Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Tubeless Road Bike Tires Seen In The Wild

One of my oft repeated laments is that road tubeless tires just aren't out there in great numbers yet.   What tires exist, seem to only be available online; I have never seen road tubeless bike tires for sale in a bike shop...until today.

Wheat Ridge Cyclery In Denver Has Everything

I was quite surprised by the amazing selection of tubeless road bike tires over at Wheat Ridge Cyclery.   Not quite everything, but I did see not only the Hutchinson Fusion 3, Atom and Intensive but also the Specialized Turbo S-Works and even the Tubeless Bontrager R4 tubeless.   They had in stock every road tubeless tire currently sold in the United States, and even a few tubeless cyclocross tires to boot.

Granted, they are one of the largest bike shops in Denver, if not the US, and is run by racing legend Ron Kiefel, so I would expect their selection to be superior to your average mom and pop shop.  Of course, being a retail space means that instant gratification will cost you a bit more than you would pay online for the same tires.   All of the tubeless tires were going for $79.99 with the exception of the Hutchinson Intensive at $74.99.  

So if you are waiting for road tubeless to catch on, seeing a broad selection of dedicated tires in a local bike shop is definitely a positive sign.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Road Tubeless Tires Coming In 2011

Road tubeless tires have a very special design.   You can NOT safely ride tubeless on a standard tire and bunch of sealant.   You may get a few miles, but you can suffer a catastrophic blowout with your tire exiting your rim.    Suffice it to say, you always want to buy genuine road tubeless tires when you are planing on going tubeless.  The biggest problem, up until now, is that there was only one company making road tubeless tires for sale in the United States, Hutchinson.   Although they make a great tire, real fans of road tubeless know that the system will never catch on until there are many different manufacturers selling competing products.

The New Kids On The Block

I cam across this article in a Triathalon magazine mentioning all of the different manufacturers that are entering the market for road tubeless.   It is almost a footnote where they say that: "Bontrager is releasing the R4 Tubeless, Specialized is releasing the Turbo Road Tubeless, Kenda is releasing the Kaliente Pro Tubeless, and Maxxis is releasing the Padrone tubeless in 2011."

Bontrager's R4 tubeless is already for sale on their website.   At first glance, it appears that this tire is a re-branded version of the Hutchinson Atom tubeless, and it seems that others have made the same observation.

The Specialized Turbo Road Tubeless may also be available, but again, this is a re-branded version of an existing tire, the Hutchinson Fusion 3 Tubeless.

Maxxis showed off their Maxxis Padrone Tubeless Road Tire at interbike, and has the specs listed on their website.

I couldn't find any information in the Kenda offering.

Finally, IRC offers several tubeless road tires, but not in the United States.   Nevertheless, a certain Japanese retailer has the tires and will ship them around the globe.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Drawbacks Of Road Tubeless

I recently wrote about the advantages of road tubeless tires.  As much as I love road tubeless tires, they are not perfect.  Here are some of the disadvantages I have noted:


Road tubeless tires retail for around $80, but I have occasionally found them on sale for as little as $50 each.   That is still far more than you would spend on a budget clincher.   Furthermore, you will probably need too convert your wheels to tubeless, which can cost about $50.    Finally, if you are really plunging in, you should buy a compressor.   While a decent compressor will cost over $100, it is nice to know that they have all sorts of other household uses, so like a good adjustable wrench, it is not a bicycling only tool.   I plan on writing a future blog post on the joy of compressors.

The costs are offset somewhat by not having to purchase tubes and patch kits, so once you get your rims converted and have the tools you need, the cost difference is minimal.

Learning Curve

Unless you are new to cycling, you probably have a wealth of knowledge on how to install and maintain clinchers or tubulars.  With tubeless, there is precious little information out there on all the little tricks you may need to set it up and get it working just right.   If anything, their reliability means that you will ride tubeless for months without having to remove and reinstall them, so you won't gain much experience quickly.   With this blog, I am hoping to correct that gap, but it will remain for some time.   Your local bike shop mechanic will have little experience, and your friends will be confused, but hang in there, the advantages are worth it.

Installation Time And Effort

I have to be honest and say that it will take you longer to install road tubeless tires, especially the first time.   It can be a bit of a struggle to get the tire on the rim.   If you don't have a compressor, you will probably need to visit a local bike shop or even a gas station to get the tire seated.    The good news is that it is unlikely that you will have to remove the tire throughout it's life.   Once inflated, I tend to put thousands of trouble free miles on my tires before removing them and replacing them with new tires. 


I am hesitant to mention this, because I haven't added any weight to my bike.   I am a weight weenie, and I always rode lightweight tires.    Nevertheless, I simply could not ride lightweight tubes without getting flats very often, so I stuck with standard tubes.   I think that the Hutchinson Atom Tubeless is lighter than most tire tube combinations, but probably not all.  I know for sure that there are plenty of super lightweight tubular tire and rim combinations, but that is offset by having to carry around an entire spare tire, unless you are tailed by your team car on every ride.

I don't think Stan's the rim strip weighs more than a standard strip, and I really don't think the sealant weighs that much.  It is a lightweight liquid combined with latex, so I think the weight is minimal.  I have seen the Fusion 3 weighed in at 312 grams, with the Atom at 290.    A standard tube generally weighs 100-130 grams.  It is a pretty expensive and fragile clincher and tube combination that will come in below the weight of the Atom.  Between the increased rolling resistance, and the time you will spend on the side of the road changing flats, I am convinced tubeless road is faster than any clincher, but it might be slightly heavier than some.

Lack Of Tire Selection

One day, we will have dozens of road tubeless tires to choose from.  Today, only three are in production and being sold.   They are the Hutchinson Fusion 3, Atom, and Intensive.  You may also find some Fusion 2 tires still for sale.   Specialized has announced a tubeless version of their S-Works Turbo tire, but I have not seen it for sale yet.  Their web site currently shows it as out of stock.  I have experience with all the Hutchinson products, and I hope to post reviews soon.

Notably absent from the existing tire choices are good, commuter tires, however it appear that there will be many more racing and training tire options in 2011.

Advantages Of Road Tubeless

In the last four years since I have converted from conventional clinchers to road tubeless, I have found a number of serious advantages to this system.

Decreased Rolling Resistance

This is the first benefit you hear about.   Since there is no tube, there is no friction between the tube and tire, resulting in less rolling resistance.   Less resistance means less effort and more speed.

No Pinch Flats

My biggest problem with clinchers was the pinch flat.   This is where the tube is pinched between the tire and rim, resulting in a pair of punctures known as a "snake bite".    They are as difficult to prevent as they are to repair.  No tube means nothing to pinch, simple as that.

Extreme Puncture Resistance

When used with a sealant, it is very difficult to get a puncture flat.   In my four seasons riding road tubeless, I had one major puncture.    The Hutchinson Fusion 3 tire received a tear of about 2 millimeters, yet it still held air.   It would only hold about 60 pounds, so I elected to complete my ride rather than put a tube in.   I was able to repair the tire, and I am still using it at this time.  Other than that, I have worn through about eight tires without a puncture flat.

Lower Tire Pressure

The lower your tire pressure, the more comfortable the ride.   Unfortunately, the only way to avoid pinch flats is to keep your tire pressure really high.   Since pinch flats are impossible with tubeless tires, you are free to run just about any pressure you want.


Here in Colorado, I descend the mountains at high speeds.   I corner aggressively around the switchback descents that are part of my regular rides.    A standard clincher tire can blow out and roll off the rim, resulting in a Beloki like crash.   
The key difference between road tubeless tires and standard clinchers is that they have a special carbon bead that stays locked to the rim.    I have even heard that it is safe to ride on a flat tubeless tire.   I would try this out sometime, but I have never had a tubeless tire go completely a flat during a ride!

No Tubes

Did I mention I hate tubes?   Bike shops love them.  They cost the shop about $1-2 wholesale, and they are happy to mark them up 300-400%.  When they flat, you end up having to throw them away, or patch them.  For me, patching worked about 50% of the time, which was almost worthless when you consider the effort and the frustration.  Bike shops pay pennies for patch kits, and then sell them to you for $3-4.    Don't get me wrong, I love bike shops, but I would rather put my money into one tubeless tire than a series of tubes, as they say.

Compatibility With Tubes

As much as I hate tubes, I do carry one around as a spare.  In the unlikely event I ever get a flat, I can insert a tube and be on my way.   Unlike tubulars, I don't have to carry around a spare tire.  In reality, I have used my spare tube to bail out my friends several times, yet have never had to insert it in my tubeless tire.   It is still comforting to know it is there.

That Cool Sound

It is hard to describe, but it is unforgettable the first time you ride tubeless.   It is kind of a sizzle, almost like you are tearing silk or something.  It sounds like the road is wet, when is hasn't rained in a week.

Welcome To The Road Tubeless Blog

My name is Jason, and I have been a cyclist for about 25 years.   I have experience with road bikes, mountain bikes, touring bikes, commuting, and racing.   If there is one thing I hate about cycling, it is getting a flat.

I hate having to interrupt my ride.

I hate stopping on the side of the road.

I hate changing flats with a mini pump or a CO2 cartridge.

I hate buying tubes.

I hate patching tubes.

While I have been riding tubeless on my mountain bike for almost a decade, I was excited when road tubeless tires came out four years ago, and I bought the Stan's road tubeless conversion kit and a pair of Hutchinson Fusion 2s practically the day they came out.

Why Blog About Bicycle Tires?

I have been very satisfied with the products, yet I have found so little in the way of information about installing and maintaining tubeless tires.   Let's face it, there are decades worth to tips, tricks, and advice out there regarding both clinchers and tubular tires, but almost nothing out there about tubeless.

Now that I have been riding tubeless for four years, I have learned so much, that I just want to share it with the cycling community.   I have ridden five different models of tubeless road cycling tires, and I would like to share my observations on each as well.  Finally, I would like to serve as a clearinghouse for information on road tubeless products so that the users of this new system can communicate their needs directly to the manufactures.

If you have a question about tubeless tires, feel free to leave a comment.   I will try to answer your question as quickly as possible.

My Cycling Background

I have been riding road, mountain, touring, and city bikes since the mid-eighties.  I have also raced, mostly off-road, on and off during that time.    In college, I worked in a bike shop.   I have worked for Bruce Boone in Altanta fabricating aluminum and titanium bike parts in in the nineties.   Today, I ride road bikes all over the Front Range foothills and mountains outside of my home in Denver.   I also volunteer for the Park Hill Bike Depot where they definitely won't be using tubeless tires on the bicycles we fix for needy members in the community.  

My Blogging Background

I currently write about travel and credit cards for the blog at   I am also the travel expert at    Finally, I also write about politics, aviation, and consumer issues at my personal blog, Steele Street.