THE BEST TUBELESS BIKE TIRES

I’ll admit it, I didn’t get excited about using tubeless bike tires when they first became available for road bike wheels. I was quite comfortable setting up my tires with tubes, had a go-to tire model that was comfortable, handled well, was plenty durable, and ranked well in rolling resistance tests. I seldom flatted, and when I did, it was an easy fix.

So why try tubeless tires? Everything I read said they were harder to get on my rims, took a lot of work to inflate and seal, made a mess, had higher rolling resistance than tires with tubes, or what I’ll call “tubed tires”, and if you ever did get a flat on the road, fixing a tubeless tire was not going to be easy.

Seems that I was not alone. Even though wheel makers were selling more and more road wheels that were tubeless ready, road cyclists weren’t ready to go tubeless. In 2015, no more than 10% of us were riding tubeless bike tires.

And then, it happened.

Well actually, several things happened.

Tubeless valves with removable cores became the standard valve shipped with new tubeless ready road wheels. Injecting sealant through your valve once your tire was fully mounted instead of pouring it into your partially mounted tire made for little or no mess.

Rolling resistance tests of tubeless road tires began to show equal or better results than the best tubed clincher tires with butyl tubes.

Better tire compounds made the leading tubeless tires as supple and sure-footed as tubed ones.

Wider and better designed tubeless road rims and tires made the tires as easy to mount, inflate, seal, and stay sealed as tubed ones, requiring no more than a standard track pump in many cases.

The adoption of wider tires and rims and lower inflation pressure for added riding comfort also made pinch flats caused by the rubbing of underinflated tubes against standard clincher tires more likely. That negative and the positive of instant repair of tubeless tires in the case of most typical punctures made tubeless more attractive.

The parallel growth of road disc bikes and roadies adding dirt and cyclocross riding to their paved road experience made a tubeless ready wheelset with one or two tubeless tire options a more versatile and puncture resilient solution than using traditional clinchers with tubed tires.

Disc brake rims also didn’t need to worry about the heat generated and the resulting expansion and contraction from rim brakes. You got a more consistent seal between the tire and the rim when the temperature of the latter wasn’t changing.

Finally, a lot of good road wheels started coming not just tubeless ready or tubeless compatible but “tubeless optimized”. No need to tape; a pre-installed plastic strip covered the entire rim bed. The rims were wider, the beds had a center channel to make it easier to get tires on and some had small dimples along the edges of rim bed to keep the tires in place and keep them from “burping” air under hard cornering and at low tire pressure.

All of this has led to more and more road cycling enthusiasts using tubeless bike tires, more and better tires getting introduced, and that ever-present doubt among roadies – do I have the best performing or best value gear – to creep into yet a new area of our cycling consciousness.

Mine for sure! Yours too?

If you’ve adopted tubeless bike tires for your road and off-road riding or are seriously thinking about going tubeless on your new tubeless ready wheelset, this post is for you. I will tell you what matters most in picking between tubeless tires, which of the top half dozen everyday tubeless road tires available today perform best against those criteria, and which are the best values.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TUBELESS BIKE TIRES

Click on any red statement below to go directly to that part of the post

Tubeless tires are better than tubed ones but not in all the ways they are claimed to be

Many tubeless tire design characteristics are promoted but should matter little in your choice

Done right, there’s little added difficulty or time needed to install different tubeless road tires

Five performance criteria matter most in choosing between tubeless tires 

If you buy at the right stores, you can save quite a bit off the list price for some of these tires

RECOMMENDATIONS

This is a long and involved review and I get that many of you may not have the time or interest to drink it all in. For those who want the bottom line at the top of the review, here are my recommendations.

Best Performer – Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless – List price USD$74. Best prices from stores with top customer satisfaction ratings Competitive CyclistAmazon, eBay, UK/EU Bike24

The Tangente Speed Road Tubeless has a superior road feel (comfort, handling, grip, road noise) and competitive rolling resistance performance compared to the leading everyday tubeless tires made for road cycling enthusiasts.

If your average 18mph/29kph or better and 20mph/32kph and above at any point during your ride, speeds where aerodynamics is more important to your performance than rolling resistance, the recommended 25C size (“RT25”) of this tire with a 19C and 21C tubeless ready wheelset should also provide amongst the best aero performance.

The combination of rolling resistance, road feel, and aerodynamics makes the Tangente Speed Road Tubeless for me the best overall tire amongst those I evaluated and the one I prefer to ride. I rate the Mavic Yksion Pro UST equally well on the road but the Tangente’s better market price gives it the edge and my recommendation for Best Performer among everyday tubeless road tires.

Best Value – Schwalbe Pro One – List price USD$85. Best prices from stores with top customer satisfaction ratings Competitive Cyclist 10% off w/code ITKC10, Amazon, Chain Reaction Cycles, Merlin.

The first tire to show roadies that tubeless can compete with traditional tubed tire performance, the Schwalbe Pro One’s rolling resistance still tests better, if now only you-can’t-tell-the-difference better than other everyday tubeless tires not intended for racing use.

It’s a very comfortable and good handling tire but gives off a little road buzz that I find breaks the enjoyment of a solo ride. The 25C size model measures as wide or wider than the outside width of 17C, 19C, and 21C tubeless rim, potentially affecting the wheelset aero performance at higher speeds.

As one of the best selling tubeless tires, the Pro One has many fans who rave about but also many who report that it wears less and is more susceptible to cuts and punctures than other tubeless and tubed tires. My experience and those I ride with who have considerable experience with this Schwalbe have found its durability no better or worse than the also popular Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tubed clincher tire standard.

The Schwalbe Pro One is widely available and online stores discount it heavily. For its good, if not best performance and its low price, I rate it the Best Value among tubeless tires for road bikes.

Tubeless Bike Tires

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Related Reviews


TUBELESS VS. TUBED TIRES

There’s been a lot said and written recently about tubeless vs. tubed tires for road bikes. Not too many years ago, the debate was between tubed tires and tubular ones. And there’s still a lot of unsettled argument around disc brakes vs. rim brakes, electronic vs. mechanical shifting, and carbon frames vs. aluminum, titanium, and steel frames.

New technology creates debate and draws attention. It’s what opinion setters and writers like to talk about. It’s what product makers like to promote. It’s also what cyclists like to learn about and discuss among themselves.

It’s all good and interesting.  But, I’m not going there in this post. I could write 10,000 words about tubeless vs. tubed tires but it wouldn’t advance the discussion. Both now work.

Some roadies are proud to be the last to change while others are just happy with the status quo.  That’s fine. Tubulars and tubed clinchers work just fine.  So, this post isn’t for you.

Other riders embrace what’s new, drink the Kool-Aid, and think tubeless is the next coming.  Of course, it’s not that either.

Let me try to sprinkle some reality on the tubeless hype before talking about the best tubeless tires out there for you to choose from.

Compared to clincher tires with inner tubes, tubeless bike tires have been promoted for their

1) better puncture protection

2) greater comfort

3) better handling

4) lower rolling resistance

5) lighter weight

The current best everyday tubeless bike tires I’m writing about in this post do provide better puncture protection. Run at pressures below where you’d want to inflate tubed tires, tubeless will also be more comfortable.

I state that in a matter of fact way because I believe it is so. I don’t see anyone challenging these two assertions.

I haven’t seen any conclusive, independent testing showing that tubeless bike tires handle better.  You can make an argument that wider, lower inflated tires should grip and handle better, but only up to at a certain point.  If they are much wider than the rim, they won’t get the support needed for good handling. If they are inflated too low, they will feel mushy in the turns.

As to the latter to claims about lower rolling resistance and lighter weight, the best everyday tubeless tires with sealant and tubed tires with butyl tubes have rolling resistance and weight within you-won’t-notice-the-difference range, i.e. a watt or two and 0-50 grams.   I’ll give you more specifics on this in the sections below.

I’ve no doubt that tubeless rolling resistance and weight will both continue to get lower as they have in the last couple years. But for the time being, they are on par with tubed tires.

I wrote in the opening why I believe tubeless has moved forward to become a real option for those who want the benefits it can offer. Reduced worries about punctures, added riding comfort, and greater versatility to ride your tubeless wheel on different road surfaces conditions (ideally using different tubeless tires) are the biggest benefits over tubed tires now.  As their rolling resistance and weight decreases further, the benefits will only grow.

My testing also shows that they aren’t any harder to install than tubed tires.  Different, yes. For some different means harder.  But, if you are still reading, you are likely open to tubeless tires or already using them.  If you are either, different is just different and not harder once you figure out how to do different as easily as you know how to do same.

TUBELESS BIKE TIRE CANDIDATES

As with tubed tires, you can now get a range of tubeless tires for road bike wheels for everything from racing to training to commuting to gravel and cyclocross riding.

For this review, I picked everyday tubeless training tires.  Like the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II benchmark tubed tire, these tubeless tires are the ones you will want to ride for individual and group rides, endurance, and shorter events, or most any kind of riding save for high-level road or triathlon racing. They provide the combination of performance and value we enthusiasts try to balance.

You could commute on these tires or do dirt path riding with them, though I’d think you’d likely want thicker or more treaded tires if you were doing most of your riding in those situations. You could also race on them though the top tubeless race tires will give you a few watts less rolling resistance at the cost of quicker wear.

In alphabetical order, they are:

  • IRC Formula Pro Tubeless RBCC
  • Mavic Yksion Pro UST
  • Maxxis Padrone TR
  • Schwalbe Pro One
  • Specialized Roubaix Road Tubeless
  • Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless

I’ve provided the best market pricing information and links to recommended stores with the best prices at the end of this post. If you want to go there, click here.

The Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Light TLR and Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm tires are updates of R3 TLR and Fusion 5 Performance with longer names and new construction and compound, respectively. While they are also everyday training tires like the group above, they are too new for independent performance test information to be available about them. I’ll add them if and when I get that information.

There are also a handful of tubeless road racing tires out there now that I haven’t evaluated that you may see reviewed elsewhere. They include the Vittoria Corsa Speed, Hutchinson Fusion 5 Galactik 11Storm, Panaracer Race A Evo 3, and IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Light. They are fast as hell but don’t have puncture belts and will wear out in no time. I don’t recommend any of these as everyday tires but you gotta give them points for the creativity of their names.

EVALUATION AND DECISION CRITERIA

With any new technology, there is often an early adoption period where new products come to market, customers get their first experiences, and others watch from a distance to see if they should give it a try.

In this environment, companies try to influence the perception of what’s important in choosing between products and why customers should choose the ones they sell.  Media write up these company perspectives and provide their own about why you should buy one product or another. Users also share some of their early experiences about what they like and don’t like about products they’ve used.

Lower weight, higher thread count, better compound, lower rolling resistance, better puncture resistance, superior dry and wet road handling, better aerodynamics, longer wear, greater ease in getting the tire on the rim, getting it inflated, sealing it, holding its pressure, filling punctures, etc., etc., etc. are all part of the arguments being made for certain models of tubeless road bike tires now.

It’s enough to make your head spin and struggle to make a well-informed decision.

I’ve poured through the arguments for and data about these criteria, ridden many of the tires myself and consulted those whose opinions I trust who have tested these and other tires.

I’ve also looked at this from the perspective I share with you as a regular cycling enthusiast who has become a new user of road tubeless tires over the last couple years. Yes, because I write reviews, I’ve probably tried more tires and tubeless wheelsets than most of you.  But, like you, I’ve still got to decide which ones I want to ride for my pleasure and training rides, on group rides, and for the events I like to do.

I’ll go through the list of things I considered to figure out what matters most and tell you how the tire candidates listed earlier compare.

DESIGN CRITERIA – WHAT MATTERS LEAST

Companies often cite design specs to suggest the important and differentiated characteristics of their products. While specs are quantifiable, quotable, and even marketable, they don’t predict performance and therefore, in my view, are not very helpful in choosing the best tires for you.

Regardless, since design specs are so often written about without context or comparison, I’ll try to provide both here to help disabuse readers of the value some companies put on them.

Weight – One of the arguments for tubeless tires is that they weigh less than tubed tires.  As I mentioned above, this isn’t the case, at least not comparing today’s everyday tubeless tire set up, which includes sealant and tubeless valves and a tubed tire with a butyl tube.

Let me compare the weight of these two road tire “systems” to see just how much they weigh, why they pretty much weigh the same, and why their differences don’t matter to you as a road cycling enthusiast.

First, tubeless tires. There are currently two types of tubeless tires for road bikes.  One is called Tubeless Ready or TLR. The other goes by the name (and initials) of Road Tubeless (RT) or just Tubeless (TL).

The RT or TL tires have a thin butyl rubber liner bonded to the inside of the tire. TLR tires don’t have a butyl liner.

Of course, butyl rubber is the same material used in most of the tubes that go into standard or tubed clincher tires. Some racers will use latex tubes because they are lighter than butyl and provide a notable reduction in rolling resistance – 3 watts or so at aero speeds.

Latex tubes don’t hold air as well, will puncture more easily and cost more than butyl tubes. That’s why we use butyl instead of latex

Both TLR and RT/TL tubeless tires are designed to keep an inflated tire sealed. The butyl lining in an RT/TL tire is supposed to make it easier to get the tire to seat in and seal to the rim and then hold the air at your desired pressure longer than an unlined TLR tire.

If you buy into this claim, you might be led to believe that you don’t need to put sealant into an RT/TL tire to get it to hold air.  You would save can save 30-50 grams per tire if you didn’t add the sealant.

I found no difference between TLR and RT/TL tires in getting the tires to initially seal and then hold air. (More on that below.) So, that would suggest you don’t need sealant and that the RT/TL tires with their extra butyl lining only adds weight.

Sealant can help in the initial set up process.  And, the fact that so many tubeless bike tire makers put butyl linings in their tires suggests their research shows there is a benefit that is worth the added weight.

We can continue to debate those points.

But, what almost no one would debate is that you need to put sealant in both TLR and RT/TL tires to fill a puncture. Frankly, I think you’d be a fool to ride tubeless without sealant for that purpose alone.

RT/TL tires, those with the butyl liner in the tire, weigh between 30 and 40 grams more per tire than the same size TLR ones.

For example, the 25C Mavic, Schwalbe and Maxxis TLR tires in this review measure between 256 and 259 grams. The RT/TL tires from Specialized, IRC, and Zipp weigh-in from 290 to 299 grams.

Using sealant in both types of tires and all else being equal, this says you’d want to go with one of the TLR tires and save yourself 60 to 80 grams of weight in your wheels. Of course, all else isn’t equal and there are other factors that can have a much bigger impact on your performance than 60 to 80 grams, an amount most enthusiasts will never be able to notice.

To the rounded-up amount of 260 grams of a TLR tire and 295 grams for the average of the RT/TL ones reviewed here, add 30 grams for the 30ml of sealant you are going to want to put in your tubeless tire and another 5 grams for the mid-depth tubeless valve.

Altogether then, you are looking at about 295 grams for a TLR tire set up and 330 for an RT/TL one.

As a reference, a top everyday tubed tire like the 25C Continental Grand Prix 4000S II weighs 215 grams. With a good butyl tube inside your Conti tire, you add about 75 grams, bringing the total to about 290 grams.

So, a top tubed road tire and tubeless ready (TLR) road tire each set up on your wheel are going to weigh essentially the same amount. No diff. An RT/TL one will weight 35-40 grams more. You can’t tell that difference out on the road.

Thread Count – Here’s another spec that some companies and reviewers try to translate to performance. The belief basically holds that the higher the threads per inch or TPI, the suppler, faster and better handling the tire.

Were it only that simple. The compound and its thickness, the puncture belt, and whether heat is used to combine them with the threads (“vulcanization”) play large roles in the handling and rolling resistance you get on the road. I can’t draw a straight line from TPI to speed or feel and have never seen a study that can.

Ignore it.

Compound – This is where the secret sauce of tire making and, along with it, tire marketing comes in. Who hasn’t heard of Black Chili, the compound used in the Continental GP4000S II? Compound is claimed to be the difference maker in rolling resistance and handling.

It’s all a bit of black art. Tire makers mix some combination of organic polymers, man-made synthetic materials, silica (the most common constituent in good old sand), and who knows what else, all to reduce the friction within the tire when it is doing its thing rolling down the road. The less friction, the less energy required for the tire to return to its shape (aka “hysteresis”) after it deforms or deflects from the unevenness in the road surface. All of this goes into lowering a tire’s rolling resistance.

On the other hand, a compound that returns the tire to shape a little slower provides better grip and handling. Some tires use a lower hysteresis compound in the center width of the tire to provide low rolling resistance and a higher hysteresis compound in the sides of the tire to provide better grip and handling when you are leaning into turns.

Knowing a tire’s rolling resistance and handling performance can give a tire’s compound (or mix of compounds) a good or bad name. But, knowing the compound name alone doesn’t mean much.

INSTALLATION CRITERIA – ALL THAT MATTERS UNTIL YOU FIGURE IT OUT

For those of you who have been tubeless converts for several years or those who remain interested but have held off because of some of the horror stories of installation difficulties and road failures you may have heard, I can tell you that a lot has changed for the better in just the last few years.

For this post, I went looking for a few videos to share with you about best practices in taping, mounting, injecting sealant, inflating, seating, etc.

I also read through user forums to see what issues frequently came up for those who have been using tubeless wheels and tires for their road bikes.

Finally, I did my own installation experiment with the tires for this review and a couple different modern tubeless ready wheelsets to see what differences there might be installing these tires and what I could share with you about the whole experience.

Looking across the videos and user forums dated as “far back” as 2014 and 2015, there’s a lot about how to convert your standard rims for tubeless use or pouring sealant directly into the tire from a measuring cup and complaints about tires blowing off the rims.

My experience with road tubeless gear started more recently and suggests a lot of those instructions and concerns from just a few years ago are now moot if you are using modern tubeless wheels and tires.

Let me explain it by asking and then answering the basic questions.

Q1. Are some tubeless tires easier or harder to get on a tubeless rim?

There’s nothing about current tubeless tires that should make them any harder to get on and off your modern tubeless ready rims than tubed clinchers. There are also only small differences I’ve found about different brands of tubeless tires that make some easier or harder to mount than others.

However, I often hear or read people complain that getting any tubeless tire on their rims, let alone getting them inflated and staying sealed is a big issue.

Here’s what I think is going on. When we enthusiasts upgrade our wheelsets these days, it’s likely to be a tubeless ready or tubeless optimized one since most wheels are now made that way. And if we haven’t upgraded in a few years or are replacing a stock wheelset, it’s also likely to be our first tubeless wheelset.  So, if there is any difficulty getting the tires on, many enthusiasts will assume it’s because the wheelset is tubeless.

But, it’s equally likely that our new wheels are either wider or deeper than what we’ve been riding before.

Just a few years ago, most wheelsets were sized either 15C or 17C.  Nearly all new wheels are at least 17mm wide internally, and the best are 19mm or even 21mm.

If you are going from an alloy to a carbon wheelset, you may also be opting for a deeper wheelset, going from something like a 20mm-25mm deep alloy one to those that are carbon and in the range of 40mm, 50mm or even deeper.

It’s the added width of these new wheelsets that makes it harder to get your tubeless bike tires on, but only if you try to put them on the same way you put tires on your older, narrower tubed clincher wheels.

Most of the newer, wider, deeper tubeless wheelsets have a center channel, an area in the center of the rim bed that is a few millimeters lower than the rest of the rim bed. Some also have dimples or smaller indentations in the rim bed closer to the edge of the rims.

Tubeless Bike Tires

You can see an example of a center channel and dimples in the cross-section drawing of the tubeless ENVE SES 4.5 AR Disc wheels on the left.  By comparison, the drawing on the right shows the older ENVE SES 4.5 rim brake wheelset which isn’t tubeless compatible.  The 4.5 rim brake wheels have a depression in the middle of the rim beds but they are not as pronounced as the channels in the 4.5 AR disc brake wheels.

The channel is the key to getting your tires one.  At that spot in your rim bed, while the wheel’s diameter is reduced a few millimeters, the circumference is reduced over 3x (or by Pi) more and that makes all the difference in getting your tires on wider and deeper wheels.

Without using the channel, you won’t get your tires on. You’ll blister up your thumbs, abuse the rim beds and tape of your tubeless wheels using tire levers, and likely swear till you are blue in the face.

I’ve even had a reader tell me he returned a set of perfectly good wheels because he couldn’t get the tubeless tires on and he’s been installing wheels for over 20 years and has seen it all.  After an exchange with him, it was clear that despite his experience, he didn’t know about the channel and had never installed tires on wheels with one.

So, use the channel and make it easy on yourself.

How? As you put the first sections of the first bead of the tire over the edge of your rim, put the bead into the rim channel and then mount the rest of that first bead into the channel as you go all the way around. Keeping that first bead in the channel, mount the second bead over the edge and into the same channel as go all the way around installing the second bead.

If you are having difficulty with the second bead, check to make sure that both sections of beads you already have mounted are still in the channel. When your tire also has dimples, you want to keep the beads from going into them while you are putting the rest of the tire on.

You also want to put the sections of each bead near the valve on last since the channel is blocked by the valve and the tire will sit higher than if it were in the channel.

IRC created this graphic to show the steps.

Tubeless Bike Tires

They and others also recommend sponging the beads and rim with soapy water (the blue in fig. 1) to reduce the friction between the rim and tire during installation. Some companies even sell a soapy water solution though it has high-priced sounding names.

Don’t ever use grease or oil lubricants for this purpose as it will prevent you from getting an airtight seal later on.

AN EXPERIMENT

Even if you use the channel as I’ve described, some tires will mount a little more easily than others on the same rims.  And, the same tire may mount more easily on some rims than others.

As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.”

I’ve had varying experiences, both good and bad, mounting, inflating and sealing tubeless tires over the last few years. While my knowledge and skill have improved, I was never able to tell how much my success in getting the tires on was due to the tires I was working with, the rims I was trying to put them on, or how my cumulative experience or middle-aged memory loss affected the results.

For that matter, I didn’t know how much anything else unrelated to the tires and rims – the temperature in my garage, my fatigue, frame of mind, the music I had on, etc. – affected my success. Remember, I’m a fellow enthusiast like most of you. Having never been a bike mechanic or ever worked in a bike shop or for a bike company, I’m just another cyclist consumer trying to get educated and decide whether to use and choose between the new product and technology the bike industry pumps out there.

So, for this review, I did a controlled experiment. I spent an afternoon with a couple of modern deep and wide rims and 5 different tires to see if I could determine any patterns mounting and inflating tires. It definitely wasn’t highly scientific, but at least for me, it was quite instructive.

I grabbed two front wheels I’ve been testing. The first was a 46mm deep, 21mm wide (inside) Zipp 303 NSW Disc wheel that has a tubeless strip pre-installed. The second was the Mavic Comete UST tubeless disc wheel which was deeper (65mm) but narrower (19mm inside) than the Zipp wheel.

Tubeless Bike TiresTubeless Bike Tires

The 303 NSW disc wheel has Zipp’s latest tubeless rim technology and the Comete has Mavic’s UST or Universal Standard Tubeless technology, their latest tubeless wheel offering.

I put on and took off one of 4 models of tubeless tires on each of these rims and then moved on to the next tire. I picked tires of different widths, some of which were new and some which had 500 or so miles on them.

The first two were brand new, a Zipp 25C Tangente Speed RT and Maxxis Padrone TR 28C. The second two were used, a 25C Yksion Pro UST and 25C Schwalbe Pro One.

As a benchmark, I started by installing a used 25C Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tubed clincher tire without the tube.

Tubeless Bike Tires

As you can see from the chart of results, each of the tires was relatively easier to get on the 21C Zipp NSW rim than the 19C Mavic Comete UST rim. While both rims have center channels, there was something about one rim that made it easier to get the tires on than the other, regardless of the tire. Perhaps it was a slightly different channel width or depth?

Regardless, none of the tires took more than 5 mins to get on the Cometes and in only in two cases did I need to resort to using a tire lever.

And while it only took me about 20 seconds longer to get the Conti tubed tire on the Comete than the 303 NSW, I’d expect it would take at least another minute or two to put a tube on the rim, inflate it a little and then make sure it was tucked into the tire with the first bead on and then more slowly put the second bead on so as to be sure not to pinch the tube as I go around the rim putting the second bead on.

Bottom line, in trying to decide between tubeless tires, I couldn’t favor one tire over another based on how hard or easy it was to put them on a tubeless rim.

Q2. How easy or hard is it to get tubeless road tires to inflate and seal?

Another thing I read from cyclists and now from tire makers is that some tires inflate and seal easier than others.  I wanted to test that out too.

The first part of my experiment showed that I could get all the tires on within a few minutes. It just took a little longer with some than others but mostly based on the rim depth rather than the tire.

Unlike my experience getting a tire on, getting it to inflate and seal was binary. It either does or it doesn’t and that becomes clear within about 30 seconds. Sometimes you can get it to inflate and seal with a track pump. Sometimes you’ll need a compressor.  And sometimes you’ll need a compressor and a tubeless tire whisperer, someone who knows all the tricks of manipulating a tire to get the beads to seat in the rims.

Before I lay out this part of the experiment (the results are in the chart above), let me tell you what some tire makers are doing to try to make it easier for we enthusiasts to get their tires to inflate and seal.

Tubed tires are made of materials that are lighter and more porous than tubeless ones but won’t hold air on a taped clincher or tubeless rim without a tube. Tubeless tires use various materials that are supposed to seal the air in and hold it at pressure for days at a time.

I wrote above about the two types of tubeless tires – Tubeless Ready aka TLR and Road Tubeless aka RT or just Tubeless aka TL.  The RT or TL tires are lined with butyl rubber which is the same material that regular tire tubes are made of. TLR tires don’t have a butyl liner. As I went through above, RT/TL tires weigh about 35 grams more than TLR tires.

Both RT/TL and TLR tires are constructed to keep the tire sealed. Putting the butyl liner in is supposed to make them easier to get the tire to initially seal and then hold the air at your desired pressure once sealed.  (While you shouldn’t need sealant to keep the tire sealed, you should use 30 grams of it to coat your tires and have a reservoir left to fill punctures.)

I wondered:

1) Is an RT/TL tire, with its butyl liner, any easier to inflate and seal than a TLR one?

2) Will the RT/TL tires hold air in the tire at your desired pressure longer than a TLR tire?

3) If the answers to those two questions are yes, is it worth adding 35 grams to each of your wheels to make your life a little easier?

To cut this very long chase, my answer to each of these questions is no.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a tire that is RT/TL, it just means you shouldn’t buy it because it is RT/TL.  There are other reasons why you might want to buy an RT/TL tire over a TLR one and take on the minor weight penalty.

To reach these conclusions, I attempted to inflate each tire on each rim first with a hand pump and, if that failed, then with a compressor.

To isolate the effectiveness of the butyl liner, I didn’t put any sealant in the tire before inflating it. This is normally the way I install a tubeless tire. I want to know that the beads are fully seated in the rim so after I do put the sealant in through the valve core, I’m confident that I’m not going to make a mess trying to inflate the tire.

As you can see from the results, my ability to get a tire to inflate and seal related more to whether I was working with a used tire or a new one and not whether it was RT/TL or TLR. As you might expect, a used tire stretches out a bit over the course of a couple hundred miles and that appeared to have made it easier for me to get them to seal than the ones I took right out of the box.

In my tests, the new Maxxis Padrone TR (a TLR tire) and the Zipp Tangente Speed RT needed a compressor to inflate and seal while the used TLR Schwalbe Pro One and RT/TL Yksion Pro UST went on with a hand pump.

I must add that this is more a guideline than a rule.  As you can see from the chart, I was able to get the Padrone to seal on one rim with a compressor but couldn’t get it to seal on the other even with a compressor. The mechanic in my shop could do it with a compressor.

Another interesting variation – Mavic ships its UST wheels with new UST tires already mounted. When I tried my first UST wheelset, a low profile set of Kysrium Elites, I sealed the front tire with a hand pump but it took a compressor to get the second one to pop the beads into place and hold the air.

You can get a good basic 100 to 130 psi compressor like these from Home Depot or Loews for $70 to $100.  That’s a bit more than the price of a couple of tires. Not a bad investment, especially if you do odd jobs around the house where a compressor would help or need something to blow the lint out of your belly button from time to time.

You also need to pick up the attachment to connect from the compressor for a Presta valve.  The one I use is the PrestaCycle PrestaFlator Mini Inflation Tool, Presta Valve that sells for $37 on Amazon.

If you need a new floor pump (and don’t want a compressor), you can also go with one that has a built-in reservoir to give you the equivalent of a high pressure, CO2 cartridge blast. The Topeak Joe Blow Booster Floor Pump available from Competitive Cyclist 10% off w/code ITKC10 or Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10 is a popular one but will cost you about the same as the compressor and Presta attachment

I still challenge myself to inflate and pop each new tubeless tire into place with a basic floor pump but it’s nice to have the compressor around if I can’t. After I get the tire set up, I add the sealant and then can will re-inflate and seal with just a floor pump.

Q3. How well do tubeless tires hold pressure?

Another belief about tubeless road tires is they don’t hold air as well as tubed ones.

My habit, and I think this is at least one good habit I have among many bad ones I’ll admit to, is to inflate my tires before going out on every ride.

But, do you need to? Or, do RT/TL tires with their butyl liner hold air better than a TLR type without one?

And, don’t tubed tires with a butyl inner tube hold air best of all? We know tires with latex tubes, while providing lower rolling resistance than those with butyl ones, don’t hold air very well at all.

Again, a simple test is illustrative.

I inflated a TLR Schwalbe Pro One, an RT/TL Zipp Tangente Speed RT28 and Mavic Ykison Pro UST, and a Conti Grand Prix 4000S II with a butyl tube to 80psi and checked each of them after 24 and 48hrs.

The Conti tubed tire lost about 1psi in 48 hours. The tubeless tires, regardless of type, each lost a psi or two every 24 hours. No, I didn’t ride any of these tires between measurements and my test wasn’t anything near a controlled lab experiment. But, if my tires are going to drop a psi or two every day or two just sitting there regardless of the type of tires they are, I’m going to take a minute to inflate them before I go out.

I suggest you do as well.

OK, enough for my fellow enthusiast advice and experimental results. Let’s hear from the pros.

Here are two videos that show some best practices for how to install modern tubeless road tires on tubeless ready rims. They take slightly different approaches, but both work.

This one from ENVE starts with a tubeless road rim and shows you how to tape it and then inflate and seat it before injecting sealant. That’s the approach I follow.

This next one from GCN starts with a pre-taped tubeless road rim and shows how to use sealant before inflating to help you seat your tire bead. This approach works too.


While not said in these videos, my research and experience suggest that 30ml of sealant is best for 25C and 28C tubeless road tires.  More than that gives you a much larger reservoir of sealant than you need to coat your wheel and have some in reserve for punctures and just sloshes around and adds unnecessary weight. Less than that and you’ll probably want to top off your sealant after any puncture rather than once every 3-4 months.

PERFORMANCE CRITERIA – WHAT MATTERS MOST

There are five criteria I have found matter the most in choosing between tires to create the cycling experience you want.  These are what I call the performance criteria.

1. Rolling resistance – Rolling resistance seems to be the most important decision criteria for many riders these days. It certainly is the most quantifiable. All things being equal you want a tire with the lowest rolling resistance number.

Simple, right? 11.6 watts of rolling resistance is better than 13.8 watts.

Well, rolling resistance tests don’t exist in a vacuum and a number that comes out will vary depending on a lot of factors. It will vary with tire width and inflation pressure. It changes based on the road surface you ride on and the testing surface used to emulate it. The width of the wheel you’ve mounted the tire on, the weight applied to the wheel, the speed at which you roll the wheel, the test equipment you use, the temperature you test at, and other environmental and testing protocol factors all affect the rolling resistance number that comes out.

Since we’re talking tubeless, we don’t have to worry about the effect of running different types of tubes (butyl, light butyl, latex).  But, does the amount and type of sealant affect rolling resistance?  Likely.

So, rolling resistance scores are more relative than absolute.

And now allow me to share the fortunately and unfortunately soliloquy I’ve been working through to give you an answer to which tire has the best rolling resistance, which is second best, etc.

Fortunately, there are some people who focus intensively on rolling resistance and other tire performance testing. They all appear to be thoughtful, qualified testers whose results you can learn from. I’ve worked through the published results of the first three mentioned below for the tires in this review to come up with some relative rolling resistance performance rankings.

Jarno Bierman at the site Bicycle Rolling Resistance (BRR) and the test lab at Tour Magazine (German language, subscription required) regularly conduct and publish independent tests of tire performance and make them available to readers of their sites.

Wheel Energy Laboratory also does rolling resistance and other testing for bike, motorcycle, ATV, UTV, and care tire company clients.  While they don’t publicly share their client data, they have conducted testing for a selection of bike tires brought to them by Velo News and Bike Radar for articles about rolling resistance published by those media outlets.

Jan Heine, whose company makes tires mostly for touring and off-road bikes, also tests tires and has developed a reputation and following for his testing methods and views on tire widths, inflation levels, and rolling resistance that is contrary to most everyone else. He wrote about them in this post of his Off The Beaten Path blog.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to relate the results that Jan Heine comes up with to the ones that the other three do. Considering Heine’s approach and findings, you are left with a kind of an either-or option.

You either are won over by his approach, buy-in completely to his results and throw out those from all the others evaluating tire performance or you acknowledge his views as interesting but hard to correlate with the principles and methods of the others.

My view is that Heine’s principles and testing approach may be more appropriate in evaluating tires for the touring and off-road riders he sells his tires to but not for road cycling enthusiasts like me and you. Also, I haven’t seen any data from him on the tires I’m reviewing for you here so I don’t have any results to compare or correlate with those that I do have data for.

BRR, Tour and Wheel Energy test a little differently and produce different absolute rolling resistance numbers.

For example, the popular 25C Schwalbe Pro One has a rolling resistance of 11.6, 12.8 and 14.8 watts at 100psi, 80psi, and 60psi inflation pressures respectively in BRR’s tests which are run with a 42.5 kg load at 18mph/29kph on a diamond plate drum using a 17C wide rim.

For the same tire, Wheel Energy comes up with a 30.2 watt rolling resistance at 80 psi but with a 50kg load on the tire rotating at 25mph/40kph on an unevenly rolling diamond plate drum using a 19C wide rim.

Tour uses an actual rough flat road surface and oscillates two wheels in a pendulum fashion loaded with 110kg of load which somehow translates to a combined rider and bike weight of 85kg traveling at 30kph. They come up with 67.4 watts of rolling resistance (or 33.7 watts per wheel) for this Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless tested at 6bar/87psi. They don’t specify the rim width on which they run the tests but judging from the wheels they tested at the same time, I’d expect it is 17C wide rim.

You still with me?

Unfortunately, all the tires that you or I might be interested in haven’t been tested by each of these three testers.  Fortunately, there’s some overlap between what they have tested and from that I can make some relative comparisons.

If the different tests and protocols produced different absolute results but the same relative rankings and similar percentage differences between various tires, I’d be ok with that.

Unfortunately, they don’t in all cases.

For example, the Schwalbe Pro One has a just slightly lower rolling resistance than the benchmark Continental Grand Prix 4000S II in the drum tests from BRR and Wheel Energy but a 10% higher absolute score in the Tour test. However, the relative positions of the tubeless tires are pretty consistent.

Sorry to put you through all of that but I just wanted to provide you some context and discourage you from picking a tire based a single published rolling resistance number or test ranking for a single source. Unfortunately, it’s just not that straightforward.

Alright, with that overly long health warning now delivered, here’s what I found.

The Schwalbe Pro One has the best rolling resistance of the everyday tubeless tires in this review for which there is solid comparative data. Regardless of where it ranks vs the benchmark tubed tire Continental GP4KS II, the Pro One beats the others that are in this review for which tests have been done on either the drum type tests that BRR and Wheel Energy do or the pendulum tests that Tour does.

But, but, but, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the Pro One and some of the others.

The rolling resistance of Maxxis Padrone TR and Mavic Yksion Pro UST are only about 4% more than the Pro One per different tests. That translates to between 0.5 and 1.3 watts of difference per tire depending on protocol.  Very little if any noticeable difference and not a compelling reason to choose one of these tires over another unless all other considerations are equal.

The advantage of these three tires to the IRC Formula Pro Tubeless RBCC, stretches out to 6-10% or 3 to 6 watts off the Pro One for two wheels in the worst case.  That’s starting to get noticeable.

I’ve only seen limited rolling resistance test data on the two other tires that I’ve included in this review – the Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless and the Specialized Roubaix Road Tubeless. The numbers I’ve seen on one test of the Tangente Speed RT is within striking distance of the Schwalbe and better than the Conti. And, the competitive rolling resistance results of other recently developed everyday tubed tires sold Zipp and Specialized are top shelf and suggest to me that they know how to create low rolling resistance tires.

The not so old Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance and Bontrager R3 TLR have been recently replaced by models with new compounds or construction or both. Neither of these companies has put out everyday tires under their own brand name with top-tier relative rolling resistance performance in the past so I’ll wait for independent test results to show up before suggesting them for your consideration.

[Interestingly, Hutchinson makes the Yksion Pro UST Tubeless for Mavic and the Tangente Speed Road Tubeless for Zipp which both outperform Hutchinson’s recently replaced Fusion 5 Performance model on rolling resistance. It may be that Mavic and Zipp contracted Hutchinson to come up compounds for each of these branded tires and got agreement from Hutchinson not to use the compounds it in its own tires now.]

By the way, if you are all about low rolling resistance, you should consider racing tires. Those like the Specialized S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless or Vittoria Corsa Speed Open TLR will dance the pants off the fastest everyday tires.

While they excel at speed, they lack the puncture resistance and durability of everyday tires. They have no puncture belt at all, use less durable cotton casings, and are amongst the thinnest tires you can find.  And, they are way expensive too.  All of this is why I don’t recommend them unless you are looking for a tire to race on pristine road surfaces every now and then.

2. Puncture resistance – Of course, one of the main reasons to go tubeless is for what is called puncture protection. I prefer the term puncture resilience, the ability of your tire to quickly recover from a puncture.

Unfortunately, the testers only evaluate what they call puncture resistance, the ability of a tire to initially resist a puncture.

Nearly all bike tires will puncture. The beauty of a tubeless tire is that the sealant will fill punctures almost without you knowing after a few revolutions of the wheel and with little pressure loss.

As my good luck would have it, I seldom puncture either tubed or tubeless tires. I do remember puncturing a tubeless tire on a 135-mile ride out in the middle of nowhere and the tire resealed so damn fast I could only tell I punctured from the quick hissing sound that interrupted my swearing after I ran over something evil on the road. I did notice what ended up being about a 10psi pressure loss that I refilled at the next stop.

BRR, Tour and Wheel Energy run puncture resistance tests that measure how much weight or how long it takes to puncture the bottom and sides of tires with pointy objects of known diameter (1mm and up).

These tests rate the Conti, Schwalbe, Maxxis and Mavic tires selected for my review with very similar puncture resistance and IRC’s tubeless tires as inferior to them.  No data on the Specialized or Zipp tires.

By my lights, puncture resistance testing essentially evaluates the strength of your puncture belt and the thickness of your side walls. They are probably helpful predicting the puncture resistance of tubed tires, but I don’t think they tell you anything about the puncture resilience of a sealant-filled tubeless tire.

A test that measured whether and how fast a tubeless bike tire resealed punctures of two or three different sizes in the bottom and side of the tire spinning at cycling speeds would be more useful in choosing between them. Another test that evaluated the effectiveness of different sealants would be a bonus.

I don’t know how to do those tests but I’m sure or at least hope that some smart tire engineer could come up with something that tests tubeless tire puncture resilience rather than mere resistance.

Of course, there are times when a puncture is so large that a sealant won’t do the job. Usually, that only happens with a good-sized gash in the side of the tire where there is no puncture belt. All but racing tires have puncture belts in their bottoms and the parts of their sides that come in regular contact with the road.

One of my readers commented several times about all the bad things he had heard and read about the Schwalbe Pro One as the primary reason not to buy a tubeless wheelset whose manufacturer recommends that tire.  He directed me to Amazon user reviews about the tire. I read through it and found some interesting trends in the comments. So off I went looking for similar threads with users reporting on their puncture and other experiences on other popular cycling forums for this tire and others in this tubeless review.

Cycling forums can be the equivalent of the dark web for product information.  You’ll find good people looking for answers to their knawing cycling gear problems, others sincerely trying to help from their personal but often narrow experience base, small shop owners responding with authority and answers that favor the brands they carry, people ranting about how they’ve been wronged by this company or that product, and legions of trolls giving you snarky, cynical, and unhelpful responses.

Using forums to get your questions answered can initially appear to be helpful until you start seeing contradictory suggestions that leave you uncertain about what to do. You evaluate the credentials of those responding to your query to try to judge the value of the suggestion while others come in. At some point it becomes frustrating and then you can get really pissed off at yourself for wasting your time thinking you could get something valuable by reading them.

Occasionally you do, and that’s why you go back. That was my hope, though I’ll say I’d have preferred to be out on my bike.

I found that there are far more comments and complaints about the Schwalbe Pro One than any of the other tires in this review. Perhaps because the others in this review are newer or less popular, there are actually very few comments I could find from users about them.

The rap against the Schwalbe Pro Ones on the forums appears to be that they cut and puncture too easily. I can’t tell if they actually cut and puncture more easily than other tires.

I got the sense that some of those who commented on the forum were quite aggressive with where they were riding the Pro Ones, perhaps assuming that since they are riding tubeless, they won’t puncture or gash if your ride them on almost any surface or road conditions. Other may have had the same issues riding on normal paved roads.

Testing shows that the Pro Ones (and Maxxis and Mavics) have essentially the same bottom and sidewall puncture resistance as the Conti GP4KS tires.

In the same way you might pick a Conti Gatorskin or Grand Prix 4 Season tubed tire to give you a tougher, longer lasting tire for any condition instead of the faster Grand Prix 4000S II tires, you can go with tubeless tires that are also tougher, etc. than those in this review

I wish I could be more definitive here but my experience, the experience of those I read about on forums, and the test results don’t allow me to rank the tires in this group on their puncture resilience.

Take it all with a huge grain of salt or perhaps, in this case, a 30ml syringe of sealant. At least the sealant should be effective in filling the holes you get in your tubeless tires if not the ones in this analysis.

3. Road feel – How the tire feels on the road is a very subjective evaluation criterion. Of the three test labs I’ve cited above, only Tour Magazine goes out of the lab and actually rides tires on the road. The other two don’t comment on handling, grip, comfort, road noise or any other aspects of the feel the tire gives you on the road.

(Note that Heine only tests on the road, but as mentioned earlier, to my knowledge he hasn’t tested the tires in this review and his methods are contrary to other testers to the point where I can’t correlate them)

There are all sorts of variables that can affect the feel of the tire on the road. The pressure you inflate the tire to, the kind of road surface you ride it on, how stiff or compliant the wheels are that you’ve mounted the tires on, and how straight/turny, flat/hilly, slow/fast, dry/wet, etc. the roads are that you ride on can all affect the road feel you experience.

So, yeah. Pretty subjective.

I don’t pretend to have the right formula or experience to tell you which is best.  I can only tell you what I experience doing the kind of riding I do.

I’m a B group rider (18-20 mph average) that does rolling terrain (+/-5%) during the week with more climbing (up to 10-12%) on longer weekend rides on mostly well maintained though not super smooth roads.  I’m lucky enough to have ridden these tubeless tires most of the time on carbon, 19C and 21C wheelsets with just a little roadwork using 17C alloy hoops.

I don’t purposely go out in the rain though I occasionally come back on wet roads, don’t race crits that require a lot of handling but do enjoy going fast down turny mountain roads and taking right and left-hand turns at speed.

Lately, I’ve been riding mostly 25C tubeless tires at 70 psi front and 75 psi rear, levels that I find are a good compromise between firm & fast (80/85psi) and cushy & super grippy (60/65psi) for my 150lbs/68kg weight. I do ride 28C occasionally at 5-10 psi lower and tubed 25C tires at 10psi higher. I also ride 23C tubed tires on 17C alloy wheels when testing those.

I’ve also incorporated input from my fellow testers Nate (A group ride leader, cat 3 racer) and Moose (200lbs/90kg+) and other reviewers whose independence and objectivity I trust to come up with my evaluation of the road feel, specifically the handling, grip, comfort, and road noise of these tires.

The good news is that all of these tires feel good on the road. The 25C Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless and Mavic Yksion Pro UST have the best overall road feel.

The handing is totally confident and the grip is sure on both of these tires. They are totally quiet (no road buzz) and comfortable without feeling posh at the pressures and with the wheelset sizes I tested them on.

I didn’t find the Yksion tires on 17C Mavic Ksyrium Elite alloy wheels particularly comfortable but my heavy tester Moose did. Was it the wheels or the tires?

In addition to the 25C, I rode a 28C Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless at 60 psi front and 65 psi rear, pressures that some of the all-in wide-tire, low-pressure Heine followers might think is high. The felt downright cushy comfortable and almost squishy in turns but didn’t feel particularly fast. Pumping them up 10 psi made them feel as fast and good on the road as the 25Cs did.

As you can see, it’s both subjective and subject to what wheels you put them on and what pressure you inflate them to.

The Schwalbe Pro Ones have “street cred” (pun intended) earned by being the first tubeless tire to break through the low rolling resistance numbers set by the iconic Conti Grand Prix 4000S II tubed tire.  They still feel fast and handles well but I noticed a definitive buzz riding them after rolling on the other tires in this review.

I’d ridden Pro Ones at 23C, 25C and 28C widths over the last few years and never noticed the buzz before. At first, I thought one of my rotors was rubbing against a caliper. That wasn’t it.

Reinstalling the tires and putting in new sealant didn’t change things. It just may be that I never noticed it before. After riding the other tubeless tires for this review, I did. I’ve experienced this with a few tubed tires over the years and was now hearing it with the Pro Ones. This was a real negative. On a group ride with all the focus, communication, and shifting going on within the group, I hardly notice it but on my own, I did.

IRC’s Formula Pro Tubeless RBCC is all about the handling. It feels super grippy and like riding on rails. It’s not quite as comfortable as the others though, perhaps because of whatever they put in the compound to make it grippy also makes it less supple.

The Maxxis Padrone is a comfortable tire on the road but doesn’t handle as confidently as the others. While the size rating (“25C”) is the same as the others, it’s narrower and a little less full or square sitting in the rim. Perhaps being a mm or two narrower than the others once mounted and inflated, while providing a better aero profile, makes for slightly less confident handling.

Finally, the Specialized Roubaix tires seem plenty grippy but not as comfortable and a little sluggish in handling.  These run even narrower than the Padrone and that may affect their handling ability and certainly their comfort relative to the wider tires on test.

4. Aerodynamics – When road wheels first went deep and aerodynamics became a differentiator in cycling performance, most wheelset decisions were made on the basis of aerodynamics and weight. When the two were in conflict, aero proved to be more important in speed and time measurements in nearly every situation except mountain climbing.

As for tires, testing demonstrated and patents validated that they should be narrower than the rims they were mounted on to get the lowest drag coefficients when riding at aero speeds.

Now that deep wheels and tires have gone both wider and tubeless, the range of tire models and width choices has expanded and trade-offs between comfort, handling, and speed have made tire selection more challenging.

The added comfort of wider and especially tubeless wheels and tires is undeniable and worth making a big part of any tire decision.

The kind of riding I and I think most road cycling enthusiasts do doesn’t make handling a priority above comfort or speed. We generally aren’t racers turning at high speeds in criterium courses and, unless commuting, don’t find ourselves out riding in the rain all that often. Most tires will handle plenty well enough for our riding. That said, the added confidence wider and less inflated tubeless tires offer is welcome.

When it comes to a tire’s contribution to your speed, the rolling resistance component gets a lot of attention from testers. Tire marketers use the numbers to proclaim the superiority of their models.

But when you are riding at aero speeds, basically at least 18mph/29kph on average and 20mph/32kph and above at any point during your ride, a tire’s rolling resistance matters less than the wheel and tire’s combined aero performance, the other contributor to tire speed.

Having written an entire post a few years ago that aims to help my fellow enthusiasts decide what tire width to get knowing their rim width and the relative priority of comfort, handling, and speed, I feel compelled to update it here.

In brief, most wheelsets are designed for 25C tires these days. And, while the discussion a couple years ago was about whether to run 23C or 25C on the then new breed of 17C wide wheelsets, it’s now about whether to run 25C or 28C tires on the now new breed of 19C and 21C wheelsets.

In general, go with 25C tires if you are using a 19C and 21C wheelset and perhaps 28C tires on a 21C rim if the wheel maker recommends it as the most aero setup.

Of course, two tires with the same “C” number won’t measure the same width when mounted and inflated on the same rims. There’s just no standard for tire width. And know that a 25C tire almost never measures 25mm once mounted and inflated so please don’t equate the C size with actual width. Depending on the internal width of the rim you are mounting the tire on, most will measure 1 to 2mm wider than the C designation.

The C size on rims is much more accurate, typically within 0.25mm in my measurement of many rims.

I’ll say more about how the tubeless tires in this review size up in a moment. First, here’s some interesting data and perspective from a few aero wheel makers on the relationship between tires and wheels and the performance of the combination that goes into their product design.

DT Swiss in collaboration with their aerodynamics partner Swiss Side published a data-rich explanation of their approach to designing their wheelsets to optimize drag, handling and efficiency (which they define as the combination of comfort, grip and rolling resistance).

The major takeaways for me:

  • At aero speeds,
    • drag increases by 5 to 10% going from a 25C to a 28C Continental GP4000S tire depending on yaw angle
    • drag differences between several wheelsets that compete on aero performance are far smaller than those from tire width differences at the -10 to +10 degree yaw angles where roadies spend most of their riding time
    • At the same pressure, a 28C Conti will have lower rolling resistance than a 25C by 5% or less between 6bar/87psi and 7bar/102psi. Reducing the pressure increases rolling resistance by a far smaller percentage within this pressure range
  • A wider tire provides better grip and better pinch flat protection at the same pressure.
  • A wider rim supports the same tire better and provides better handling

So wider rims and tires offer better grip, handling, and rolling resistance than narrower ones when both are inflated to the same pressure.

Below aero speeds, the benefit of lower rolling resistance from a wider tire outweighs the benefit of lower drag from a narrower tire. Once you start riding at aero speeds, the relationship reverses and you get more benefit from the reduced drag of the narrower tires. The faster you go, the relative benefit you get from the narrower tire increases.

ENVE’s Jake Pantone tells me that their “3.4,4.5, 5.6, 7.8 are all designed to be run w/25c tires. These tires, when inflated to 90psi, will measure 27-28.2mm. This is intentional and results in better laminar flow for aero efficiency and stability, but also more volume in the tire generally means better rolling efficiency.”

Note that with the exception of the slightly narrower 4.5 rim brake wheelset, all the wheels he mentions are tubeless compatible, their internal rim widths vary from 19C to 21C and their external widths from 27.5mm to 29.0mm.

The unique 25C internal, 31.0mm front and 30.5mm rear external width 4.5 AR road disc wheelset per Pantone “was a specific development to create an aerodynamic platform for high volume (28c) road tires. As a base test tire, we always have used Conti GP4000, granted this isn’t a tubeless tire, but we needed to use this tire to get an accurate comparison between all the other wheels we’ve developed and tested over the years.”

He continued “The 4.5AR’s aero performance is maximized when used with a 28mm (labeled) tire. We know/calculated into the design that a 28mm labeled tire will stretch or measure 30-31mm depending on the tire and how it’s measured. So, in other words, the aero performance is optimized with a tire that measures 30mm when it’s inflated and on the rim.”

Zipp adopted the so-called 95% rule for their breakthrough Firecrest toroid rim designs at the beginning of this decade.  The rule stated that tire widths should be no more than 95% of the rim width.

Over the years, leading wheel designers including HED, Easton, and Reynolds recommended tires widths that were consistent with this “rule”. As I detailed in my post on this topic that I referred to earlier in this section, Easton’s research with 15 different tires on their EC90 Aero 55 clincher wheelset showed that time savings increased as tire widths decreased well below 95%.

With the evolution to wider tires and rims and the knowledge gained over many rim and tire development cycles tires since the Firecrest, Zipp representatives tell me they “have moved beyond that rule.”

They haven’t shared with me what the new rule is or if there even is one but clearly, as the saying goes “it’s complicated.”

Relative tire and rim width is certainly part of the mix but wheel makers now incorporate a greater appreciation of other factors like rolling resistance, handling, inflation pressures, sidewall support and who knows what else in recommending tire widths for their rims.

To the extent you want to consider relative tire and rim widths in selecting the fastest tires, and the data from DT Swiss/Swiss Side and ENVE and all that has come before that I detailed in my earlier post suggests you absolutely should, I offer the following on the tubeless tires reviewed for this post.

My measurements of tires on the rims I mounted for this review and others I’ve evaluated over time shows quite a disparity in tire widths.

The 25C Schwalbe Pro One is the fat boy in this bunch and likely to be wider than the outside width once mounted on most rims.  It’s not going to be a good aerodynamic choice.

At my standard measurement inflation pressure of 80psi for tubeless tires, it expands to about 26.5mm on a 17C rim, 28.5mm on a 19C and 29.1mm on a 21C.  Those will be well or just beyond the external widths of most rims that size.

The 25C IRC Formula Pro Tubeless RBCC also tend to run quite wide at 26.2mm on a 17C rim. Most 17C rims aren’t going to have an external width more than 25mm.  At the same time, however, most of the newer tubeless wheels designed with an aero depth and profile in mind are going to be 19C or wider on the inside width dimension.

On the flip side, the Specialized Roubaix Road Tubeless 23/25C measures only 24.3mm on a 21C wide wheelset. In this tire’s size specification, the 23 refers to the tread width and 25 is the casing width. While likely the most aerodynamic combination with a 17C, 19C or 21C wheelset, it won’t have the rolling resistance of a wider 25C tire. So, you need to have aero performance as your clear priority.  Note, Specialized only makes this tire in the 23/25C size.

The 25C Maxxis Padrone TR, Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless, and Mavic Yksion Pro all measure closer to the 1.5mm to 2.0mm wider than the C dimension. On a 19C or 21C wheelset that sports a 26.5mm to 29.0mm external width, these tires will measure less than or close to the rim’s width.

For what it’s worth, the Conti GP4KS tire that designers have been using for years as the benchmark for their aero testing measures wider than most of its other non-tubeless tire brethren. Among the more popular everyday road tires, only the Schwalbe measures wider in my experience.

If wheel makers are designing and testing their tubeless wheelsets using the Conti for CFD and aero testing as DT Swiss and ENVE have stated and I suspect many others are doing, you are probably in good shape aerodynamically with all but the Schwalbe or IRC tires in this review.

I give you these guidelines, examples, and this 1000-word section on tire-rim aerodynamics to help you navigate to the right choice for your situation.  I pray that you won’t send me with your “how aero” questions about your wheelset and the tires you are considering.  I’m just not equipped to answer them and do other reviews, ride my bike, do my job, and even see my family from time to time. OK? Thanks.

5. Durability – Not having ridden any of these tires but the Schwalbe for more than 1,000 miles, I can’t really offer my own opinion of the relative durability of this group of tubeless tires. None have been obvious fails in my experience and the Schwalbes I and others I know have ridden have held up well.

As I wrote earlier, there is a netherworld of commentary on the Schwalbe Pro One tubeless in various reader forums.

I would summarize the user feedback you can find there on the durability question as follows – they don’t last as long as people would like.

Whether that’s a sound finding or kinda what you’d expect, I’ll leave that to you to decide. I’ll also note that I’ve read and heard much the same thing about the Conti GP4KS II tires over the years.

There are many users who report on forums that they get 2500 or so miles out of the Pro Ones and many others that say they theirs haven’t lasted nearly as long and the tires cut and puncture much more often than other tubeless tires they’ve used.  The IRCs have a reputation for being a longer lasting, more cut resistant alternative.


I wish I could offer you a relative ranking on this topic of durability.  While I and most roadies I know are frugal and are always looking for a good deal, I will pick a better performing everyday tire over a longer lasting one that doesn’t perform as well.

PRICE – THE CRITERIA THAT MATTERS TO ALL ROADIES

In The Know Cycling supports you and your fellow enthusiasts by doing hours of independent and comparative analysis to find the best road cycling gear and kit to improve your riding experience.

You support us and save yourself money and time by buying anything at all through the links to stores we’ve picked for their low prices and high customer satisfaction. These stores pay us a small commission when you buy there after clicking on these links. Thank you. 

Read more about who we are, what we do and why.

Ah yes. Price. It’s where many of us start when choosing between road cycling gear. I put it last in this review of tubeless bike tires because the absolute price differences between tires are relatively small compared to almost any other type of cycling gear that plays such a big part in the enjoyment I get from cycling.

That said, we don’t want to leave money on the table, do we? Especially if it’s money we could save for or spend on other gear or even use at the café on a great ride.

With that in mind, here are the links to stores I’ve found that have the best prices and recommend because of their top customer satisfaction ratings.

IRC Formula Pro Tubeless RBCC – List price USD$89. Find at Amazon, JensonUSA, Tree Fort Bikes

Mavic Yksion Pro UST – List price USD$80. Best prices at Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10BikeTiresDirect

Maxxis Padrone TR – List price USD$85. Best prices at Amazon, JensonUSA, Tree Fort Bikes, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10

Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless – List price USD$85. Best prices at Competitive Cyclist 10% off w/code ITKC10, Amazon, Chain Reaction Cycles, Merlin.

Specialized Roubaix Road Tubeless – List price USD$90. Best prices at UK/EU Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Cyclestoreonly at local bike shops in other regions/countries

Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless – List price USD$74. Best prices at Competitive CyclistAmazon, eBay, UK/EU Bike24

* * * * *

Thank you for reading.  Please let me know what you think of anything I’ve written or ask any questions you might have in the comment section below.

If you’ve gotten some value by reading this post or any of the reviews or comments on the site and want to keep new content like this coming, click on the links and buy at the stores they take you to.  You will save money and time while supporting the creation of independent and in-depth gear reviews at the same time.  If you prefer to buy at other stores, you can still support the site and new posts by taking a pull here.  Thank you.

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Thanks and enjoy your riding safely!


Related Reviews


 

39 comments

  • This article couldn’t come at a better time. Thanks!
    I just made to leap to a tubless ready carbon wheel set. I bought the ‘Best Value’ Fulcrum Racing Quattro you recommended in a previous review. I’ve only got a couple hundred K on them but I can say the are vastly superior to the stock wheels (Giant PR-2 Disc) that came with the bike. It’s the first time I’ve coasted down one of my regular hills and exceeded 60 KMH.
    I’m currently running the last new set of Conti 4000 S-II (25 MM) I had in my parts locker. I’ll replace the Conti’s with one of your recommended tires when the new tires show some wear.

  • Steve,

    Thanks for the writeup! Only thing you didn’t mention was carrying a plug kit, for on-road repairs of cuts that won’t seal. I’ve been using Dynaplug Micro Pro kit, its a small pill shaped metal case that includes self-sealing plugs, a small knife, and an air stopper to temporarily seal cut while you prepare to use the plug. That has saved me twice from having to use an inner tube on larger cuts that wouldn’t seal. My underseat bag still has an inner tube and boot, and I’ve had to use that to repair a sidewall cut so if you go tubeless don’t stop carrying the essentials.

    I’ve had good experience with Specialized S-Works Turbo Pro Tubeless in 26mm paired to ENVE 5.6 Disc wheels – perfect fit for aero. The S-Works retail for $100 and I’ve got 2100 miles on one – 1300 miles rear, 800 miles front – and it is still going strong. About 7 miles into the very first ride on S-Works they were cut, and initially I had trouble getting the 3/16″ cut on rear tire to seal. Thankfully I was with a tubeless vet, he forced me to be patient for 5 minutes and it sealed. The S-Works have “BlackBelt” flat protection, not sure why you stated in text they don’t have puncture belt. BikeRadar has a 2017 roundup with rolling resistance data, these are comparable to Conti GP4KSII tires.

    My other S-Works tire is retired – it had 1300 miles on it when a rock caused a sidewall cut. I replaced it with the Schwalbe Pro One, and after 500 miles the Pro One got a small 2/16″ (exactly) cut on the center tread and it wouldn’t seal. Twice I thought it sealed, and then within 10 feet of rolling it started leaking again. Ended up having to use a Dynaplug to finish ride – better than putting an inner tube in it. Somewhat ironically a year earlier I had a sidewall cut with GP4KSII on the same road / group ride. That ride has two areas that are like the Bermuda triangle for flats!

    FWIW in my experience the S-Works Turbo Pro Tubeless and Schwalbe Pro One have about the same puncture resistance. Both will seal up tiny cuts, say a cut from a wire or a goat head. And both struggle sealing up 1/8′ – 1/4″ cuts although I’ve only had one incident so far with Schwalbe and based on “a sample of one” the S-Works sealed better on a cut that 1/16″ longer. However I don’t think its fair to extrapolate from a sample of one, so I’d say its a draw on puncture resistance. And a lesson to carry a plug kit.

    Thanks again, and look forward to any additional tubeless tires like Panaracer that you might add in the future.

    -B

  • I’ve watched other cyclists fixing flats on tubeless tires. Maybe they just weren’t good at it, but it was very time consuming and messy. I’m sticking with standard clinchers and tubes for now.

    • I’d say 90-95% of my “flats” seal without having to stop, or even knowing it happened until after the ride when I hang up my bike and notice a few drops of sealant on the seat tube. West of the Mississippi there are a lot of goat heads, and I’ve gone from 2-3 flats a month to 0 flats from goat heads. The reason I went tubeless is because I laugh off goat heads, while others on the ride are forced to stop. Even my buddies that swear by Gatorskins end up flatting from goat heads.

      Sometimes I have to stop, as I can feel sealant hitting the backs of my legs for 5-10 seconds. If there isn’t anything to remove, and simply bubbling a little sealant, I rotate the tire and point the cut down. Within 30-60 seconds it usually seals, but I’ve had to wait a couple minutes. If that doesn’t seal then I pull out my plug kit, plug it, cut off the end of the plug, and ride on. On a metric century this winter, a chunk of metal left a fairly good size (1/4″) cut and “another tubeless miracle” it sealed up enough at 30-40psi to ride the final 10 miles home without changing the tube (it was 35 degrees out and dusk was approaching).

      I’ve had a sidewall cut, and yeah its a little messy but its almost the same amount of time to install the inner tube and boot. Takes an extra minute or two to rub my hands together and clean off the Orange Seal.

  • You’ve missed the ‘ how easily does a tubeless tyre come off the rim ‘ test . Every model I’ve tried has been a massive pain to remove

    • Jonathan, I was able to remove the tires I evaluated and the ones I’ve had over the years without great difficulty. Yes, it is more difficult than removing a tubed tire and does take a good deal of thumb pressure to break the seal between the tire and the rim but I’ve not had to use any tools. Steve

      • I’ll bet removal difficulty is based on the particular wheel, and a bit of technique. With my tubeless ready/optimized wheels, removing Conti clincher tires is the same level of difficulty as removing all 3 tubeless tires I’ve owned.

  • There is a rumour in Europe that Conti is about to release its first tubeless ‘GP4000’!

  • Thanks for the EXCELLENT article Steve!!! Awesome as always.

    I have been waiting for this article prior to investing for the first time in high quality wheels as I wanted to make sure not to spoil my experience on expensive wheels with the wrong tires. Can’t wait to get the new gear and take it for a spin!

    I let many thoughts process through my brain over the last few days since I read this review as I wanted to share several of my experiences within this comment. Sorry in advance for its length. I am writing my summary first as most people will not want to slosh through my entire thesis.

    SUMMARY:

    “I realize that most people will find my long rambling to be of little value, but if only one “newbie” road cycling enthusiast reads this and it encourages them to put in the effort to make smart equipment and training choices, then it will have been worth the effort it took to write it. My strategy… read everything you can at In The Know Cycling, pay attention, invest and train smart, work hard and never give up!!”

    Now my general comments:

    I will be purchasing the ENVE 4.5 AR wheels and will match them up with the Schwalbe Pro One 25C tires (I read a post where the 28C Schwalbe’s were 31 mm at 60 psi and therefore not likely very aero). Although ENVE suggests 28C tires with this wheel, the fact that the Schwalbe’s are “fat boys” means (I hope) that the 25C will probably be about right aero wise. Based on your measurement of the 25C tires being 29mm actual width on 21C wheels, I suspect that they will be about 30 mm actual on the 25C 4.5 AR wheels. If they come out at 29 mm that would be even better I think. Hoping for 29 – 30 mm. Will know for sure when I mount and air them up. If they come up over 30 mm then I will be in the market for another set of tires. Oh well… live and learn. 😀

    As an engineer, I really like hard data, but know that it cannot always be available. Your combination of multiple hard data sources (well vetted) when available and road trialing with multiple rider opinions greatly fill in the gaps for me and allow me to make good decisions in the equipment purchases and training processes I choose.

    I am hopeful that BRR will make the investment in a testing device with a larger roller, realistic road surfaces, and ballistic gel as the mass load so that the “new world” concepts that combine tire width, pressure, road conditions and suspension losses can be unified with hard data. For sure, I would be glad to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign, as I suspect a lot of other road cycling enthusiasts would be willing to support the capital needed to create a more meaningful test rig to better quantify and help cyclists make even better wheel/ tire choices. BRR are you listening? Steve – do you want to get into the tire testing business?? 🙂

    My personal experience is that running tires at lower pressures (of course you shouldn’t go too low) has a net positive effect on my average riding speed. A decrease of 20 psi (to 75 front/ 80 rear from 95/ 100) to my tire pressures increased my average speed about 0.2 mph at the same average power and with far more comfort (this was on 25C/ 26.5 mm actual width tubeless tires). I did the rides three times each and alternated between the higher and lower pressures on subsequent days with similar temp and wind conditions on the same route (actually took me more than two weeks to complete to get somewhat similar environmental conditions, and granted not possible to get identical). This is not a scientific test but it was very apparent to me that the “direction” the results were favorable even though the quantifiable speed effect would most likely fit within the error band of the test method. i.e. not scientifically conclusive. But even if there is no speed difference, the added comfort without a speed penalty would make the lower tire pressures worthwhile for me.

    Also, I do not do any high speed cornering on my training route (no down hills with sharp corners – this is central Ohio), so not sure if the tires with lower pressures would feel “squishy” when cornering at speeds near the limit of tire traction or if an aggressive rider would risk some type of bad outcome in high speed corners at the pressures I prefer to ride at. For my riding… 24-26 mph max speed and no cornering at the limit of tire traction, the handling feels fine to me. Anyone reading this should take my anecdotal insights with a grain of salt, and rely on the far more experienced ITKC’s comments on appropriate tire pressures.

    I also find that I can more consistently maintain my power level over a standard two hour/ 34 mile training ride when the tires are at the lower pressures. As a guess, for me at least, the reduction in suspension losses and more comfortable ride combines to be a net benefit to me vs. the higher tire rolling resistance normally associated with lower tire pressures. Perhaps it is the higher hysteresis losses of my “squishier” 66 year old body that makes the difference – ROFL!

    Though my training goals vary with each ride, my typical two hour training ride will have an average power of 82 to 90% of FTP and my normalized power will be 88 to 95% of FTP.

    I currently ride a Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 (GDAP0) with stock SLR One wheels on Gavia AC 1 25C tires (6-3, 157 pounds 75 psi front – 80 psi rear, 26.5 mm actual width). As these are stock tires with no reliable rolling resistance data that I could find, I have to believe that the Schwalbe’s will be at least 2 watts better per tire (hopefully more… 3 or 4?). That is 4 watts (maybe 6 or 8?) reduced rolling resistance for me!! Woot, Woot!

    By the way, the rear hub ratchet on the stock SLR One wheel is very noisy when coasting (which is rare on my mostly flat rides). I wonder why they made that choice? Hoping that the AR 4.5 rear wheel has a quieter ratchet in the hub.

    This summer my average speed is running ½ mph faster than last season. This is partly due to a very modest but real 5 watt improvement in FTP and a reduction in body wind resistance (lowered handlebars 20 mm and working to spend a higher percentage of time with bent elbows, especially when riding into a headwind). I am now about ½ mph below the traditional aero limit of 18 mph ave speed. I figure that another 10 – 12 watts of combined lower wind/ rolling resistance and greater FTP will get me there. So maybe half way there with the Schwalbe tires and just need another 5 or 6 watts of FTP. Oh, but that 5 or 6 watts of FTP gain is going to be painful!! Yikes! 😀

    Two years ago when I retired and took up road cycling as both a hobby and to maintain my physical conditioning, I was averaging less than 12 mph on 10 mile rides (totally exhausted after only 10 miles). After some reading about what should be possible at my age, I set a goal of 18 mph for a 25 mile ride. And I must admit that I was far from optimistic but none the less decided to give it a go. I have since been able to achieve that goal in perfect conditions (nearly flat route, very low wind), so this year upped my goal to 18 mph as typical average for my 34 mile training route. Incremental improvements have kept me motivated. Without seeing the results of my efforts as I went, no doubt I would have given up long ago.

    It wasn’t long after I started riding that I found “In The Know Cycling” while exploring the internet and started to read Steve’s reviews. Today, with ITKC’s help (thank you Steve), more equipment investment than I want to admit (or explain to my wife) and more training effort than I thought I was capable of (we can all do more than we think), it seems genuinely possible to me that I can reach my new goal and to truly be able to take advantage of the ENVE 4.5’s aero benefit. Maybe this season… maybe next, as difficult challenges never come easy.

    I have learned that I need to be very careful to validate anything I read at other cycling review sites and especially pay very little attention to product suppliers’ promotional materials. In The Know Cycling is the place to be for serious road cyclists!

    Thanks Steve for allowing me to benefit from your great ITKC reviews!

    Wheldon

    • Wheldon,

      For safety and aero reasons, measure your chainstay clearance before picking up the ENVE 4.5AR. The ENVE specs call for 40mm clearance as detailed here: https://enve.com/ses-4-5-ar-tire-clearance-notice/ and one of the primary reasons is in case something gets kicked up from road into that (narrow) space.

      The ETRTO standard EN14781 calls for 4mm of clearance, the rear 4.5AR rim is 30.5mm, and then add 4mm to each side and you have 38.5mm assuming the tire is as wide as rim. There are safety standards for rim/tire too, I’d suggest going for ENVE recommendations on chainstay clearance, tire size (28 or 30), max tire pressure (no more than 80psi), and tire type (tubeless ready only).

      Also echo Steve’s comments on coach or training plans. I’ve done several plans and settled on TrainerRoad.

      Hope that helps!

      -B

  • Wheldon, Congrats on the progress you’ve made and happy you’ve benefited from some of my posts. I won’t comment on everything you wrote but did want to suggest two things.
    – If you are going with the ENVE 4.5 AR, I suggest you go with a “narrower” 28C tire than a fat 25C. You won’t lose rolling resistance reduction of the wider tire and can still have an aero set up when you are going aero speeds. I also think the shape of a 25C tire on that 25C rim might make for less than optimal handling with low pressures. The 28C Maxxis Padrone were narrower than the rim when I tested them with the AR. I’d think the Zipp and Mavic would also be.
    – I’d also suggest you get a coach or pre-packaged training plan. Riding the same route in the same power range much of the time is not a great recipe for improvement. A better training plan can make a lot bigger improvement than 3-4 watts of gear improvement here and there.
    Steve

  • Steve – first time site finder but I’ve been reading for a few hours now! I’m looking at new tubeless wheels for my disc braked road bike which is mostly used for commuting (e. 15 miles each way) on UK (read poor surface) roads! I was thinking 28C for comfort and my rim options are (a) 28mm external width with 21mm internal width or (b) 25m external width with 18mm internal width. I am tempted to go for the wider rims with 28c tyres but with the ability to use the rims with 25c tyres if I find the 28s hard to get hold of / markedly slower. I’d appreciate your advice!! Thanks…..

  • Hi Mark

    I have a disc braked Trek Domane that came with 32c tyres. When these needed replacing I went tubeless (Shwalbe Pro 1) with 28c on 19.5mm internal diameter rims. Obviously the Domane has the built in comfort features but these tyres cope well with poor roads in the UK, especially with recent road dressing. I run 25c tyres on another bike but I find that 28c hits the sweet spot in terms of comfort and speed. In fact, since going tubeless I’m going a bit faster!

  • Miloslav Sirovy

    Hi,
    thank you for interesting article. I have new 303 NSW Tubeless Disc brake wheels and tires Tangente Speed (and Tangente Course but I will go for Speed as you recommend it). I would like to ride it tubeless. Which sealent do you recommend?
    Thank you,
    Miloslav

    • Miloslav, I’ve only ever used Stan’s No Tubes Tire Sealant which you can get in 16 or 32 oz containers here at Amazon. For those tires, you need 1 oz or 30 ml per tire. You might also want to the sealant injector syringe here . Steve

  • Steve, hi !
    I agree the Schwalbe Pro Ones are very wide, too wide for my frame on my new Zipp 303 NSW tubeless rims at 19mm internal.
    My question is : Why not run a 23 mm Schwalbe which should come out at approx. 26 mm wide?
    It seems like a perfect size for a 26.5 mm wide rim.
    Am I missing something?
    Is this too small for a reason I don’t comprehend?
    This is a great article and I am forwarding it to my tubeless road friends.
    Thanks ! Dave

    • Dave, I guess you could do that but the tires may be too round rather than square. You want the tire sidewalls supported by the rim so that they share the same width as far down the sidewall as possible rather than stretching across the rim and looking like semi-circles. I tried this once and the handling was horrible.

      I’d expect the Zipp tires are ideal for the 303 NSW – I’ve run the RT 25 on the 303 NSW disc which is 21C and they come in at 26.9 with a rim that is about 29.0 at the “brake track”. I haven’t gotten my hands on the 303 NSW rim but at 19C, but I’d expect the RT 25 would be right on. Zipp thinks these things through. They are also a lot quieter than the Schwalbe and have nearly the same rolling resistance. Steve

  • Thanks for your great post Steve.

    As a total noob to tubeless can you please inform whether overtime sealant needs to be topped up or replaced.
    Also is there any special considerations needed when replacing a tubeless tire after its useful live has expired? Any special cleanup procedures?
    Lastly, if the tire deflates completely (say to lack of use for a month) will the tire simply seal again upon re-inflation?

    Cheers Si.

    • Si, Good idea to check your sealant level every 3-6 months. You have to pop the tire bead from the rim, open up the tire enough to see that you have a 1 oz or so puddle in bottom, add if needed, reseal and inflate tire. No special clean-up of tire or sealant needed. Re-inflating depends on why it deflated. If the bead is still sealed, should re-inflate. If bead pulled away, may need to be resealed before reinflating. Steve

  • Hi Steve great reviews! I am considering the zipp targente RT25 on my Hed Ardennse plus SL rims. What will be the actual tire widths of these on my rims?

    Also would like to echo Weldon on your excellent impartial and thourogh evaluations on every thing cycling! Thank You!

    • Alex, Thanks for your kind words. I’ve not measured those tires on those wheels but have measured them on other wheels with the same 21C internal width. At 80psi, the tires measure 26.9mm. Steve

    • Steve just read your profile section of the article…..just read your “Recomedations sectipn” initially. Dug through the entire article and found my answer! Shouldve known to look further! Thx

  • Hey Steve,
    I just picked up the enve 4.5 set for rim brakes. The salesman at the bike shop made an error, said they are compatible with tubeless tires and went ahead and put vittoria corsa graphene on. For some reason I had doubts about them being tubless compatible since I probably read that at some point during my research into various wheel sets. So I went home and quickly confirmed that they in fact made an error. Now I have to go back and deal with them removing and cleaning the brand new wheel set.

    I’m a recreational rider and decided to go with the 4.5 over the new 3.4 since I don’t do quite enough climbing in and around NYC. The speed might be more beneficial for my lifestyle and based on your reviews the 4.5 seems to be plenty good enough as an all around wheel set for rolling hills and some climbs.

    However, should I consider exchanging the 4.5 for the 3.4 since they are “newer”, tubeless compatible and so on? Aside from the practical reasons I do happen to love the look of the 4.5.

    Hope to get some quick feedback since I have to go back to the shop today and tell them how I’d like to resolve this issue.

    Thanks

    • Jesse, That’s incredible. Honestly, I’d return them and get your money back. Any store that sells a set of wheels and doesn’t even know what tires to put on, let alone tubeless vs. tubed, isn’t a store I’d do business with, especially at the price of those wheels. What’s the benefit of buying something from a bike shop if they don’t know their product? I’m coming out with new reviews all the time and unless the money is burning a hole in your pocket, I’d take another lap or two around the site over the next couple months and get a little more familiar with what would suit you best. Read or reread this one to help you figure it out ROAD BIKE WHEELS – HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FOR YOU. Steve

  • Steve,

    As the season winds down, do you have a recommendation for good autumn/winter tyres?

    • Brian, if you are riding the same roads as you do in spring and summer don’t know that I’d recommend anything different. Just make sure you top off your sealant. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    I am using Hutchinson Fusion 5 , 11 Storm , Performance TLR. They weigh 238-245 grams, very easy to mount w/ hand pump and remove easily as well on Zipp 303 NSW tubeless wheels.
    Perform well compared to the other high end tubed clinchers you have named.
    No flats in 100o miles, I carry a tube, dyna-plug, valve cores +remover, and self stick patches + a Park tire boot. When I am going light I just take the dyna-plug and CO2 in my jersey pocket.
    I think these tires are possibly the same as Zipp Tangente TL and Mavic UST tubeless, at a much better price.

  • Dave, Hutchinson makes a TLR and TR version of the F5 11S tubeless tire. Sounds like you’ve got the TLR version, their reference number PV527721. This is the race tire without a Kevlar puncture belt. The other is the F5 11S TR or “road tubeless” version, PV527671 with the Kevlar puncture belt which Hutchinson claims weights 315 grams. The list price is $75.

    As I mentioned in the review, Hutchinson does make the Zipp and Mavic tires reviewed above which retail at about the same price. They both weigh marginally less than the weight Hutchinson quoted and they look different in both their tread pattern and molding. The F5 11S TR came out after I did my testing for this review

    From talking with people associated with both Zipp and Mavic, my understanding is that both of these tires use the 11Storm compound and that each company had input into the tire design to give them something unique. I haven’t seen rolling resistance tests on the F5 11S TR yet but imagine it will also perform well.

    Thanks for your comment. I’ll pick up a pair of these and test them out. Since I don’t race and but do ride rough roads, I favor tires with puncture belts rather than the lighter TLR ones. In addition to the CO2, valve core remover and a tube I already carry, perhaps I should also carry patches, boot or a dynaplug (why do you carry all three?). I’m generally comfortable going a little heavier with a kevlar belt TL or road tubeless tire than going with the lighter TLR without the belt and worrying about having to patch the bottom. If the side cuts, I’ll be ready with a tube. I’ve never had to use one for myself. I have started to carry a 1 oz bottle of sealant too, in case I get a puncture and hadn’t kept my tire sealant filled. It happened to a friend of mine and would have been a whole lot easier to just put more sealant in than put a tube in. Cheers. Steve

    • Steve,
      My friend has the Mavic Ust Yksion sp?
      Tires that came with his new Mavic carbon tubeless wheels. They seem almost identical and weigh the same as my Hutchinson’s. I think you are correct about the Kevlar puncture belt as they are very light.
      We have some bad roads here in Northern Michigan and I haven’t had a picture yet.

      I do carry too much repair items although it is all thought out and light. The boot weighs nothing as do the patches. Valve cores , because I have had some plug up with sealant. Extender in case I have a really bad day and have to borrow a second tube.
      In reality I probably fine with the co2 and dynaplug .

      Thanks for your articles! I bought the Zipp 303 NSW after your reviews, I love them .
      And if you have any tricks to make braking a bit quieter let me know.
      Both Zipp and Enve agree the braking on there wheels is noisy but say that’s the price we pay for very safe , reliable braking.
      Thanks, Dave

  • Hi Steve,

    Wanted to provide some real world feedback on Specialized S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless (26).

    You mentioned the non-reviewed S-Works tires (and others) “are fast as hell but don’t have puncture belts and will wear out in no time.” That hasn’t been my experience, although one had about 700 miles on it when I had a glancing blow with road debris and received a sidewall tear. Same has happened with a 4+ Conti GP4KSII and two Schwalbe Pro Ones. Just bad luck, or curse of clydesdales?!

    The other S-Works tire has over 2600 miles: 1300 miles on back and then 1300 miles on front. The two wear indicator holes are still visible. I’ve had a couple 0.5 inch slits in center tread, they sealed enough during ride (yay!) and after I put an inside patch and kept going. However like all my Conti tires with similar mileage they have gracefully worn down to a wide flat band.

    Two weeks ago the rear Pro One met an untimely demise with a nail, luckily right in front of a bike shop that provides our club with discounts. Decided to give a pair of Zipp Tangente RT-25s a try. Road feel is good, similar but different from S-Works and Pro One. And price is in between the two. Good stuff so far, will be interesting to see how they hold up.

    Cheers,
    B

    • Buzz, Thanks for the update. I recall that you had commented before that the S-Works did have a puncture belt. I rechecked at the time and of course you were right. I failed to correct my post at the time but have now. Thanks, Steve

      • Hey Steve, didn’t remember commenting earlier! I see that now. Just wanted to pass along the info as I was pleasantly surprised by longevity of the S-Works as I said goodbye to it, and hello to the Zipp RT-25. At 80psi my rear Zipp RT-25 measured 26.4mm on a 19mm internal / 28mm ENVE 5.6 Disc back rim.

  • Great, wonderful write-up. Thank you so much!
    I am getting new wheels and intending to make the transition to tubeless as my riding partner got one flat in the last year here in the high desert north of LA where thorns and goat-heads are horrific. I was getting a flat every 3-4 rides on Michelin Pro4 Endurance in the rear (25mm) and Course (23) in front. Uuugh.

    I started to notice that my partner, a noobie, was riding in the right wheel-track on many roads, which I considered dangerous, while I was hugging the white line or riding to the right of it. In addition to transitioning to Conti Race 28 tubes, I made a simple change in style that has been huge. I now also ride in the right wheel track. I’m convinced that vehicles, especially semi trucks (lots of warehouses around here), pulverize thorns, goat-heads, and glass when they run over them again and again. Whatever it is, it works. I enhance my safety using the Lezyne Laser 250 lumen tail light and Cygolite Metro 1100 on DayFlash modes. It’s a good trade-off IMHO.

    Speaking of riding in the desert, I could literally care less about wet tire performance. Ditto for Sacramento, where it rains 12-20 days a year. I don’t ride when it rains as motorists don’t see well through rain-spattered windows, and while in my 60s I’ve NOT had my fill of riding, not even close. I can ride any day, so if 3 days a year, or 20 are put off limits, I’m OK with that. On the other hand, a compound that wears better in desert heat would be of great value. Hint, hint tire mfgs.

    Just a note. We have 25-35 mph winds here most afternoons, and “aerodynamic speeds” are therefore zero to whatever. It’s worth pointing out.

  • Great article, with lots of good info. I am setting up a pair of Boyd 44 carbon clinchers (tubeless compatible, 21mm internald width) with tubeless tires for a ride I’m doing in New Mexico in November, 2018. I’ve been told that there will be a lot of nasty “goat head” thorns, and so the recommendation is to use flat protection strips (gag) or to run tubeless. I have a 2012 Cannondale Supersix Evo, which predates the “wide tire” trend, so space in the rear triangle is tight and I can’t fit anything bigger than 27mm wide (actual width). I set up my rear wheel with a Schwalbe Pro One 25mm, but even at just 85 psi, it inflates to around 28.4mm wide, which leaves just 1 mm of clearance on either side in the chainstays, which is too little for my piece of mind (and the gradual wearing away of the carbon fiber in the chainstays confirms this). So, I decided to try a pair of Specialized S Works tubeless tires in a 24mm width, but even before I mounted that tire I could see that the tire was much smaller than the Schwalbe. Mounted, it inflated to just 24.5mm – too narrow! I really want something that will inflate to 26-27 mm. So, now I am planning on trying a set of the Schwalbe Pro Ones in a 23 mm width. It’s frustrating that the actual widths are so variable, given that you have to buy the tires to find out how wide they actually are.

    • James, Take a look at the actual tubeless tire widths I measured for different brand and size tires on 21C wheels in this Know’s Notes post from a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t suggest you use the 23C Schwalbe as it the sidewalls become too round stretching across the 21C rim and affect your handling and comfort. You want sidewalls that are slightly narrower than the rim but more parallel to it. Steve

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