Rim is one of the nasty reasons – why a bike can get failed on the trail? Already my MTB lover friend and better half, Mike had experienced it! That day we (Mehedi, I & Mike) realized the rim’s important role in the weight-bearing capacity, performance, and control of a bike.

Many people think that changing the rim of a bike is ‍a complicated process. But in reality, it is not. The reason you think so is because of your inexperience. In this article, I will explain how you can easily change the rim of your mountain bike at home from the beginning to the end – remove, replace, install, sure about the right installation, select the perfect rim as your MTB prefer, and many more things related to this topic.

However, the rim servicing cost of a mountain bike can often range from 20 to 30 USD. So it is an additional benefit to know how to change mountain bike rims at home. Let’s get started on our journey then.

How Do I Understand When Should I Need To Change My Mountain Bike Rims?

Replacing rims of mountain bikes can often be costly. But not changing it in time can also lead to accidents most times. So you need to know when to change the rim of your mountain bike.

  • You may have noticed that the braking surface of the newer rim has a wear indicator. From this wear indicator, you can understand when you need to change the rim of the bike.
  • Usually, when you press the brakes of the bike, the brake pads put pressure on the sidewall of the rim. If there is dirt on the brake pad, it quickly erodes the sidewall of the rim. Even clean brake pads cause some material loss. That is why the sidewall of the rim gradually erodes.
  • When you spot that the wear indicator of the braking surface of the rim is no longer visible, you need to change the rim immediately. This is because an old or weak rim can cause an instant blowout. It can fall you into an embarrassing situation or lead to an accident (Almost Mike’s story could be repeated!).

What Tools Do You Need To Change Mountain Bike Rim?

Some tools can help you change the rim of the mountain bike perfectly. First, you need to collect a new rim according to the size of the old rim and the required amount of spokes.

You will need to use-

  • A Spoke wrench
  • An optional nipple driver
  • Rim tape
  • linseed oil/Waterproof Grease
  • Maybe a toothpick
  • Rubbing alcohol for cleaning purposes
  • A Paper Towel for cleansing
  • A zip tie or any tape to hold the rims together.
  • You may also need wheel truing stand to set up the rim in the correct shape.

Can You Change Mountain Bike Rims Without Tools?

Changing a bike’s rims is technical work. Unfortunately, you can’t change mountain bike rims without tools. But you can treat this job as a DIY project.

If you are a bike lover, you may use multiple bikes. Most often, you may need to do some maintenance work on the bike. So if you collect these tools, they will come in handy at different times. I think the investment to buy the tools would be right for you. Moreover, the tools I have recommended above for changing the rim are the latest and least. And, you can also use these tools in other DIY jobs.

How Do You Remove Mountain Bike Old Rims?

To remove the old rim of a mountain bike, at first you need to separate the front or rear wheels from the bike. Then separate the tires and spokes from the wheel, and the rim will move out. I am explaining the entire process of removing old rims below.

Way To Removing The Rear Wheel Of A Mountain Bike:

Apparently, looking at the rear wheel, you may think it is quite complicated to remove. But that’s not at all. You can easily remove the rear wheel. Follow the 3 steps below.

Step 1: Shift The Chain Both Small Cog And Chain-ring

Moving minor cogs and small chains to the front creates loosening of the chain, making the wheel much easier to remove. When riding, stop slowly and make sure that the chain is on the smallest cog in the back and the smallest chainring/chainset in the front. However, you can ‍also move the chain by pedaling with your hands by lifting the rear wheel.

Step 2: Open The Brake

If your bike has rim brakes, you need to open the brake side pool. This is because the brakes can get stuck in the wheel when removing them. The side pool of the rim brake usually has a button. Releasing this button will open the brakes and create enough space to pull the wheel out. However, if your bike has disc brakes, then there is no need to bother so much.

Step 3: Open The Axel And Pull Derailleur Back

Many bikes have a quick-release axle system. Pull open the lever and spin to loosen the axle. You will need to derailleur out of the way using your finger, especially your thumb. Now, lift the derailleur and remove the rear wheel.

Process To Removing The Front Wheel Of An MTB:

The front wheel of the mountain bike is easier to remove than the rear wheel. For this, you need to follow the 4 easy steps that are given below.

Step 1: Release The Break

If your bike has a rim brake, you need to release the brakes before removing the wheel. This type of brake usually has a lever near the caliper. Use this lever to loosen the brake. Then the brake pads will move far enough and there will be enough gap for the wheel to come out.

Step 2: Flip Your Bike

Turn your bike upside down to open the wheel. This method is especially effective if you change wheels on the trail or on the side of the road. The bike will stay in a stable position because of the weight resting on the handles and spikes and will prevent falling. But if you have a mechanic stand, the task becomes easier.

Step 3: Remove Axle

Today’s bikes have a quick-release axle system that is quite easy to open. If your bike also has this system, flip its lever and spin. Usually, you need to turn the lever counterclockwise. After un-threading the axle, remove it from the hub. Now you can easily pull the wheel out.

Finally, Remove The Old or Nasty Rim!

Removing the rim after separating the wheel from the bike is also quite simple. If you separate the tire and spokes, the old rim will come out. I will explain below how you can do this.

Remove The Tire

Separating tires from the wheel is a straightforward task. You can get the job done in less than a minute using no tools. First, blow all the air out of the tire. Now, just pinch, roll and pull to separate the tire. It’s too simple.

Remove Spokes

Compared to the tire, removing spokes is a time-consuming but simple task. You will need to use a spoke wrench to remove spokes. Slowly remove all the spokes. Now the rim is detached completely.

How Do You Install Mountain Bike New Rims?

To install mountain bike new rims, first, you need to prepare the rim. Then you can install both the rear and front wheels. In the very next section, I’m going to describe the entire process of rim preparation by following 5 easy steps.

  • Remember, preparing the rim is an important task that you need to do carefully.

Step 1: Apply Grease To Spoke Holes

You need to apply the grease for easy rotation of the spoke nipples on the new rim when you correct the tension of the wheel. Take a toothpick and grease the rim spoke holes using a grease dab.

Step 2: De-tension Old Wheel

Loosen the spoke nipples one by one to de-tension the old rim. You can start from the hole at the valve and loosen all the spokes by turning 1/4 of each spoken nipple clockwise. Repeat the process until de-tension the rim. Only de-tension the rim, do not open the spokes at all.

Step 3: Tie New Rim With Old Rim

You can use a zip tie or any other tape to attach both old and new rims. Tight these two rims directly to each other. For this, you can tie the two different places of the rim separately. However, make sure that the valve holes and the spoke holes are in the same line.

Step 4: Transfer Spokes From Old Rim To The New Rim

Here, you can also start from the side of the valve hole. Transfer spokes one by one from the old rim to the new rim using a nipple driver. Remove a spoke completely from the old rim and insert it into the spokes hole of that particular line of the new rim. However, before inserting the spokes into the new rim, add a little linseed oil to the nipple threads of the spoke. This will allow you to tighten spokes easily. In this way, insert each spoke of the old rim into the new rim, but do not tighten them completely.

Step 5: Tension Spokes Of The New Rim

Once all the spokes are fitted, separate the new and old rims. Using a spoke wrench, rotate the nipple of each spoke 1/4 counterclockwise. Repeat this process until the tension in the rim is correct. Use a wheel truing stand to set the tension properly.

Now you need to add a tire to the rim. After adding a tire, your rim is completely ready to install with your mountain bike.

How Do You Install The Rear Wheel Of A Mountain Bike?

I have discussed above how to remove the rear wheel. All you need to do is follow the reverse sequence of the process to install the wheel. I am describing the process in 3 steps.

Step 1: Set Up The Wheel With The Frame

To do this, loosen the axle as much as possible. Pull the derailleur back and attach the chain with the smallest cog of the wheel. You need to do it with caution; otherwise, there is a chance of minor injury. Set the wheel with the frame properly. If your mountain bike has a disc brake, make sure that you set up the disc in the caliper perfect way. With V-brakes, make sure it is open.

Step 2: Tighten The Axle

Once you have attached the wheel to the frame, tighten the axle. If your bike has an easy-release axle system, turn the lever for tightening and lock it by pressing inwards. Tighten the axle using a wrench after adding the washers with ordinary axles.

Step 3: Close The Brake

The V-brakes are typically open when attaching the wheel. Close the brake again after holding the axle rigidly. Now the brakes of your mountain bike will work ‍again. Now your rear wheel is ready to show its strength on the trail.

How Do You Install The Front Wheel Of An MTB?

The front wheel is easier to install than the rear wheel. Follow the 3 easy steps below.

Step 1: Insert The Wheel With The Fork

Install the front wheel to the fork of the mountain bike. Make sure the axle is loose enough. With a V-brake or rim brake, it is important to keep it open. With disc brakes, guide the brake rotor properly so that it enters the caliper the correct way.

Step 2: Tighten The Axle

If you have a quick-release excel system, you will get additional benefits in case of tightening. If not, add the required washer and tighten well using a wrench. Close the rim brake again.

Step 3: Spin The Front Wheel

After tightening the axle and closing the brake, turn the front wheel by hand. This will ensure that the rim of the wheel does not rub against the brake pad and the rotor rotates properly in the caliper in case of disc brakes. If all goes well, straighten the bike and head out on a new adventure.

Video about How To Replace A Bike Rim, Video Credit: Ali Clarkson
How Do I Check My Bike Rim Installation Is Correct?

If you don’t install the rim properly, there will be some problems with your bicycle. If you notice the rim of the bike rubbing against the brake pads, or shaking at regular intervals while riding the bike, you can understand your mountain bike rims installation is wrong.

With some simple way, you can check your bike rim installation is correct. The easiest way to check bike rims is using a truing stand.

  • Set up the rim with the stand and follow it. If the sidewall of the rim gets far and close at different points from the index point, you may need to be truing your rims.
  • This is because not all spokes have the same tension. You need to adjust the tension of the spokes to solve the problem.

Even if you do not have a truing stand, you can check for rim installation problems.

  • Attach a pencil by using a rubber band to the rim line to the frame.
  • Now round the wheel and observe it. Here, the tip of the pencil is the indicator.
  • If the rim cannot maintain an equal distance to the tip of the pencil, then there is a problem with the rim.

You can also guess the rim problem by looking at the tendency of the brake pad to maintain the distance of the rim.

  • To do this, rotate the wheel and make sure that the rim maintains an equal distance with the brake pads.
  • If there is a problem with the rim, then the distance between the different parts of the rim will differ from the brake pad.

Is It Easy To Replace An MTB Rim?

Yes, replacing an MTB rim is not a complicated task. If you are inexperienced or a beginner, you may find it difficult to replace the rim. However, you will need only a small amount of equipment to do this. All you need is leisure time and goodwill. Above I have explained the method of rim replacement simply. You can do this yourself by patiently following the steps.

Can I Change Mountain Bike Rims Myself Or Need A Mechanic?

Of course, you can change the rim of your mountain bike yourself and don’t require a mechanic. Although a mechanic is skilled and experienced in this job, it can be expensive and time-consuming for you. So changing the rim by yourself can be a brilliant decision.

If you have time, you can consider rim changing of your mountain bike as a DIY task. You can buy the little equipment you need or collect it from anywhere. Changing rims may not be perfect for the first time, but you can do it well with just a few tries.

Are All Mountain Bike Rims The Same?

No, not all mountain biker rims are the same. The rim height and width also change to fit different-sized tires. At present, mountain bike manufacturers usually offer two sizes of wheels for their bikes: 27.5 inches and 29 inches. There is also the traditional 26-inch MTB wheel. However, these smaller wheels are usually reserved for free rides, dirt jumps, and children’s bikes.

How Do I Know What Size Rim Is Suitable For My MTB?

There are several ways you can find the right rim size for your MTB bike. The easiest method for this is the user manual. You can easily determine the exact rim size from the user manual that comes with your bike.

If you do not have a manual, you can also get the required rim size from the retailer. If that is not possible then you can visit the website of your bike company. From there, find out the appropriate rim size according to the model of your bike.

How Do I Choose Mountain Bike Rims?

The rim is important for the bike’s performance, safety, and weight-bearing capacity. There are 4 factors to keep in mind when choosing a rim for your mountain bike. Below, I discuss these points.

1. Rim Materials

Aluminum and carbon are commonly used to make mountain bike rims. Aluminum rims are heavier and relatively inexpensive. The aluminum rims of the bike can get bent easily. However, these are easy to straighten or backup.

Compared to that, carbon rims are much harder and last longer. These do not bend easily, which is why many companies offer a lifetime guarantee on their rims.

2. Diameter

You need to choose the diameter of the rim based on your needs. A 29-inch rim allows you to move faster. If you want more stable and better performance on the trail, then a 27.5-inch rim is most suitable. 26-inch rim size is effective for free-ride or dart jump.

However, keep in mind that you cannot use a 29-inch rim on a bike made for a 26-inch rim. For this, you need to consider the rim when buying a mountain bike.

3. Rim Width

A relatively narrow rim is suitable for normal off-road or marathon riding. For this, most experts recommend a 23 mm wide rim. With this size rim, you can use tires up to 2.1 inches wide.

However, to use wider tires, you need to use wider rims. A 28mm wide rim may be best for you if you want to ride through a rocky trail and expect more traction. With these rims, you can easily use comfortable 2.4-inch wide tires. However, DH and FR riders use 36 to 40-inch wide rims whereas they can use tires up to 2.8 inches wide.

4. Number Of Spokes

The more spokes on the rim, the stronger the wheel. With more spokes, the load spreads better and can carry more loads. You can use 32 spoke rims for normal training. The 24 or 28 holes rims are relatively light and this number of spokes is used in race wheels.

It is very common for the bikes used to show extreme riding style to have 36 spokes on the rim. But keep in mind that if you want to use the rim with more holes, select the hub accordingly. This means that if you want to use a 36-spoke rim, you need to use a hub with 36 holes.

What Precautions Should Be Taken When Removing And Installing Mountain Bike Rims?

You should take some precautions when removing and installing mountain bike rims. These are:

  • While removing the rim, flip your bicycle to an even place based on the handle and seat. This will prevent the bike from falling and getting damaged.
  • For loosening of the chain, make sure that the chain is on the smallest cog in the back and the smallest chainring in the front.
  • Insert the brake rotor into the caliper carefully when attaching the wheel to the frame.
  • Make sure the rim is in the middle of the frame.
  • When tightening the bolts, check if you add the washers properly.

Final Verdict

A mountain bike rim has to withstand a lot of pressure, as people often use these bikes on rough trails. Many good rims also bend frequently and can’t possibly to use on a bike. In such a case, the cost may go up and you may get bored with spending too much time in the mechanic’s shop.

Changing mountain bike rims can be fun if you do it yourself. By following the steps above, you can change and install the rim alone, starting from removing the rim. Here, I have suggested just a few essential tools that will help you change the rim. Hope you can enjoy this DIY project.

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