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!


21 Responses to Tire Changing

  1. Glen Aldridge says:

    Hi Steve, Thanks for the tips on mounting the tires. I really like the valve & logo lined up. Would sure make the valve stem easy to find in the dark. May I add something that seems obvious & makes installing the Marathons or any tire so easy. Simply wet the beads with soapy water before pressing onto the rim. They will most likely slip all the way on without using the tire levers, at least they did with my rims.

  2. Gary W. Bunting says:

    Great write-up, Steve. As another note on easing tire installation, Schwalbe makes a product called ‘Easy Fit’ Montage Fluid that is applied to the tire bead(s) to ease in the mounting of the tire on the rim. This product is available through The Hostle Shopped, but I’ve been unable to locate it from any other source, other than directly through Schwalbe. Will be using it to mount my own Marathon Pluses for the CCTE.


  3. Steve says:

    Yes, these solutions are sound, and I have heard them a long time, starting with my Old Man when I was a teenager and we’d change motorcycle tires. He would use the old tried and true soap and water method. Of course, large motorcycle tires are a tad more difficult than a small Schwalbe. My good friend Matt Jensen wants me to use soap and water, but I like the challenge of outsmarting the tire, so I stick with it. After all, if I ever did have to do one on the road, I likely wouldn’t use any soap or lubricant. Actually, with the new method I’m using, with these three new mountings, it was so easy that I didn’t need anything else to assist the job. Experience pays off. After 13 of these Marathon mountings, success and ease are now the watchwords. Thanks for the input boys! Perhaps I’ll see you out on the road sometime? TRIKE ON!

  4. JJ says:

    Hi Steve -clean black new tread always looks so good eh?
    The last, or first, bit of tight bead to fit over the rim should be easier if the oppisite side of the wheel has its tyre dropped into the middle of the rim, where it is deeper. It can help keep it there if something is tied around the rim + tyre, such as zip-ties, string, toe strap etc.

  5. Steve says:

    That’s a great idea! All these suggestions will help anyone who does not look forward to tire changes. I have used the compression of tire bottom idea for some time now, and making sure it is as deep into the rim as possible. Amazingly, just that little bit of extra room can make things easier. Thanks for the idea!

  6. Bob Fairlane says:

    Nice looking trikes. I was looking for reviews on the earthguard liners. I wondered if they were very tough.

  7. Ivo says:

    Hi, anybody, I also bought me a pair of M+ tires 20″ – 1.35 to put o my HP Scorpion trike. But when the tires are mounted they never seem to fit properly around the rim, there is always a spot were the tires make a dip into the rim causing them to be not perfect round but with a ‘cavity or flat spot’ in the circle. When pushing the tires to fit them properly, the problem shifts to another spot on the rim. As if the tires can not pop out of the rim. And yes, I have used the soap-method and everything else.
    Do I have to hate those tires from now on or has anyone else had the same problem and found a solution for it?

  8. Steve says:

    Howdy Ivo,

    I usually reduce the air pressure (tire and wheel on workbench), and then just manipulate it with my fingers until the white sidewall strip is equidistant from the rim all the way around. However, this may not be your problem. My triking buddy Glen Aldridge in Canada had some significant issues with Schwalbe tires on our last trek overland, and came to find out that there are two different 20 inch sizes of rims available, and he just happened to have the one that is not standard on his Trident Stowaway trike, so he could never get the tires to set properly, somewhat like what you are describing. Thus, it may not be a Schwalbe tire issue at all, but rather a rim that is just slightly off-sized enough to make proper seating possible. I’ll ship off an email to Glen and see if he can elaborate here for you, as he had a link that told all about the rim size variances.


  9. Glen Aldridge says:

    Hi Ivo, As Steve has mentioned I did have the exact same problem seating my Marathon Tires on my rims. Here is what I have found out. Believe it or not your 20 inch Rims may not be 20 inches. Manufacturers tolerances are not standard so a European ‘inch’ can be significantlly different to an Asian ‘inch.’ Add into this mix, Metric sizes & you can start to see the tire/rim combinations possible. Schwalbe even makes two different size 20 inch tires for different rim types & they are not interchangeable. I suspect this is what you have run into. If your tires say 20 x 1.35 they may be sized for ETRTO size rims – 406mm even though the tire size reads 20 inches. Just to make things more frustrating there could be tire sizes using French measurements which are different again. OK Back to the Schwalbes – If the tires coming off your rims read 20 x 1 3/8 (fraction) you may be able to use the M+ tires with the same fractional measurement but you cannot use the tires marked with a decimal (20 x 1.5 /1.62 etc.) I believe the problem lies in the depth of your rim bead seating area. If this is not the same as the tire you are installing it would explain the out of round seating. I would talk to Schwalbe & see if they will exchange your tires for the correct size & it might be a good idea to run a piece of string around your rim where the bead will sit to find the exact size you need.

  10. Steve says:

    Thanks for your input Glen! This all sounds confusing, and time consuming attempting to get it right. Your link to Schwalbe’s explanation should help Ivo, that is assuming of course his issue is this sizing variance. Keep us posted Ivo regarding what you learn.

  11. Steve says:

    Earthguard liners are tough, and present just one more barrier that sharpies must penetrate to reach the tube. In my view, the more protection the better, regardless whether some believe it to be overkill. It is strategy well worth every penny, for changing a tire in severe conditions can, quite literally, put a triker’s safety or life at risk (as any overland triker knows from experience).

  12. Ivo says:

    Thanks Steve and Glen for your response. I have checked the number on the tyres and they seem to match the specifications of HP Velotechnik and Schwalbe. 35-406 mm and 20″ x 1.35. (X-rims 406 mm too) In the meantime I managed to get them on the rims and more or less at the center so the reflex striping is equally devided around the rim. It took me hours to get them there. Inflating.. deflating … repositioning … using lots of soapwater and then with the help of some over-pressure they seemed to get in their right place. Sigh …
    Now I have to take them for a testdrive. I’ll keep you informed.
    It’s really great to find some equal souls who share the same passion for trikes all over the world.

  13. Ivo says:

    update: just finished a testdrive. The tires seem to act fine !! I hope they are so puncture-proof as they say, cause changing these tires on the road might be a real pain in the &&s. Thanks guys for sharing all your experience!

  14. Steve says:

    Hi again Ivo,

    I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus 20 inch tires all around, Kenda Q-Tubes, and Earthguard tire liners. As yet, I have never had a flat, and I have been using this combination since May 2009. Mounting the MP tires most assuredly gets easier with practice. At first, I hated it, but now, I can do it with ease. I do not use soap or lubricants, which are unnecessary once you learn the skills involved. Yes, changing a tire on the road would be no fun at all, thus precisely the reason I use this system of tires, tubes, and liners, which many laugh at me for, but hey, all I can say is that it surely has worked for me!!!

  15. Ivo says:

    Hi Steve, are you using the thicker version of the tires, 1.75 I mean?

  16. Glen Aldridge says:

    Hi Ivo, Be sure to take your Trike up to some high speed runs to make sure your tires are running concentric. If they are not you will get vibrations which will only show up at speed. If there is a High spot in your mounting this will eventually punch a spoke nipple through your tube either from wear or from the continuous pounding. You may be able to ride an extended distance with the tire liners but I believe your tube will still pre-maturely fail from the high spot.

  17. Ivo says:

    Thanks Glen, for your advise.
    By the way, what do you pay for a M+ 1.35 ? I paid 23,95 € a piece for them (about 30.5 US dollars) The 1.75 is more expensive.

  18. Glen Aldridge says:

    Hi Ivo, I live close to the U.S. Border & can easily travel there for considerable savings. U.S. Prices are about $32. each for the 20 x 1.5 Canadian prices are about $58. each. for the 1.75 – this is for the latest generation Marathon tires called Greenguard & I am not sure if they are the exact same tire as the M+.

  19. Ivo says:

    Thanks again Glen for the information. The tire with the greenguard is the ‘normal’ Marathon, without the Plus.

  20. Steve says:

    Howdy Ivo,

    Yes, I run the Marathon Plus 20×1.75 tires, which I love! They are tough, smooth, and fast. All the chatter about running 1.50, 1.35, or 1.25 to reduce rolling friction is just that … chatter. The 1.75 tires will not cause any perceivable slowing or resistance to your forward motion. Sure, if we discuss the precise physics of less surface area of the tire touching the pavement, I am sure that it might be measured by some sophisticated device, but from a practical, “on the road” sense with everyday rides and long distance journeys, I find this is not an issue.

    There are a couple of other aspects to also consider regarding a larger tire size. The 1.75 tires provide greater shock absorbing benefits over rough pavement and irregularities than the thinner tires. Additionally, when running over storm gratings in roadways that have metal grates parallel to direction of travel, the thinner the tire, the greater the likelihood of mishap.

    I recommend the 1.75 size without reservation!


  21. Ivo says:

    Hi Steve,
    you’re completely right about the tires. Fat tires and small tires have the same footprint when pumped at the same pressure. In this case the fat will have the advantage of comfort and a smoother ride. Only when pumped up at higher pressure and for high speed the small tires gain advantage cause of aerodynamics and less resistance, but there goes comfort. On my KMX Viper I always drive Big Apples in front and a LandCruiser for traction behind. Works fine and gives some suspension. For the Scorpion I choose M+ in front and a Marathon Racer 1.5 in the back, just for speed.

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