Do you know why the best cyclists in the world run their bike wheels tubeless? First off, a tubeless setup leads to a lighter bike. And everyone, especially kids, wants a lightweight bike. Your kid wants a lighter mountain bike, BMX bike, or road bike. And running the tires tubeless helps keep things nice and light.
Related: Best BMX Bike for kids
Another good reason to convert the tires on your tyke’s bike is that tubeless tires get fewer flats. Plus, your child gets to run lower tire pressure for a smoother ride.
However, converting an existing wheel set on a kid’s mountain bike, BMX bike, or any other bike to a tubeless setup can be an extremely frustrating experience. Luckily, you’re reading this how to set up tubeless tires on a kid’s bike tutorial. I hope you find it a helpful and time-saving resource.
But first things first…
3 Reasons Running Tubeless Tires on a Kids Bike Makes Sense
Here are 5 great benefits of running the wheels on your kiddo’s bicycle tubeless:
1.Tubeless Tires Ride Nicer and Smoother
One of the greatest reasons to switch to a tubeless setup is ride smoothness. With tubeless tires, your kid can get away with significantly lower pressure than they would with a standard setup.
The beauty of not pumping up the tires too hard is that low-pressure tires ride better than hard-inflated ones. If the bike’s suspension is mediocre or isn’t even there, the bike rolls over cracks, small rocks, twigs and whatnot noticeably better.
2. Nothing Sucks Like Getting a Flat Mid-ride
Most biking enthusiasts accept flats as a natural phenomenon, a sort of price to pay for choosing to be a mountain biker or whatever kind of rider you are.
But wouldn’t it be nice if they’d make tires that defied silly thorns, sharp nails, and other pierce-y objects? With such a rig, your little ripper could ride to their heart’s content without a worry in the world.
With a tubeless setup, the young mountain bike rider gets way fewer flats than would be the case with a regular wheels. I say fewer flats rather than zero flats because no, going tubeless NEVER banishes punctures entirely.
But aren’t less mechanical challenges when out riding mountainous trails something to endure the pain of completing the conversion for?
When your kiddo encounters an object that cuts or pierces the wheel/wheels, the sealant inside the tire moves in and seals the cut or hole. This way, your son or daughter gets to ride a rig with a self-healing mechanism. And if Ryan knows he’s less likely to get a flat out biking, won’t he want to get out more and ride more?
3. A Tubeless Setup Means a Lighter Wheel Set
Kids are normally smaller and weaker than adults. And if adults prefer lightweight bikes because heavy ones really suck, what kids prefer? They favor much lighter bicycles, but the cycling market offers tons of low-budget, tank-heavy kids’ rides.
What if you could make your kid’s MTB or BMX a tad lighter without replacing the frame, tires, or anything else with lighter options?
Tubeless tires are, well, tube-less. Tubes are things and they contribute to the final weight of a bike. So when you remove those rubber inner tubes, your kid’s bike becomes that much lighter.
And since you’re able to run lower tire pressure with a tube-free setup, you can cut down bike weight by a teeny weeny amount. Not that your child will notice any difference.
How to Run Tubeless Tires on a Kid’s BMX or Mountain Bike (Really Any Bike)
Would you rather watch a video? Here’s a video on how to convert a kid’s bike from a standard wheel setup to a tubeless setup.
You need the supplies listed down below to complete the conversion:
- Tire sealant: Stan’s Tire Sealants gets the job done.
- A utility knife:for cutting excess tape on either side of the rim
- Rim tape: I like Gorilla Tape but you can use whatever you like.
- Tubeless setup valves: Stan’s Tubeless valves.
- A good floor bike pump.
- Tire levers: I find that steel core tire levers work best. I recommend the Park Tool TL 6.2. 5″ long, this tool features a slim design with a protruding steel tip. And it gets even the most difficult tire beads out in no time.
Follow the steps below to convert your kid’s bike to a tubeless setup:
Step #1: Remove the Wheels Using a Wrench
- Get a 15mm wrench and turn the wheel axle nuts counterclockwise to loosen them. If the bike has rim brakes or caliper brakes, get the brakes out of the way and remove the wheel.
- Next, get the tire levers under the edge of the tire (bead).
- Then, slide the tire levers all the way along the rim until the entire tire edge moves to the bike rim’s outer edge.
- Remove the inner tube. To do this, push out the tire valves and just pop the tube out. This should be easy since one of the tire is already detached from the rim.
- Finally, pull the entire tire out.
- Repeat the steps above for the other wheel.
Don’t toss the inner tubes into the trashcan yet because you might need them one day. Emergencies happen, you know.
*Not all wheels have thru-axles. If the wheels on your kid’s bicycle are held in place by a quick-release mechanism, pop them right off and get down to work.
Step #2: Apply Gorilla Tape Across the Inner Base of the Bike’s Rim
Taping the rim of a bike seals the spaces around the spoke holes. And this is very important if you want air to stay in the tire once you inflate the tubeless tire after completing the conversion.
Maybe you’re wondering why the heck you need a utility knife for this task. We need it to cut off any excess tape when using rim tape that’s too wide. If the rim tape is too wide (some Gorilla tape options are pretty wide), you’ll have excess tape on each side of the bead wall. And you don’t want it there so you cut it off.
Make sure to apply an adequate amount of pressure on the tape to firm it and make sure it sticks onto the base of the rim.
*Note that some bike rims come already taped and you don’t have to do a thing. If that’s not the case for you, skip this step and move to step #3 in the next section.
Step #3: Install the Tubeless Valves
It’s time to make a hole through the rim tape where the tubeless valves are supposed to go. One you’ve poked the hole, grab one tubeless valve, place the tip to the valve stem hole, and push the valve through.
Afterward, screw the valve’s lock nut all the way down, but make sure not to overdo it as that can tear or damage the rubber seal on the valve, causing the air to leak.
Another reason not to over-tighten the valve is that it can make removing the valve extremely difficult if your kiddo ever gets a flat when out trail mountain biking. And as you install the tubeless valve, be sure that the seal’s curvature perfectly coincides with the rim’s curvature.
You may want to use a 4mm hex wrench to hold the base of the tubeless valve firmly in place as you install it.
Step #4: Pour Sealant into the Tire
Give the sealant bottle a shake and add in about 2 ounces into each tire.
Step #5: Take the rim (with the sealant) and get the tire bead into the inner side of the rim wall. Once that’s done, repeat this action with the remaining tire bead. After completing this step, spread the sealant throughout the tire by rolling it around.
Step #6: Air Up the Tire
To make inflating the tubeless tire easier, be sure to pull the tire beads up into the bead wall. If the tire bead is high enough in the tire wall, you won’t struggle as much when it comes to airing up the sealant-rich tubeless tire.
Grab an air compressor and start inflating the tire. This shouldn’t be hard, but some setups might give you trouble. You can convert pretty much any bike tire to a tubeless setup.
However, some bike tires and rims may throw a wrench into the works. And you’ll just have to quit and admit that your little tire conversion project failed miserably. It’s happened to me in the past and I just had to accept that not all DIY projects turn out well.
There’s Such a Thing as Tubeless-ready Tires & Tubeless-ready Rims
Here’s the thing: converting to a tubeless setup isn’t as hard as it’s cracked up to be. If you have tubeless-ready and tubeless-ready bike rims, you really shouldn’t have any trouble getting the tire bead to seat up nice and tight.
I have to say that not all rims and tires were made for this sort of thing.
BTW, what’s a tubeless-ready bike rim? A tubeless-ready bike rim is a bicycle rim that comes with larger, stronger “hooks” that make it much easier for the tire to seat into the bead wall. Many biking enthusiasts upgrade to tubeless-ready rims for this very reason.
And what’s a tubeless-ready bike tire?
Tubeless-ready Bike Tires versus Standard Bike Tires
It seems there’s tons of confusion around what tubeless bike tires are. One BIG difference between tube-ready bike tires and standard bike tires is that tubeless-ready tires come with a noticeably thicker sidewall. The reason tire manufacturers make the sidewalls of tubeless-ready tires denser is mainly to prevent burping.
Can You Convert Regular Tires to a Tubeless Setup
Yes, you can convert pretty much any bike tire to a tubeless setup if you know how to handle the conversion. However, there’s no guarantee that the little project will be a success with all kinds of tires and rims. Some tires and rims were just not made for this sort of thing.
Do Tubeless Tires Really Exist?
Yes, there’s such a thing as tubeless tires. They exist. Tubeless bike tires normally have thicker sidewalls compared to standard bike tires. What about tubeless-ready bike tires? Do they exist? Yes, they do. Tubeless-ready bike tires come with larger, stronger hooks that allow the bead to seat into the bead wall as if it was the most natural thing in the world. If you use tubeless rims and tires, this does make running a tubeless set much, much easier. I highly recommend upgrading to TR rims and tires.
Tubeless Tires FAQs
How Do You Set Up a Tubeless Tire?
Remove the wheels using a 15mm wrench. Use tire levers to get one side of the tire out of the rim. Remove the valves and get the inner tube out after that. Pour in about 2 ounces of Stan’s Tubeless sealant (or any sealant you like) into the tire. Put one side of the tire into the bead wall and repeat this action with the tire bead. Use an air compressor or floor bike pump to get air into the tire. Those are the steps to follow when converting a child’s bike/adult’s bike from a regular setup to a tubeless one.
Do You Need to Add Sealant to Tubeless Tires?
Yes, you MUST add sealant into the tire. The role of this sealant is to seal up holes and cuts that happen as your kiddo rides their BMX or mountain bike.
Can You Ride Tubeless Tires Right Away?
Yes, you can ride tubeless tires right after airing them up. In fact, riding your bike right after completing the conversion is highly encouraged as it keeps the sealant moving around inside the tire, distributing to every nook and cranny. Many riders find that the setup works best if they start biking right after they’re done with the project and letting the tires to stay inflated overnight. Really, there’s no reason to wait for any length of time.
How Do You Inflate Tubeless Tires?
Once you have the tire bead seating against the bead wall, get air in using a compressor. If you don’t have a compressor, you can sure use a regular floor pump.
Do You Need a Special Pump to Inflate Tubeless Tires?
You don’t need a special pump to inflate tubeless tires. That said, many biking dads and moms have found that using an air compressor tends to work better than using a floor bike pump.
Can You Run Any Tire Tubeless?
Yes, you can theoretically run any bike tire tubeless. However, experience reveals that not all tires and rims work the same and that some rims and tires work better than others. There’s such a thing as tube-ready tires and tube-ready rims.
How Long Do Tubeless Tires Need to Sit?
Tubeless tires don’t need to sit for any length of time after you’ve completed the conversion. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your child start riding the bike right away so that the sealant can spread throughout the tire.
Converting from kids’ bikes’ tires with inner tubes to kids’ bikes’ tires without tubes isn’t too hard if you have the right tools and know exactly what to do. With sealant, tire levers, rim tape, tire-ready tires, tire-ready rims, and a good pair of hands and eyes, you should get the job done in under 30 minutes.