Tubular Cyclocross tires offer lower rolling resistance, lighter weight, and more grip than clincher tires. Since tubular CX tires are run at such low pressures (usually 20-30 psi), improper or poor glue jobs run the risk of failure. If your tire rolls off the rim, you risk serious injury and a $50 fine from USA Cycling! At Belgianwerkx we use the following method for gluing tubular tires. This is not the only way to glue a tubular tire. This tutorial is not a comprehensive guide. If you have never glued tires before, or do not feel confident in your abilities, go to your local bike shop.
What you’ll need:
- Clean Tubular Wheels
- Tubular Cyclocross Tires
- Acid Brush
- Quality Tubular Glue (we use Vittoria’s Mastik’ One)
- CX Tape (not Tufo tape)
- Masking Tape
- Truing or wheel stand
- 150 Grit sand paper (alloy rims only)
Step 1. Stretch your tires over your clean rim (or any other spare rim), and let it sit for 24 hours. We do this to stretch the tire out. Tubular tires are difficult to stretch over the rim. Stretching them will help.
Step 2. After waiting 24 hours, deflate and remove the stretched tire and sand the area where the tire will glue to the rim. We don’t need to sand deeply, just enough to rough up the entire surface. This promotes mechanical adhesion. If you have carbon rims, you may have to skip this step; check with the manufacturer.
Step 3. Mask off your brake tracks. This is an important step if you want your rims looking good and your brake tracks clean when you’re finished. Tubular glue is messy. Take the time to prep your rims and the results will be much more satisfying.
Step 4. Clean the rim and base tape of the tubular with a rag dipped in acetone. This will remove all grease, oils, and dirt and ensure the glue will stick to the rim.
Step 5. Use an acid brush to put a layer of glue onto the rim. A few thin coats are better than one thick one. Make sure to cover all of the rim evenly. Start and end at the valve hole.
Step 6. Put a little air in the tubular tire to give it shape. Use another acid brush to coat the entire base tape in glue. Make sure to use enough to saturate the base tape thoroughly. When you are finished, deflate the tire and set it aside.
Step 7. Wait a few hours until the glue becomes dry enough to handle, overnight is ok too. It’s time to apply a 2nd thin layer of glue to the rim. Start at the valve hole and make your second coat.
Step 8. Put a 2nd thin coat of glue on the tubular tire. The surface of the basetape should appear glossy after this coat. Set it aside overnight to dry.
Step 9. You’ve waited for your glue to dry overnight. Now grab a cup of coffee and make sure the next hour remains un-interrupted: Turn off your phone. Lock the doors. Put the dog outside. Make enough room in the garage, workshop, or apartment to fit a VW bus. I’m not kidding. You’re about to engage in a epic tubular stretching battle with your scrawny cyclist upper body. Make sure your tire is deflated(just enough air to give it shape). Make sure your floor is clean.
Step 10. Get your CX tape and scissors ready. Apply a third, even coat of glue to the rim. Starting just below at the valve hole, immediately apply the CX tape all the way around the circumference of the rim. Cut the tape just short of the valve hole. Press the tape deep into the rim with your finger. Get out the air bubbles as much as possible.
Step 11. Remove the yellowish brown protective layer from the CX tape. After about 5 minutes, put another thin layer of glue right on top of the CX tape. Make sure you apply evenly and work quickly.
Step 12. It’s time to install the mostly deflated tubular tire onto the rim. Seriously, turn off the phone. Put the rim on your clean floor with the valve hole facing up. MAKE SURE YOU FACE THE TREAD THE CORRECT WAY. Put the tire valve through the valve hole and start pushing the tubular down over the rim. Work quickly. The last bit of tire is usually hard to snap over the rim. It helps to have a friend to swear at.
Step 13. Quickly make sure that the tire is centered on the rim. You should see the same amount of base tape sticking out on each side of the rim. This is a general guide, some handmade tires do not have a perfectly straight bast tape. Align the tire if necessary.
Step 14. Hurry! Inflate the tire, 30-40 psi. Check for alignment again. It helps to put the wheel back into a truing stand and check for alignment. The center of the tread should roll around the center of the rim. Align if necessary. When you are satisfied, remove your masking tape from the rim. It’s easier to do when the glue is still tacky.
Step 15. Inflate the tire to 60-80 psi and seat the tire into the glue/tape by rolling them across the ground while pushing down hard on the tire. Hang up your tires to dry. Don’t even think about riding them for 24 hours.
Step 16. After 24 or more hours, deflate your tires. Check to make sure the tire is well adhered to the rim. Pull on them, twist them sideways. Don’t be gentle. Do this often. Glue dries out and stops being sticky after 6 months or so. If your tire rolls off the rim or separates in any area, it’s time to re-glue. If you’re satisfied, go ride!
Nicholas Moroder is the everyday face of Belgainwerkx. He has been wrenching on bikes for 10 years and is a Certified Retul University fitter. He's the kind of guy who can tell you what tire is best for your wet rides, or what brake pads will make your rims last the longest. He manages the service, product , fitting, and day-to-day operation of the shop.