THE BEST TUBELESS TIRES
If you want the best tubeless tires for your road bike, there’s a lot to consider.
New and updated models are regularly being introduced. They have different aero, resistance, comfort, handling, grip, and installation performance properties in combination with different wheels. That forces you to consider what wheels you ride and the type of riding you do when deciding which tires to buy.
Traditional considerations like a tire’s puncture resistance, weight, wear, and price also plays into your decision-making.
And if that weren’t enough, updated views about which tire widths and inflation levels give you the best performance, recently introduced standards, and supply chain shortages on some of the tires are enough to make your head spin nearly as fast as your wheels do.
To deal with all of this, I periodically update (see date at the top of this post) the tires models and sizes I’ve reviewed, what matters most in evaluating them, and how they compare to find the best tubeless tires for road cycling enthusiasts, those we can ride on every day for training and racing that have a puncture belt.
What You Need To Know About Tubeless Tires
Click on any red statement below to go directly to that part of the post
What Matters Most
If you are a fast rider or racer and your tire pressure is set right, choosing between tubeless bike tires that give you the right aerodynamic relationship with your rims matters most and should be where you start. Once you’ve got that dialed in, you can pick between tires that provide the best road feel (comfort, handling, grip), the lowest tire loss rolling resistance, and that setup easiest on your wheels.
However, if you average less than 25mph/40kph on well-paved roads, ride at any speed on worn or rough pavement, or don’t care about riding fast above all else then the minimal absolute or relative amount of rim-tire aerodynamic drag in those riding conditions won’t make a difference to your speed or efficiency.
Other considerations including puncture resistance, weight, wear, and price matter relatively less. That’s because they aren’t as important as the four that matter most to your performance to outweigh the other criteria and, for most tires in this review, there’s little difference between them.
I’ll explain each of the criteria that matter most and matter less in the following sections.
For this review, I’ve compared what my research and testing shows are the best tubeless tires for everyday training and racing that have a puncture belt or equivalent. These are best suited for the demands and expectations of road cycling enthusiasts.
Using the criteria that matter most, I’ve chosen not to review or include in this latest update the tubeless tires with puncture belts whose tire loss rolling resistance isn’t in the top tier, are a bear to install, and have been discontinued. You can read more about which tires I didn’t include and why at the end of this post.
1. Aerodynamics of the rim-tire combination
My 2022 post on how wide tires and wide wheels can make you faster confirms that the fastest riders will benefit from the reduced aero drag that comes from using tires whose actual width once mounted and inflated measures less than the rim’s outside width at its widest point.
However, the research I did for that post led me to conclude that today’s wide wheels and wide tires have made the rule of 105 an anachronism. Airflow reattachment happens at rim-to-tire width ratios less than 105% on wide wheels and the penalty for having the tire wider than the rim is far less than it was on the narrow rims and skinny tires used to establish that “rule” some 20 years ago.
Mea culpa. I based many of my past tubeless tire aerodynamic ratings on this rule but will do so no longer.
Fortunately, many tubeless disc wheels introduced in the last couple of years have outside rim widths that are wider than the measured width of 28mm tires installed on them. There is also enough clearance on most modern road disc bikes for these wider tires.
The aero optimized tire size for many wheels remains 25mm. That’s the size that those you racing or riding closer to 25mph/40kph on well-paved roads should use.
If you ride closer to 20mph/32kph or on rough, worn, or chip-seal surface roads, wider tires inflated to lower pressures will probably gain you more watts by reducing the vibration loss portion of your rolling resistance more than the aero penalties you incur from a tire that exceeds the width of your rim.
I get into all of this in the post I linked you to just above.
For those of you who have wide rims now or are racing and riding fast, there are up to 3 watts of reduced aero drag to be had by having rims wider than your tires. That amount is a marginal gain worth having if you are trying to decide what tire to buy.
The challenge in getting this rim-tire combination right comes in that the actual sizes of tubeless road bike tires and wheels are both unique and change with each new model of either. For that reason, I’ve measured the actual rim and installed tire widths of current models of both to see which combinations have rims wider than the tires and by how much.
When I get a new wheelset for evaluation, soon after my childish excitement eases a bit, I weigh it and then measure several rim dimensions.
First, I’ll measure the depth of the front and rear rims. Most are the same but not always due to wheel design or manufacturing tolerances.
Next, I’ll record the inside rim width between the hooks or the full inside rim width if it is a hookless rim. I’ll then put my calipers across the rim’s outside width at the “brake track” or where one would be if it weren’t a disc brake wheel. If the rim has any variation in width such as a toroidal profile, I’ll also measure the rim’s maximum width.
Using a digital micrometer, I check these depths and widths at a half dozen places until I get a pretty good fix on the average of most of the measurements. While there are some outliers, typically there will be a variance of up to +/- 0.1mm across the places where I take these measurements.
For the latest update of this tubeless tire review, I’ve measured 25mm and 28mm tires on wheels whose inside and outside rim widths are representative of tubeless-ready road disc wheels you may own or can buy. Those rims range from 19mm inside, 26mm outside with a hooked rim to 25mm wide inside, 32+mm wide outside using a hookless rim.
Depending on the rim and tire size, I inflate the tires to 60psi/4.1bar and/or 80psi/5.5bar for these tire measurements on hooked rims. I’ve used these pressures in part for continuity with the database I’ve built to measure tire-rim combinations over the years. Luckily, those pressures continue to be in the range recommended to many of us cycling enthusiasts when we plug our weight, rim and tire sizes, and other factors into one of the tire pressure guides.
Now that there’s a newly created, not-to-exceed pressure ETRTO and ISO standard for tubeless tires on hookless rims (72.5psi/5bar), I’ve used 60psi and 70psi for those tire-rim combinations.
To give this some context, the recommended inflation pressure for a 150lb/68kg rider using a 25mm tire on a rim with a 21mm inside width is in the neighborhood of 70psi. A 180lb/82kg rider with the same tire and rim would want to increase that pressure to 80psi or so.
Using a 28mm tire on that same 21mm rim, the recommended pressure for the 150lb/68kg rider would be 60psi with 70psi suggested for the 180lb/82kg rider. With the 28mm tire on a hookless rim that’s 25mm wide inside, a pressure of about 50psi would be recommended for the lighter rider and 60psi for the heavier one.
If you are unsure what pressure is best for you, take a look at one of the guides and experiment with what they suggest. The easiest one, and frankly one I’ve found recommend a pressure closest to where I end up after my experiments lowering the pressure further is available from ENVE (which sells both wheels and tires). SRAM (parent of wheelset and tire seller Zipp) and Silca (seller of tire pumps) also have tire pressure calculators you can use.
I discuss the differences between these three and how to come up with the right pressure for you in the post I linked to at the beginning of this section.
A couple more things to finish off this preamble. Since the front wheel affects your aero performance far more than the rear, I’ve done all the tire rim-tire combinations on the front wheel. If you can’t decide between prioritizing aero performance and comfort, you have my permission to put a wider tire on the rear wheel. It won’t matter that much to your aero performance unless you are doing a 40K time trial type of event.
And to reiterate what I wrote above, if you are a slower rider or even a fast one riding rough roads, you’ll likely be faster riding a properly inflated tire that’s wider than the rim.
I measure new or minimally used tires (typically with under 250 miles) and, as with the rim measurements, use the calipers to get readings at a half dozen places across the widest part of each mounted and inflated tire.
Unless you put on new tires every 1000 km (620 miles), you need to account for the reality that tires will stretch and widen over time. How much? While I’ve measured mostly new tires, Jarno Bierman at Bicycle Rolling Resistance has done endurance testing that tracks changes in the width, tread-thickness, and tire loss rolling resistance of a 28C Continental Grand Prix 5000 (non-tubeless) clincher at 1000km (620 miles) intervals.
He’s found that the tire widened by 0.5mm at his first 1000km checkpoint but only another 0.2mm all the way up to 5000km (3100 miles).
Most of us enthusiasts by definition ride 5000km (3100 miles) to 10,000 km (6200 miles) a year and might go through one or two pairs of tires a season. Based on what Jarno found in his endurance testing, that means our tires will likely be another 0.5mm or wider during most of the time we ride them, ie., after about 1000km or 620 miles.
In the chart below, you’ll see how much wider or narrower the rim is than the tire for each combination. When the rim is wider and should continue to be over the life of the tire, the cells showing the measurements will be shaded green. If the rim is initially wider but tire wear will cause the tire to expand beyond the width of the rim, they get a yellow shading. When the rim is narrower than the tire to start with, the cells are shaded pink (but only because you couldn’t see the numbers if I used red).
While my measurements were limited to the wheelsets you see in the charts below, I’ve hopefully given you a wide enough range of wheels with different inside and outside widths that you can find one with similar measurements to yours.
Results and key take-aways
Click the chart to enlarge it.
Here are my key conclusions from these rim-tire measurements:
* The actual width of the same size tires from different brands can measure very differently, especially for narrower tires on narrower rims at higher pressure but also for wider tires on wider rims at lower pressures. For example:
- 25mm size tires set up on the 19.0mm inside, 26.3mm outside rim at 80psi are as much as 1.9mm different in actual width (rim wider than tire by 1.7mm, 0.9mm, 0.3mm, 0.1mm, -0.2mm)
- 28mm size tires set up on the 25.2mm inside, 31.5mm outside rim at 60psi are as much as 0.9mm different in actual width (rim wider than tire by 2.1mm, 2.0mm, 1.7mm, 1.2mm)
* The difference in actual width of 25mm and 28mm size tires vary from one brand/model to the next. For example:
- The increased actual width between 25mm and 28mm size tires of one brand/model averages 2.6mm installed at the same pressure across 3 wheels while only 1.2mm for two other brands/models
* For rims with an outside width of 26mm, you need to be very selective to find a 25mm tire that will measure less than the width of the rim once installed
* For rims with roughly the same outside width, those with a narrower inside width will make the actual width of 28mm tires narrower as well.
* Among 25mm tires, the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR and Veloflex Corsa TLR tires measure notably narrower than the Michelin Power Road TLR, Schwalbe Pro One TLE, and Specialized S-Works Turbo Rapid Air, which measure about the same.
* Among 28mm tires, the Continental, Schwalbe, and Specialized measure about the same and notably narrower than the Michelin.
Join KNOW'S CLUB - GET MORE VALUE FROM IN THE KNOW CYCLING
BREAKAWAY membership – Be the first to see reviews
- Get 7-day advance notice of newly published and updated reviews
PACESETTER membership – Help choose what we review
- Nominate and vote on wheelsets and other gear for review 4x/year
- Includes all BREAKAWAY member benefits
LEADER membership – Get personalized product recommendations
- Get Steve’s recommendation on wheelsets and gear for your situation
- Includes all PACESETTER AND BREAKAWAY member benefits
2. Road feel
When I describe a tire’s road feel, I’m talking about how comfortable it is, how well it handles in corners or maneuvers when you’re changing direction, and how much grip it provides in those handling maneuvers and when accelerating or just speeding along straight down the road.
The better the road feel, the more precise you’ll be taking those corners and doing those maneuvers, or generally accelerating on your bike. While it’s hard to measure, the added confidence that comes from tires with a superior road feel will allow you to ride more aggressively without taking on more risk. That will make you faster.
Tire size, compound, casing, and tread all contribute to the road feel as does the inflation pressure and wheel size in combination with the tire.
We’ve all read how a wider tire, inflated to the same pressure, gives you a wider contact patch between the tire and road surface. A wider contact patch can give you better handling. A narrower tire at the same tire pressure as the wider one gives you the same tire patch area but is narrower, running more along the length than the width of the tire and therefore doesn’t handle as well.
However, a wider tire at the same air pressure has a greater volume of air in it. That gives you less suspension and therefore less comfort.
One of the major reasons people use wider tires is to improve comfort. So you lower the air pressure to reduce the air volume and improve the suspension and comfort in a wider tire. (Throw the contact patch argument out the window.)
With a tubeless tire that’s filled with sealant, you can keep lowering it and get more suspension without concern for a pinch flat the way you would with a tube in your tire at that lower pressure. More suspension, especially on a rougher road can also give you better handling (and lower vibration losses) until you hit a pressure where the handling feels imprecise or mushy when cornering or accelerating.
Tire compound and casing also play a role in how the road feel of tires differ at the same width and inflation pressure. You can often feel the difference with a tire that has a more supple casing or grippier compound. These contributions to better road feel give you the ability and confidence to ride faster.
Most road tires are slick down the center with a limited amount of tread on the sides. It’s hard to know if the tread on a road tire actually improves acceleration and handling the way it does on a gravel or mountain bike tire.
My fellow tester Miles and other serious road racers believe the tread adds grip when they’re ripping through corners. Miles doesn’t like to ride tires without tread. Real or imagined, it adds to his confidence and makes him faster.
Tire companies say the tread is there to channel moisture on wet roads and trip the air to reduce aerodynamic drag. Not wanting to mess with Mother Nature or Father Grime, I religiously mount tires in the direction indicated in hopes that it will help me ride faster or at least, not work against me should I find myself riding out on a wet, oily road.
Cynics, or perhaps those who know more about tire marketing than I do, say the tread is purely cosmetic. Per this reasoning, road bike tires deflect and rebound as their primary way to give you grip and traction, not from a small amount of tread.
But, as this perspective goes, since almost every vehicle tire has tread, consumers expect it and road bike tires sell better with it.
Too many of us roadies inflate our wider, tubeless tires too high even though the dial shows a pressure far lower than where we have normally set our narrower, tubed clinchers all these years.
Getting your tire pressure set right is key to getting the best road feel you can with whatever tires you’re riding and reducing vibration loss rolling resistance on all but the smoothest road surfaces. Use one of the tire pressure guides I linked you to above and experiment with lowering your pressure further until you get to where the handling starts to feel imprecise or mushy.
My fellow testers Nate, Miles, and I start with these pressure guides to find a pressure that gives us the best road feel for the tires we are testing.
3. Tire loss rolling resistance
Rolling resistance has become a popular decision criterion for many riders these days. With several labs and magazines publishing results, it gets a lot of attention and is more easily quantified than aero performance or road feel.
However, the quantified results – usually stated in watts of rolling resistance – depend on the specific protocols used by the testers. Those results will vary with the tire and rim width, inflation pressure, drum surface, drum speed, weight applied, and other test controls.
And what these testers are measuring is the rolling resistance from the losses in the tire compound and casing. What they don’t measure is the rolling resistance that comes from vibration losses that happen when your tires (and wheels, bike, and body) come up off the road surface and land back on it. That happens over and over and over during the course of a ride, especially on worn and rougher road surfaces.
Tire losses and vibration losses together add to your rolling resistance. And the rolling resistance that comes from vibration losses can exceed that from tire losses when your tire is inflated beyond a certain “breakpoint.” I go into all of this in more detail in my post about how wide tires and wide wheels can make you faster.
As it relates to choosing between tubeless tires, here’s the really important bit: With a few exceptions, the rolling resistance results of the best handful of tires made for a similar riding purpose like those we roadies buy and that I’ve evaluated for this review (everyday tires with a puncture belt) are not more than a couple of watts different at the speeds and pressures we ride tubeless bike tires under the testing protocols at each of different testing labs I reviewed.
Further, because the testing protocols differ slightly as do the production runs that the tested tires come from, there may be almost no real differences between the best tires that would make us choose one over another based on the published tire loss rolling resistance numbers.
- Bicycle Rolling Resistance found the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL and Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR tire that replaces it have tire losses within the margin of error (0.2 watts) but have less tire loss (2.5 watts on average at 80 psi/5.5 bar) than the Schwalbe Pro One TLE.
- TOUR Magazin’s tests found the S TR has a tire loss 1 watt more than the TL in their smooth surface test but 3 watts more in their rough surface one.
- Renn-Rad Magazine’s tests show the Schwalbe Pro One TLE and Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL have similar tire losses (0.2 watts difference).
If all of this suggests to you that it’s a mistake to choose between the top tubeless training or racing tires solely based on their watts of tire loss or relative ranking in these tests, then that’s the conclusion I’ve reached as well. You can pick any from the top group of tire loss performers and be confident that there won’t be a tire loss difference that will affect your speed or time.
And that’s the great benefit that BRR, TOUR, Renn-Rad, and other independent testers provide us as cycling enthusiasts. They allow us to see which small group of tires are among the “best” or in the “top” tier rather than which individual one to buy based on an absolute best tire loss rolling resistance number.
Note also that if you are a partially converted tubeless tire rider, meaning you use a tube instead of sealant inside your tubeless tires, make sure to use a latex tube if rolling resistance matters to you. Using a butyl tube will add 2-3 watts of tire losses to your rolling resistance per BRR’s testing. That will essentially knock your tire out of the “best” tier of tubeless tires with puncture belts.
However, using a latex or butyl tube may limit your ability to reduce your vibration losses without increasing the risk of getting pinch flats more common at lower pressures.
4. Installation ease
For those of you who are tubeless converts or those who remain interested but have held off because of some of the horror stories of installation difficulties, I can tell you that a lot has changed for the better in just the last few years.
Newer, wider, deeper road tubeless wheelsets have a center channel in the rim bed that is supposed to be 2.6-3.4mm deep for hooked rims and 2.9-3.5mm for hookless ones per the 2020 ETRTO standard.
Some also have “bead locks” or shallower, narrower channels running inside the rim walls where the tire beads sit after the tire is installed and inflated. Those without locks have the horizontal rim bed meet the vertical rim wall with or without hooks.
Compare the tubeless rim bed on the left with the classic clincher one on the right.
The channel in the tubeless rim is the key to getting your tires on. 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) that amount. That makes all the difference in getting tubeless tires on your wheels.
Without using the channel, you probably won’t get your tires on. You’ll blister up your thumbs, abuse the rim beds and tape using tire levers, and likely swear till you are blue in the face.
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, push the second bead over the rim edge and into the same channel as you install the rest of the second bead.
If you are having difficulty with the second bead, check to make sure that all sections of both beads you already have over the rim edges are still in the channel.
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 there than if it were in the channel.
IRC created this graphic to show the steps.
Here are a couple of 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 put on the tire, 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 if you don’t have a valve with a removable core through which you can add the sealant.
We’re seeing more wheels being introduced with hookless rims. They are less expensive to make and improve aero performance slightly by smoothing the tire-rim interface. At 50 to 70psi pressures typical of what you’d use for wheels with 23mm and 25mm inside widths and with 28mm tires, the beads hold the tires in place without concern for them coming off the rim.
ETRTO and ISO standards established in 2020 define the rim diameter and bead lock tolerances for hooked and hookless rims to +/- 0.05mm. They also use a more modern rim width for tire makers to use in labeling the size of their tires. This means that tires should fit more interchangeably with rims and measure truer to size once installed and inflated.
Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. While I hope installation becomes simpler and more uniform as the next round of tubeless wheels and tires are introduced, the current reality is that some tires mount, inflate, seal, and can be removed more easily on some rims than others. This is important not only when you put new tires on but even more so if you have to install a tube on the road to deal with a major puncture that the sealant doesn’t fill.
For my tire ratings, I’ve noted which tires are easier or harder to get on and off the range of wheels we’ve tested.
ENVE and Zipp, two leading wheelset makers have taken different approaches to advising cyclists on the compatibility of tubeless tires with their hookless rims.
ENVE tests each tire model and size on its wheels that have been submitted to them by tire companies. Tire models and sizes are listed as Approved/Recommended or Not Approved/Incompatible. Tires that are not on either list have not been submitted for testing and ENVE suggests you “contact the tire manufacturer and ask them if their tires are approved.”
Zipp lists tire models and sizes that tire companies have told them are compatible with Zipp’s hookless rims. Zipp doesn’t do any testing to confirm compatibility. Companies that have not communicated the compatibility of their tires are listed with a message to “check with brand for specifics.”
In the chart under section 1. Aerodynamics, I’ve noted where tires are not compatible with Zipp and ENVE hookless wheels. I say more when the same tires come out with different compatibility listings in the tire reviews below.
The ETRTO and ISO standard for tubeless tires on hookless or “straight side” rims states the maximum pressure at which tires can be safely inflated is 5 bars (72.5 psi). You shouldn’t inflate it higher for safety reasons and even a 250lb/115kg shouldn’t need to for performance reasons.
What Matters Less
5. Puncture resistance
Of course, one of the main reasons to go tubeless is to protect yourself against punctures. When you puncture a tubeless road tire with sealant, the best measure is how quickly and well the sealant fills it.
This is puncture resilience, the ability of your tire to recover from a puncture.
On the other hand, puncture resistance, the ability of a tire to initially resist a puncture, is important if you have no recourse other than to get off your bike and replace your tube.
Puncture resistance is most relevant to the tube and clincher tire world but matters much less in the tubeless one. Not only because of the role of tubeless sealant in filling the puncture but because tests run by BRR, Tour, and Wheel Energy show little difference in puncture resistance between most everyday tubeless road tires with puncture belts.
By my lights, puncture resistance testing data essentially evaluates the strength of your puncture belt and the thickness of your side walls. It’s at best a poor surrogate measure for the puncture resilience of a sealant-filled tubeless tire, the true indicator of whether you’ll be able to continue riding when your tire punctures out on the road.
A test that measured whether and how fast a tubeless bike tire resealed punctures of different sizes in the bottom and side of the tire spinning at cycling speeds would be more useful in choosing between them than the small differences in puncture resistance. Another test that evaluated the relative 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 engineers will come up with them soon.
In the meantime, we default to puncture resistance data.
The most important thing you can do to overcome a puncture is to make sure you’ve got the right amount of sealant in your tires. I find 30 to 45ml (or about 1 to 1.5 ounces) is the right amount to initially get your tires sealed and protected against normal punctures. However, because the sealant dries out over time, you’ll want to make sure to add more every 3-4 months to keep it at that level.
Of course, there are times when a puncture is so large that sealant won’t do the job. Usually, that only happens with a good-sized gash in the side or bottom of your tire or when you are racing on a tire with no puncture belt. For those situations, carrying a tube to inflate the tire and using a food wrapper or paper currency to block the tube from going through the gash is a good backup plan.
Using a set of all-season tubeless road or cross tires for commuting or on roads full of puncture-rich obstacles will give you better puncture resistance than everyday tires with puncture belts but will make for considerably poorer tire loss rolling resistance and road feel.
One of the arguments for tubeless road tires is that they weigh less than clinchers. This isn’t the case, at least not comparing different tubeless and sealant vs. tubed clincher setups.
The actual weight of the 25mm tires in this review (one is actually labeled 26mm) range from 233 to 267 grams and average 253 grams. Add to that average another 30 grams for an ounce (30ml) of sealant and another 7 grams for the tubeless valve. That adds up to 290 grams.
As a reference, a top everyday clincher tire like the 25mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 weighs 220 grams. With a good butyl tube like the Continental Race 28 Light, add about 75 grams. Total 295 grams. No diff.
If you replace the butyl tube with a super lightweight, 23-gram Tubolito S-Tubo Road tube, then the clincher is down to 243 grams. But then you’re giving up nearly a watt of tire loss rolling resistance to the 80 gram Vittoria Latex 25/28 inner tube.
Are you planning on rolling 28mm tires for increased comfort and reduced vibration loss rolling resistance? Of the 28mm tires we’ve tested, they range from 276 to 305 grams and average 294 grams. Fill them with 1.5 ounces (45 grams) of sealant for the wider tire and you’re at 346 grams for the tubeless (including the 7-gram valve).
Compare that with the 28mm wide Conti GP 5K clincher at 250 grams and you’re at 325 grams with the butyl tube and 273 with the Tubolito latex tube. But my guess is you aren’t going to run a latex tube if you are going with the wider, less aero tire.
Comparing tubeless vs. tubed clinchers or different models of the best tubeless tires at either 25mm or 28mm wide is a fun exercise but comes up with very small actual differences.
While it might weigh on the minds of weight weenies, you’d be hard-pressed to tell these differences out on the road. That’s why I put weight in the what matters less bucket of criteria.
The good news about riding different wheels and tires all the time is that I and my fellow testers get to try out and evaluate a lot of new gear and report that out to you. The bad news is that we really don’t get to ride any one set of tires for more than 1,000 miles and spend a lot of time installing and removing them to make way to test others.
Other than a tire that wears quickly or cuts easily within our testing period, I can’t really offer my own opinion on tire wear or whether one model lasts 2500 miles while another goes 4000 miles. Of course, we all ride on different roads too, some of which are harder on tires so wear is a situational thing anyway.
I and my fellow testers can tell which tires wear quickly within the first 1,000 miles and can project wear based on what we see during this interval.
While most of us roadies are frugal, I will pick a better-performing tire over a long-lasting one every day of the week. Spending $25 more per tire to get better performance or spending an extra $50 or so to replace worn tires with better ones even twice as often isn’t going to be a budget-buster for most of us.
So wear and price are two criteria I believe should matter less.
Most better-performing tubeless road tires with puncture belts are priced between US$60-80/£50-60/€65-85 per tire. You can see the market prices for each of the tires I’ve reviewed in the table below.
One or two may sell for as much as $20/£15/€10 more or less depending on supply and demand or individual store discounting practices. But compared to what we spend on our bikes, gear, apparel, food, event fees, etc., tires are a minor cost for such a big contributor to our performance and enjoyment on the bike.
Find what you’re looking for at In The Know Cycling’s Know’s Shop
- Compare prices on in-stock cycling gear at 15 of my top-ranked stores
- Choose from over 75,000 bikes, wheels, components, clothing, electronics, and other kit
- Save money and time while supporting this site when you buy at the store after clicking on a link*
*While there’s no added cost to you, some stores pay commissions that support our product review and site expenses.
Reviews and Recommendations of Tubeless Bike Tires
The chart below shows the relative ratings of tubeless tires we’ve evaluated using the criteria I’ve written about above for what matters most and what matters less.
A “o” rating means that the tire performed similarly to the majority of those we evaluated. Those that performed better get a “+” rating; those that perform worse get a “-“.
In the reviews that follow, I say more about why each tire rates where it does.
In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.
Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR
Market price US$100, £75, €90. Many sizes are hard to find but the following stores have some in stock: Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles, Merlin, and other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.
The Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR replaced the very popular 5000 TL. The company set high expectations for the S TR, most notably its claims of reduced rolling resistance, hookless compatibility, and easier installation compared to the TL.
While introduced in late Fall 2021, popular sizes have been hard to find and whatever sizes are available have been selling at the top of the range for training and racing tubeless tires with a puncture belt tested for this comparative review.
From the time I and my fellow In The Know Cycling testers have spent riding the 5000 S TR done and the tests conducted by others I trust, it’s clear that Continental has one of the best tubeless tires available. That’s why I’ve included it in this comparative review.
But, they’ve overpromised and underdelivered on claims that would make you believe that this tire stands head and shoulders above others. And, while I normally don’t spend any time regurgitating or giving a rat’s @ss about a supplier’s product claims in my reviews, the overblown product claims for this tire forces me to call out the BS from the reality.
That along with the limited availability and high price makes it hard to review this tire principally based on its performance, something I prefer to do.
On the plus side, the Grand Prix 5000 S TR in the right size should make for a low aero drag combination when installed on the range of modern road disc rims. The 25mm S TR sets up narrower on the wheels I tested whose outside rim width is between 26mm and 28mm than any of the others on review. And the 28mm size S TR is nearly as narrow (and sufficiently aero) as the best of the other tubeless tires on rims that measure 31mm and wider.
As with second-generation tubeless tires created by other companies in the years that ETRTO was overhauling its tire size recommendations for wider wheels, the S TR is a narrower tire than the TL. The 25m S TR measures nearly the same as the 23mm TL.
Getting the S TR tire on rims and inflating them is the easiest of any I’ve mounted in 5 years of installing tubeless tires including the 50+ installations I did across 8 wheelsets from 5 leading brands for this updated review. While it takes two to tango – even tires made of supple materials with malleable beads and manufactured within tolerance need rims with center channels and bead seats that mate well with tires – these new Conti tubeless tires are the belle of the ball.
If you have even a minimum amount of experience installing tubeless tires, you’ll find that few of the best these days require levers to get them on the newer designs of road disc wheels that meet the ETRTO standard. Yet, the S TR goes on with noticeably less effort than most and inflated on nearly every wheelset I tested with a regular floor pump.
This is a HUGE improvement over the experience installing the TL, a tire I couldn’t get on many rims. It caused me to recommend against buying the TL except for the most skilled installers or those willing to call for a ride if they got a flat on the open road.
But, it may be that in overperforming the installation experience they may have created a tire that underperforms the claim they’ve made to be hookless compatible.
Yes, it mounts on hookless rims. And yes, Continental has approved the Grand Prix 5000 S TR for hookless rims and includes a chart on its site and packaging (though not on the tire) that shows the max inflation pressure of 5 bar or 72.5 psi per new ETRTO and ISO standard. Based on this, Zipp shows the 28mm and larger sized S TR tires are supplier approved (by Continental) for Zipp’s hookless rims. (The 25mm is not supplier approved.)
But what if you mistakenly inflate and ride the tire above the max level or the pressure increases beyond that level when your bike is stored in or on your car on a hot summer day?
Continental has an answer for that. They point to an industry “blow-off” guideline of 110% (5.5 bar/80psi) and their own internal testing of 130% (6.5bar/94psi).
Cycling Weekly reviewer Michelle Arthurs-Brennan explains all of this and did her own testing of a 28mm S TR on Zipp 303 S (23mm inside width) and 353 NSW (25mm inside width) wheels. Inflated to 100psi/6.9bar or 136%, the tires blew off after about 10 mins.
The bead material Conti uses to make the tire easier to install than any other also stretched sooner than most when inflated well beyond the max standard pressure in Michelle’s tests.
Sooner than most? ENVE tests all the tubeless tires submitted to them by suppliers at 150% of the max recommended pressure before saying it’s compatible with their hookless rims. ENVE has approved the S TR for their hookless rim wheels.
So yeah, it works with hookless rims. But don’t overinflate it and I’d suggest you let half the air out before you leave it in your car or prop it up on the roof on a hot day.
Continental’s most jaw-dropping claim is that the Grand Prix 5000 S TR is 20% faster than the TL. While they don’t define what they mean by faster, what makes it possible, or under what conditions it’s faster, I’ll assume they’re talking about the extra speed that might come from a combination of less aero drag from being narrower, lower tire loss rolling resistance, and lighter weight than the TL.
Even with the S TR setting up narrower than the TL on the same rim and both being narrower on the rim wouldn’t come anywhere near a 5% reduction in aero drag, let alone anything approaching 20%.
And while the 25mm S TR is 50 grams (or 17%) lighter than the TL per my measurements, independent testers BRR and TOUR (subscription required) found that the S TR has a marginally higher tire loss rolling resistance than the TL.
It’s still a very low tire loss rolling resistance number, one that only the Schwalbe Pro One TLE matches per Renn-Rad (subscription required) tests. But once again, they overpromised on something they really didn’t need to.
With its 50-gram weight loss, the S TR is about 20 grams lighter than most other tubeless tires with a puncture belt. I don’t know that anyone was complaining about the weight of the TL but I don’t live in the weight weenie world so I may have missed that.
As BRR explains, Conti made changes in the tire casing and construction. It no longer has a butyl liner that earlier generation tubeless tires used to employ to run the tire airtight without needing a sealant.
Yet, in the same way that losing weight to improve your watts/kg can also reduce your power, the changes that led to S TR’s weight loss may also be the reason why it now has been shown in tests by BRR to have less puncture resistance than the TL. While it retains the Vectran puncture belt, BRR rates its puncture resistance scores closer to those without puncture belts like the Vittoria Corsa Speed G+ 2.0 than the ones that have those belts and reviewed here.
My advice is to make sure you keep the sealant topped off.
This Grand Prix 5000 S TR’s road feel – its comfort, handling, grip – is quite good. While not quite to the outstanding level of the Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir or Veloflex Corsa Race TLR reviewed below, it’s very good and on par with what we enjoyed with the TL. This S TR’s handling through corners is worthy of your total trust. Miles and I pushed it hard in different situations, Miles in crits and me in fast, sweeping downhill turns. We both came away very confident that the S TR was riding shotgun with us, able to cover our flanks (and keep us upright).
There’s no slip in the grip when you accelerate either.
While the S TR is sufficiently comfortable, it’s not quite to the level of the plush Spech or the cotton-sensitive Veloflex. And like the TL and other Contis that use the same Black Chili compound, the S TR is noisier than most tires including the others in this comparative review.
Bottom line, the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR scores slightly better on more of the performance measures I believe matter most while getting dinged on a couple of criteria that matter less.
While it may be a while before the tires are widely available. their price will likely come down once they do based on what we’ve seen with other Conti Grand Prix tires that have come to market before these.
Michelin Power Road TLR
While an everyday tubeless tire, the Michelin Power Road TLR is the only one in this comparative review without a puncture belt. Instead, Michelin added a fourth 120TPI (thread per inch) layer to the casing in place of the belt and a bead-to-bead liner to create puncture resistance similar to tires with a belt. BRR’s puncture resistance tests confirmed the result, its scores coming in very similar and in some cases better than other tires in this comparative review.
Independent tests of the Power Road TLR’s tire loss rolling resistance also put it in the top tier with the very best everyday tubeless tires that have puncture belts.
Remember what I wrote above about puncture resistance is one of the things that “matter less” and rolling resistance is less important than some of the other things that “matter more?”
Well, I found both to be true in testing these Michelin tires.
While sufficiently aero in the right combinations, the Power Road TLR is generally wider than the other tires reviewed here and is wider than the rims in more combinations than any of the others. Specifically, if you are planning on using a 25mm tire, make sure your rim measures at least 28mm wide outside. With the 28mm size Power Road TLR, you’ll want rims that are at least 31mm wide outside to minimize your aero drag.
When it comes to installation, they go on and off most rims easily but I usually had to use a compressor to get them inflated. And they don’t hold air the way a tubeless tire with a butyl liner like these should. With my normal 1 oz/30ml of sealant squeezed in through the open valve stem, they would lose 20-30 psi overnight and, worse, 10-20psi over a several-hour ride.
Retaping the wheels didn’t do the trick but doubling the amount I normally put in each tire did. To be sure it wasn’t the wheel or my tape jobs, I subsequently mounted another TLR tire on the same rims with 1 oz of sealant and only had routine air loss.
It’s clearly not an issue as long as you remember to double your normal sealant volume. And while I’ve said weight is also something that matters relatively less, you essentially add 30g to the weight of each tire by doubling the amount of sealant based merely on tire construction. That’s kind of like an “own goal” though you’re the only one that will know you’ve scored on yourself.
On the road, they feel quite grippy – actually more like “tacky”. They ride quite comfortably perhaps because they are a bit wider than most tires of the same label size. Overall, the Power Road TLRs provide a good ride but not to the level of the best.
ENVE has approved the 28mm size Power Road TLR for compatibility with their A/R hookless wheels. Michelin hasn’t told Zipp whether the tire is compatible with their hookless wheels however other 28mm tires are both compatible and more aero than the Power Road TLR.
The Power Road TLR is currently priced below most of the others in this review and is available. If you prefer to use a tube and aren’t rolling fast enough to where aero performance matters to you, the TLR offers you a good option.
Schwalbe Pro One TLE
Schwalbe introduced the successor to the popular Pro One tubeless tire around the same time the ETRTO standards body had made clear their intention for tire labeled sizes to measure closer to installed sizes on wider, modern wheels.
The updated Pro One is called the Pro One TLE or Pro One EVO Tubeless and has a bit of orange in the logo as you can see in the photo above. The earlier Pro One has a completely white logo.
This latest model is rumored to be made in the same molds used for the prior one except with labels a size up – the new 25mm is the old 23mm, the new 28mm is the old 25mm, etc. My measurements suggest that regardless of what molds they are using, they have effectively gotten their stated tire sizes close to actual tire widths after mounting and inflating them on rims that measure 19mm through and 25mm inside.
The result is good aero performance for rim-tire combinations with the 25mm Pro One TLE on rims that measure at least 27mm wide outside and with the 28mm Pro One TLE on 30.5mm and wider rims.
The 25mm TLE passed ENVE’s testing and is approved for their Foundation series hookless rims while the 28mm TLE is a go for ENVE’s AR and Zipp’s hookless wheels.
Out on the road, this Schwalbe provides only average comfort, a characteristic that was never a strength of the original Pro One. But because the current model provides good grip and handling, the overall road feel falls just short of the best.
After reviewing independent tire loss rolling resistance tests, it looks to me that the Schwalbe Pro One TLE is on par with the top-ranked Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR. BRR has the S TR ahead of the Schwalbe but Renn Rad has them a bike throw better than the TL which both BRR and TOUR rated better than the S TR. This is noise-level difference at best.
The suffix TLE stands for “tubeless easy” and I interpret the EVO designation to mean this is a tubeless tire that has evolved. Regardless, installation isn’t the easiest and doesn’t demonstrate the level of advancement most of us garage mechanics will love.
While I could get them on most rims with my average size hands and strength, I had to use a lever with about 1/3rd of those I mounted these on to get the last section of the second tire bead over the rim edge.
Clearly it’s a stiff bead and one that almost always required a compressor to get fully seated in the rim. Since the tire bead is strong enough to hold air without being fully seated, you need to look at the rim all the way around both sides to make sure there aren’t sections of the tire that are still hiding below the rim edge.
That and their tendency, like their predecessors to wear more quickly than tires made by other brands in our testing make the Schwalbe Pro One TLE feel more like a fast-rolling, great handling race speed tire than one I would confidently pick for lots of training and long endurance rides at a slower pace on a less demanding course.
Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir
Market price USD$80, £59, €85. Available at the best prices through these links to top-ranked store Competitive Cyclist in the US/CA and at recommended store Tredz for UK/EU residents where you can receive a 10% discount exclusively for In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKTDZ10. You can also find them at other stores I recommend in my Know’s Shop.
The Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir tubeless tires are solid performers across all criteria without a discernable weakness.
Their road feel is among the best of any tires we’ve ridden, both supremely comfortable and grippy on straights and precise in corners. Riding the S-Works Turbo RapidAir gives your great confidence in any road handling situation. If that’s what’s most important to you, these are the tires you want wrapping your wheels.
Specialized makes a 26mm labeled version of the Turbo RapidAir rather than the 25mm size sold by most tubeless tire brands. That said, my measurements show they size similarly in rim-tire combinations to the 25mm Michelin Power Road TLR and Schwalbe Pro One TLE and will minimize aero drag in combination with rims whose outside width is 28mm or greater.
The 28mm model of the Turbo RapidAir also measures similarly to the 28mm sizes of those tires and the Continental 5000 S TR. Rims whose outside width runs 30.5mm or wider will be at least 1mm wider than the Turbo RapidAir and be marginally better than the other tires in this review up through the 32mm wide wheels we tested them on.
This Specialized tire loss rolling resistance is in the group of chasers just a couple of watts off of the pace of the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR and Schwalbe Pro One TLE. But unless you’re racing at mid-20mph/high 30kph speeds, this amount of rolling resistance difference is less important than the Turbo RapidAir’s road feel.
While I used to struggle to get Turbo RapidAir tires off of earlier generation road disc wheels, that’s not been an issue with the range of wheels I mounted them on for the latest update of this comparative review, ones all made to the new ETRTO rim diameter standard. They go on without levers on almost every wheelset and, like all but the new Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR, are usually best seated with a compressor. They ping into place fully and without a struggle
There’s no drama between these Specialized tires and hookless rims made by ENVE (26mm and 28mm size tires) and Zipp (28mm) for which they are compatible.
The Turbo RapidAir tires are a bit pricey, typically at the premium end of the range when there’s an ample supply of tires and most of the other options are selling below their full retail prices. Should those days ever return, getting hooked on the road feel of these tires will likely be a security blanket you’re unwilling to go without no matter the added cost.
Compared to all the other stuff we spend money on to feed our cycling habit, I’d happily pay extra for all of what the Turbo RapidAir offers.
Veloflex Corsa Race TLR
To take a line from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “And now for something completely different.”
While maybe not completely different, the Veloflex Corsa Race TLR tire is different enough from the rest of the field of tubeless tires I’ve tested to stand out. At the same time, the characteristics it shares with some of the fastest cycling tires around really held my attention, much like one of those old Monty Python sketches.
It’s a handmade (think FMB), cotton (think Specialized Turbo Cotton) tire made in Italy (think quality). It has a built-in puncture belt yet is still as light as the best belt-less race day tires from Vittoria, Schwalbe, and Pirelli and scores nearly 2x as well as those and the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR in BRR’s puncture resistance tests.
Add to that, the Veloflex Corsa Race TLR’s price is less than any of the other tires in this review, and its tire loss rolling resistance scores are on par with the Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir and Michelin Power Road TLR.
That’s a whole lot of goodies I’ve never seen packed into one tire before.
If you’re in it to win it, the 25mm Corsa Race TLR measures narrower with room to spare mounted at 80psi on rims as narrow as the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 (26.3mm outside rim width) to as wide as the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 (30.9mm).
For those of us looking for wider tires, the Corsa Race TLR only comes in a 25mm size. When I asked Veloflex if they had any plans to introduce a 28mm wide version, they responded that they didn’t for now as “the yarn used to produce the 350 TPI casing is really thin and wouldn’t be in the safety parameter for the high pressure exerted on the area of a 28mm section.”
OK then. But 350 TPI casing? More to throw on the goodie pile.
Being a cotton tire, it goes on and off of rims with keyboard roughened hands (i.e. “soft” like mine) but takes a liberal amount of sealant (2 oz) to get it airtight the first time and probably needs to be regularly refilled to keep it inflated. You could always run it with a latex tube if you don’t like to keep up with more frequent sealant checks.
How does it feel on the road? Pretty freakin’ amazing. As a cotton tire and regardless of the fact that it has a puncture layer, I was a bit careful with it the first couple of rides out, concerned that it would be too sensitive for my rough handling on worn roads.
Yet, it was sensitive in a very supportive way, sharing more feedback from the road than most other tires I’ve ridden. That feedback helped me in the cornering in the way a caring part would, letting me know when I could go harder and when I needed to ease off.
I soon stopped worrying about whether it would be as fragile as other cotton tires I’ve ridden like the Specialized Turbo Cotton clincher and enjoyed the added comfort that came from such a supple tire.
IFor how well it performs and how relatively little it costs, the Veloflex Corsa Race TLR is a great tire. Even if it wears sooner than others, something I haven’t seen in our testing but I suspect will be the case from its cotton casing, I wouldn’t be dissuaded from riding it.
I just wish they could make it in 28mm and wider sizes.
Why some tires aren’t included in this review
I rated the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR among the best in prior updates of this review because it was one of the most aero, had a great road feel, and was clearly the easiest to install. Since then, others like the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR measures just as aero and goes on as easily yet has far better tire loss rolling resistance scores.
The Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless tire was a + performer on every one of the criteria that matter most. Unfortunately, Zipp stopped selling the tire when Covid hit likely due to production issues at their supplier. No word on if they plan to bring it or something like it back.
A favorite of many, I included the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL and rated it well in past updates for it road feel and tire loss rolling resistance despite its installation challenges on some rims. It’s been replaced by the Grand Prix 5000 S TR I reviewed above.
Hutchinson’s Fusion 5 Performance 11 Storm is a light, easy to install, and low-priced tire that I’d included in earlier editions of this review. As other tires have gotten better in the areas that matter most, the Hutchinson no longer competes well on anything other than price.
I’ve tested the ENVE SES Road Tire and included it in the previous update of this review. Regardless of its other performance properties, none of which stand out, I just can’t get past how hard it is to get on and off every rim I’ve tested it with including ENVE ones so have taken it out of this latest update.
Installation challenges also caused me to drop the Vittoria Corsa G+ 2.0 and Maxxis Padrone TR from earlier editions of this review.
While you still need a compressor or floor pump with a high-pressure cylinder like the Joe Blow to get some tires to inflate, you shouldn’t have to engage in hand-to-tire combat to get any tubeless tire on and off a rim these days.
I’ve looked closely at adding other everyday tires with puncture belts that get reviewed in industry publications including the Pirelli Zero Race TLR, Goodyear Eagle F1, and Challenge Strada Pro HTLR. The tire loss rolling resistance of these falls a step or so below the tires that I have included at the 60 to 80 psi pressure range that’s right for most of us.
And then there are a handful of thin, puncture-belt free tubeless tires that have tire loss rolling resistance so low that some enthusiasts may be tempted to ride them if only in races. I’m talking about tires like the Vittoria Corsa Speed G+ 2.0 and Schwalbe Pro One TT TLE.
I’ve not tested them and I don’t race. My fellow tester Miles, who wins a lot in Pro/1/2 regional races and is very competitive in Masters Nationals age group races every year won’t use them. Unless you’ve got a support car following you, it just doesn’t make sense. You flat and your race is over.
The Continental Grand Prix S TR and Schwalbe Pro One TLE that are included in this review are close enough in their tire loss rolling resistance ratings that you may not notice the difference to these top-rated, belt-free tubeless tires. You should be able to regain those watts and then some with more time in your position or by dialing in any number of other incremental gains (inflation pressure, chain lube, better fitting kit, etc.)
* * * * *
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 benefited from reading this review and want to keep new ones coming, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links in this review and others across the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish more ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported reviews that are independent, comprehensive, and comparative.
You can use the popup form or the one at the bottom of the sidebar to get notified when new posts come out. To see what gear and kit we’re testing or have just reviewed, follow us by clicking on the links below or the icons at the top of the page to go to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and RSS pages.
Thanks and enjoy your rides safely! Cheers, Steve
First published on August 9, 2020. Date of the most recent major update is shown at the top of the post.