Buyer's Guides Archives - Road Bike Action https://roadbikeaction.com/features/buyers-guides/ Road Bike Action Sat, 26 Nov 2022 14:40:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE https://roadbikeaction.com/10-easy-tips-to-improve-your-tubeless-tire-experience-2/ Sat, 26 Nov 2022 08:47:36 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=59995

What you need to know to be fast—and safe

The post 10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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By Troy Templin

Here’s a funny thing about the tubeless revolution currently afoot in the bike industry—it’s really nothing new. Currently, while there’s a big debate about the efficacy of hooked-versus-hookless rims with tubeless tires, you’ve been rolling on hookless rims on your car or your motorcycle since time immemorial. In fact, bicycle wheels, too, have been hookless, then called straight-sided for decades until the bike industry moved to hooked rims (Crotched) as a means of countering diminishing production standards and higher pressures.

Road tubeless isn’t new, but the amount of suitable products to the category has exploded in the last two years. Much of this is due to the gravel category that has redefined the drop-bar category. Gravel has exposed the road category to tire sizes beyond 23mm while redefining the boundaries set on road bikes generations ago. Tubeless for bicycles was started by Mavic way back in 1999 with their UST system, but it wasn’t until 2001 when Stan’s NoTubes really changed the tubeless market. While UST never really took off, it did help set the foundation for where we are today. 

The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Any tire’s air volume is far more influential to tire pressure than rider weight. Mountain bike riders have known this for years, but until a few years ago there wasn’t much documented information for tires of all sizes. As gravel and all-road riding have gained popularity, more brands have begun to adopt frame clearance for larger tires, leading to an industry-wide acceptance, but more important is an understanding of what benefits lower air pressures and higher volume can offer a rider.

As a quick example: if a 180-pound rider is on a 23mm tire, the recommended pressure is around 82–86 psi, but for years we were told it needed to be 90 psi or higher; why? Because on a 21mm or even 18mm tire that is true. For years 18–21mm were the standard, and at 180 pounds, a rider would need over 100 psi because the air volume is so low. As the industry moved to 23mm and 25mm, an abundance of lab and aero data showed that in perfect conditions an unweighted tire at higher pressure offers a lower rolling resistance. But, in reality, we don’t ride in perfect laboratory settings, and in the real world even the smooth, perfect roads are more than twice as rough as a lab setting.

So, that same 180-pound rider on a 28mm tire should opt for a pressure of 62–65 psi as a starting point, and this is with or without a tube. Sure, tire construction and riding position will alter these, but only by around 1–2 psi. As volume is added, the pressure starts to lower, and this is how we have arrived at the point where road bikes can run hookless beads (but more on that later). 

Most modern road bikes now come stock with 25–28mm tires but with room for 30–32mm. All-road/endurance bikes come with 30–32mm tires and room for 38mm, while gravel bikes come with 700x40mm or 650x47mm with room for even larger tires. As a rule of thumb, I suggest a rider choose a tire size that allows them to run 65 psi or lower when riding road tubeless.

Remember that volume dictates pressure more than rider weight and whether you have a tube or tubeless. Gravel bikes with larger volume tires are going to have significantly less tire pressure than a road bike.

SO MANY VARIATIONS

Now that previously recommended (aka “old school”) pressure numbers have been debunked, we can move to all the options that surround tubeless. 

Tubeless is essentially a system of parts that, as the name implies, eliminates the need for a tube. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a tube, but, more important, for the system to work all the components have to work in conjunction with each other. This was what made Mavic’s original system so dependable—it was designed to work as a system. There is the rim, tire, valve, sealant and, in most cases, some sort of internal spoke-hole sealer (normally a form of impermeable tape).

Rims now come in two tubeless variations—hooked bead wall and a hookless bead wall. A hooked bead wall is the design we have been using with tubes, with the wall of the rim that holds the tire in place and has a hook but with a modified rim bed to make them tubeless-compatible. As the name implies, a hookless bead wall has no hook and so relies on the tire-bead construction to stay on the rim. The hookless rim design also allows the rim material to be thicker and more robust.

Since tubeless relies on much more refined and exact dimensions from both the tire and rim, the hook of a rim is only needed when using a non-tubeless tire. This is because the acceptable variance in tire and rim design for tube-type products is so vast that the hook offers a physical stop and point of added friction when paired with a tube.

Tubeless installs can be messy, but if you take the time upfront to do it correctly, the benefits pay off for miles of issue-free riding.

Key to remember, a hookless rim always needs to be paired with a tubeless (or tubeless-ready) tire. A tube can still be used, but the tire must meet the tubeless requirements. Additionally, most hookless rims use a maximum tire-pressure rating as a safeguard because there is no physical hook to stop an over-inflated tire bead from exceeding the rim lip. In many cases, this pressure exceeds the max pressure that even the heaviest of riders would need for the tire size the wheel is designed for. 

Many hooked bead-wall tubeless rims will also have a max pressure as well. This would apply to tubeless for sure, and in many cases tube-type tires, too. This is because as we transition away from rim brakes to discs, we no longer need the overbuilt brake track that rim brakes required. This means designs and materials that are optimized for weight and impact rather than heat and wear.

WHAT’S MOST VERSATILE?

In general terms, a hooked bead-wall rim will be more versatile for a rider that doesn’t always want to use a tubeless tire. This comes at the cost of impact durability, because to create the hook or lip of the wall, the rim-wall material is normally reduced. Since a hookless bead wall is not machined out, it provides more structure and, in turn, more durability, which helps in low-pressure situations.

If your wheels have bead ridges that hold the bead in place, you can refresh the sealant through the valve after removing the valve core, and there is no need to remove the tire.

A properly designed tubeless rim, hooked or hookless, will have bead-shelf ridges or bead-retention ridges (same thing). These ridges sit between the bead shelf and bed of the rim. They help hold and maintain the tire bead on the rim’s bead shelf and against the rim’s bead wall. Most will be between 0.3–0.5mm tall and very important for a hassle-free tubeless experience. If these ridges are absent, then at low pressure (under 20 psi) a tire bead will slide into the rim bed and lose its seal. This is important when adding/refreshing sealant or in the case of a puncture. It is also worth nothing that these ridges are not necessary to meet tubeless standards, but we recommend picking a rim that has them.

A common question that we get is, can I convert my rims to tubeless? This was popular on mountain bikes in the early 2000s, and because of the low pressures used, it was possible. For road and gravel riding, you should
never attempt to make a non-tubeless rim tubeless.

SEALING A RIM

The importance of properly sealing a rim for tubeless might be the most overlooked aspects of a tubeless setup. The rim bed is where most wheels will have spoke holes. This means they need a tape or rim strip that can seal those holes to prevent air and sealant leaking. In our experience, 90 percent of tubeless complications come from poorly sealed rim beds. This is extra important for two reasons: 1. Because the rim profile on most carbon rims is not designed to withstand internal pressure, any rush of air entering the rim cavity can cause a catastrophic failure as a rim’s profile sidewall on a carbon rim cracks from the pressure. And 2. Because some sealants contain ammonia and are corrosive, a leak could lead to nipple/rim corrosion and failure. 

Although the jury is still out on whether you want a wall-to-wall rim tape or just enough to seal the spoke holes, we always opt for wall-to-wall. This is because the bead of the tire will help hold the tape in position. We also recommend wrapping the rim twice around to ensure there is substantial coverage.

If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of sealant leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity. This should be resolved immediately because, as noted above, any large impact could transfer enough pressure into the rim cavity, causing likely damage. 

The tubeless valve can also be an area of misconception when it comes to tubeless. Our rule of thumb is the hole in the rim tape needs to be minimal and let the installation of the valve enlarge it. Most valves will have a rubber grommet that helps seal around the hole and valve using a threaded nut that is on the exterior of the rim. This nut should be tight, but be careful because over-tightening it can cause failure of the rubber grommet. Also, note that some valves come with different-shaped grommets for different rim bed shapes, so if you’re having trouble sealing a valve, try a different grommet or valve design. In many cases, even the ones supplied with the rims are not ideal.

Not all roads are paved and larger volume road tires and proper pressures mean confidence even when the tarmac ends. Tubeless adds an added benefit of sealant to aid in sealing any small punctures that may result from the less ideal conditions. Photo: BWR

THE TIRE EVOLUTION

Tubeless tires have come a long way since they went mainstream nearly 20 years ago and most of the road performance gains have been in the last two to three years, with 2020 bringing the most improvements for 25–32mm tires. The most important changes have been to the construction of tires with more defined standards for rim and tire interfaces. Not all brands have met these new standards, so look closely if your preferred rim or tire brand has a compatibility chart or list. 

“The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.” 

Just as it’s true with tube-type tires, the lighter the tire, the less durability. Tubeless tires do weigh more than their tube-type counterparts due to the added bead reinforcement needed to maintain size standards, as well as the rubber needed to seal them so that they are air-impermeable. For this reason alone, expect most 28mm performance tires to be around 280–300 grams each, and gravel tires in size 40mm to be in the 450–500-gram weight or more depending on the level of built-in protection. 

THE MAGIC OF SEALANT

What really sets a tubeless system apart from a tube is the sealant. This is because if the tire gets a small puncture, the liquid sealant in the tire will seal the hole within seconds. In many cases, the rider will not even realize they have had a puncture. This is where some of the misconceptions come from, because this can happen so often without realization that a tubeless user might not realize how many flats they have deterred. 

Things to consider when choosing tubeless sealant are your riding conditions and environment. Tubeless sealant will dry up and on average last four to six months. Heat is a big factor, and the hotter the temperatures, the faster sealant seems to dry out. Some sealants don’t work properly in colder temperatures, either, so check the manufacturer’s ideal conditions. We’ve also found that tubeless systems will lose pressure when left sitting for a long period of time and last longer on bikes that get a lot of use. 

“If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of air leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity.” 

As mentioned above, some sealants contain a small percentage of ammonia to stabilize the liquid. This can be catastrophic to brass or bare alloy, so you don’t want it in your rim cavity where the spoke nipples are. Most carbon rims also have pressure-relief holes on the side of the rim to let slow-leaking air escape in case of a defective or leaking tubeless system. If those small holes are sealed by internal leaking sealant, then it could cause an entire rim to explode as a rush of air enters the rim cavity. 

At the end of the day, whether you choose a tubeless system or not, we have come a long way in tire technology and real-world results. Gone are the days of 90-plus pressures in replacement for the benefits of compliance and traction with lower rolling resistance. With the added knowledge of pressure versus weight, all tire types of tube and tubeless gain the benefits.

WHEN TUBELESS GOES WRONG

Why would Specialized backtrack? Blame the pros…

How does a company like Specialized launch a new line of wheels that are designed with tubeless-specific shapes look like they have the appropriate specifications, and even come with tubeless accessories but then claim they are not tubeless in 2020?

Roval has now installed two stickers to indicate the wheels are not tubeless-compatible. There is one on the inside and one on the exterior near the valve

Let’s step back a few months when Specialized dropped off the new Tarmac SL7 to the palatial, well-lit RBA office. This was back in June, about a month or two before the official launch, and they were, as usual, telling us how great the SL7 was. Much of the focus was around the pinnacle S-Works models. We clearly remember noticing the different front-to-back profiles on the Roval wheels and asking what the deal was. The Specialized reps told us that they would connect us with the Roval team, as they were still working on the final launch details. 

This photo was taken before the launch, verifying internal construction and measurements.

We were left with the SL7 Pro model (RBA, October ’20), which would be delivered to dealers with a new set of Roval Rapide CL wheels. These wheels don’t seem to be available for aftermarket and were not in our Roval launch material. Since our test bike was built and ready to ride, there was no small parts box or materials included.

Following the web post of our first-ride review, quite a few people inquired about the wheels and whether they were tubeless. Then the team at Roval and Specialized reached out to see if I would update my review, saying they were not intended for tubeless use. This came as a surprise, because while I rarely read the press kits telling you all the “great things” about a bike, I was sure I had deliberately removed the tires from both wheels to check internal construction, as well as to take my own measurements.

The initial shipments of wheels came with Roval tubeless-ready tape installed. This tells us the switch was last minute and these wheels were planed to be tubeless, even up to the final month before release.

JUST ASK THE SMART GUY

As it happens, one of our local test riders is also a NASA rocket scientist (as in, he’s smarter than us), and I asked him to bring the bike back so we could check the wheels and get his feedback. He is not an official expert in bike wheels, but he has raced for a world champion jersey on the track (leaving with a respectable bronze) and is a passionate cyclist. Upon yet another inspection of the rims, our assumptions were correct.

“As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.” 

The Roval wheels have all the telltale signs of a tubeless design. They are internally wide at 21mm, they have a large bead shelf for the normally more robust tubeless beads, and there is a distinct 0.4mm (ETRTO max) rim bead ridge/lock (not required for tubeless but never on a non-tubeless rim). The bed of the rim is fairly shallow for easier tubeless setup, too. Last is the use of Roval tubeless-ready rim tape to put a little icing on the cake.

Our local smart guy commented that in his opinion they were designed to be tubeless and, in fact, a better design than many others we have tested. His comment was that if Roval was claiming they were not tubeless, that likely meant that something didn’t pass inspection at the last minute and they were too invested to change it. Funny, but that was just what we were thinking!

CONTENTION AND SUPPOSITION

Maybe the bead shelf wasn’t the correct diameter (we don’t think this is the case) or testing showed the bead wall could fail when running overinflated pressure (we doubt that, because it would affect a tube setup, too). Our guess was it was more likely that the full line of Specialized tires was not compatible. For us, all the (different brand) tubeless tires we tried with the wheels had worked just fine. We have not done any long-term tests, but the setup of the bead retention while deflated and performance on a handful of rides was flawless.

Initially, neither Roval or Specialized responded to our request for more info, but instead just asked that we not promote the wheels as being tubeless-friendly. We reached out to a few of our local shops and have gotten mixed feedback. Some have said that the first few complete bikes with the new wheels came with tubeless valves in the small parts box, but since then they have not been included.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

We would always encourage people to read all the new bike/accessory instructions and follow the manufacturer’s specifications. We’re happy to see how road tubeless has evolved quickly in the last two years with much better performance, reliability and compatibility, but as you can see, mistakes still happen at the highest levels. 

Enve has a tire-compatibility list for their different wheel lines. Most of the incompatibility comes from tires not meeting the hookless requirements that some of their wheels have. We personally had no issues with our tubeless attempts on our Rapide CL wheels. The addition of the beadlock (previous Roval road tubeless rims didn’t have this) makes it much easier to maintain a tubeless system and the reason we believe there is more to the story than Specialized will tell. Without any initial response from Roval and Specialized, we couldn’t properly determine the true risk of utilizing a tubeless setup on their new Rapide and Alpinist wheels, and for that, we would steer clear until there is more information available.

FINALLY, A RESPONSE 

After running this story on our website, Roval reached out to try to further clarify the situation. They told us that they had a lot of goals going into the wheel project and tubeless was a top priority. As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the
total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.

This is why they say the internal design resembles a tubeless rim, because in reality, it was a carryover from their knowledge gained in designing the tubeless Terra gravel wheels. In their testing, they also found that the bead ridges/lock holds tube and tubeless tires on the rim tight even when flat, making them safer in real-world conditions. 

Having tires roll off rims is a huge worry for pro teams and one of the main reasons WorldTour pros remain on tubulars. Even after Specialized’s own testing showed that tubulars are less aerodynamic, have higher rolling resistance than tube-type tires and, to be honest, a pain to maintain, tubulars are the go-to choice for racers.

THOSE PESKY PRO RIDERS

So, what is the problem? Roval says the need to save weight was the final nail in the coffin for tubeless. But, the internal rim seems to meet all the standards, so where is the weight? We can only assume that the real problem lies in the profile of the rim. The profile of the rim was never made to withstand pressure, but as we have experienced while testing, if the rim is not sealed correctly, there is a chance that the pressure in the tire can be transferred to the rim’s profile cavity and cause catastrophic failure. 

We have had prototype wheels from other brands that experienced this type of failure. From our experience, this only happens if there is a failure in the rim tape or it is not installed properly. Specialized is a large company, and they most likely didn’t want to take that risk and knew that the profile would need to be reinforced to prevent this rare failure. 

This is, of course, speculation on our part, but it’s the only thing that we can assume with the facts and knowledge we have. When we look back on the other wheels that failed from this rare situation, those brands added additional carbon reinforcement to the rim wall for their production versions, because they knew the end user now understands (and accepts) that the performance gains of tubeless are more beneficial than saving less than 100 grams.

As a side note, the new Rapide wheels are deeper, wider, have more robust bead material (in the front) and are lighter than the previous CLX 50 Roval wheels. As the brand most likely tries to move their pro teams off of tubulars and to faster and more efficient tubeless systems, they knew that less wheel weight would be easier to sell them on than tubeless. Of course, with the predictable result being Specialized touting Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France stage win using clinchers. 

While baby steps have to be taken with the pro peloton, the result is that the paying customers have to wait to get their money’s worth. The alternative is to just look at other brands or, like us, take the risk and just make sure
your rim tape is perfect. And like our tubeless breakdown explains, you should stay under 65 psi, because
Roval won’t warranty a tubeless-caused failure.

THE MODERN WORLD OF ROAD TUBELESS TIRES

Plenty of options, but taken with a dose of caution

For many years there have been two options for road tires—tubular and tube type. Within each are many options, but most tubulars were designated for more race-specific applications, while the vast majority of recreational riders would prefer to run with the tried-and-true inner tubes. 

Although tubeless is the new name in the tire game for road riding, the technology has been around for over 20 years, but the majority of its popularity was in the higher-volume, lower-pressure realm of mountain bikes and, more recently, gravel.

Now that the old-school notion that max air pressure equals max speed has been debunked, road riders are free to think about what tires to use in a new light. In place of the old way is a new concept that smooth equals fast and more traction doesn’t lead to higher rolling resistance. 

With our gained knowledge and understanding of real-world-versus-laboratory performance, the industry has made huge strides in road tubeless. Still, there is a definite need for thoughtful consideration when mixing and matching different rim and tire combinations. Collected here are only a few of the quickly evolving and wide range of tire options.

A few things to remember, just as has been common with tube-type tires of the past, tire manufacturers have suggested pressures printed on the sidewall of the tire. In our opinion, these pressures are worth some second-guessing and, for safety reasons, not the best source to determine real-world pressures. We recommend finding a reliable source or chart to determine tire pressure after you have taken into consideration rider weight, type of riding planned and the physical size (versus the labeled size) of the tire. 

Remember, too, that the same tire on two different rim profiles can measure differently, and thus in need of slightly different pressures. When determining the adequate tire pressure, also take into account atmospheric temperature changes and how they will affect pressure throughout your ride. As the heat rises, so does your tire pressure, so you might need to start lower if you roll out just before the heat kicks in. 

THE BAKER’S DOZEN

KENDA VALKYRIE TLR PRO

Kenda’s newest addition seems to hit all the marks for a performance road tubeless tire. The 28mm tire hit the scales at 288 grams with a solid bead and easy installation. The tire feels supple with great wet and dry traction. There is a tread-wide-only protection layer to minimize rolling resistance while maximizing weight and protection. The TLR is available in sizes 23–30mm.

Weight: 288 grams (28mm)

Price: $85

www.bicycle.kendatire.com

GOODYEAR EAGLE F1 SUPER SPORT

A few years ago Goodyear launched a line of cycling tires that performed well but targeted a wide range of riders. Now, they have released a few options for the more performance-oriented rider. Their Eagle F1 Super Sport is offered in 25 and 28mm with no protection, while the Eagle F1 is available in 25-32mm and has a single tread-width protection layer. These tires are easy to mount and have great air retention from our testing.

Weight: 283 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.goodyearbike.com

ENVE SES ROAD 29

Utah-based Enve Composites has been at the forefront of road tubeless on the rim side of things and now completes the system with their own tires. Enve is offering 25, 27, 29 and 31mm tires, and with their extensive testing have a well-documented fitment chart when matched to their wheels. They are hookless and hook-bead ready, and they claim the bead will not stretch over time. The shape and performance are best paired with Enve wheels but are compatible with other brands.

Weight: 272 grams 29mm

Price: $75

www.enve.com

MAXXIS HIGH ROAD

While the majority of the Maxxis catalog is consumed by dirt-oriented tires, they have a few options for pavement, too. The High Road comes in sizes 25mm and 28mm, and is a durable tire for training and performance. The tire has a 170-tpi construction with a tread-wide puncture layer for added durability without reducing performance.

Weight: 324 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.maxxis.com

SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO RAPIDAIR 2BLISS READY

Specialized has been one of the leaders in tubeless road tech—that is until lately —and the S-Works Turbo line of tires is their premium offering. The tire is offered in sizes 26, 28 and 30mm and is performance-oriented. It is designed to offer the ride quality of tubulars with the versatility of a hook-type tire with 120 tpi. The S-Works Turbo Rapidair 2Bliss Ready also has a single layer of protection along the tread for even better durability.

Weight: 306 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.specialized.com

ZIPP TANGENTE SPEED RT28

Zipp is all about max speed and performance, and their race-specific Tangente Speed tires come is sizes 25 and 28mm. The tire has a single layer of protection for durability. The tire has 127 tpi keeping it supple. Zipp says they are hook- or hookless-compatible, and in our testing, these are some of the most durable road tubeless tires we have used.

Weight: 340 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.zipp.com

BONTRAGER R3 TLR

Trek’s Bontrager brand has a full line of tubeless wheels, and the R3 is their go-to road tubeless offering. The R3 comes in sizes 25, 28 and 32mm, and is a balance of performance and durability. There is a protective layer in the 170-tpi construction, and they claim it is best paired with their system of wheels. In our testing we have had mixed reviews, but the price makes them an option to consider.

Weight: 294 grams 28mm

Price: $55

www.trekbikes.com

PIRELLI P ZERO RACE TLR

While the name has “Race” in it, this tire is equally qualified to be a performance training tire. There is a tread-wide puncture layer built into the 120-tpi casing for added durability. The tire is offered in 24, 26, 28 and 30mm. Pirelli does note that the 24 and 26mm options are not compatible with hookless rims per the ETRTO standards, but the 28 and 30mm versions are.

Weight: 298 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.velo.pirelli.com

SCHWALBE PRO ONE

Schwalbe has been one of the leaders in road tubeless options, and their new Pro One delivers a lightweight option that still has a protection layer. The tire is offered in sizes 25, 28, 30 and 32mm with two different constructions available. They also offer a slightly heavier option that is also a bit more durable in the One series, and it is slightly less expensive at $62. Both Schwalbe Pro Ones offer very easy mounting and supple road feel.

Weight: 270 grams 28mm

Price: $81

www.schwalbetires.com

CADEX RACE

Cadex is Giant’s in-house tire brand, and they are designed to pair with their premium race-oriented wheels that feature a hookless bead. As a result, the bead of the tire is very robust, but the casing is very supple and is said to have built-in protection that is weaved in rather than layered on. The tire is not the lightest, but mounting has been one of the easiest, and the feel is comparable to tires of lesser construction. 

Weight: 335 grams 28mm

Price: $100

www.cadex-cycling.com

VITTORIA CORSA SPEED GRAPHENE 2.0

Vittoria has a full line of tubeless options, and the Corsa Speed is the pinnacle but only offered in 23 and 25mm. The 320-tpi construction of the tire is very minimal, and we have had mixed experiences mounting them. With that said, once setup, they offer a tubeless feel that is unmatched. Durability is not their forte, but this would be a top pick to minimize rolling resistance. For a wider range of sizes, durability and training, look towards the Control or Rubino version. The Corsa Control in 30mm weighs in at 318 grams.

Weight: 229 grams 25mm

Price: $84

www.vittoria.com

MICHELIN POWER ROAD TLR

Michelin is now offering a performance-oriented road tubeless tire. It is offered in sizes 25, 28 and 32 with a 120-tpi construction. With minimal layers, it has low-rolling resistance while running
lower pressures. 

Weight: 255 grams 28mm

Price: $80                                   

www.motorcycle.michelinman.com

CONTINENTAL GRAND PRIX 5000 TL

Continental has jumped into road tubeless segment with their new 5000 TL. The tire offers the same aspects as the non-tubeless, like their BlackChili compound that prioritizes speed and grip over wear. They offer 25, 28 and 32mm with a tread-wide protection layer for added durability. In our testing we have had very mixed reviews from mounting to bead durability. We would be hesitant to recommend this tire with the number of problems we’ve had, and it might have missed the mark for tubeless on the first go.

Weight: 321 grams 28mm

Price: $95

www.continental-tires.com

10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE

The post 10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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BEST 2022 BLACK FRIDAY SAVINGS FOR CYCLISTS https://roadbikeaction.com/best-2022-black-friday-savings-for-cyclists/ Fri, 25 Nov 2022 07:32:19 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=59960

Deals, Deals, Deals!

The post BEST 2022 BLACK FRIDAY SAVINGS FOR CYCLISTS appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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Here are the best 2022 Black Friday and Cyber Monday savings for cyclists. Make the most of the great deals on offer, score that upgrade you’ve been eyeing.  Bikes, frames, bibs, socks and more are available at major discounts. While we’ve collected the best deals we could find online, remember to check in with your local bike shop to possibly find even better savings.

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BEST 2022 BLACK FRIDAY SAVINGS FOR CYCLISTS

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8 BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $2500 https://roadbikeaction.com/8-best-road-bikes-under-2500/ Thu, 24 Nov 2022 15:55:41 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=59962

What beginners can expect with bikes under $2500

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Whether it’s the beginning of a deep dive into the sport or an upgrade for someone looking for something faster to ride, a budget road bike is central for many beginners cycling experiences. There have been a handful of updates across the cycling industry recently; more than any other feature, the latest road bikes on the market have undergone a series of compliance-oriented design cues, led by the quick adoption of disc brakes. 

Wider tire clearance and hydraulic disc brakes are now becoming more common on most bikes starting at $1500. We’ve talked about the performance upgrade hydraulic brakes provide, and they have long been a premium-only option. Now the majority of modern bikes between $1000–$2500 feature disc brakes. Although we’d only recommend a bike with disc brakes, in part due to its ability to be upgraded in the future, budget bikes with rim brakes still exist and can be found at prices that start below $1000.  

THE FRAMES

Most road bikes in this price range typically have frames made of three materials—carbon, aluminum or steel. Many budget steel bikes tend to use rim brakes with disc brakes reserved for higher-end frames. Aluminum frames are the most common at this price point due to the material’s attractive cost/benefit ratio and its stiffness-to-weight ratio. Aluminum frames also have tunable ride characteristics at a lighter weight than their steel counterparts. Generally, carbon frames trend closer to a $3000 price point. 

Expect any carbon bike at this price point to feature entry-level components to balance the higher cost of the frame, while comparably priced aluminum frames are to be paired with higher-value components. Of the eight bikes shown here, seven feature aluminum frames, and all use components from Shimano. 

THE DRIVETRAINS

Shimano offers the most advanced disc brake/drivetrain package at this price point. Shimano’s latest updates to their mid-level Tiagra drivetrain have seen the adoption of a hydraulic brakes alongside an 11-speed mechanical drivetrain. Shimano’s updated Tiagra gruppo surpassed SRAM’s previously comparable Apex drivetrain, which has remained largely unchanged for nearly a decade with a 10-speed rim brake group. 

Shimano 105 ranks just above the Tiagra group and has gained notoriety as Shimano’s workhorse drivetrain. Hydraulic disc brakes have been standard in the group for five years, and it is now Shimano’s highest-tier mechanical shifting drivetrain since Ultegra and Dura-Ace made the jump to wireless shifting. 

Shimano’s entry-level Sora groupset is disc brake-specific but is still 9-speed with a mechanical disc caliper. Most other major manufacturers’ disc-brake drivetrains, like SRAM’s AXS wireless series and Campagnolo’s Chorus, Record and Super Record, are priced far outside of budget-level builds. 

TOUCHPOINTS AND WHEELS

At this price point components like handlebars, stems and seatposts will likely be made of aluminum. Often, entry-level bikes are using trickle-down frames with features that have lost commercial appeal (like rim brakes). Another distinguishing feature of price points would be internally routed cables, which have become the aesthetic of high-end frames but are not as universally found at lower price points. 

If you’re a first-time rider, remember that road bikes are often sold without pedals, too, so you need to decide whether you’ll be going with flat pedals or jumping to a clipless system, which involves special shoes. 

Wheels at this price are exclusively aluminum, and many have yet to receive many modern features, like wider rim shapes and tubeless compatibility. This is likely the first and most impactful upgrade one can make to most budget builds to improve a bike’s performance. Saddles remain relatively basic as well, though some manufacturers are equipping shorted-nosed saddles on entry-level models. 

SHOP LOCAL

The most unfortunate point to consider in purchasing an entry-level bike these days is that there are so few in stock. Sure, you can still browse for used bikes online and find a few deals, but even the secondhand market remains competitively priced. 

However, local bike shops may have bikes in stock that cannot be found online or have the ability to special order them for customers. 

THE LAST, BEST TIPS

After spending countless hours scrolling online and badgering your bike riding friends for useful tips and advice, there is one useful exercise to conduct before you make a purchase—look in the mirror. 

This is the moment when you need to actually think about not only what bike you want, but also what bike you need. What are your goals as a cyclist? We’ve encountered many cyclists who’ve purchased more bike than they need due to nudging from friends and shop employees. Remember that road bikes in this price range are just as capable of delivering mile after mile of enjoyable riding as their more expensive brethren. 

And last, don’t roll out on your new bike without the basic necessities—a helmet, spare tube, tire iron, a water bottle and a taillight. 

KHS FLITE 700

KHS has a long legacy of producing value-based bike builds. The latest Flite 700 is no different, as it brings a carbon frame to the sub-$2500 price point. Its monocoque frame design and performance-oriented geometry provide quick feedback and responsive handling. An FSA Omega 50/34 crankset is paired with a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain with cable-pull brakes that oozes value. 

Price: $2199

www.khsbicycles.com

BIANCHI SPRINT

As the oldest bicycle brand in the world, Bianchi is revered by many and easy to spot with their popular Celeste paint jobs. We were pleased to find the iconic hue on the alloy Sprint frame. It’s the most affordable performance road bike in Bianchi’s catalog, thanks to the Shimano 105 drivetrain. The Sprint is spec’d with 25mm tires and has clearance for up to 28s. Handling remains quick but predictable with its tight wheelbase and average head tube angle.

Price: $2499

www.bianchi.com

BMC TEAMMACHINE ALR 

Sharing many of the same characteristics as its carbon cousin, the aluminum Teammachine ALR is designed for performance. BMC included a Shimano 105 drivetrain, which complements the snappy handling of the aggressively short wheelbase. The 28mm max tire clearance is a bit narrow, but the carbon seatpost helps with compliance in the saddle. 

Price: $2299

www.bmc-switzerland.com

CANNONDALE SYNAPSE

Cannondale’s Synapse touts an endurance geometry with its aluminum frame and carbon fork. This makes it an ideal purchase as a beginner’s gran fondo bike or anyone looking for a more upright riding position. The 9-speed Shimano Sora shifting will get the job done with just a few big jumps in between the wide 11-34 cassette. Notably, cable-pull disc brakes are still common at this price point.

Price: $1300

www.cannondale.com

CANYON ENDURACE AL 6.0

The direct-to-consumer model has its benefits and Canyon has gained popularity for their low-cost road bikes. Canyon’s aluminum Endurace AL 6.0 is their entry-level model. The 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain offers much of the same performance as 105 with similar ergonomics as well. DT Swiss E1850 wheels sweeten the deal with the brand’s popular performance characteristics. Canyon’s carbon Endurace builds start at $2600.

Price: $1500

www.canyon.com

GIANT CONTEND AR 

Giant’s entry-level alloy road bike, the Contend AR, takes the “all-road” approach with a long wheelbase and all-rounder 32mm Giant Gavia tires with clearance for up to 38s. As the largest bike manufacturer in the world, Giant’s Contend provides serious value with a Shimano 105 spec. Most of the small parts come from Giant, notably the carbon composite seatpost and forward-thinking tubeless-compatible wheels.

Price: $1900

www.giant-bicycles.com

SCOTT SPEEDSTER 10

Scott Speedster line has undergone a premium facelift with fully internal routing front to back. The design gives the alloy Speedster a clean aesthetic generally reserved for high-end carbon frames. The Shimano 105 drivetrain provides reliable shifts, and the in-house Syncros parts help balance out the price. 

Price: $2499

www.scott-sports.com

RIDLEY FENIX SLA 

The Ridley brand comes from the cycling Mecca of Belgium, and the Fenix SLA was designed alongside their race bikes as an endurance-oriented frame that doesn’t skimp on performance. Shimano’s 105 drivetrain brings quality components to the alloy frame, but the max 28mm tire clearance is a bit modest. Ridley’s carbon Fenix lineup starts at $3000

Price: $2499

www.ridley-bikes.com

8 BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $2500

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QUICK LIST: 5 PREMIER CYCLING SHOES FOR 2023 https://roadbikeaction.com/quick-list-5-premier-cycling-shoes-for-2023/ Tue, 01 Nov 2022 18:50:13 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=58904

What's on your feet?

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Here’s a few of the latest road cycling shoes that have caught our eye. From big name brands like Shimano and Sidi to more niche Italian names like Northwave and DMT here’s a round-up of cutting-edge cycling shoe tech for the upcoming 2023 season of riding.

SHIMANO S-PHYRE

Shimano carries on their World Championship-winning legacy with the revamped S-Phyre RC 903 road shoe that is now available in an all-white women’s-specific edition. In addition to black, there’s also a brilliant blue and red option to liven up any group ride. The anti-twist stabilizing heel cup and dual BOA dials ensure a tight fit. 

Price: $450

bike.shimano.com

SIDI FAST 

From Tour de France winners to the group-ride rookie, the venerable Italian brand has been dedicated to designing performance footwear for over five decades. The Fast has an anatomically shaped heel cup and a single Tecno 3 closure dial for a snug fit during big-ring efforts.

Price: $270       

www.ciclista-america.com

GAERNE G.FUGA

Topped with a perforated microfiber upper for a cooler ride and an anatomical insole for increased support, the G.Fuga also uses a dual BOA dial closure, and you can choose between either a carbon or nylon sole ($60 upgrade) for the level of stiffness desired. 

Price: $259

www.albabici.com

NORTHWAVE REVOLUTION 

The Revolution uses a Morph carbon insert at the cleat position to optimize stiffness. Available in ten sizes and three colors.

Price: $199

www.northwave.us

DMT KR0

Famous as the shoe-brand choice of two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar, DMT continues the Italian tradition of designing performance-oriented shoes with plenty of style and comfort. Especially in the bright coral color option, the 456-gram shoes will stand out on any group ride.

Price: $489

www.dmtcycling.com

 

READ MORE FULL CYCLING SHOE REVIEWS

QUICK LIST: 5 PREMIER CYCLING SHOES FOR 2023

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QUICK LIST: 2023 AERO ROAD HELMETS https://roadbikeaction.com/quick-list-2023-aero-road-helmets/ Mon, 24 Oct 2022 14:40:00 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=58895

Check out the lates aero helmet tech

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Here’s a quick list of the latest aero helmets for road cycling. Aero helmets have been refined to eek out watt saving benefits with sleek air-hugging designs that offer a slight advantage over traditional helmets. Here are six of the latest aero helmets on the market for 2023.

 

 

ABUS GAMECHANGER

Abus knows a thing or two about safety with nearly 100 years of personal security experience. Widely known for its bike locks, the German brand made a foray into the U.S. road helmet market with the release of the 301-gram Gamechanger.

Price: $250

www.abus.com

MET MANTA

Yes, as seen on the head of two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar and the UAE Emirates team, MET’s Manta is the helmet brand’s aero effort for head protection. The Manta is loaded with features that include 15 vents, a Fidlock magnetic buckle, both vertical and occipital adjustments, and the MIPS C2 protection system. Available in three sizes and six color options. 

Price: $300

www.met-helmets.com

GIRO ECLIPSE

The Eclipse is the latest addition to the California brand’s extensive helmet lineup. The 267-gram design is aero-optimized while still implementing a dual-shell construction with a low-friction zone in between. It’s an all-out effort to maximize protection from rotational impacts while still optimizing comfort and airflow.

Price: $250

www.giro.com

KASK PROTONE ICON

Kask has been the helmet of choice by Team Ineos for years, and the Icon is an updated model of the famous Protone. Now with bigger vents for increased airflow, the Icon is aero-optimized and available in three sizes and 10 colors.

Price: $300

www.kask.com

 

LAZER STRADA

As used by the all-conquering Jumbo-Visma team, the Lazer is unique with its KinetiCore “crumple zones” that are built into the EPS for added protection and their patented Scrollsys retention system. The 296-gram Strada has 21 vents and stands out with seven color options. 

Price: $110

www.lazersport.com

 

EKOI RACING AERO 14

Although the French brand isn’t yet well known in America, Ekoi helmets have still found their way into the pro peloton. The 221-gram Aero 14 has 12 vents and is a good-looking helmet at an exceptional price.

Price: $175

www.ekoi.com

QUICK LIST: 2023 AERO ROAD HELMETS

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10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE https://roadbikeaction.com/10-easy-tips-to-improve-your-tubeless-tire-experience/ Tue, 18 Oct 2022 19:22:47 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=59190

What you need to know to be fast—and safe

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By Troy Templin

Here’s a funny thing about the tubeless revolution currently afoot in the bike industry—it’s really nothing new. Currently, while there’s a big debate about the efficacy of hooked-versus-hookless rims with tubeless tires, you’ve been rolling on hookless rims on your car or your motorcycle since time immemorial. In fact, bicycle wheels, too, have been hookless, then called straight-sided for decades until the bike industry moved to hooked rims (Crotched) as a means of countering diminishing production standards and higher pressures.

Road tubeless isn’t new, but the amount of suitable products to the category has exploded in the last two years. Much of this is due to the gravel category that has redefined the drop-bar category. Gravel has exposed the road category to tire sizes beyond 23mm while redefining the boundaries set on road bikes generations ago. Tubeless for bicycles was started by Mavic way back in 1999 with their UST system, but it wasn’t until 2001 when Stan’s NoTubes really changed the tubeless market. While UST never really took off, it did help set the foundation for where we are today. 

The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Any tire’s air volume is far more influential to tire pressure than rider weight. Mountain bike riders have known this for years, but until a few years ago there wasn’t much documented information for tires of all sizes. As gravel and all-road riding have gained popularity, more brands have begun to adopt frame clearance for larger tires, leading to an industry-wide acceptance, but more important is an understanding of what benefits lower air pressures and higher volume can offer a rider.

As a quick example: if a 180-pound rider is on a 23mm tire, the recommended pressure is around 82–86 psi, but for years we were told it needed to be 90 psi or higher; why? Because on a 21mm or even 18mm tire that is true. For years 18–21mm were the standard, and at 180 pounds, a rider would need over 100 psi because the air volume is so low. As the industry moved to 23mm and 25mm, an abundance of lab and aero data showed that in perfect conditions an unweighted tire at higher pressure offers a lower rolling resistance. But, in reality, we don’t ride in perfect laboratory settings, and in the real world even the smooth, perfect roads are more than twice as rough as a lab setting.

So, that same 180-pound rider on a 28mm tire should opt for a pressure of 62–65 psi as a starting point, and this is with or without a tube. Sure, tire construction and riding position will alter these, but only by around 1–2 psi. As volume is added, the pressure starts to lower, and this is how we have arrived at the point where road bikes can run hookless beads (but more on that later). 

Most modern road bikes now come stock with 25–28mm tires but with room for 30–32mm. All-road/endurance bikes come with 30–32mm tires and room for 38mm, while gravel bikes come with 700x40mm or 650x47mm with room for even larger tires. As a rule of thumb, I suggest a rider choose a tire size that allows them to run 65 psi or lower when riding road tubeless.

Remember that volume dictates pressure more than rider weight and whether you have a tube or tubeless. Gravel bikes with larger volume tires are going to have significantly less tire pressure than a road bike.

SO MANY VARIATIONS

Now that previously recommended (aka “old school”) pressure numbers have been debunked, we can move to all the options that surround tubeless. 

Tubeless is essentially a system of parts that, as the name implies, eliminates the need for a tube. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a tube, but, more important, for the system to work all the components have to work in conjunction with each other. This was what made Mavic’s original system so dependable—it was designed to work as a system. There is the rim, tire, valve, sealant and, in most cases, some sort of internal spoke-hole sealer (normally a form of impermeable tape).

Rims now come in two tubeless variations—hooked bead wall and a hookless bead wall. A hooked bead wall is the design we have been using with tubes, with the wall of the rim that holds the tire in place and has a hook but with a modified rim bed to make them tubeless-compatible. As the name implies, a hookless bead wall has no hook and so relies on the tire-bead construction to stay on the rim. The hookless rim design also allows the rim material to be thicker and more robust.

Since tubeless relies on much more refined and exact dimensions from both the tire and rim, the hook of a rim is only needed when using a non-tubeless tire. This is because the acceptable variance in tire and rim design for tube-type products is so vast that the hook offers a physical stop and point of added friction when paired with a tube.

Tubeless installs can be messy, but if you take the time upfront to do it correctly, the benefits pay off for miles of issue-free riding.

Key to remember, a hookless rim always needs to be paired with a tubeless (or tubeless-ready) tire. A tube can still be used, but the tire must meet the tubeless requirements. Additionally, most hookless rims use a maximum tire-pressure rating as a safeguard because there is no physical hook to stop an over-inflated tire bead from exceeding the rim lip. In many cases, this pressure exceeds the max pressure that even the heaviest of riders would need for the tire size the wheel is designed for. 

Many hooked bead-wall tubeless rims will also have a max pressure as well. This would apply to tubeless for sure, and in many cases tube-type tires, too. This is because as we transition away from rim brakes to discs, we no longer need the overbuilt brake track that rim brakes required. This means designs and materials that are optimized for weight and impact rather than heat and wear.

WHAT’S MOST VERSATILE?

In general terms, a hooked bead-wall rim will be more versatile for a rider that doesn’t always want to use a tubeless tire. This comes at the cost of impact durability, because to create the hook or lip of the wall, the rim-wall material is normally reduced. Since a hookless bead wall is not machined out, it provides more structure and, in turn, more durability, which helps in low-pressure situations.

If your wheels have bead ridges that hold the bead in place, you can refresh the sealant through the valve after removing the valve core, and there is no need to remove the tire.

A properly designed tubeless rim, hooked or hookless, will have bead-shelf ridges or bead-retention ridges (same thing). These ridges sit between the bead shelf and bed of the rim. They help hold and maintain the tire bead on the rim’s bead shelf and against the rim’s bead wall. Most will be between 0.3–0.5mm tall and very important for a hassle-free tubeless experience. If these ridges are absent, then at low pressure (under 20 psi) a tire bead will slide into the rim bed and lose its seal. This is important when adding/refreshing sealant or in the case of a puncture. It is also worth nothing that these ridges are not necessary to meet tubeless standards, but we recommend picking a rim that has them.

A common question that we get is, can I convert my rims to tubeless? This was popular on mountain bikes in the early 2000s, and because of the low pressures used, it was possible. For road and gravel riding, you should
never attempt to make a non-tubeless rim tubeless.

SEALING A RIM

The importance of properly sealing a rim for tubeless might be the most overlooked aspects of a tubeless setup. The rim bed is where most wheels will have spoke holes. This means they need a tape or rim strip that can seal those holes to prevent air and sealant leaking. In our experience, 90 percent of tubeless complications come from poorly sealed rim beds. This is extra important for two reasons: 1. Because the rim profile on most carbon rims is not designed to withstand internal pressure, any rush of air entering the rim cavity can cause a catastrophic failure as a rim’s profile sidewall on a carbon rim cracks from the pressure. And 2. Because some sealants contain ammonia and are corrosive, a leak could lead to nipple/rim corrosion and failure. 

Although the jury is still out on whether you want a wall-to-wall rim tape or just enough to seal the spoke holes, we always opt for wall-to-wall. This is because the bead of the tire will help hold the tape in position. We also recommend wrapping the rim twice around to ensure there is substantial coverage.

If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of sealant leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity. This should be resolved immediately because, as noted above, any large impact could transfer enough pressure into the rim cavity, causing likely damage. 

The tubeless valve can also be an area of misconception when it comes to tubeless. Our rule of thumb is the hole in the rim tape needs to be minimal and let the installation of the valve enlarge it. Most valves will have a rubber grommet that helps seal around the hole and valve using a threaded nut that is on the exterior of the rim. This nut should be tight, but be careful because over-tightening it can cause failure of the rubber grommet. Also, note that some valves come with different-shaped grommets for different rim bed shapes, so if you’re having trouble sealing a valve, try a different grommet or valve design. In many cases, even the ones supplied with the rims are not ideal.

Not all roads are paved and larger volume road tires and proper pressures mean confidence even when the tarmac ends. Tubeless adds an added benefit of sealant to aid in sealing any small punctures that may result from the less ideal conditions. Photo: BWR

THE TIRE EVOLUTION

Tubeless tires have come a long way since they went mainstream nearly 20 years ago and most of the road performance gains have been in the last two to three years, with 2020 bringing the most improvements for 25–32mm tires. The most important changes have been to the construction of tires with more defined standards for rim and tire interfaces. Not all brands have met these new standards, so look closely if your preferred rim or tire brand has a compatibility chart or list. 

“The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.” 

Just as it’s true with tube-type tires, the lighter the tire, the less durability. Tubeless tires do weigh more than their tube-type counterparts due to the added bead reinforcement needed to maintain size standards, as well as the rubber needed to seal them so that they are air-impermeable. For this reason alone, expect most 28mm performance tires to be around 280–300 grams each, and gravel tires in size 40mm to be in the 450–500-gram weight or more depending on the level of built-in protection. 

THE MAGIC OF SEALANT

What really sets a tubeless system apart from a tube is the sealant. This is because if the tire gets a small puncture, the liquid sealant in the tire will seal the hole within seconds. In many cases, the rider will not even realize they have had a puncture. This is where some of the misconceptions come from, because this can happen so often without realization that a tubeless user might not realize how many flats they have deterred. 

Things to consider when choosing tubeless sealant are your riding conditions and environment. Tubeless sealant will dry up and on average last four to six months. Heat is a big factor, and the hotter the temperatures, the faster sealant seems to dry out. Some sealants don’t work properly in colder temperatures, either, so check the manufacturer’s ideal conditions. We’ve also found that tubeless systems will lose pressure when left sitting for a long period of time and last longer on bikes that get a lot of use. 

“If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of air leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity.” 

As mentioned above, some sealants contain a small percentage of ammonia to stabilize the liquid. This can be catastrophic to brass or bare alloy, so you don’t want it in your rim cavity where the spoke nipples are. Most carbon rims also have pressure-relief holes on the side of the rim to let slow-leaking air escape in case of a defective or leaking tubeless system. If those small holes are sealed by internal leaking sealant, then it could cause an entire rim to explode as a rush of air enters the rim cavity. 

At the end of the day, whether you choose a tubeless system or not, we have come a long way in tire technology and real-world results. Gone are the days of 90-plus pressures in replacement for the benefits of compliance and traction with lower rolling resistance. With the added knowledge of pressure versus weight, all tire types of tube and tubeless gain the benefits.

WHEN TUBELESS GOES WRONG

Why would Specialized backtrack? Blame the pros…

How does a company like Specialized launch a new line of wheels that are designed with tubeless-specific shapes look like they have the appropriate specifications, and even come with tubeless accessories but then claim they are not tubeless in 2020?

Roval has now installed two stickers to indicate the wheels are not tubeless-compatible. There is one on the inside and one on the exterior near the valve

Let’s step back a few months when Specialized dropped off the new Tarmac SL7 to the palatial, well-lit RBA office. This was back in June, about a month or two before the official launch, and they were, as usual, telling us how great the SL7 was. Much of the focus was around the pinnacle S-Works models. We clearly remember noticing the different front-to-back profiles on the Roval wheels and asking what the deal was. The Specialized reps told us that they would connect us with the Roval team, as they were still working on the final launch details. 

This photo was taken before the launch, verifying internal construction and measurements.

We were left with the SL7 Pro model (RBA, October ’20), which would be delivered to dealers with a new set of Roval Rapide CL wheels. These wheels don’t seem to be available for aftermarket and were not in our Roval launch material. Since our test bike was built and ready to ride, there was no small parts box or materials included.

Following the web post of our first-ride review, quite a few people inquired about the wheels and whether they were tubeless. Then the team at Roval and Specialized reached out to see if I would update my review, saying they were not intended for tubeless use. This came as a surprise, because while I rarely read the press kits telling you all the “great things” about a bike, I was sure I had deliberately removed the tires from both wheels to check internal construction, as well as to take my own measurements.

The initial shipments of wheels came with Roval tubeless-ready tape installed. This tells us the switch was last minute and these wheels were planed to be tubeless, even up to the final month before release.

JUST ASK THE SMART GUY

As it happens, one of our local test riders is also a NASA rocket scientist (as in, he’s smarter than us), and I asked him to bring the bike back so we could check the wheels and get his feedback. He is not an official expert in bike wheels, but he has raced for a world champion jersey on the track (leaving with a respectable bronze) and is a passionate cyclist. Upon yet another inspection of the rims, our assumptions were correct.

“As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.” 

The Roval wheels have all the telltale signs of a tubeless design. They are internally wide at 21mm, they have a large bead shelf for the normally more robust tubeless beads, and there is a distinct 0.4mm (ETRTO max) rim bead ridge/lock (not required for tubeless but never on a non-tubeless rim). The bed of the rim is fairly shallow for easier tubeless setup, too. Last is the use of Roval tubeless-ready rim tape to put a little icing on the cake.

Our local smart guy commented that in his opinion they were designed to be tubeless and, in fact, a better design than many others we have tested. His comment was that if Roval was claiming they were not tubeless, that likely meant that something didn’t pass inspection at the last minute and they were too invested to change it. Funny, but that was just what we were thinking!

CONTENTION AND SUPPOSITION

Maybe the bead shelf wasn’t the correct diameter (we don’t think this is the case) or testing showed the bead wall could fail when running overinflated pressure (we doubt that, because it would affect a tube setup, too). Our guess was it was more likely that the full line of Specialized tires was not compatible. For us, all the (different brand) tubeless tires we tried with the wheels had worked just fine. We have not done any long-term tests, but the setup of the bead retention while deflated and performance on a handful of rides was flawless.

Initially, neither Roval or Specialized responded to our request for more info, but instead just asked that we not promote the wheels as being tubeless-friendly. We reached out to a few of our local shops and have gotten mixed feedback. Some have said that the first few complete bikes with the new wheels came with tubeless valves in the small parts box, but since then they have not been included.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

We would always encourage people to read all the new bike/accessory instructions and follow the manufacturer’s specifications. We’re happy to see how road tubeless has evolved quickly in the last two years with much better performance, reliability and compatibility, but as you can see, mistakes still happen at the highest levels. 

Enve has a tire-compatibility list for their different wheel lines. Most of the incompatibility comes from tires not meeting the hookless requirements that some of their wheels have. We personally had no issues with our tubeless attempts on our Rapide CL wheels. The addition of the beadlock (previous Roval road tubeless rims didn’t have this) makes it much easier to maintain a tubeless system and the reason we believe there is more to the story than Specialized will tell. Without any initial response from Roval and Specialized, we couldn’t properly determine the true risk of utilizing a tubeless setup on their new Rapide and Alpinist wheels, and for that, we would steer clear until there is more information available.

FINALLY, A RESPONSE 

After running this story on our website, Roval reached out to try to further clarify the situation. They told us that they had a lot of goals going into the wheel project and tubeless was a top priority. As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the
total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.

This is why they say the internal design resembles a tubeless rim, because in reality, it was a carryover from their knowledge gained in designing the tubeless Terra gravel wheels. In their testing, they also found that the bead ridges/lock holds tube and tubeless tires on the rim tight even when flat, making them safer in real-world conditions. 

Having tires roll off rims is a huge worry for pro teams and one of the main reasons WorldTour pros remain on tubulars. Even after Specialized’s own testing showed that tubulars are less aerodynamic, have higher rolling resistance than tube-type tires and, to be honest, a pain to maintain, tubulars are the go-to choice for racers.

THOSE PESKY PRO RIDERS

So, what is the problem? Roval says the need to save weight was the final nail in the coffin for tubeless. But, the internal rim seems to meet all the standards, so where is the weight? We can only assume that the real problem lies in the profile of the rim. The profile of the rim was never made to withstand pressure, but as we have experienced while testing, if the rim is not sealed correctly, there is a chance that the pressure in the tire can be transferred to the rim’s profile cavity and cause catastrophic failure. 

We have had prototype wheels from other brands that experienced this type of failure. From our experience, this only happens if there is a failure in the rim tape or it is not installed properly. Specialized is a large company, and they most likely didn’t want to take that risk and knew that the profile would need to be reinforced to prevent this rare failure. 

This is, of course, speculation on our part, but it’s the only thing that we can assume with the facts and knowledge we have. When we look back on the other wheels that failed from this rare situation, those brands added additional carbon reinforcement to the rim wall for their production versions, because they knew the end user now understands (and accepts) that the performance gains of tubeless are more beneficial than saving less than 100 grams.

As a side note, the new Rapide wheels are deeper, wider, have more robust bead material (in the front) and are lighter than the previous CLX 50 Roval wheels. As the brand most likely tries to move their pro teams off of tubulars and to faster and more efficient tubeless systems, they knew that less wheel weight would be easier to sell them on than tubeless. Of course, with the predictable result being Specialized touting Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France stage win using clinchers. 

While baby steps have to be taken with the pro peloton, the result is that the paying customers have to wait to get their money’s worth. The alternative is to just look at other brands or, like us, take the risk and just make sure
your rim tape is perfect. And like our tubeless breakdown explains, you should stay under 65 psi, because
Roval won’t warranty a tubeless-caused failure.

THE MODERN WORLD OF ROAD TUBELESS TIRES

Plenty of options, but taken with a dose of caution

For many years there have been two options for road tires—tubular and tube type. Within each are many options, but most tubulars were designated for more race-specific applications, while the vast majority of recreational riders would prefer to run with the tried-and-true inner tubes. 

Although tubeless is the new name in the tire game for road riding, the technology has been around for over 20 years, but the majority of its popularity was in the higher-volume, lower-pressure realm of mountain bikes and, more recently, gravel.

Now that the old-school notion that max air pressure equals max speed has been debunked, road riders are free to think about what tires to use in a new light. In place of the old way is a new concept that smooth equals fast and more traction doesn’t lead to higher rolling resistance. 

With our gained knowledge and understanding of real-world-versus-laboratory performance, the industry has made huge strides in road tubeless. Still, there is a definite need for thoughtful consideration when mixing and matching different rim and tire combinations. Collected here are only a few of the quickly evolving and wide range of tire options.

A few things to remember, just as has been common with tube-type tires of the past, tire manufacturers have suggested pressures printed on the sidewall of the tire. In our opinion, these pressures are worth some second-guessing and, for safety reasons, not the best source to determine real-world pressures. We recommend finding a reliable source or chart to determine tire pressure after you have taken into consideration rider weight, type of riding planned and the physical size (versus the labeled size) of the tire. 

Remember, too, that the same tire on two different rim profiles can measure differently, and thus in need of slightly different pressures. When determining the adequate tire pressure, also take into account atmospheric temperature changes and how they will affect pressure throughout your ride. As the heat rises, so does your tire pressure, so you might need to start lower if you roll out just before the heat kicks in. 

THE BAKER’S DOZEN

KENDA VALKYRIE TLR PRO

Kenda’s newest addition seems to hit all the marks for a performance road tubeless tire. The 28mm tire hit the scales at 288 grams with a solid bead and easy installation. The tire feels supple with great wet and dry traction. There is a tread-wide-only protection layer to minimize rolling resistance while maximizing weight and protection. The TLR is available in sizes 23–30mm.

Weight: 288 grams (28mm)

Price: $85

www.bicycle.kendatire.com

GOODYEAR EAGLE F1 SUPER SPORT

A few years ago Goodyear launched a line of cycling tires that performed well but targeted a wide range of riders. Now, they have released a few options for the more performance-oriented rider. Their Eagle F1 Super Sport is offered in 25 and 28mm with no protection, while the Eagle F1 is available in 25-32mm and has a single tread-width protection layer. These tires are easy to mount and have great air retention from our testing.

Weight: 283 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.goodyearbike.com

ENVE SES ROAD 29

Utah-based Enve Composites has been at the forefront of road tubeless on the rim side of things and now completes the system with their own tires. Enve is offering 25, 27, 29 and 31mm tires, and with their extensive testing have a well-documented fitment chart when matched to their wheels. They are hookless and hook-bead ready, and they claim the bead will not stretch over time. The shape and performance are best paired with Enve wheels but are compatible with other brands.

Weight: 272 grams 29mm

Price: $75

www.enve.com

MAXXIS HIGH ROAD

While the majority of the Maxxis catalog is consumed by dirt-oriented tires, they have a few options for pavement, too. The High Road comes in sizes 25mm and 28mm, and is a durable tire for training and performance. The tire has a 170-tpi construction with a tread-wide puncture layer for added durability without reducing performance.

Weight: 324 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.maxxis.com

SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO RAPIDAIR 2BLISS READY

Specialized has been one of the leaders in tubeless road tech—that is until lately —and the S-Works Turbo line of tires is their premium offering. The tire is offered in sizes 26, 28 and 30mm and is performance-oriented. It is designed to offer the ride quality of tubulars with the versatility of a hook-type tire with 120 tpi. The S-Works Turbo Rapidair 2Bliss Ready also has a single layer of protection along the tread for even better durability.

Weight: 306 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.specialized.com

ZIPP TANGENTE SPEED RT28

Zipp is all about max speed and performance, and their race-specific Tangente Speed tires come is sizes 25 and 28mm. The tire has a single layer of protection for durability. The tire has 127 tpi keeping it supple. Zipp says they are hook- or hookless-compatible, and in our testing, these are some of the most durable road tubeless tires we have used.

Weight: 340 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.zipp.com

BONTRAGER R3 TLR

Trek’s Bontrager brand has a full line of tubeless wheels, and the R3 is their go-to road tubeless offering. The R3 comes in sizes 25, 28 and 32mm, and is a balance of performance and durability. There is a protective layer in the 170-tpi construction, and they claim it is best paired with their system of wheels. In our testing we have had mixed reviews, but the price makes them an option to consider.

Weight: 294 grams 28mm

Price: $55

www.trekbikes.com

PIRELLI P ZERO RACE TLR

While the name has “Race” in it, this tire is equally qualified to be a performance training tire. There is a tread-wide puncture layer built into the 120-tpi casing for added durability. The tire is offered in 24, 26, 28 and 30mm. Pirelli does note that the 24 and 26mm options are not compatible with hookless rims per the ETRTO standards, but the 28 and 30mm versions are.

Weight: 298 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.velo.pirelli.com

SCHWALBE PRO ONE

Schwalbe has been one of the leaders in road tubeless options, and their new Pro One delivers a lightweight option that still has a protection layer. The tire is offered in sizes 25, 28, 30 and 32mm with two different constructions available. They also offer a slightly heavier option that is also a bit more durable in the One series, and it is slightly less expensive at $62. Both Schwalbe Pro Ones offer very easy mounting and supple road feel.

Weight: 270 grams 28mm

Price: $81

www.schwalbetires.com

CADEX RACE

Cadex is Giant’s in-house tire brand, and they are designed to pair with their premium race-oriented wheels that feature a hookless bead. As a result, the bead of the tire is very robust, but the casing is very supple and is said to have built-in protection that is weaved in rather than layered on. The tire is not the lightest, but mounting has been one of the easiest, and the feel is comparable to tires of lesser construction. 

Weight: 335 grams 28mm

Price: $100

www.cadex-cycling.com

VITTORIA CORSA SPEED GRAPHENE 2.0

Vittoria has a full line of tubeless options, and the Corsa Speed is the pinnacle but only offered in 23 and 25mm. The 320-tpi construction of the tire is very minimal, and we have had mixed experiences mounting them. With that said, once setup, they offer a tubeless feel that is unmatched. Durability is not their forte, but this would be a top pick to minimize rolling resistance. For a wider range of sizes, durability and training, look towards the Control or Rubino version. The Corsa Control in 30mm weighs in at 318 grams.

Weight: 229 grams 25mm

Price: $84

www.vittoria.com

MICHELIN POWER ROAD TLR

Michelin is now offering a performance-oriented road tubeless tire. It is offered in sizes 25, 28 and 32 with a 120-tpi construction. With minimal layers, it has low-rolling resistance while running
lower pressures. 

Weight: 255 grams 28mm

Price: $80                                   

www.motorcycle.michelinman.com

CONTINENTAL GRAND PRIX 5000 TL

Continental has jumped into road tubeless segment with their new 5000 TL. The tire offers the same aspects as the non-tubeless, like their BlackChili compound that prioritizes speed and grip over wear. They offer 25, 28 and 32mm with a tread-wide protection layer for added durability. In our testing we have had very mixed reviews from mounting to bead durability. We would be hesitant to recommend this tire with the number of problems we’ve had, and it might have missed the mark for tubeless on the first go.

Weight: 321 grams 28mm

Price: $95

www.continental-tires.com

10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE

The post 10 EASY TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR TUBELESS TIRE EXPERIENCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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THE LEAST-USED BIKE TOOL THAT’S A MUST-HAVE https://roadbikeaction.com/the-least-used-tool-thats-a-must-2/ Wed, 05 Oct 2022 15:19:25 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=58855

Chain breakers that can be ride makers

The post THE LEAST-USED BIKE TOOL THAT’S A MUST-HAVE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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By Troy Templin

If you’re like us, you’ve no doubt been on a group ride when someone suffered a flat tire and they have neither the tools or even a spare inner tube to make the fix. And then they stand next to their bike with that dumb, helpless look on their faces. Maybe, in fact, that was you at one time! 

Crankbrothers F15 The F15 technically has 16 tools if you include the built-in bottle opener that is part of the alloy case. The tool itself has an 8- to 12-speed chain breaker; #2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 hex wrenches; Phillips #2 and flat #1 screwdrivers; T-25 Torx; and #0, 1, 2 and 3 spoke wrenches. This is a truly compact and handy multi-tool that doesn’t weigh you down or break the bank. Weight: 164g  www.crankbrothers.com

We’re always amazed at how frequently we ride with people who think they need nothing more than a phone tucked into their jersey pocket to help them out of a jam. In addition to a spare tube and tire iron, it also makes good sense to bring a multi-tool along on every ride, because you never know when that “anything can happen” moment arrives and a 5mm Allen is needed.

The problem with a majority of multi-tools is that while they’re decked out with Allen wrenches and maybe a flat-head screwdriver, the one tool that can be most helpful is not there—a chain breaker. And this is especially true with gravel riders who find themselves out back where non-Uber drivers will find you. 

Lezyne Rap 20 The Lezyne Rap series of tools has undergone a recent update, but our trusty Rap 20 has never let us down. It has a 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Allen wrenches; Phillips and flathead screwdrivers; and T25 and T30 Torx, as well as a 9 to 12-speed chain breaker. There are three integrated spoke wrenches, a tire lever, bottle opener, and 8 and 10mm wrenches. The newer Rap II 18 and 24 both include a chain breaker tool as well as a spot to store a spare master link. Weight: 191g  www.ride.lezyne.com

FROM OLD TO NEW

No doubt road bike technology has come a long way, and there is much that separates a modern bike from one built just two decades ago. But whether you ride an old bike with downtube shifters and steel rims or a new bike with disc brakes, push-button shifters and carbon wheels, the one thing that unites every road bike on the road today is the chain. 

For some reason, chains seem to have a knack for failing at the most critical moments or in the most remote off-grid locations where a call for help is a long way off. You know, the valley between to epic peaks where there is no cell reception or easy way out but to walk. Sometimes it is with a group of friends on a fun ride that are all left making the decision to leave you behind only to have to come back for you in a vehicle later.

In my many years of riding, I haven’t needed a chain breaker all that often, and, to be honest, I have helped more people that needed one than actually fixing my own chain. But, what is clear is that in almost every case it was a complete godsend and rectified an otherwise unfixable and eventful situation. 

HOW IT WORKS

Chains are fairly simple, and to use a chain breaker, you really just need to understand the three basic parts: the inner plate, outer plate and pin. This pattern repeats itself to create a chain (that is the basic version). There is likely a master link, which is basically an outer plate that snaps together to complete a chain.

Topeak Mini PT30 For its size, the PT30 is one of the most versatile tools we have found. Sure, Topeak has their Alein series of tools that pretty much has everything under the sun, but it takes up half of your saddlebag. However, the Mini PT30 is perfect for road or gravel. The tool includes 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Allen wrenches; a 10mm hex socket; T10, T15 and T25 Torx wrenches; 14G, 15G, Mavic M7 and Shimano 4.5mm spoke wrenches; chain tool; chain hook; power-link tool; tire lever; #2 Phillips and flathead screwdrivers; serrated knife/saw; and polymer disc-pad spacer. Weight: 174g www.topeak.com

Method One

When a chain breaks, you will have an outer plate that is likely bent with a damaged pin and normally an inner plate that is fine. The chain breaker simply allows you to press the pin out of the other end of the damaged outer plate, removing it from the system. Normally, I personally would carry a spare master link and connect the two inner plates and be on my way.

Method Two

If you don’t have a spare master link, then it is a bit more tricky. You will need to go to the next outer plate and partially press out the pin that is nearest the last inner plate. You will need to press it about 75–85 percent of the way out, but make sure it doesn’t come all the way out. You will then need to remove the inner plate completely. Then you can put the inner plate from the other end into the outer plate with the partially removed pin. 

This next part is the tricky part. You now need to press the partially removed pin back in. This is where you need to take your time and having a good chain breaker is key. The pin needs to go back into the other outer plate but not too far. An easy way to see if it is correct is to test the movement of the chain at that pin. If it moves and the pin looks flush to the outer plate on both ends, you are mended.

Specialized EMT Pro MTB Don’t let the name offset you; as much of a MTB tool as the name claims, it’s just as good on the road, too. It includes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Allen wrenches, a T25 torx, a Phillips screwdriver, a chain tool, spoke wrenches, bottle opener and even a disc-pad separator. This is a compact tool that is slim enough for a road saddlebag. Weight: 106g  www.specialized.com

Remember that if you use the second method with no extra master link, the chain is compromised and needs to be replaced immediately. This repair is only to get you home, and you should limit cross-chaining and really heavy torque on that ride home. If you had a master link and used that method one then you are likely good to roll like normal but you should inspect the chain for wear because something did cause it to fail.

Here are a few of our favorite multi-tools that have a chain breaker. I would also stress that most chain breakers found on a multi-tool are not intended for shop use but more of an emergency tool. I would always recommend
getting a regular chain breaker if you are going to be installing a new chain and maintaining your own drivetrain at home.

THE LEAST-USED BIKE TOOL THAT’S A MUST-HAVE

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10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE https://roadbikeaction.com/10-simple-tips-to-improve-your-road-tubeless-experience-2/ Fri, 30 Sep 2022 18:06:48 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=58830

What you need to know to be fast—and safe

The post 10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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By Troy Templin

Here’s a funny thing about the tubeless revolution currently afoot in the bike industry—it’s really nothing new. Currently, while there’s a big debate about the efficacy of hooked-versus-hookless rims with tubeless tires, you’ve been rolling on hookless rims on your car or your motorcycle since time immemorial. In fact, bicycle wheels, too, have been hookless, then called straight-sided for decades until the bike industry moved to hooked rims (Crotched) as a means of countering diminishing production standards and higher pressures.

Road tubeless isn’t new, but the amount of suitable products to the category has exploded in the last two years. Much of this is due to the gravel category that has redefined the drop-bar category. Gravel has exposed the road category to tire sizes beyond 23mm while redefining the boundaries set on road bikes generations ago. Tubeless for bicycles was started by Mavic way back in 1999 with their UST system, but it wasn’t until 2001 when Stan’s NoTubes really changed the tubeless market. While UST never really took off, it did help set the foundation for where we are today. 

The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Any tire’s air volume is far more influential to tire pressure than rider weight. Mountain bike riders have known this for years, but until a few years ago there wasn’t much documented information for tires of all sizes. As gravel and all-road riding have gained popularity, more brands have begun to adopt frame clearance for larger tires, leading to an industry-wide acceptance, but more important is an understanding of what benefits lower air pressures and higher volume can offer a rider.

As a quick example: if a 180-pound rider is on a 23mm tire, the recommended pressure is around 82–86 psi, but for years we were told it needed to be 90 psi or higher; why? Because on a 21mm or even 18mm tire that is true. For years 18–21mm were the standard, and at 180 pounds, a rider would need over 100 psi because the air volume is so low. As the industry moved to 23mm and 25mm, an abundance of lab and aero data showed that in perfect conditions an unweighted tire at higher pressure offers a lower rolling resistance. But, in reality, we don’t ride in perfect laboratory settings, and in the real world even the smooth, perfect roads are more than twice as rough as a lab setting.

So, that same 180-pound rider on a 28mm tire should opt for a pressure of 62–65 psi as a starting point, and this is with or without a tube. Sure, tire construction and riding position will alter these, but only by around 1–2 psi. As volume is added, the pressure starts to lower, and this is how we have arrived at the point where road bikes can run hookless beads (but more on that later). 

Most modern road bikes now come stock with 25–28mm tires but with room for 30–32mm. All-road/endurance bikes come with 30–32mm tires and room for 38mm, while gravel bikes come with 700x40mm or 650x47mm with room for even larger tires. As a rule of thumb, I suggest a rider choose a tire size that allows them to run 65 psi or lower when riding road tubeless.

Remember that volume dictates pressure more than rider weight and whether you have a tube or tubeless. Gravel bikes with larger volume tires are going to have significantly less tire pressure than a road bike.

SO MANY VARIATIONS

Now that previously recommended (aka “old school”) pressure numbers have been debunked, we can move to all the options that surround tubeless. 

Tubeless is essentially a system of parts that, as the name implies, eliminates the need for a tube. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a tube, but, more important, for the system to work all the components have to work in conjunction with each other. This was what made Mavic’s original system so dependable—it was designed to work as a system. There is the rim, tire, valve, sealant and, in most cases, some sort of internal spoke-hole sealer (normally a form of impermeable tape).

Rims now come in two tubeless variations—hooked bead wall and a hookless bead wall. A hooked bead wall is the design we have been using with tubes, with the wall of the rim that holds the tire in place and has a hook but with a modified rim bed to make them tubeless-compatible. As the name implies, a hookless bead wall has no hook and so relies on the tire-bead construction to stay on the rim. The hookless rim design also allows the rim material to be thicker and more robust.

Since tubeless relies on much more refined and exact dimensions from both the tire and rim, the hook of a rim is only needed when using a non-tubeless tire. This is because the acceptable variance in tire and rim design for tube-type products is so vast that the hook offers a physical stop and point of added friction when paired with a tube.

Tubeless installs can be messy, but if you take the time upfront to do it correctly, the benefits pay off for miles of issue-free riding.

Key to remember, a hookless rim always needs to be paired with a tubeless (or tubeless-ready) tire. A tube can still be used, but the tire must meet the tubeless requirements. Additionally, most hookless rims use a maximum tire-pressure rating as a safeguard because there is no physical hook to stop an over-inflated tire bead from exceeding the rim lip. In many cases, this pressure exceeds the max pressure that even the heaviest of riders would need for the tire size the wheel is designed for. 

Many hooked bead-wall tubeless rims will also have a max pressure as well. This would apply to tubeless for sure, and in many cases tube-type tires, too. This is because as we transition away from rim brakes to discs, we no longer need the overbuilt brake track that rim brakes required. This means designs and materials that are optimized for weight and impact rather than heat and wear.

WHAT’S MOST VERSATILE?

In general terms, a hooked bead-wall rim will be more versatile for a rider that doesn’t always want to use a tubeless tire. This comes at the cost of impact durability, because to create the hook or lip of the wall, the rim-wall material is normally reduced. Since a hookless bead wall is not machined out, it provides more structure and, in turn, more durability, which helps in low-pressure situations.

If your wheels have bead ridges that hold the bead in place, you can refresh the sealant through the valve after removing the valve core, and there is no need to remove the tire.

A properly designed tubeless rim, hooked or hookless, will have bead-shelf ridges or bead-retention ridges (same thing). These ridges sit between the bead shelf and bed of the rim. They help hold and maintain the tire bead on the rim’s bead shelf and against the rim’s bead wall. Most will be between 0.3–0.5mm tall and very important for a hassle-free tubeless experience. If these ridges are absent, then at low pressure (under 20 psi) a tire bead will slide into the rim bed and lose its seal. This is important when adding/refreshing sealant or in the case of a puncture. It is also worth nothing that these ridges are not necessary to meet tubeless standards, but we recommend picking a rim that has them.

A common question that we get is, can I convert my rims to tubeless? This was popular on mountain bikes in the early 2000s, and because of the low pressures used, it was possible. For road and gravel riding, you should
never attempt to make a non-tubeless rim tubeless.

SEALING A RIM

The importance of properly sealing a rim for tubeless might be the most overlooked aspects of a tubeless setup. The rim bed is where most wheels will have spoke holes. This means they need a tape or rim strip that can seal those holes to prevent air and sealant leaking. In our experience, 90 percent of tubeless complications come from poorly sealed rim beds. This is extra important for two reasons: 1. Because the rim profile on most carbon rims is not designed to withstand internal pressure, any rush of air entering the rim cavity can cause a catastrophic failure as a rim’s profile sidewall on a carbon rim cracks from the pressure. And 2. Because some sealants contain ammonia and are corrosive, a leak could lead to nipple/rim corrosion and failure. 

Although the jury is still out on whether you want a wall-to-wall rim tape or just enough to seal the spoke holes, we always opt for wall-to-wall. This is because the bead of the tire will help hold the tape in position. We also recommend wrapping the rim twice around to ensure there is substantial coverage.

If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of sealant leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity. This should be resolved immediately because, as noted above, any large impact could transfer enough pressure into the rim cavity, causing likely damage. 

The tubeless valve can also be an area of misconception when it comes to tubeless. Our rule of thumb is the hole in the rim tape needs to be minimal and let the installation of the valve enlarge it. Most valves will have a rubber grommet that helps seal around the hole and valve using a threaded nut that is on the exterior of the rim. This nut should be tight, but be careful because over-tightening it can cause failure of the rubber grommet. Also, note that some valves come with different-shaped grommets for different rim bed shapes, so if you’re having trouble sealing a valve, try a different grommet or valve design. In many cases, even the ones supplied with the rims are not ideal.

Not all roads are paved and larger volume road tires and proper pressures mean confidence even when the tarmac ends. Tubeless adds an added benefit of sealant to aid in sealing any small punctures that may result from the less ideal conditions. Photo: BWR

THE TIRE EVOLUTION

Tubeless tires have come a long way since they went mainstream nearly 20 years ago and most of the road performance gains have been in the last two to three years, with 2020 bringing the most improvements for 25–32mm tires. The most important changes have been to the construction of tires with more defined standards for rim and tire interfaces. Not all brands have met these new standards, so look closely if your preferred rim or tire brand has a compatibility chart or list. 

“The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.” 

Just as it’s true with tube-type tires, the lighter the tire, the less durability. Tubeless tires do weigh more than their tube-type counterparts due to the added bead reinforcement needed to maintain size standards, as well as the rubber needed to seal them so that they are air-impermeable. For this reason alone, expect most 28mm performance tires to be around 280–300 grams each, and gravel tires in size 40mm to be in the 450–500-gram weight or more depending on the level of built-in protection. 

THE MAGIC OF SEALANT

What really sets a tubeless system apart from a tube is the sealant. This is because if the tire gets a small puncture, the liquid sealant in the tire will seal the hole within seconds. In many cases, the rider will not even realize they have had a puncture. This is where some of the misconceptions come from, because this can happen so often without realization that a tubeless user might not realize how many flats they have deterred. 

Things to consider when choosing tubeless sealant are your riding conditions and environment. Tubeless sealant will dry up and on average last four to six months. Heat is a big factor, and the hotter the temperatures, the faster sealant seems to dry out. Some sealants don’t work properly in colder temperatures, either, so check the manufacturer’s ideal conditions. We’ve also found that tubeless systems will lose pressure when left sitting for a long period of time and last longer on bikes that get a lot of use. 

“If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of air leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity.” 

As mentioned above, some sealants contain a small percentage of ammonia to stabilize the liquid. This can be catastrophic to brass or bare alloy, so you don’t want it in your rim cavity where the spoke nipples are. Most carbon rims also have pressure-relief holes on the side of the rim to let slow-leaking air escape in case of a defective or leaking tubeless system. If those small holes are sealed by internal leaking sealant, then it could cause an entire rim to explode as a rush of air enters the rim cavity. 

At the end of the day, whether you choose a tubeless system or not, we have come a long way in tire technology and real-world results. Gone are the days of 90-plus pressures in replacement for the benefits of compliance and traction with lower rolling resistance. With the added knowledge of pressure versus weight, all tire types of tube and tubeless gain the benefits.

WHEN TUBELESS GOES WRONG

Why would Specialized backtrack? Blame the pros…

How does a company like Specialized launch a new line of wheels that are designed with tubeless-specific shapes look like they have the appropriate specifications, and even come with tubeless accessories but then claim they are not tubeless in 2020?

Roval has now installed two stickers to indicate the wheels are not tubeless-compatible. There is one on the inside and one on the exterior near the valve

Let’s step back a few months when Specialized dropped off the new Tarmac SL7 to the palatial, well-lit RBA office. This was back in June, about a month or two before the official launch, and they were, as usual, telling us how great the SL7 was. Much of the focus was around the pinnacle S-Works models. We clearly remember noticing the different front-to-back profiles on the Roval wheels and asking what the deal was. The Specialized reps told us that they would connect us with the Roval team, as they were still working on the final launch details. 

This photo was taken before the launch, verifying internal construction and measurements.

We were left with the SL7 Pro model (RBA, October ’20), which would be delivered to dealers with a new set of Roval Rapide CL wheels. These wheels don’t seem to be available for aftermarket and were not in our Roval launch material. Since our test bike was built and ready to ride, there was no small parts box or materials included.

Following the web post of our first-ride review, quite a few people inquired about the wheels and whether they were tubeless. Then the team at Roval and Specialized reached out to see if I would update my review, saying they were not intended for tubeless use. This came as a surprise, because while I rarely read the press kits telling you all the “great things” about a bike, I was sure I had deliberately removed the tires from both wheels to check internal construction, as well as to take my own measurements.

The initial shipments of wheels came with Roval tubeless-ready tape installed. This tells us the switch was last minute and these wheels were planed to be tubeless, even up to the final month before release.

JUST ASK THE SMART GUY

As it happens, one of our local test riders is also a NASA rocket scientist (as in, he’s smarter than us), and I asked him to bring the bike back so we could check the wheels and get his feedback. He is not an official expert in bike wheels, but he has raced for a world champion jersey on the track (leaving with a respectable bronze) and is a passionate cyclist. Upon yet another inspection of the rims, our assumptions were correct.

“As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.” 

The Roval wheels have all the telltale signs of a tubeless design. They are internally wide at 21mm, they have a large bead shelf for the normally more robust tubeless beads, and there is a distinct 0.4mm (ETRTO max) rim bead ridge/lock (not required for tubeless but never on a non-tubeless rim). The bed of the rim is fairly shallow for easier tubeless setup, too. Last is the use of Roval tubeless-ready rim tape to put a little icing on the cake.

Our local smart guy commented that in his opinion they were designed to be tubeless and, in fact, a better design than many others we have tested. His comment was that if Roval was claiming they were not tubeless, that likely meant that something didn’t pass inspection at the last minute and they were too invested to change it. Funny, but that was just what we were thinking!

CONTENTION AND SUPPOSITION

Maybe the bead shelf wasn’t the correct diameter (we don’t think this is the case) or testing showed the bead wall could fail when running overinflated pressure (we doubt that, because it would affect a tube setup, too). Our guess was it was more likely that the full line of Specialized tires was not compatible. For us, all the (different brand) tubeless tires we tried with the wheels had worked just fine. We have not done any long-term tests, but the setup of the bead retention while deflated and performance on a handful of rides was flawless.

Initially, neither Roval or Specialized responded to our request for more info, but instead just asked that we not promote the wheels as being tubeless-friendly. We reached out to a few of our local shops and have gotten mixed feedback. Some have said that the first few complete bikes with the new wheels came with tubeless valves in the small parts box, but since then they have not been included.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

We would always encourage people to read all the new bike/accessory instructions and follow the manufacturer’s specifications. We’re happy to see how road tubeless has evolved quickly in the last two years with much better performance, reliability and compatibility, but as you can see, mistakes still happen at the highest levels. 

Enve has a tire-compatibility list for their different wheel lines. Most of the incompatibility comes from tires not meeting the hookless requirements that some of their wheels have. We personally had no issues with our tubeless attempts on our Rapide CL wheels. The addition of the beadlock (previous Roval road tubeless rims didn’t have this) makes it much easier to maintain a tubeless system and the reason we believe there is more to the story than Specialized will tell. Without any initial response from Roval and Specialized, we couldn’t properly determine the true risk of utilizing a tubeless setup on their new Rapide and Alpinist wheels, and for that, we would steer clear until there is more information available.

FINALLY, A RESPONSE 

After running this story on our website, Roval reached out to try to further clarify the situation. They told us that they had a lot of goals going into the wheel project and tubeless was a top priority. As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the
total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.

This is why they say the internal design resembles a tubeless rim, because in reality, it was a carryover from their knowledge gained in designing the tubeless Terra gravel wheels. In their testing, they also found that the bead ridges/lock holds tube and tubeless tires on the rim tight even when flat, making them safer in real-world conditions. 

Having tires roll off rims is a huge worry for pro teams and one of the main reasons WorldTour pros remain on tubulars. Even after Specialized’s own testing showed that tubulars are less aerodynamic, have higher rolling resistance than tube-type tires and, to be honest, a pain to maintain, tubulars are the go-to choice for racers.

THOSE PESKY PRO RIDERS

So, what is the problem? Roval says the need to save weight was the final nail in the coffin for tubeless. But, the internal rim seems to meet all the standards, so where is the weight? We can only assume that the real problem lies in the profile of the rim. The profile of the rim was never made to withstand pressure, but as we have experienced while testing, if the rim is not sealed correctly, there is a chance that the pressure in the tire can be transferred to the rim’s profile cavity and cause catastrophic failure. 

We have had prototype wheels from other brands that experienced this type of failure. From our experience, this only happens if there is a failure in the rim tape or it is not installed properly. Specialized is a large company, and they most likely didn’t want to take that risk and knew that the profile would need to be reinforced to prevent this rare failure. 

This is, of course, speculation on our part, but it’s the only thing that we can assume with the facts and knowledge we have. When we look back on the other wheels that failed from this rare situation, those brands added additional carbon reinforcement to the rim wall for their production versions, because they knew the end user now understands (and accepts) that the performance gains of tubeless are more beneficial than saving less than 100 grams.

As a side note, the new Rapide wheels are deeper, wider, have more robust bead material (in the front) and are lighter than the previous CLX 50 Roval wheels. As the brand most likely tries to move their pro teams off of tubulars and to faster and more efficient tubeless systems, they knew that less wheel weight would be easier to sell them on than tubeless. Of course, with the predictable result being Specialized touting Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France stage win using clinchers. 

While baby steps have to be taken with the pro peloton, the result is that the paying customers have to wait to get their money’s worth. The alternative is to just look at other brands or, like us, take the risk and just make sure
your rim tape is perfect. And like our tubeless breakdown explains, you should stay under 65 psi, because
Roval won’t warranty a tubeless-caused failure.

THE MODERN WORLD OF ROAD TUBELESS TIRES

Plenty of options, but taken with a dose of caution

For many years there have been two options for road tires—tubular and tube type. Within each are many options, but most tubulars were designated for more race-specific applications, while the vast majority of recreational riders would prefer to run with the tried-and-true inner tubes. 

Although tubeless is the new name in the tire game for road riding, the technology has been around for over 20 years, but the majority of its popularity was in the higher-volume, lower-pressure realm of mountain bikes and, more recently, gravel.

Now that the old-school notion that max air pressure equals max speed has been debunked, road riders are free to think about what tires to use in a new light. In place of the old way is a new concept that smooth equals fast and more traction doesn’t lead to higher rolling resistance. 

With our gained knowledge and understanding of real-world-versus-laboratory performance, the industry has made huge strides in road tubeless. Still, there is a definite need for thoughtful consideration when mixing and matching different rim and tire combinations. Collected here are only a few of the quickly evolving and wide range of tire options.

A few things to remember, just as has been common with tube-type tires of the past, tire manufacturers have suggested pressures printed on the sidewall of the tire. In our opinion, these pressures are worth some second-guessing and, for safety reasons, not the best source to determine real-world pressures. We recommend finding a reliable source or chart to determine tire pressure after you have taken into consideration rider weight, type of riding planned and the physical size (versus the labeled size) of the tire. 

Remember, too, that the same tire on two different rim profiles can measure differently, and thus in need of slightly different pressures. When determining the adequate tire pressure, also take into account atmospheric temperature changes and how they will affect pressure throughout your ride. As the heat rises, so does your tire pressure, so you might need to start lower if you roll out just before the heat kicks in. 

THE BAKER’S DOZEN

KENDA VALKYRIE TLR PRO

Kenda’s newest addition seems to hit all the marks for a performance road tubeless tire. The 28mm tire hit the scales at 288 grams with a solid bead and easy installation. The tire feels supple with great wet and dry traction. There is a tread-wide-only protection layer to minimize rolling resistance while maximizing weight and protection. The TLR is available in sizes 23–30mm.

Weight: 288 grams (28mm)

Price: $85

www.bicycle.kendatire.com

GOODYEAR EAGLE F1 SUPER SPORT

A few years ago Goodyear launched a line of cycling tires that performed well but targeted a wide range of riders. Now, they have released a few options for the more performance-oriented rider. Their Eagle F1 Super Sport is offered in 25 and 28mm with no protection, while the Eagle F1 is available in 25-32mm and has a single tread-width protection layer. These tires are easy to mount and have great air retention from our testing.

Weight: 283 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.goodyearbike.com

ENVE SES ROAD 29

Utah-based Enve Composites has been at the forefront of road tubeless on the rim side of things and now completes the system with their own tires. Enve is offering 25, 27, 29 and 31mm tires, and with their extensive testing have a well-documented fitment chart when matched to their wheels. They are hookless and hook-bead ready, and they claim the bead will not stretch over time. The shape and performance are best paired with Enve wheels but are compatible with other brands.

Weight: 272 grams 29mm

Price: $75

www.enve.com

MAXXIS HIGH ROAD

While the majority of the Maxxis catalog is consumed by dirt-oriented tires, they have a few options for pavement, too. The High Road comes in sizes 25mm and 28mm, and is a durable tire for training and performance. The tire has a 170-tpi construction with a tread-wide puncture layer for added durability without reducing performance.

Weight: 324 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.maxxis.com

SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO RAPIDAIR 2BLISS READY

Specialized has been one of the leaders in tubeless road tech—that is until lately —and the S-Works Turbo line of tires is their premium offering. The tire is offered in sizes 26, 28 and 30mm and is performance-oriented. It is designed to offer the ride quality of tubulars with the versatility of a hook-type tire with 120 tpi. The S-Works Turbo Rapidair 2Bliss Ready also has a single layer of protection along the tread for even better durability.

Weight: 306 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.specialized.com

ZIPP TANGENTE SPEED RT28

Zipp is all about max speed and performance, and their race-specific Tangente Speed tires come is sizes 25 and 28mm. The tire has a single layer of protection for durability. The tire has 127 tpi keeping it supple. Zipp says they are hook- or hookless-compatible, and in our testing, these are some of the most durable road tubeless tires we have used.

Weight: 340 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.zipp.com

BONTRAGER R3 TLR

Trek’s Bontrager brand has a full line of tubeless wheels, and the R3 is their go-to road tubeless offering. The R3 comes in sizes 25, 28 and 32mm, and is a balance of performance and durability. There is a protective layer in the 170-tpi construction, and they claim it is best paired with their system of wheels. In our testing we have had mixed reviews, but the price makes them an option to consider.

Weight: 294 grams 28mm

Price: $55

www.trekbikes.com

PIRELLI P ZERO RACE TLR

While the name has “Race” in it, this tire is equally qualified to be a performance training tire. There is a tread-wide puncture layer built into the 120-tpi casing for added durability. The tire is offered in 24, 26, 28 and 30mm. Pirelli does note that the 24 and 26mm options are not compatible with hookless rims per the ETRTO standards, but the 28 and 30mm versions are.

Weight: 298 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.velo.pirelli.com

SCHWALBE PRO ONE

Schwalbe has been one of the leaders in road tubeless options, and their new Pro One delivers a lightweight option that still has a protection layer. The tire is offered in sizes 25, 28, 30 and 32mm with two different constructions available. They also offer a slightly heavier option that is also a bit more durable in the One series, and it is slightly less expensive at $62. Both Schwalbe Pro Ones offer very easy mounting and supple road feel.

Weight: 270 grams 28mm

Price: $81

www.schwalbetires.com

CADEX RACE

Cadex is Giant’s in-house tire brand, and they are designed to pair with their premium race-oriented wheels that feature a hookless bead. As a result, the bead of the tire is very robust, but the casing is very supple and is said to have built-in protection that is weaved in rather than layered on. The tire is not the lightest, but mounting has been one of the easiest, and the feel is comparable to tires of lesser construction. 

Weight: 335 grams 28mm

Price: $100

www.cadex-cycling.com

VITTORIA CORSA SPEED GRAPHENE 2.0

Vittoria has a full line of tubeless options, and the Corsa Speed is the pinnacle but only offered in 23 and 25mm. The 320-tpi construction of the tire is very minimal, and we have had mixed experiences mounting them. With that said, once setup, they offer a tubeless feel that is unmatched. Durability is not their forte, but this would be a top pick to minimize rolling resistance. For a wider range of sizes, durability and training, look towards the Control or Rubino version. The Corsa Control in 30mm weighs in at 318 grams.

Weight: 229 grams 25mm

Price: $84

www.vittoria.com

MICHELIN POWER ROAD TLR

Michelin is now offering a performance-oriented road tubeless tire. It is offered in sizes 25, 28 and 32 with a 120-tpi construction. With minimal layers, it has low-rolling resistance while running
lower pressures. 

Weight: 255 grams 28mm

Price: $80                                   

www.motorcycle.michelinman.com

CONTINENTAL GRAND PRIX 5000 TL

Continental has jumped into road tubeless segment with their new 5000 TL. The tire offers the same aspects as the non-tubeless, like their BlackChili compound that prioritizes speed and grip over wear. They offer 25, 28 and 32mm with a tread-wide protection layer for added durability. In our testing we have had very mixed reviews from mounting to bead durability. We would be hesitant to recommend this tire with the number of problems we’ve had, and it might have missed the mark for tubeless on the first go.

Weight: 321 grams 28mm

Price: $95

www.continental-tires.com

10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE

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10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE https://roadbikeaction.com/10-simple-tips-to-improve-your-road-tubeless-experience/ Sat, 06 Aug 2022 07:59:26 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=57384

What you need to know to be fast—and safe

The post 10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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By Troy Templin

Here’s a funny thing about the tubeless revolution currently afoot in the bike industry—it’s really nothing new. Currently, while there’s a big debate about the efficacy of hooked-versus-hookless rims with tubeless tires, you’ve been rolling on hookless rims on your car or your motorcycle since time immemorial. In fact, bicycle wheels, too, have been hookless, then called straight-sided for decades until the bike industry moved to hooked rims (Crotched) as a means of countering diminishing production standards and higher pressures.

Road tubeless isn’t new, but the amount of suitable products to the category has exploded in the last two years. Much of this is due to the gravel category that has redefined the drop-bar category. Gravel has exposed the road category to tire sizes beyond 23mm while redefining the boundaries set on road bikes generations ago. Tubeless for bicycles was started by Mavic way back in 1999 with their UST system, but it wasn’t until 2001 when Stan’s NoTubes really changed the tubeless market. While UST never really took off, it did help set the foundation for where we are today. 

The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Any tire’s air volume is far more influential to tire pressure than rider weight. Mountain bike riders have known this for years, but until a few years ago there wasn’t much documented information for tires of all sizes. As gravel and all-road riding have gained popularity, more brands have begun to adopt frame clearance for larger tires, leading to an industry-wide acceptance, but more important is an understanding of what benefits lower air pressures and higher volume can offer a rider.

As a quick example: if a 180-pound rider is on a 23mm tire, the recommended pressure is around 82–86 psi, but for years we were told it needed to be 90 psi or higher; why? Because on a 21mm or even 18mm tire that is true. For years 18–21mm were the standard, and at 180 pounds, a rider would need over 100 psi because the air volume is so low. As the industry moved to 23mm and 25mm, an abundance of lab and aero data showed that in perfect conditions an unweighted tire at higher pressure offers a lower rolling resistance. But, in reality, we don’t ride in perfect laboratory settings, and in the real world even the smooth, perfect roads are more than twice as rough as a lab setting.

So, that same 180-pound rider on a 28mm tire should opt for a pressure of 62–65 psi as a starting point, and this is with or without a tube. Sure, tire construction and riding position will alter these, but only by around 1–2 psi. As volume is added, the pressure starts to lower, and this is how we have arrived at the point where road bikes can run hookless beads (but more on that later). 

Most modern road bikes now come stock with 25–28mm tires but with room for 30–32mm. All-road/endurance bikes come with 30–32mm tires and room for 38mm, while gravel bikes come with 700x40mm or 650x47mm with room for even larger tires. As a rule of thumb, I suggest a rider choose a tire size that allows them to run 65 psi or lower when riding road tubeless.

Remember that volume dictates pressure more than rider weight and whether you have a tube or tubeless. Gravel bikes with larger volume tires are going to have significantly less tire pressure than a road bike.

SO MANY VARIATIONS

Now that previously recommended (aka “old school”) pressure numbers have been debunked, we can move to all the options that surround tubeless. 

Tubeless is essentially a system of parts that, as the name implies, eliminates the need for a tube. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a tube, but, more important, for the system to work all the components have to work in conjunction with each other. This was what made Mavic’s original system so dependable—it was designed to work as a system. There is the rim, tire, valve, sealant and, in most cases, some sort of internal spoke-hole sealer (normally a form of impermeable tape).

Rims now come in two tubeless variations—hooked bead wall and a hookless bead wall. A hooked bead wall is the design we have been using with tubes, with the wall of the rim that holds the tire in place and has a hook but with a modified rim bed to make them tubeless-compatible. As the name implies, a hookless bead wall has no hook and so relies on the tire-bead construction to stay on the rim. The hookless rim design also allows the rim material to be thicker and more robust.

Since tubeless relies on much more refined and exact dimensions from both the tire and rim, the hook of a rim is only needed when using a non-tubeless tire. This is because the acceptable variance in tire and rim design for tube-type products is so vast that the hook offers a physical stop and point of added friction when paired with a tube.

Tubeless installs can be messy, but if you take the time upfront to do it correctly, the benefits pay off for miles of issue-free riding.

Key to remember, a hookless rim always needs to be paired with a tubeless (or tubeless-ready) tire. A tube can still be used, but the tire must meet the tubeless requirements. Additionally, most hookless rims use a maximum tire-pressure rating as a safeguard because there is no physical hook to stop an over-inflated tire bead from exceeding the rim lip. In many cases, this pressure exceeds the max pressure that even the heaviest of riders would need for the tire size the wheel is designed for. 

Many hooked bead-wall tubeless rims will also have a max pressure as well. This would apply to tubeless for sure, and in many cases tube-type tires, too. This is because as we transition away from rim brakes to discs, we no longer need the overbuilt brake track that rim brakes required. This means designs and materials that are optimized for weight and impact rather than heat and wear.

WHAT’S MOST VERSATILE?

In general terms, a hooked bead-wall rim will be more versatile for a rider that doesn’t always want to use a tubeless tire. This comes at the cost of impact durability, because to create the hook or lip of the wall, the rim-wall material is normally reduced. Since a hookless bead wall is not machined out, it provides more structure and, in turn, more durability, which helps in low-pressure situations.

If your wheels have bead ridges that hold the bead in place, you can refresh the sealant through the valve after removing the valve core, and there is no need to remove the tire.

A properly designed tubeless rim, hooked or hookless, will have bead-shelf ridges or bead-retention ridges (same thing). These ridges sit between the bead shelf and bed of the rim. They help hold and maintain the tire bead on the rim’s bead shelf and against the rim’s bead wall. Most will be between 0.3–0.5mm tall and very important for a hassle-free tubeless experience. If these ridges are absent, then at low pressure (under 20 psi) a tire bead will slide into the rim bed and lose its seal. This is important when adding/refreshing sealant or in the case of a puncture. It is also worth nothing that these ridges are not necessary to meet tubeless standards, but we recommend picking a rim that has them.

A common question that we get is, can I convert my rims to tubeless? This was popular on mountain bikes in the early 2000s, and because of the low pressures used, it was possible. For road and gravel riding, you should
never attempt to make a non-tubeless rim tubeless.

SEALING A RIM

The importance of properly sealing a rim for tubeless might be the most overlooked aspects of a tubeless setup. The rim bed is where most wheels will have spoke holes. This means they need a tape or rim strip that can seal those holes to prevent air and sealant leaking. In our experience, 90 percent of tubeless complications come from poorly sealed rim beds. This is extra important for two reasons: 1. Because the rim profile on most carbon rims is not designed to withstand internal pressure, any rush of air entering the rim cavity can cause a catastrophic failure as a rim’s profile sidewall on a carbon rim cracks from the pressure. And 2. Because some sealants contain ammonia and are corrosive, a leak could lead to nipple/rim corrosion and failure. 

Although the jury is still out on whether you want a wall-to-wall rim tape or just enough to seal the spoke holes, we always opt for wall-to-wall. This is because the bead of the tire will help hold the tape in position. We also recommend wrapping the rim twice around to ensure there is substantial coverage.

If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of sealant leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity. This should be resolved immediately because, as noted above, any large impact could transfer enough pressure into the rim cavity, causing likely damage. 

The tubeless valve can also be an area of misconception when it comes to tubeless. Our rule of thumb is the hole in the rim tape needs to be minimal and let the installation of the valve enlarge it. Most valves will have a rubber grommet that helps seal around the hole and valve using a threaded nut that is on the exterior of the rim. This nut should be tight, but be careful because over-tightening it can cause failure of the rubber grommet. Also, note that some valves come with different-shaped grommets for different rim bed shapes, so if you’re having trouble sealing a valve, try a different grommet or valve design. In many cases, even the ones supplied with the rims are not ideal.

Not all roads are paved and larger volume road tires and proper pressures mean confidence even when the tarmac ends. Tubeless adds an added benefit of sealant to aid in sealing any small punctures that may result from the less ideal conditions. Photo: BWR

THE TIRE EVOLUTION

Tubeless tires have come a long way since they went mainstream nearly 20 years ago and most of the road performance gains have been in the last two to three years, with 2020 bringing the most improvements for 25–32mm tires. The most important changes have been to the construction of tires with more defined standards for rim and tire interfaces. Not all brands have met these new standards, so look closely if your preferred rim or tire brand has a compatibility chart or list. 

“The problem today is that despite over 20 years of R&D, much of the information pertaining to tubeless use is outdated and, even worse, it doesn’t apply to current road offerings at all.” 

Just as it’s true with tube-type tires, the lighter the tire, the less durability. Tubeless tires do weigh more than their tube-type counterparts due to the added bead reinforcement needed to maintain size standards, as well as the rubber needed to seal them so that they are air-impermeable. For this reason alone, expect most 28mm performance tires to be around 280–300 grams each, and gravel tires in size 40mm to be in the 450–500-gram weight or more depending on the level of built-in protection. 

THE MAGIC OF SEALANT

What really sets a tubeless system apart from a tube is the sealant. This is because if the tire gets a small puncture, the liquid sealant in the tire will seal the hole within seconds. In many cases, the rider will not even realize they have had a puncture. This is where some of the misconceptions come from, because this can happen so often without realization that a tubeless user might not realize how many flats they have deterred. 

Things to consider when choosing tubeless sealant are your riding conditions and environment. Tubeless sealant will dry up and on average last four to six months. Heat is a big factor, and the hotter the temperatures, the faster sealant seems to dry out. Some sealants don’t work properly in colder temperatures, either, so check the manufacturer’s ideal conditions. We’ve also found that tubeless systems will lose pressure when left sitting for a long period of time and last longer on bikes that get a lot of use. 

“If you have a tubeless rim that seems to be losing air but there is no sign of air leaking from the tire or bead, then most likely it is leaking through the rim cavity.” 

As mentioned above, some sealants contain a small percentage of ammonia to stabilize the liquid. This can be catastrophic to brass or bare alloy, so you don’t want it in your rim cavity where the spoke nipples are. Most carbon rims also have pressure-relief holes on the side of the rim to let slow-leaking air escape in case of a defective or leaking tubeless system. If those small holes are sealed by internal leaking sealant, then it could cause an entire rim to explode as a rush of air enters the rim cavity. 

At the end of the day, whether you choose a tubeless system or not, we have come a long way in tire technology and real-world results. Gone are the days of 90-plus pressures in replacement for the benefits of compliance and traction with lower rolling resistance. With the added knowledge of pressure versus weight, all tire types of tube and tubeless gain the benefits.

WHEN TUBELESS GOES WRONG

Why would Specialized backtrack? Blame the pros…

How does a company like Specialized launch a new line of wheels that are designed with tubeless-specific shapes look like they have the appropriate specifications, and even come with tubeless accessories but then claim they are not tubeless in 2020?

Roval has now installed two stickers to indicate the wheels are not tubeless-compatible. There is one on the inside and one on the exterior near the valve

Let’s step back a few months when Specialized dropped off the new Tarmac SL7 to the palatial, well-lit RBA office. This was back in June, about a month or two before the official launch, and they were, as usual, telling us how great the SL7 was. Much of the focus was around the pinnacle S-Works models. We clearly remember noticing the different front-to-back profiles on the Roval wheels and asking what the deal was. The Specialized reps told us that they would connect us with the Roval team, as they were still working on the final launch details. 

This photo was taken before the launch, verifying internal construction and measurements.

We were left with the SL7 Pro model (RBA, October ’20), which would be delivered to dealers with a new set of Roval Rapide CL wheels. These wheels don’t seem to be available for aftermarket and were not in our Roval launch material. Since our test bike was built and ready to ride, there was no small parts box or materials included.

Following the web post of our first-ride review, quite a few people inquired about the wheels and whether they were tubeless. Then the team at Roval and Specialized reached out to see if I would update my review, saying they were not intended for tubeless use. This came as a surprise, because while I rarely read the press kits telling you all the “great things” about a bike, I was sure I had deliberately removed the tires from both wheels to check internal construction, as well as to take my own measurements.

The initial shipments of wheels came with Roval tubeless-ready tape installed. This tells us the switch was last minute and these wheels were planed to be tubeless, even up to the final month before release.

JUST ASK THE SMART GUY

As it happens, one of our local test riders is also a NASA rocket scientist (as in, he’s smarter than us), and I asked him to bring the bike back so we could check the wheels and get his feedback. He is not an official expert in bike wheels, but he has raced for a world champion jersey on the track (leaving with a respectable bronze) and is a passionate cyclist. Upon yet another inspection of the rims, our assumptions were correct.

“As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.” 

The Roval wheels have all the telltale signs of a tubeless design. They are internally wide at 21mm, they have a large bead shelf for the normally more robust tubeless beads, and there is a distinct 0.4mm (ETRTO max) rim bead ridge/lock (not required for tubeless but never on a non-tubeless rim). The bed of the rim is fairly shallow for easier tubeless setup, too. Last is the use of Roval tubeless-ready rim tape to put a little icing on the cake.

Our local smart guy commented that in his opinion they were designed to be tubeless and, in fact, a better design than many others we have tested. His comment was that if Roval was claiming they were not tubeless, that likely meant that something didn’t pass inspection at the last minute and they were too invested to change it. Funny, but that was just what we were thinking!

CONTENTION AND SUPPOSITION

Maybe the bead shelf wasn’t the correct diameter (we don’t think this is the case) or testing showed the bead wall could fail when running overinflated pressure (we doubt that, because it would affect a tube setup, too). Our guess was it was more likely that the full line of Specialized tires was not compatible. For us, all the (different brand) tubeless tires we tried with the wheels had worked just fine. We have not done any long-term tests, but the setup of the bead retention while deflated and performance on a handful of rides was flawless.

Initially, neither Roval or Specialized responded to our request for more info, but instead just asked that we not promote the wheels as being tubeless-friendly. We reached out to a few of our local shops and have gotten mixed feedback. Some have said that the first few complete bikes with the new wheels came with tubeless valves in the small parts box, but since then they have not been included.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

We would always encourage people to read all the new bike/accessory instructions and follow the manufacturer’s specifications. We’re happy to see how road tubeless has evolved quickly in the last two years with much better performance, reliability and compatibility, but as you can see, mistakes still happen at the highest levels. 

Enve has a tire-compatibility list for their different wheel lines. Most of the incompatibility comes from tires not meeting the hookless requirements that some of their wheels have. We personally had no issues with our tubeless attempts on our Rapide CL wheels. The addition of the beadlock (previous Roval road tubeless rims didn’t have this) makes it much easier to maintain a tubeless system and the reason we believe there is more to the story than Specialized will tell. Without any initial response from Roval and Specialized, we couldn’t properly determine the true risk of utilizing a tubeless setup on their new Rapide and Alpinist wheels, and for that, we would steer clear until there is more information available.

FINALLY, A RESPONSE 

After running this story on our website, Roval reached out to try to further clarify the situation. They told us that they had a lot of goals going into the wheel project and tubeless was a top priority. As the project evolved and they got further into the development to be tubeless, they realized they would have to make compromises to the
total system weight, as their pro teams prioritized weight savings over tubeless capability.

This is why they say the internal design resembles a tubeless rim, because in reality, it was a carryover from their knowledge gained in designing the tubeless Terra gravel wheels. In their testing, they also found that the bead ridges/lock holds tube and tubeless tires on the rim tight even when flat, making them safer in real-world conditions. 

Having tires roll off rims is a huge worry for pro teams and one of the main reasons WorldTour pros remain on tubulars. Even after Specialized’s own testing showed that tubulars are less aerodynamic, have higher rolling resistance than tube-type tires and, to be honest, a pain to maintain, tubulars are the go-to choice for racers.

THOSE PESKY PRO RIDERS

So, what is the problem? Roval says the need to save weight was the final nail in the coffin for tubeless. But, the internal rim seems to meet all the standards, so where is the weight? We can only assume that the real problem lies in the profile of the rim. The profile of the rim was never made to withstand pressure, but as we have experienced while testing, if the rim is not sealed correctly, there is a chance that the pressure in the tire can be transferred to the rim’s profile cavity and cause catastrophic failure. 

We have had prototype wheels from other brands that experienced this type of failure. From our experience, this only happens if there is a failure in the rim tape or it is not installed properly. Specialized is a large company, and they most likely didn’t want to take that risk and knew that the profile would need to be reinforced to prevent this rare failure. 

This is, of course, speculation on our part, but it’s the only thing that we can assume with the facts and knowledge we have. When we look back on the other wheels that failed from this rare situation, those brands added additional carbon reinforcement to the rim wall for their production versions, because they knew the end user now understands (and accepts) that the performance gains of tubeless are more beneficial than saving less than 100 grams.

As a side note, the new Rapide wheels are deeper, wider, have more robust bead material (in the front) and are lighter than the previous CLX 50 Roval wheels. As the brand most likely tries to move their pro teams off of tubulars and to faster and more efficient tubeless systems, they knew that less wheel weight would be easier to sell them on than tubeless. Of course, with the predictable result being Specialized touting Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France stage win using clinchers. 

While baby steps have to be taken with the pro peloton, the result is that the paying customers have to wait to get their money’s worth. The alternative is to just look at other brands or, like us, take the risk and just make sure
your rim tape is perfect. And like our tubeless breakdown explains, you should stay under 65 psi, because
Roval won’t warranty a tubeless-caused failure.

THE MODERN WORLD OF ROAD TUBELESS TIRES

Plenty of options, but taken with a dose of caution

For many years there have been two options for road tires—tubular and tube type. Within each are many options, but most tubulars were designated for more race-specific applications, while the vast majority of recreational riders would prefer to run with the tried-and-true inner tubes. 

Although tubeless is the new name in the tire game for road riding, the technology has been around for over 20 years, but the majority of its popularity was in the higher-volume, lower-pressure realm of mountain bikes and, more recently, gravel.

Now that the old-school notion that max air pressure equals max speed has been debunked, road riders are free to think about what tires to use in a new light. In place of the old way is a new concept that smooth equals fast and more traction doesn’t lead to higher rolling resistance. 

With our gained knowledge and understanding of real-world-versus-laboratory performance, the industry has made huge strides in road tubeless. Still, there is a definite need for thoughtful consideration when mixing and matching different rim and tire combinations. Collected here are only a few of the quickly evolving and wide range of tire options.

A few things to remember, just as has been common with tube-type tires of the past, tire manufacturers have suggested pressures printed on the sidewall of the tire. In our opinion, these pressures are worth some second-guessing and, for safety reasons, not the best source to determine real-world pressures. We recommend finding a reliable source or chart to determine tire pressure after you have taken into consideration rider weight, type of riding planned and the physical size (versus the labeled size) of the tire. 

Remember, too, that the same tire on two different rim profiles can measure differently, and thus in need of slightly different pressures. When determining the adequate tire pressure, also take into account atmospheric temperature changes and how they will affect pressure throughout your ride. As the heat rises, so does your tire pressure, so you might need to start lower if you roll out just before the heat kicks in. 

THE BAKER’S DOZEN

KENDA VALKYRIE TLR PRO

Kenda’s newest addition seems to hit all the marks for a performance road tubeless tire. The 28mm tire hit the scales at 288 grams with a solid bead and easy installation. The tire feels supple with great wet and dry traction. There is a tread-wide-only protection layer to minimize rolling resistance while maximizing weight and protection. The TLR is available in sizes 23–30mm.

Weight: 288 grams (28mm)

Price: $85

www.bicycle.kendatire.com

GOODYEAR EAGLE F1 SUPER SPORT

A few years ago Goodyear launched a line of cycling tires that performed well but targeted a wide range of riders. Now, they have released a few options for the more performance-oriented rider. Their Eagle F1 Super Sport is offered in 25 and 28mm with no protection, while the Eagle F1 is available in 25-32mm and has a single tread-width protection layer. These tires are easy to mount and have great air retention from our testing.

Weight: 283 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.goodyearbike.com

ENVE SES ROAD 29

Utah-based Enve Composites has been at the forefront of road tubeless on the rim side of things and now completes the system with their own tires. Enve is offering 25, 27, 29 and 31mm tires, and with their extensive testing have a well-documented fitment chart when matched to their wheels. They are hookless and hook-bead ready, and they claim the bead will not stretch over time. The shape and performance are best paired with Enve wheels but are compatible with other brands.

Weight: 272 grams 29mm

Price: $75

www.enve.com

MAXXIS HIGH ROAD

While the majority of the Maxxis catalog is consumed by dirt-oriented tires, they have a few options for pavement, too. The High Road comes in sizes 25mm and 28mm, and is a durable tire for training and performance. The tire has a 170-tpi construction with a tread-wide puncture layer for added durability without reducing performance.

Weight: 324 grams 28mm

Price: $65

www.maxxis.com

SPECIALIZED S-WORKS TURBO RAPIDAIR 2BLISS READY

Specialized has been one of the leaders in tubeless road tech—that is until lately —and the S-Works Turbo line of tires is their premium offering. The tire is offered in sizes 26, 28 and 30mm and is performance-oriented. It is designed to offer the ride quality of tubulars with the versatility of a hook-type tire with 120 tpi. The S-Works Turbo Rapidair 2Bliss Ready also has a single layer of protection along the tread for even better durability.

Weight: 306 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.specialized.com

ZIPP TANGENTE SPEED RT28

Zipp is all about max speed and performance, and their race-specific Tangente Speed tires come is sizes 25 and 28mm. The tire has a single layer of protection for durability. The tire has 127 tpi keeping it supple. Zipp says they are hook- or hookless-compatible, and in our testing, these are some of the most durable road tubeless tires we have used.

Weight: 340 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.zipp.com

BONTRAGER R3 TLR

Trek’s Bontrager brand has a full line of tubeless wheels, and the R3 is their go-to road tubeless offering. The R3 comes in sizes 25, 28 and 32mm, and is a balance of performance and durability. There is a protective layer in the 170-tpi construction, and they claim it is best paired with their system of wheels. In our testing we have had mixed reviews, but the price makes them an option to consider.

Weight: 294 grams 28mm

Price: $55

www.trekbikes.com

PIRELLI P ZERO RACE TLR

While the name has “Race” in it, this tire is equally qualified to be a performance training tire. There is a tread-wide puncture layer built into the 120-tpi casing for added durability. The tire is offered in 24, 26, 28 and 30mm. Pirelli does note that the 24 and 26mm options are not compatible with hookless rims per the ETRTO standards, but the 28 and 30mm versions are.

Weight: 298 grams 28mm

Price: $80

www.velo.pirelli.com

SCHWALBE PRO ONE

Schwalbe has been one of the leaders in road tubeless options, and their new Pro One delivers a lightweight option that still has a protection layer. The tire is offered in sizes 25, 28, 30 and 32mm with two different constructions available. They also offer a slightly heavier option that is also a bit more durable in the One series, and it is slightly less expensive at $62. Both Schwalbe Pro Ones offer very easy mounting and supple road feel.

Weight: 270 grams 28mm

Price: $81

www.schwalbetires.com

CADEX RACE

Cadex is Giant’s in-house tire brand, and they are designed to pair with their premium race-oriented wheels that feature a hookless bead. As a result, the bead of the tire is very robust, but the casing is very supple and is said to have built-in protection that is weaved in rather than layered on. The tire is not the lightest, but mounting has been one of the easiest, and the feel is comparable to tires of lesser construction. 

Weight: 335 grams 28mm

Price: $100

www.cadex-cycling.com

VITTORIA CORSA SPEED GRAPHENE 2.0

Vittoria has a full line of tubeless options, and the Corsa Speed is the pinnacle but only offered in 23 and 25mm. The 320-tpi construction of the tire is very minimal, and we have had mixed experiences mounting them. With that said, once setup, they offer a tubeless feel that is unmatched. Durability is not their forte, but this would be a top pick to minimize rolling resistance. For a wider range of sizes, durability and training, look towards the Control or Rubino version. The Corsa Control in 30mm weighs in at 318 grams.

Weight: 229 grams 25mm

Price: $84

www.vittoria.com

MICHELIN POWER ROAD TLR

Michelin is now offering a performance-oriented road tubeless tire. It is offered in sizes 25, 28 and 32 with a 120-tpi construction. With minimal layers, it has low-rolling resistance while running
lower pressures. 

Weight: 255 grams 28mm

Price: $80                                   

www.motorcycle.michelinman.com

CONTINENTAL GRAND PRIX 5000 TL

Continental has jumped into road tubeless segment with their new 5000 TL. The tire offers the same aspects as the non-tubeless, like their BlackChili compound that prioritizes speed and grip over wear. They offer 25, 28 and 32mm with a tread-wide protection layer for added durability. In our testing we have had very mixed reviews from mounting to bead durability. We would be hesitant to recommend this tire with the number of problems we’ve had, and it might have missed the mark for tubeless on the first go.

Weight: 321 grams 28mm

Price: $95

www.continental-tires.com

10 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD TUBELESS EXPERIENCE

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28 BEST GRAVEL BIKES OF 2022 https://roadbikeaction.com/2022-gravel-bike-buyers-guide/ Thu, 07 Apr 2022 16:00:55 +0000 https://roadbikeaction.com/?p=53234

28 of the latest dual-purpose bikes to get you started down the right path

The post 28 BEST GRAVEL BIKES OF 2022 appeared first on Road Bike Action.

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As we all know, for the first few decades of the Tour de France (and likely most other road races at the time) a preponderance of the races actually took place not on paved surfaces but dirt, aka gravel. And recently, as I was replying to another gravel critic complaining about our enthusiasm for gravel, the thought occurred to me: do you think cyclists in the ’40s and ’50s were as much up in arms about the growing emphasis of paved road riding as so many of today’s gravel critics have been to the experience and technology aimed at multi-surface riding?!

As it is each year when we put together our annual “Gravel”  buyer’s guide, the sheer obviousness of just how big this still maligned stepchild of road riding has gotten just leaves me amused. For many years we’ve taken the slings and arrows of those who said gravel riding was not a “real” sport, that the bikes were an abomination, that the sport would never catch on, and, best of all, that it had no place in the pages of Road Bike Action.

Sure, this site’s title points to the pavement, but, as we’ve argued before, specific nomenclature notwithstanding, it’s not like Road & Track Magazine had to change their name when they embraced the comeuppance of the SUV market and began including them in their pages.

THE BEST 2022 GRAVEL BIKES

And really, as if a newly recognized UCI gravel rainbow jersey race wasn’t enough validation in addition to the growing inclusion of gravel sectors in road races, what better evidence that gravel riding has been fully embraced (consumed) by the traditional road world than to see so many legacy road bike brands like Pinarello, Ridley, Colnago and Campagnolo all finding their own padded seat for a ride on the gravel bike bandwagon?! Here’s the big collection of 2022 dual-purpose bikes that we rounded up.

RODEO LABS FLAANIMAL 5.0 TITANIUM

From one of the more progressive bike brands today, the Flaanimal Ti is the upgraded sibling to the successful steel Flanimal ($1550 frameset). The titanium frame sells for $3050, with Shimano and SRAM drivetrain options. A complete bike with a Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain goes for $4056. The Cerakote finish adds $400. Six sizes are available, and the frame is dropper-post-friendly.

Price: $4056
www.rodeo-labs.com

KONA LIBRE

When it comes to picking a gravel bike, Kona makes it clear that the Libre is ready for some serious adventure. The Libre is definitely dirt-oriented with its SRAM 1x Apex drivetrain and wide drop bars. The Apex build keeps the price down, and the aluminum frame is available in five sizes.

Price: $2099
www.konabikes.com

PIVOT VAULT

Pivot converted their Vault cyclocross bike to better meet the demands of gravel riding. Wide clearance for up to 700x47mm tires and designed compliance features like the Isoflex seatpost sheath make the Vault frame a proper platform to tackle rough roads. The Vault is available in five sizes.

Price: $7599
www.pivotcycles.com

SAGE STORM KING

Boutique titanium brand Sage has long hosted a swathe of gravel offerings in its catalog. The Storm King is on the extreme end with clearance for up to 700x50mm rubber while maintaining a traditional titanium aesthetic. Those looking to venture onto more aggressive roads can look for the suspension-corrected Storm King GP and build it up with a Rockshox Rudy gravel fork.

Price: $4300 (frameset)
www.sagetitanium.com

NINER RLT 9 ALLOY

Niner’s RLT 9 lineup consists of three versions—carbon (RDO), steel and alloy. All three are offered in 650b or 700c builds with their carbon fork paired with all models. The alloy frame is the balance between price, performance and weight, but most impressive is that Niner tests all their bikes to the more demanding test standards that mountain bikes require.

Price: $2899
www.ninerbikes.com

TURNER TITANIUM

Long-time mountain bike and cyclocross enthusiast (and now avid gravel racer) David Turner has combined his two favorite pastimes with the present in the design of his titanium gravel frameset. From the machined head tube to the internal cable routing and added bottle mounts, artful features abound. The value-oriented price includes the carbon fork.

Price: $2695 (frame and fork)
www.turnerbikes.com

RITTE SATYR

Ritte’s Satyr blends road and off-road performance just like the mythical creature it’s named after. Smart spec like the T47 bottom bracket, Enve fork and Hunt 4 Seasons wheels prove the crew at Ritte know how to provide value to the consumer without compromising performance. The SRAM mullet build and clearance for 43mm tires keep the bike capable over a wide array of gravel.

Price: $5250
www.ritte.cc

FRANCO GRIMES

Visually, it’s hard to mistake the Grevil for anything other than a finely crafted carbon gravel bike from legacy Italian bike maker Pinarello. The Grevil uses swooping tube shapes throughout its construction, and Pinarello’s decision to spec 650b wheels and tires are highlights of the design. Of course, Pinarello offers a Campagnolo Ekar build, as well as SRAM, Shimano and two e-bike versions.

Price: $5750
www.pinarello.com

FRANCO GRIMES

The SoCal brand offers their 50/50 gravel bike in five sizes, three colors and your choice of either Shimano or SRAM drivetrains (mechanical or electronic). Thanks to the dropped chainstay design, the frame has room to run up to 45mm tires.

Price: $6250
www.francobicycles.com

RIDLEY KANZO FAST

Coming out of Belgium, Ridley’s racing-inspired gravel bike brings a handful of healthy gravel features to the table. An assortment of colorways and customization options make the Kanzo Fast a worthwhile consideration for a personalized ride. Clearance for up to 700x42mm tires and tall stock gears emulate its flatland European birthplace. Ridley also offers the Kanzo Adventure and the Kanzo All Road as lower price-point gateways to gravel.

Price: $7620
www.ridley-bikes.com


COLNAGO G3-X

From one of Italy’s most venerable road bike brands comes the G3-X gravel bike that celebrates its heritage with an Italian spec that includes a Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain and Shamal wheels, Deda components, and Vittoria tires. Ridden to victory at last year’s Unbound 200 by Lauren De Crescenzo, the frame has internal routing, a bash guard and room for 42mm tires. Available in five sizes and two colors.

Price: $5000
www.colnago.com


3T RACEMAX

When it comes to going fast off-road, the Gerard Vroomen-designed Race Max is ready to answer the call, thanks to a carbon frame that has been aero optimized in every way possible. Available as a frameset ($3500) or a complete bike, the Campagnolo Ekar spec’d bike rolls on Fulcrum 650b wheels to lay down as fat a tread as possible.

Price: $5999
www.3t.bike

LITESPEED ULTIMATE GRAVEL

Litespeed’s Ultimate Gravel blends weight, stiffness and aerodynamics for a speed-oriented gravel bike with a classic titanium aesthetic and ride quality. Frames are available starting at $2565, and a Shimano GRX 1x build starts at $4095.

Price: $4095
www.litespeed.com

LAUF TRUE GRIT RACE

Along with their proprietary suspension fork, the True Grit is also built with their special glass-fiber-integrated carbon handlebars to bring even more compliance. The bike is sold in four builds, ranging from $2790 to $6590, and is now available in sizes XS to XL.

Price: $3590

www.laufcycling.com

BIANCHI ARCADEX

The Arcadex marks Bianchi’s first official leap into the gravel world. Built with Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX 800 drivetrain, the Arcadex rolls on alloy Alex hoops with room for up to a 42mm tire. There is also a ($200) lower-priced version that uses a Shimano GRX 600 drivetrain.

Price: $3600

www.bianchi.com

FIFTYONE ASSASSIN

The famed Irish road bike brand FiftyOne is now gravel-ready with the new Assassin that has clearance for up to 47mm tires. The frame is dropper-post compatible and features front and rear flip chips to adjust geometry for either 700c or 650b wheels with rack and fender mounts. It comes in nine models in four sizes with your choice of Shimano, Campagnolo or SRAM drivetrain.

Price: $3870
www.fiftyonebikes.com

OTSO WARAKIN TI

Unique with the Warakin Ti is the Tuning Chip rear dropout, which can lengthen or shorten the wheelbase by up to 20mm and raise or lower the bottom bracket by up to 4mm. Complete builds with Shimano GRX start at $4250, with the frame/fork going for $3055.

Price: $5850
www.otsocycles.com

KONA ROVE AL 650

The Rove AL 650 starts the five-bike Rove family of gravel bikes at just under $1000. The aluminum frame is built with a 2x drivetrain for added versatility and rolls on 650b WTB wheels. The Rove lineup is pocketbook-friendly with a top priced spec at $2599. Choose between 1x and 2x builds, alloy or steel frames, as well as 700c and 650b wheel options.

Price: $999

www.konaworld.com

LITESPEED WATIA

Litespeed’s Watia blends performance and endurance geometries for a well-rounded gravel bike with a classic titanium aesthetic and ride quality. Frames are available starting at $2115 for an externally routed option with the most expensive build, topping out around $6500.

Price: $6485

www.litespeed.com 

CANNONDALE SUPERSIX EVO SE

Not to be confused with the new SuperSix Evo CX cyclocross bike, the SE is a gravel race bike. The SE ships with a 2x SRAM Rival AXS drivetrain that is speed-oriented but still features a better than 1:1 ratio, thanks to the 46/33 crank matched with the 10-36t 12-speed cassette.

Price: $5000

www.cannondale.com

SCOTT ADDICT GRAVEL

Scott is continuing to merge race-oriented aerodynamic designs into their gravel line with airfoil tube shapes and lowered seatstays. There are three Addict Gravel models with Shimano and SRAM components, as well as a women’s-specific Contessa Addict gravel bike. The builds range in price from $3000 to $8500.

Price: $5699

www.scott-sports.com

CIPOLLINI ALL-ROAD

With a hint of gravel potential, the All-Road is built with T800 carbon tubes with lugged joints. Available in five sizes with customizable geometry and finishes through the MyCipo personalized paint program.

Price: $4390 (frameset)

www.mcipollini.com

CANYON GRIZL

The Grizl is offered in SL and SLX carbon options, and they ship with large 45mm tires. The frame leaves room for up to 50mm tires, and this makes it a great option for the racer or the adventurer. Canyon is even offering a build with the new RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork and 1x gravel-specific SRAM AXS XPLR groupset.

Price: $4999

www.canyon.com 

OPEN U.P.

The Gerard Vroomen-designed Open U.P. is the bike that popularized the dropped-chainstay frame design. With clearance for up to 40mm tires, the $3000 U.P. frame has been a trend starter and remains a top gravel choice. There are two models available with the $4500 U.P.P.E.R. frame weighing 180 grams less. Complete bikes are available with a Campy Ekar drivetrain and HED wheels.

Price: $5900
www.opencycle.com

 

FELT BROAM 60

The Felt Broam is intended for the bike-packing crowd, endurance riders, and anyone looking for a great riding bike with massive tire clearance and room for bags and fenders. The 60 is the most affordable option, offering plenty of bang for the buck. Disc brakes and 2x drivetrain make it a perfect all-road option for those looking for new routes.

Price: $1249

www.feltbicycles.com

 

SPECIALIZED CRUX PRO

Long the cyclocross go-to for Specialized, the all-new 2021 Crux has now morphed into a more gravel-friendly bike. Available with both 1x and 2x drivetrains and 38mm tires, but there is room for up to 47mm, so while the Crux is more gravel than ever, it remains their race option for CX or gravel.

Price: $8000                                               

www.specialized.com

OBED GVR

Just like other Obed models, the GVR we tested comes in with a value-driven price tag of $5,275 for a bike that needs no upgrades. Impressive given its desirable Shimano GRX spec and upgraded HED Vanquish RC4 wheelset that added $1175 over the stock Sun Charger wheels. The GVR base build starts at $3,795.

Price: $5275

www.obedbikes.com

LOOK 765 GRAVEL RS

The famous French road brand Look has jumped into the new dual-purpose bike category with the 765 Gravel RS that’s available at four price points and unique colorways. The carbon frame has been tuned with a specific layup for gravel, and also features asymmetric chainstays.

Price: $6200

www.lookcycle.com

28 BEST GRAVEL BIKES OF 2022

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