With a lull in my bike build process (waiting on the rest of the components to arrive), thought I’d be productive by putting tires on my Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset. Just a quick 15-minute job that would get me one step closer to riding this thing. I grabbed my tire lever and a pair of Vittoria Corsa 25 mm tires with bitchin’ tan sidewalls (which I worry are becoming so popular–more than half the field at a recent race had them–that they are losing their retro exotic beauty) and got to work.
Two hours later I finished. My skin was coated in a couple layers of sweat and my knuckles were bleeding. I could barely move my raw, beet-red fingers and my blistered thumbs were numb. My meager accomplishment, two wheels with tires and inflated tubes, leaned against the wall as if to mock me. I looked as if I had made the tires myself in an ancient, sweltering factory.
Well, the bead was tight. So goddamned tight. Tighter than a…well, you can fill in the blank (how’s that for a Rorschach test?) Maybe I’m doing it wrong or something, but I’ve never had problems with putting on tires. Not like this. My self-taught, awkward method usually works reasonably well (except when group ride companions are gathered around watching like leering middle schoolers at the monkey cage). It didn’t work for these tires. I pushed with my thumbs, yanked with the tire lever, pulled with my fingertips. Nothing worked. I worked myself into a lather, opening cuts on my hands, taking a break to punch a pillow. Followed my dad’s strange suggestion to spread dish soap along the rim. Nothing.
I sincerely wondered, at many points during the process, if I would ever succeed. Bringing a half-on tire into a bike shop results in permanent riding license revocation and endless shame, so obviously that was not an option. And my hands were so mangled that I saw no way those last few inches of sidewall were going to stretch over the rim.
Finally, as I considered giving up for the night or maybe the month, I made one last desperate attempt. Wrapping the tire lever in a smelly t-shirt to prevent further hand mangling, I pushed it in between the rim and tire and pulled as hard as I could towards me. It didn’t budge, and then it did. Done. The tire was seated. I collapsed to the floor, too frustrated to be happy.
The tires do look pretty rad though.