Road Tubeless Tyres – Are They Worth It?

Road Tubeless Tyres – Are They Worth It?


There’s a lot of mystery around
road tubeless that we’ve seen. What is it? What’s the point of it, and
is it worth it? So here’s what we think. ♪ [music] ♪ First of all, what actually is it? Well,
simply, using a tubeless specific tire and a sealed rim, you can dispense with your
inner tubes. Now, you either leave a setup like that, or more usually, you add
in a little bit of liquid latex sealant. So, what’s the point of it? Well,
fundamentally, you get massively improved puncture resistance. By removing the
inner tube completely, you eliminate pinch flats, and then with your liquid latex
sealant, that actually seals small holes in the tire as you’re riding along,
lending minimal loss of pressure. Meaning that you don’t have to stand
by the side of the road, changing inner tubes. Now, if you do get a puncture
whilst you’re out, you can simply stick an inner tube in, and it will get you home,
meaning you can then fix the tire with a patch kit when you get back. In addition,
some people claim that removing the inner tube helps to improve rolling resistance,
and that removing the inner tube also helps to make the system lighter. And
we check that one back at GCN HQ. The wheels are the same, generally,
whether tubeless or non-tubeless, so any difference in weight is going
to come from the tire and the tube, or lack thereof. Now, we’re using
Schwalbe tires here, so first of all, let me put the non-tubeless tire on
the scales along with the inner tube, minus valve cap and lock ring,
obviously, and that comes up as 308 g. Let’s repeat that for the tubeless. First
of all, obviously, we’re going to have to put our sealant on, zero there. Then
the tire, which is significantly heavier, it takes 100 g over the non-tubeless
version, and then the valve as well, with lock ring this time, has to be
done, and that comes in at 382 grams. So the extra 74 grams per wheel
for the privilege of running tubeless, which is quite a significant
weight disadvantage. What about installation? Now, if you’ve
watched our “How to set up road tubeless” video, you’ll see that we didn’t really
have any problem. Regardless, I still have reservations compared with
how easily you can set up a standard tire, especially if you’ve got a good rim-tire
combination. Now, tubeless tires by their very nature have to be really tight on
the rim, and that can be a massive pain. While it’s unlikely that you’ll
puncture in the field, if you do, and you have to pop a tube in the tire,
then you don’t want to get stranded by the side of the road because you can’t get the
fricking tire off the rim. Now, obviously, you can still use tire levers, but there
is a high risk that you’ll get stuck. It’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch of the
imagination, but it is a consideration. The most important thing, though, is
how they actually feel when riding. Now, I’ve been using these Stan’s Alpha
340 rims with Schwalbe One tires and butyl inner tubes for the last week or so. They
feel great, just like what I’m normally used to, but I’ve now swapped out to
Schwalbe One tubeless tires so that we can do a direct comparison and see how they
shape up to one another. Let’s check it out. So, first impressions then, as you
might imagine, I can’t actually tell the difference in 150 g of rotating weight.
Now, that’s not saying that there isn’t a difference, it’s just that even a picky
rider like myself can’t actually do it. One thing I have noticed, though,
is that running them at 95 psi, which is where I run normal tires, is that
they do seem to transfer buzz from the road, little vibrations that normally
get absorbed. Now, potentially, that’s because the carcass in a tire
is a little bit stiffer. Whether that’s essential for a tubeless tire, I
don’t actually know, but certainly, conventional wisdom would have it
that a tire with a high thread count and a real nice flexible outer
would feel a little bit more supple, whereas these just feel a bit stiff.
So what I’m going to do is stop, let a little pressure out, and see whether
running them lower is going to help. ♪ [music] ♪ That’s a heck of a lot better, actually.
We’ve let the tire pressures down, so I’m probably running about 20
psi less than I normally would. And it quite feels a lot more comfortable
and, dare I say, a lot more normal. It handles like it did when I had
the standard clincher tires on, because I’m only using 80 psi in there.
Normally, the tires would squirm a bit if I’m cornering hard. So we’re going to
go check out, do some fast descending, and see whether or not having
only 80 psi on the tires, on 23s, don’t forget, is going to make a
difference to the way the bike handles. ♪ [music] ♪ So, is it worth it? Well, like so many
recommendations for bikes or bits of bikes, a lot of it depends on your
riding style and where you ride it. And this ride, for me, confirmed what I
kind of already thought from previous outings on tubeless tires, and that is
that for pure performance-oriented riders, I’m not sure there’s all that much
to recommend it. Obviously, there’s a slight weight penalty, but for
me, it’s the lack of feel and the lack of suppleness in the tire casing that means
that it doesn’t feel quite as lively as the kind of tires that I normally like to
ride. If, however, you ride more steadily, or you’re a bigger rider, and you’re
more susceptible to punctures, then, without doubt, they could be
an absolute godsend. Certainly, if you do ride steadily, you’re not
always accelerating and cornering hard, then you certainly wouldn’t ever
notice that they’re not quite as supple. So what’s my actual opinion? Well, if I
was to get one of these new endurance road bikes, kind of things with disc brakes
and relaxed geometry, without a doubt, I think tubeless tires are the way to go.
Those bikes are so capable of more than tarmac, but it’s the standard
tires and tubes that let it down. If, however, you stick a pair of tubeless
tires on there, and you’re not going to pinch flat, you could take that bike
almost anywhere. And that, for me, would be a serious recommendation. For
a video showing you just how to install road tubeless, click here, and to
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