I am sure that many people have great techniques (as well as poor ones) on how to glue tubulars, but I thought I would provide my take on it. I have glued well over 500 in my career thus far and not one has ever come back where it “rolled” off the rim. I take this as a good technique proven over time because if it is one thing I can pretty much guarantee, it’s that someone who rolls one will definitely make sure the ‘gluer’ knows that it happened. If you perfect the consistency of your method while gluing, then you will have predictable results that are positive.
That being said, let’s dig in. If you are a bike shop mechanic and haven’t tried gluing, practice on a set of ones first and have them inspected about a week later by someone who has glued. If the tire is quite difficult to pull off, then you’ve done it right. Recently, I have come across several cases where a poor gluing was easily reflected in the difficulty (or ease) of pulling the old tire off. Either the glue had been applied in spots on the rim or almost none at all in the center. Let me express that you don’t have to have glued a ton of tubulars to get it right. You just have to follow a method that is proven and makes sense. If you are a cyclist that doesn’t have access to a shop, then follow this guide because you’ll know your wheels better because of it and you’ll always have the opportunity to be race-ready. The process can be done in a day with the right tubulars or over several days for ultimate quality and aesthetics.
The first thing I do is to obviously remove the old tubular. If it has been glued correctly, this will be the second hardest part. Below you will see a series of photos detailing the removal. I usually start by taking my index fingers and thumbs and rock the tire side to side in different places on the rim to try to peel the edges of the tire off. If a particular section starts to peel well, I will focus there. I take a plastic tire lever and run its edge along the part of the tire that is glued. This kind of ‘cuts’ the glue to start the removal and ensures that the base tape does not rip off the rest of the tire. Then, I begin to pry the edge of the lever under the center of the tire until it gives way to the opposite side. Push either forwards or backwards along the rim flexing the lever upwards to peel more of the tire off. Once you’ve done this for about a quarter of the radius of the rim, take the lever out and use your hands to peel the rest of the tire off. Then, put the wheel in a truing stand if you have one for inspection. Here are the photos of me removing a Vittoria Corsa Evo off of some Campagnolo Bora Ultimates.
After peeling the tire off, inspect it and compare the base tape to the new tubular being glued. Many times, indentations around each rim hole for the spoke nipple will be seen. Glue that is hastily applied will seep into these holes in the rim and create havoc for future truing and for broken spoke nipples to exit the rim in a spoke replacement. Note any areas that are lacking in glue. More importantly that this is to check the rim bed (the area where the tire contacts the rim) for leftover glue and any inconsistencies. Check these two photos out:
In the left photo, you can see that glue never really even made it to the right side of the rim and the indent in the center of the rim bed holds roughly the same thickness of glue as the left side. From a better perspective, the right photo shows the area on the rim I found when peeling the tubular. My best guess is that a layer of glue was on the tire and then a bead of glue was drawn onto the center of the rim bed before mounting it. Don’t ever use this method. That tire is not secure at all for racing — much less around the parking lot for a test ride. I recommend at this point to mark non-glued tubulars on display models with a symbol on the valve extender with a silver Sharpie marker.
This is how to glue the new tubular.
Since there was little glue on the rim to start with, I elected to ‘paint’ over the existing glue using Vittoria Mastik One tubular glue. It is rated the best — it holds the best (I have heard recently of using this in conjunction with gluing tape for cross tubulars and the methods I was described sounded great and sound). The first step is to start spreading glue on the tubular since the base tape will soak up the first layer. I like to focus on getting about 95% of the base tape covered in a nice layer of glue. This means no thick spots or globs. Use an acid brush (hardware stores — very cheap and perfect for the job) to steadily spread the glue in long sections several inches at a time with short strokes. I usually spread a bead of glue (as pictured below) around a sixth to a quarter of the circumference at a time. This helps to ensure that the glue doesn’t begin to thicken and dry or drip down onto the rubber of the tire. While a little glue may touch the rubber, a lot is difficult to fix and results in poor treatment of the rubber to clean. Take your time and be thorough. Each coat takes about 10-15 minutes for a beginner and about 5-7 minutes once acquainted. Check out the progress below.
One important thing to note with layers of glue on the tire is that you want to build a little extra glue right around the valve where it meets the base tape. This will help prevent damage from pumping it up as well as rough valve holes and a secure fitting when stretching onto the rim. Like this.
Next is the rim. I apply glue the exact same way as the tire. Do two coats on the tire and two coats on the rim. Spread it evenly and take care to both cover rim edges around the spoke drillings and the areas between. Spread 2-3 small half-dime size dots of glue between each spoke drilling approximately a quarter way around the rim at a time. Start at the last place you dripped glue and spread upwards in directional slow strokes. Angle the brush to drag excesses of glue along the rim to areas where application didn’t sufficiently cover. The speed of this process is a lot of what experience will give you. The more you do, the quicker and more efficient you will become. The idea here is that you follow the steps precisely so that you get glue where it should be. The aesthetics will come with time. Tubulars that stay on the rim are always cooler than pretty ones that don’t. Here is the glue process.
You can see in the right the bead drops of glue and spreading them out in the left photo. Let each layer dry completely to touch and then it will be time to mount the tire onto the rim.
Take the tire and apply a very very thin layer of glue over the middle 70% of the basetape. This will aid in activating the glue on the rim and in allowing a bit of positioning. Check the tread and make absolutely sure that you will be stretching it on the correct direction. Nothing is more terrible than realizing you just put the tire on backwards. Check the tread one more time.
Insert the valve into the valve hole with only some ‘pliable pressure’ in the tire. You should be able to stretch it with moderate effort. Begin with a hand on each side of the valve and pull the tire away from the valve in the direction of the rim. Check the base tape on each side to make sure it is being placed evenly along the rim. Once you get to the final six inches of the tire, wedge the axle of the wheel against something and pinch the tire while pulling it onto the rim. Some cases and combinations of tubulars and rims are exceptionally difficult and some are wonderfully easy. Vittoria happens to be a tubular that rides incredibly well and stretches easily onto almost any rim.
I hope this helped clear up the process of the gluing. I may extend the article soon and include some photos of actually stretching the tire. Feel free to comment and suggest any methods that are well proven. Thanks for reading!