hole and tube stem. This makes it easy to locate everything – you just look for the logo and there’s the stem.

Now we begin pushing the second bead into the inside of the rim. This goes easily at first, using our thumbs and hands to pop it onto the rim, but when we get to this point shown, those final inches seem utterly impossible. My first attempts a few years ago nearly wore the skin off my thumbs, and made them mighty sore in the process. I’ve since learned to insert two plastic tire levers at this point to hold it all in place, in preparation for the final anticipated pop, which comes next, and is oh so sweet when you hear it.

The thumbs are not even used anymore! Essentially what I do (after I have pushed the wire bead of the tire deep into the well of the rim all the way around, as shown in the movies above) is use the butt of my hands, as shown, to roll the tire over towards the back side. I use two hands simultaneously, but because I had to take this photograph, only one hand shows. With this method, the bead pops over in just a few tries with little physical effort, even with these stout tires.

Now, we air up the tube to perhaps half maximum pressure, which in this case is about 35 pounds per square inch, as these tires have a maximum rating of 70 PSI (which is also expressed as 5 bar). Then, we deflate the tire again for the next step.

Here is a critical part of the procedure to remember. After everything had a chance to align into place with the partial inflation in the last step, we now peek inside to see how it all went. What I am looking for here is to make sure that the tube is fully inside the tire casing, and no portion of the tube is sticking out. If a tube is not fully inside the tire, once full air is supplied, the tube will be pinched, and then when you start riding, it will eventually lead to a flat because the tube will be destroyed by the rubbing between the tire and rim. Basically, we just slowly rotate the tire and make sure it looks like this photo all the way around on both sides of the rim. We don’t want to see ANY tube during this inspection.

After we determine the tube is properly in place and fill it with 70 PSI air, the whole assembly is then remounted onto the trike, making sure to properly torque the axle so it won’t come loose at speed on the road. By giving the tire a spin, it just makes you want to get into the cockpit and TRIKE ON!