Saturday, June 23, 2012

IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Light

It is great to see more coverage of road tubeless penetrating the mainstream cycling media. For example, Bicycling Magazine, a publication I have been reading since the mid 80s, has recently featured an article about this technology. It is a fine piece, but one inaccuracy bothered me. They review several new road wheels and tires that are tubeless compatible. They introduce the Maxxis Padrone by saying "Hutchinson has had a monopoly on tubeless road tires."  That sound you hear in the background is all the folks at Specialized, Bontrager, and IRC loudly clearing their throats. (The Bontrager tire does not appear to be available any more.) 

But that is not all. Over at Bike Rumor, a new post heralds the introduction of the Hutchinson 700x28c Intensive tire as well as the new Atom Galactik, which they say "claims to be the first sub-250g tubeless tire". 

I have received a pair of IRC Fromula Pro Tubeless Light tires, that put both these claims to rest. First, this tire weights 240 grams, less than the standard Atom, and certainly less than 250 grams.

About the IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Light

This is the top of the line IRC road tubeless tire. In fact, IRC now has four different tires in their line. They claim 20% less rolling resistance than their other tires. This 170 TPI casing is thin and supple, eschewing the reinforced casing that Hutchinson has gone with. Installation was no more of a challenge than any other road tubeless product, and it is a good looking, bald race tire.

The Ride

Let me cut to the chase: I love this tire. I never really took to the Hutchinson Atom tubeless tire because it was too narrow and had too harsh of a ride to justify the 20-30 gram weight savings over the Fusion 3, my favorite road tire. Now that I have spent a few hundred miles on the IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Light, it just might be my new best friend. The 70 gram weight savings per tire is noticeable over the Fusion 3 as you are dropping nearly a third of a pound in rotational weight. Climbing is fun and there really is no degradation in ride quality. In fact, I find the claimed 23c width to be much closer to the Fusion than to the Atom. Cornering was excellent as I descended my favorite Colorado switchbacks with all the confidence I would expect from a professional quality racing tire.

It is too early to talk about wear resistance, but I have noticed something unusual. The rear tire lost its excess rubber strips after the first ride, but the front still retains it. I suppose that with all the climbing I do, I put much more weight on the rear wheel than the front for the majority of my rides. All the more reason to inflate the rear higher than front. My rule of thumb is that I want to see approximately the same sidewall deflection from both tires when I am riding up a hill. For me, that equates to 105 psi in back, and 95 psi in front. But what this tells me about the tire is that it is more subject to deformation under load than the more rigid Hutchinson products.


IRC has been out of the US market for some time, but they are looking to make a comeback. This tire meets or exceeds the performance of a tubular, and if they can get it in the hands of enough riders, they will certainly succeed in this market. My only concern is that this tire has affected me like a drug, and I am not sure when I'll be able to get my next fix.