How to Install Foam Bicycle Tires

Three Methods:Using a PaddleUsing a ViseUsing a Tire Mounting Bar

Although airless tires were mercilessly panned by Sheldon Brown[1] many bicyclists have found them to be a welcome relief from leaky and flat tires, and modern foam tires can in fact be lighter than the tubes and tires they replace. Here is how one can install them with no special tools and a minimum of cursing.

Method 1
Using a Paddle

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    Let the air out of the pneumatic tire.
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    Insert a tire iron, or any tool with a slender handle and no sharp edges, under the lip of the tire.
    • Some companies include an installation paddle with the tires, or sell them separately. If you don't have one, just find another long, durable object you can use as a lever. A tire iron or oversize screwdriver should work.
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    Work the tire iron, or more than one if you have them, around the lip, prying it out of the side nearest you. Then remove the tire from the rim.
    • Pry out both the old tire and tube with a tire iron. Your foam tire will replace both of these components.
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    Start seating the foam tire into the rim with your hands. Pick any point along the rim and do your best to squeeze the foam tire into it. It doesn't need to fit perfectly yet, but it should stay seated in the rim without having to hold it down.
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    Tie the tire in place. Once the tire is seated into the rim in one location, fasten it at that spot to keep it from slipping out during installation. A zip tie is the easiest way to do this. If you don't have a zip tie, tie it in place with string or fasten with duct tape.[2]
    • If the tire keeps popping out as you install, use more zip ties to fasten each section of the tire.
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    Seat the tire by hand as far as you can. Working around the diameter, you will find that somewhere past the halfway point, it gets difficult to push the tire onto the rim any farther. At this point, there are a few things you can do.
    • You may need to hit the tire in place with a rubber mallet, or squeeze in the edges with a durable plastic pry bar.[3][4]
    • Wipe the rim with liquid soap and water (optional). Some tires are more difficult to install than others. If you're having a tough time pulling the tire on, mix ¼ cup (60mL) liquid hand soap or dish soap with 2 cups (480mL) water. Wipe this onto the rim before you continue installation.[5]
    • Double-check that the tire is the correct size for your rims. Measure the width of your rims using calipers, and compare the result to the product info for your foam tires.
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    Lever the rest of the tire on with your paddle. Place the paddle between a loose section of tire and the rim. Hold the paddle end against the rim, and lever the paddle upward to stretch the tire onto the rim. Once it snaps onto the rim, repeat with the rest of the tire until the whole thing is seated on the rim. Work your way around slowly, only stretching on the next couple inches (several centimeters) at a time.[6]

Method 2
Using a Vise

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    Follow the instructions above until you get to the halfway point.
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    Open a vise to just fit the foam tire, and loosely insert the tire and rim up to where you have pressed in the tire. There is no need to tighten the vise.
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    Continuing to hold your start position with one hand, and letting the vise maintain the end position, insert your tire iron a few inches into the unseated portion, prying it in.
    • Your foam tire can't get pinched or punctured, so you can be a little more rough than you would be with a pneumatic tire. Still, try to avoid contacting the tire with sharp edges.
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    Moving your hand up to the new start position, repeat this until the tire is fully on the rim.
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    Seat it completely by removing from the vise, and hitting it against the ground while rotating it 20 or 30 degrees between hits.
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    After both tires have been replaced, reinstall the wheels and your bicycle will never have a flat tire again.

Method 3
Using a Tire Mounting Bar

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    Find this sold as a tire installation tool. There are many different products labeled "tire installation tool." For this method, you'll need one that looks like a long metal bar with a "mounting guide" that slips over it. The mounting guide has a curved channel about the same width as your bike rim, so the tire can fit onto it.
    • Look for this from companies that sell foam tires or tubeless tires.
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    Secure one part of the tire onto the rim. After removing the old tire and tube, snap a section of the new tire into place and secure with a zip tie.
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    Attach the bar to the axle. Fit the end of the bar over the wheel axle or quick release pin. The bar should rotate freely around the wheel without coming detached.
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    Slide the mounting guide onto the bar. The mounting bar channel should face the same direction as the rim channel.
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    Slip the tire onto the mounting guide. Fit a section of loose tire onto the mounting guide. Slide the mounting guide up near the rim, so the tire stay taut and secure in the mounting guide.
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    Rotate the bar to slide the tire onto the rim. As you rotate the bar around the wheel, slip the tire off the mounting guide and onto the rim. Once some of the tire is seated, the tool should do most of the work for you.
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    Confirm that the tire is in place. If there are any loose areas, squeeze them down or push them into place with a plastic pry bar or rubber mallet. Once finished, remove the zip tie and reattach the wheel to your bike.


Things You'll Need

  • Foam bicycle tires
  • Bicycle wheels
  • Paddle, tire iron, or other lever
  • Zip tie, string, or duct tape
  • Rubber mallet
  • Liquid soap
  • Water

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