Tubeless road wheels have been around for a few years but haven’t taken off quite like other new technologies such as clipless pedals, carbon fiber frames, or say endurance category road bikes. I can understand this. But the advantages are considerable.
It seems like top end road bikes are getting lighter and stiffer each year. And with the advent of the “Aero” road bike, ride quality is often sacrificed for speed due to airfoil tube shaping. Yes, perhaps you should go with that “classics” or “endurance” geometry road bike for your next purchase. After all, most of us aren’t riding the Tour de France and we want to finish that next Gran Fondo without feeling beat up. But many of us can’t resist the allure of getting faster and riding what the yellow jersey winner rode to victory in July. Here is where tubeless can really help.
Tubeless Run at Lower Pressures
The first big advantage of tubeless is that you can run tires at lower pressures than a tire-tube system without losing speed (you’ll actually gain speed due to lower rolling resistance) or increasing the risk of pinch flats. This makes for a more comfortable ride with reduced road chatter, especially when going over rough surfaces. Lately, I have been riding the new Pinarello Dogma F8, which is considerably stiffer in the front end than the Dogma 65.1. Essentially, Chris Froome and Team Sky wanted a lighter, stiffer, more aerodynamic frame and they got it in the F8. Riding this frame on standard tube tires was great on perfectly smooth roads but not as much fun when the surface got rough. Recently, I just switched to a tubeless setup and the difference is considerable. Vibrations from rough sections of road are more muted and overall, the ride is just a bit softer, allowing me to get full enjoyment out of the light and racy frame.
Flats Nearly Eliminated
The second and equally advantageous reason to go tubeless is that flats are nearly eliminated! Yes, nothing can quite mess up your ride like a flat, especially when you’re on a time schedule. Being late for work or dinner at home due to a flat isn’t fun. Yes, you can go many miles with no flats on tube wheels. But then you also get the inevitable 3 flats in 3 rides! I have been riding tubeless for about 2 years now and have never flatted. The only exception was a blown tire on some road debris that even a spare tube wouldn’t have fixed – I needed a new tire. Fortunately I was on a ride with SAG support.
Ah….but here is why so many prefer to stay with tubes. If something happens out on the road, you just patch up your punctured tube or replace it and you’re on your way. If you do puncture on a tubeless wheel, fixing a flat with sealant inside isn’t an easy task. Yes, you can use a spare tube but it’s not easy to contend with the sticky sealant and get a tire seated on a tubeless-compatible rim. There’s a chance you might need to call in the rescue team – often a significant other who might not be too pleased!
The other factor that has slowed the adoption of tubeless wheels is that manufacturers have been slow to offer tubeless compatible rims, especially the carbon variety, which is the way most cyclists go when upgrading. But that is beginning to change with Reynolds’ new tubeless-ready carbon wheels. I am riding the Assault SLG with a 41 mm rim depth. They also offer the Attack at 29 mm and the Strike SLG at a 62 mm.
If you want to try these new Reynolds Tubeless-Ready Carbon wheels, you can take advantage of the Wheel Demo program at A Road Bike 4U! You just may be a convert!