Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Pros Don't Use Tubeless

Lennard Zinn at Velonews is a tireless advocate for road tubeless. This week, he answers a reader's question about the relative lack of road tubeless on the Pro circuit.  It turns out that it comes down to several factors. Pros depend on sponsors, and there really aren't many road tubeless wheel and tire manufacturers out there that are ponying up the sponsorship bucks. Also, they are weight weenies and carbon tubulars will always be lighter than clinchers of any material. He also cites tradition. Frankly, most pro teams are very conservative when it comes to revolutionary new technology. Pros were slow to shift from steel to titanium and carbon as many consumers were using these frames before the pros. LeMond's famous use of aero bars to win in the 1989 Tour de France in the final time trial is another example. Fignon lost because he wasn't interested in the aerodynamics at a time when even recreation riders like myself were using aero bars.

On the other hand, think about what it means to be a pro. On every ride, be it a race or even a training ride, you have a team car following you with not just spare wheels, but entire spare bicycles. It must be nice. Me, I set out on 6-8 hour rides deep into the Colorado Rockies. I could see snow in the middle of summer riding hours away from the nearest bike shop. Do I really want to carry a spare tubular tire? Do I want to make the bet that one will be enough? With tubeless, I carry a spare tube that I can go years without using. Should my spare fail, I can fall back on another rider's tube. I also can't afford to replace an $50-$100 tubular tire should I get a flat.

In conclusion, tubulars are a great option for people who are followed around by a support vehicle. For the rest of us, you can't beat tubeless road tires.


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