THE BEST TUBELESS TIRES

Summary: As new tubeless tires are introduced, I continue to test more of them and update my evaluations and comparative ratings. I now recommend the 25c and 28c Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR (available online here and at local bike shops) as the best-performing everyday tubeless tires with a puncture belt based on its superior aerodynamics, road feel, and ease of installation.

If you are skilled at installing even the toughest tubeless tires, the 25c Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL (available here and here) is a good option for hooked rim wheels that have deep center channels as it has superior rolling resistance among all tubeless tires with a puncture belt.

Those of us looking to buy the best tubeless tires for our road bikes have a lot to digest these days.

New and updated models are rapidly being introduced from established brands and those just starting to sell tubeless road bike tires. They have different aero, rolling resistance, comfort, grip, handling, and installation strengths that force you to consider what wheels you ride and the type of riding you do when deciding which tires to buy.

Along with that, emerging views about which tire widths and inflation levels give you the best performance and new standards to make tubeless tires and wheels more consistent across them and compatible between them are enough to make your head spin nearly as fast as your wheels do.

And if all of that weren’t enough, good old concerns like a tire’s puncture resistance, weight, wear, or price play in the decision-making of some of us who historically focus on these better-understood measures.

With all of that going on, I’ve updated my evaluations and comparative rankings of tubeless tires road cycling enthusiasts who want an everyday tire with a puncture belt should consider based on a prioritized list of what I believe matters in choosing between them.


Related Reviews


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TUBELESS TIRES

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

Some things matter more than others in picking the right tubeless tires for your situation

Measuring rim and tire widths show which can improve or wreck your aero perfomance

Our reviews and comparative ratings allow you find the best tires at the best prices

WHAT MATTERS MOST

If your primary objective is to go fast and you have your tire pressure 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) and lowest rolling resistance, and that install easily on your size wheels.

That’s why my analysis shows that the aerodynamics of the rim-tire combination is the most important criterion of the eight I will outline here.

However, if you don’t care about riding fast, average at least 18mph/29kph, or have wheels deeper than 40mm, then aerodynamics won’t matter to you.

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 and overall experience or that the differences between tires aren’t notable enough in most cases to outweigh the other criteria.

I’ll explain each of the criteria that matter most and matter less in the following sections.

1. Aerodynamics of the rim-tire combination

Josh Poertner was Zipp’s lead engineer during the development of the Fieldcrest wheelsets that, along with those from HED, first led the industry in search of new aero efficiencies. From wind tunnel testing, he determined that “the rim must be at least 105% the [actual] width of the [mounted, inflated] tire if you have any chance of re-capturing airflow from the tire and controlling it or smoothing it”. “Control” meant getting the airflow that comes off your tire onto the rim to “stick” to your rim or flow alongside it smoothly enough to significantly reduce aerodynamic drag.

At less than 105%, airflow comes off your tires and diverts away from your rims. You get limited aero benefits from those 40mm and deeper carbon wheels you and I spent so much on.

Poertner called this the Rule of 105. It remains a guiding design principle in the design of wheels today.

My analysis of tests and expert input concluded that you could lose from 5 to 15 watts with your rim-tire width combination below the 105% ratio if your wheels are in the 40-65mm depth range and you are riding at 20 to 25mph (32 to 40kph). There’s less to be gained as you go above 105%.

This means you can lose somewhere between 20 seconds to a full minute over a 25 mile, 40 kilometer solo ride or time trial course. On a typically longer competitive group ride, distance event or road race, you’re talking about riding at a 5-15 watt higher power level for several hours to keep up with the pack and avoid losing minutes depending how much time your are riding into the wind vs. tucked away in the draft of a paceline.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not work that hard that long as punishment for picking the wrong tires.

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.

Rim-tire measurements

Of all the evaluations and analysis I and my fellow testers did for this review, the most illuminating and important in this era of ever wider tires was finding out which rim-tire combinations follow the Rule of 105 and which don’t.

Because of that, let me tell you a bit about how I did the measurements for this rule, share a couple of overarching conclusions, and give you specific test results before moving on to a discussion of the other tire evaluation criteria.

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.

Next, I’ll take down 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.

Measuring the width of Tubeless Tires

For 25mm and 26mm labeled tires on the 19C and 21C (or 19mm and 21mm internal width) rims, I measure them inflated to 80psi. This is the maximum recommended pressure that a 170lb/77kg rider should inflate his tires to per the ENVE tire pressure guide. If you weigh 20lbs/10kg less or 30lbs/15kg more, the guide suggests you drop or raise your pressure from 6 to 10psi.

For the 28mm labeled tires on the same 19C and 21C rims, I inflate the tires to 60psi. That’s the right pressure for me at 150lbs. If you weigh 170lbs, the chart guides you to 66psi.

For a 28mm tire on 23C or 25C rims, I also inflate them to 60psi for these tests. That’s about 10psi more than would be recommended for a 150lb ride and 4psi more than for a 170lb rider but it’s a comparable benchmark.

The Zipp Pressure Guide came out more recently and recommends pressures more or less the same as the ENVE for the rear wheel. For the front wheel, Zipp’s guide recommends a pressure about 5psi less than it does for the rear.

My unscientific experiments of lowering tire pressure in search of more comfort typically end up also about 5 psi less than the ENVE and Zipp guides. Many enthusiasts who have raced over the years prefer 5 to 10 psi higher pressures (though it is actually slower even though it may feel faster).

I’ve done enough measurements of 25mm and 28mm tires at pressures from 60 to 100psi on 19mm or wider rims to conclude that raising or lowering your pressure 10 psi will increase or decrease its width somewhere between 0.1mm to 0.3mm. Knowing where you like to run your pressure, you can tweak the percentages below for your situation.

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 that 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 and break the Rule of 105. It won’t matter that much to your aero performance unless you are doing a 40K time trial type of event.

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.

Also, note that I’ve given you rim-tire combinations based on the maximum outside width. There is some discussion about the applicability of the Rule of 105 at the “brake track” vs. the maximum outside width but the research is not so comprehensive as to differentiate there. I’ve also seen far fewer new rims these days with big differences in outside rim widths than there were at the height of the toroid-shaped rim movement.

Should the Rule of 105 really be the Rule of 108?

Unless you put on new tires every 1000 km (620 miles), you need to account for the reality that tires will stretch and widen once you begin to ride them. How much? While I’ve measured mostly new tires, Jarno Bierman at Bicycle Rolling Resistance has done testing that sheds some interesting light on how tire performance and dimensions change over the lifespan of a tire.

He has an ongoing endurance test that tracks changes in the width, tread-thickness, and rolling resistance among other factors 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 or 1.8% at his first 1000km checkpoint but only another 0.2mm or under 0.7% 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 could be another 2 to 3% wider during most of the time we ride them, ie., after about 1000km or 620 miles.

If that’s the case, a Rule of 107 or Rule of 108 for a new tire would keep them aero and in sync with the Rule of 105 as the tires widen with use.

Using these guidelines, I’ve used a traffic light color-coding system in the results below to suggest what rim-tire combinations will clearly be aero over the life of your tires (green – Rule of 108), aero over the first 1000 miles or so (yellow – Rule of 105), and not ever aero (pink – <105%).

The hookless rims showing up on wheels now and likely even more in the future take us into a realm that I’ve only seen conjecture about to date. Specifically, those making wheels with hookless rims suggest those rims 1) make the tire sidewalls straighter and 2) create less turbulence at the interface of the rim-tire intersection. The graphics from Zipp below illustrate these arguments.

Airflow at interface of rims with tubeless tires

Source: Zipp

Tubeless tires and hookless rims

Hookless rim leads to a straighter tire sidewall and smoother rim-tire interface claims Zipp and other hookless rim suppliers

Despite not seeing tests to prove these claims, I’m willing to throw the hookless rims a few extra percentage points in the rim-tire rules based on what seems like reasonable points. So where the rim-tire ratio for a hookless rim is at least 105% I’ve given it the same green color as a hooked rim for 108%. Where the hookless rim-tire ratio is 102% to 104%, I’ve coded it the same yellow as the 105% to 107% of the hooked rims. Below 102%, pink for not passing the aero test.

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 and rim profiles to help you find where yours fits in.

Results and key take-aways

Here are my key conclusions from measuring combinations of 8 tires, 4 of them in both 25mm and 28mm sizes, across 14 wheels with different inside and outside width dimensions.

First, the take-aways and results of 25c tires on wheels with 19mm and 21mm inside rim widths:

  • The Measured Tire Width (MTW) of most 25c tires runs 26mm-27.5mm wide once mounted and inflated on modern rims with a measured inside width of 19mm to 21mm.
  • For wheels with a 19mm inside rim width and at least 28mm outside width, you can find many 25c tires that will be aero over their lifetime judged by the Rule of 108.
  • For wheels with a 21mm inside rim width and at least 29mm outside width, you can find many 25c tires that will be aero over their lifetime judged by the Rule of 108.

Aero performance of tubeless tires

 

Next, my conclusion and measurements for 28c tires on those same wheels with 19mm and 21mm inside width rims.

  • Most 28c tubeless road tires aren’t aero on 19mm or 21mm rims based on the Rule of 108 unless those rims exceed 30mm outside width.

Aero performance of tubeless tires

Finally, here’s the picture for 28c tires on some of the latest hooked and hookless rim wheels that have 22mm to 25mm inside rim widths.

  • Wider inside rim widths require even wider outside rim widths, ideally at least 32mm to create an aero rim to tire ratio with 28c tires.

Aero performance of tubeless tires

As you can gather looking across these charts, the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Light TLR tires in both 25C and 28C sizes are aero in more combinations than any of the other. The Schwalbe Pro One TLE, Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir, and Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL, roughly in that order, provide fewer aero combinations than the Bontragers.

2. Road feel

I started this What Matters Most section with the statement “If your primary objective is to go fast and you have your tire pressure 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.”

Getting your tire pressure set right may be easier to do (at least before you read this post) than following the Rule of 105 or 108. However, too many of us roadies don’t set our pressures right and it can have a big effect on our speed and road feel – the comfort, handling, and grip provided by our tires.

There have been many articles published in recent years, mostly by tire and wheel makers, describing how over-inflated tires create energy losses (“impedance”) as our bodies absorb the road vibrations. These are different and can be far greater than the losses in rolling resistance (“hysteresis”) when tire casings deflect and recover to absorb imperfections in the road surface.

Getting your tire pressure right usually means, per this thinking, lowering that below where you’ve inflated it to in the past. The reduced impedance losses will be far greater than the increase in rolling resistance and make for a more comfortable ride while saving you energy or watts.

You can put those saved watts into your pedals for more speed over the whole ride, at key points during it, or just ride longer at a lower power level.

Use one of the modern tire pressure charts or calculators at these links from ENVE, Zipp, or Silca to guide you to the right tire pressure for you. Here’s an example of the pressure suggested for me on one of my recent rides:

Tire Pressure Guide for Tubeless Tires

By using a guide like this and staying within a few psi of what it recommends, fellow testers Nate, Miles and I could reduce or at least baseline the impedance losses that may have biased our views about a tire’s “road feel” – its comfort, handling, and grip – allowing us to more effectively differentiate between them.

To further bracket this admittedly subjective assessment of the comfort, handling, and grip between the tubeless bike tires we tested, we also used a limited number of 19C and 21C aero road disc wheels we were testing at the same time.

Picking between aero tires inflated to the right pressure should not detract from our comfort, handling, grip, or the role of rolling resistance in our pursuit of speed. For most road cycling enthusiasts, and in comparison with what recreational riders may prefer, we’ll be plenty comfortable on most 25mm tubeless bike tires and some 28mm ones on 19C and wider wheels inflated to the right pressure that also meet the Rule of 105 or 108.

If you care most about optimizing your comfort and are willing to sacrifice speed and time and eliminate the benefit made possible from the depth of your wheels, ignore the aerodynamic relationship and choose the widest tires your rims and bike can safely fit.

3. Rolling resistance has become a popular decision criterion for many riders these days. With several labs publishing results, it is more easily quantified than aero performance or road feel.

However, the absolute results – usually stated in watts of rolling resistance – depends on the protocols used by the testers. Those results will vary with the tire and rim width, inflation pressure, drum surface, rolling speed, weight applied, and other testing choices.

With a few exceptions, the rolling resistance results 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 few watts different (low single digits) at the speeds and pressures we ride tubeless bike tires under the testing protocols at each of four different testing labs I reviewed.

Of course, actual rolling resistance outside the lab differs based on the road surface you ride and is very difficult to consistently or comparatively test.

With all that said, here’s the really important bit: Because rolling resistance increases linearly or at the same rate as your speed increases while aerodynamic drag increases exponentially, rolling resistance matters relatively less than aero drag starting around 12 miles per hour and exponentially less as you go faster.

This chart courtesy of ENVE shows the relative contribution of each at different speeds.

ENVE Graph showing the exponential wattage needed to combat drag

Source: ENVE Composites

Of course, aero drag from your wheels is only about 10% of the total aero drag shown above as the majority comes from your body and some from your bike.

But at the speeds we roadies ride, the difference in rolling resistance between the better tires is both less important than potential energy losses from a rim-tire combination that doesn’t meet the Rule of 105 or 108 (5 to 15-watt losses) or an overinflated tire that creates impedance losses and saps watts of energy from your body that could be put into your pedals for more speed.

Take a look at the chart below from Bicycle Rolling Resistance of tires in this review and other everyday tubeless tires with puncture belts I considered reviewing. At 60psi and 80psi, the pressures where we’ll be riding tires (or at least should be), the difference between the lowest rolling resistance Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL tire and the next three closest ones from Specialized, Schwalbe, and Michelin is 2-2.5 watts. The next group of tires from Vittoria, ENVE, Hutchinson, and Pirelli is another 2-2.5 watts more.

Those are small differences compared to potential aero and impedance losses.

Rolling resistance of selected Tubeless Tires

Source: Bicycle Rolling Resistance

4. Installation – 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, 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 optimized wheelset on the left with the classic clincher one on the right.

Tubeless Bike Tires

The channel 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) more and that makes all the difference in getting your 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, 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.

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.

How to install tubeless road tires

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. At 50 to 70psi pressures typical of what you’d use for 23C and 25C wheels with 28mm tires, the beads hold the tires in place without concern for them coming off the rim.

New or updated ETRTO and ISO standards established in 2020 define the rim diameter and bead lock tolerances for hooked and hookless rims. 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.

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, 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 everyday tubeless road tires with puncture belts.

By my lights, puncture resistance testing essentially evaluates the strength of your puncture belt and the thickness of your side walls. They don’t 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 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.

The most important thing you can do to overcome the inevitable puncture is to make sure you’ve got the right amount of sealant in your tires. I find 30 to 40ml (or about 1 to 1.5 ounces) is the right amount to initially get your tires sealed and protected against normal punctures. However, because water dry out over time, you’ll want to make sure to add sealant every 3-4 months to keep it at that level.

Sealant in tubeless road tires

Make sure to keep enough sealant (30ml) in your tubeless road tires for them to quickly seal after a puncture.

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 rolling resistance and road feel.

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

Everyday tubeless road tires with puncture belts come in one of two forms, either TL or TLR.

Tubeless TL tires have a butyl lining bonded into them. The 25C TL tires in this review weigh an average of 270 grams on my scale and range from 243 to 292 grams.

TLR tires don’t have the butyl lining. Those in this review average 260 grams for the 25C size model and range from 236 to 289 grams.

Add to that another 30 grams for the ounce (30ml) of sealant and another 5 grams for the mid-depth tubeless valve.

Altogether then, you are looking at about 305 grams for a TL tire, sealant, and valve and 295 grams for a TLR set up. (Note that some TL tires are labeled TLR).

As a reference, a top everyday clincher tire like the 25C Continental Grand Prix 5000 weighs 220 grams. With a good butyl tube inside your Conti tire, add about 75 grams, bringing the total to about 295 grams.

So, a top clincher and tubeless setup are going to weigh essentially the same amount. No diff.

Sure, if you add 2 ounces of sealant instead of 1 (or 30 grams), you’ll add another 30 grams to tubeless. Or, if you want to go with a latex tube instead of a longer-lasting, lower-maintenance, less expensive butyl one, you can save another 30-40 grams per tire. Most roadies won’t.

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 matters less bucket of criteria.

7. Wear – The good news about riding different wheels and tires all the time is that I get to try out and evaluate a lot of new gear and report that out to you. The bad news is that I really don’t get to ride any one set of tires 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 than others so wear is a personal 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 I and most 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 shouldn’t be a budget-buster for most of us road cycling enthusiasts.

8. Price – Most better-performing tubeless road tires with protection belts have a market price of around USD$60. You can see the $USD market prices for each of the tires I’ve reviewed in the table below and in USD$, £, € in each review.

One or two may sell for as much as $20 more or less depending on how they are priced or if they are on sale. 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.

With that in mind, I suggest you put the price of tubeless road tires at the bottom of the list of decision-making criteria.


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REVIEWS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF TUBELESS BIKE TIRES

The chart below brings together the relative ratings of tubeless tires for the criteria we evaluated that matter most and less.

A “o” rating means that the tire performed about average compared to the others we evaluated. Those that performed better than average earn a “+” rating; worse than average earns a “-“. You can click the chart to enlarge it.

In the reviews that follow, I say more about why each tire rates where it does.

Comparative Ratings of Tubeless Tires


Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR – Best Performer

 

Market price USD$60, £49, €58. Available online here at the Trek site and at local bike shops that carry Bontrager and Trek products.

This latest iteration of the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR was introduced at about the same time the latest ETRTO and ISO standards came out in 2020. It’s not unsurprising then that the 25c and 28c R3 tires I measured run truer to size than others once mounted and inflated on the range of wheels in our tests.

The result is that the R3s pass the Rule of 105 and 108 in combination with a range of 19C through 25C rims more often than any other tires we’ve tested. This should give you an aerodynamic benefit when riding on 40mm or deeper wheels at speeds greater than 18mph/29kph for the life of your tires.

Add to that a superior road feel on par with the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL and Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir. Despite the “Hard-Case Lite” name that might suggest otherwise, the Bontrager R3 is actually quite comfortable, feels quite supple, and handles well when cornering at high speeds.

As a bonus, they install far easier than the Conti and Spech. And by “install” I’m referring to how easily they go on, inflate, seal, and can be removed. While I nor my fellow testers have flatted on the R3s over many miles, the knowledge of how easily you can take this tire off and put it back on can greatly reduce the anxiety some have about wrestling with a tire that will need a tube if you get a nasty flat that sealant won’t plug while out on a ride.

While I haven’t seen independent rolling resistance tests of the R3 yet, I suspect it will perform on par with others in this test which are only a few watts apart. An earlier Bontrager clincher model performed on par with similar top models from Continental, Vittoria, and Specialized.

The 25mm and 28mm tires we’ve been riding have shown little wear and are compatible with both hooked and hookless rims. And their $60/tire price is similar to or lower than most of the tires in this review.

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Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL

Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL

Market price USD$62, £45, €53. Available at the best prices through these links to my top-rated stores Competitive Cyclist and Merlin Cycles. You can also find them at other stores I recommend in my Know’s Shop (here and here).

The Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL had previously been my top pick for this category. No longer. After revising my evaluation criteria and installing them (or attempting to) on a wider range of wheels, some warts have emerged.

These tires still provide a great combination of comfort and handling at the right pressures. And their low rolling resistance numbers still lead all other everyday tubeless tires that have a puncture belt and a lot of tubeless race tires without one.

Using the rule of 105 and 108 as a surrogate, the 25c Conti GP5K TL’s aero performance is also good on the range of 19mm and 21mm hooked rims with varying outside widths that I mounted them on.

But they don’t mount or come off easily on those rims. The tire beads are very stiff and when new, the tires seem to have a bit smaller diameter than most. That combination is just enough to make them quite tough to get on unless your rim has a deeper center channel than most. Getting them off can be even tougher if your rims have a bead lock. It’s taken me marginally less effort as some I’ve been using tires have aged and stretched a bit but it’s still never easy to get these on and off.

You don’t want to force tires on at home and then have to deal with remounting them on the road if you aren’t skilled with tubeless. Yes, I ride them and have fortunately never flatted. But, I know what I’ll be up against if I ever do and the sealant doesn’t fill. That’s probably why I try to stay on well-paved roads when I’m riding my Contis.

As we come out of the relatively standard-free decade of tubeless wheels and tires, I can’t blame these issues exclusively on Continental. They were late to the tubeless party (2019) and appear to have chosen a conservative path judging from the tight fit they get on rims likely as a result of the tire’s stiff bead and its smaller diameter.

Continental has also clearly stated that the Grand Prix 5000 TL is not compatible with hookless rims. That means you can’t use them on some of the newer and less expensive wheels from the likes of ENVE and Zipp.

That said, if you’ve got a rim that these go on and come off relatively easily or are skilled with tubeless tires, these are fun, fast, low rolling resistance tires.

For the rest of us, I expect or at least hope that Continental will introduce an updated version (Grand Prix 5000S II TL?) that is totally consistent with the new ETRTO tolerances for wheel and tire diameter and that has a bead that is easier to install on both hooked and hookless rims. Time will tell.

Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir

Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir

Market price USD$80, £65, €72. 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.

The Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir tubeless tires are excellent performers at the right pressures on the right wheels.

They have a great road feel, both supremely comfortable and grippy on straights and in corners. Riding the S-Works Turbo RapidAir gives me great confidence in any road handling situation.

Specialized makes a 26c version of the Turbo RapidAir rather than the 25c size that most tubeless tire brands come in. But as most 25c tires measure 1-2mm wider than their implied 25mm width and the Turbo RapidAir 26c measures pretty close to 26mm, the size designation difference seems irrelevant

What is relevant is that the 26c Turbo RapidAir clears the Rule of 105 and 108 for good aero performance in combination with as many 19mm and 21mm rims as any other tire I tested.

The 28c Turbo RapidAir needs to be mounted on a rim with an outside width of about 31mm or wider to follow the rule. This tire may have been designed for Specialized’s Roval division aero CLX64 wheelset as its one of the few that lives by the rule.

Rolling resistance is in the group of chasers just a couple of watts off of the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL. Unless you’re time trialing, this amount of rolling resistance difference is less important than the Turbo RapidAir’s aero performance and road feel.

Putting these tires on the right wheels is key to removing them when you need to. Either the Turbo RapidAir’s bead diameter is larger than in most tubeless tires or the diameter of the bead lock on rims made by others is smaller than those on Rovals. The net result is that I found it next to impossible to remove these from non-Roval wheels by myself.

This is not a situation you want to find yourself in if you have a puncture that sealant won’t fill on the side of a road. It was also a little embarrassing when I showed up at my LBS asking for one of the stronger techs with bigger hands than mine to remove them from my rims when I couldn’t.

Fortunately, most of them are bigger, stronger, faster, and don’t make fun of me when I drop in for something like this. Bringing a dozen donuts along with my stuck tire also helps.

The RapidAir tires are a bit pricey, $20/tire more than the average model in this category and $40/tire more than the lowest-priced ones. That said, compared to all the other stuff we spend money on to feed our cycling habit, I’d happily pay this extra amount for the speed and road feel the RapidAirs offer on the right set of wheels.

Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm Road Tubeless

Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm Road Tubeless - Best Value

Market price USD$39, £28, €40. Available at the best prices through these links to top-ranked store Merlin Cycles, Tredz (10% discount exclusively for In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKTDZ10), and other recommended stores at Know’s Shop

While I’d never buy a pair of tires to save $30 or 50 grams without also considering more important performance criteria, the Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm’s lowest price and weight among the “what matters less” criteria certainly piqued my curiosity.

Among the more important criteria, these tires ride comfortably and grip confidently though not to the level of the Bontrager, Continental, or Specialized. The 25c tire is also amongst the easiest ones to install and passes the aerodynamic surrogate Rule of 105 and 108 measurements for a great number of 19mm and 21mm inside width rims.

While I’ve not seen independent tests of their rolling resistance, results of a Hutchinson tubeless tire using the same 11Storm compound without a puncture belt landed it in the third tier of tires in this comparative review, about 5 watts below the benchmark Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL and 3 watts below the second tier. They’ve also not been tested for compatibility with hookless rims.

But if you’re a budget-weenie and don’t need the best road feel, handling, and rolling resistance, it’s hard to deny the value you get from these tubeless tires.

Schwalbe Pro One TLE

Schwalbe Pro One TLE

Market price USD$63, £50, €59. Available at the best prices through these links to AmazonWiggle, Chain Reaction Cyclesand other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.

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 with the orange 1 graphic is rumored to be made in the same molds as the original ones but now carries more accurate size labels (the new 25c is the old 23c, the new 28c is the old 25c, etc.). My measurements suggest that regardless of what molds they are using, they have effectively gotten their stated tire sizes closer than most others to actual tire widths after mounting and inflation on 19mm through and 25C rims.

The result is good aero performance for rim-tire combinations with the 25c tire but not for the 28c on all but rims whose outside width is around 31mm or more. As I’ve described in the What Matters Most section above, this is based on using the Rule of 105 and 108 rim to measured tire width ratio as a surrogate for expensive wind tunnel testing.

The Pro One is also compatible with hookless rims on wheels used by Zipp and ENVE among others.

Out on the road, these Schwalbe provide only average comfort, a characteristic that was never a strength of the original Pro One. But because these tires provide good grip and handling, the overall road feel falls in the middle of the pack. After reviewing independent rolling resistance tests, I also rate them at the average of the tires tested for this review, just a couple of watts off the pace of the Continental.

Depending on the retailer, the Pro One carries several suffixes including EVO and TLE, the latter of which stands for “tubeless easy”. Ironically, getting these tires on and seated well enough to hold air with sealant can be a challenge for these tires in combination with some rims we tested. Not the worst but not always the easiest either.

That and their tendency, like their predecessors to cut and wear more easily than others during our testing period make the Schwalbe Pro One TLE feel more like a fast yet temperamental race day tire than one I would confidently pick for lots of training and competitive rides.

Michelin Power Road TLR

Market price USD$70, £48, €56. Available at the best prices through these links to Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles, and other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.

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 improve its puncture resistance.

Bicycle Rolling Resistance’s puncture (and rolling) resistance tests of this tire came in very similar and in some cases better than other tires in this comparative review. That, along with the Power Road TLR being the first tubeless road tire offered by this brand with a long history of making good road tires convinced me to give them a try.

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 “matter more?”

Well, I found both to be true in this test of these Michelin tires.

On all but the 19mm rims with a nearly 29mm outside width and 21mm rims with a 31mm outside width, the Power Road failed the Rule of 108 for new tires that ensure it will pass the original Rule of 105 for the life of the tire after it stretches. While a relatively new tire, this Michelin already measured 2-3mm wider than the 25mm width suggested by its 25c designation.

And while the Power Road tires mount and uninstall easily, they don’t hold air the way an internally lined tire should. 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 1 oz of sealant 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 have 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 25c tires. Overall, the Power Road TLRs provide a good ride but not to the level of the best and more similar to the Schwalbe or Hutchinson tires.

These haven’t been tested yet by ENVE for hookless compatibility.

ENVE SES Road Tire

Market price USD$75, £70, €83. Available at the best prices through these links to Planet Cyclery, Merlin, and other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.

ENVE has earned a reputation for high-performance wheels. Looking to complement their road wheels better than they must have concluded tires made by others did, the ENVE SES Road Tire line was introduced in 2020 with black and tan walled tires in sizes 25c, 27c, 29c, and 31c.

The seemingly odd or at least unique combination of sizes are actually intentionally designed to signal the actual tire widths once mounted and inflated on ENVE wheels with 19mm internal width rims (25c=25mm, 27c=27mm) and 21mm internal width rims (29c=29mm, 31c=31mm)

After testing pre-release 25c and production versions of the SES 25c and 29c tires, I’ve concluded that those tires made by others – or at least many of those in this comparative review – do a better job than the ENVE tires on both ENVE wheels and hoops made by other major brands.

Using the Rule of 105 or 108 to suggest the aerodynamic performance you would likely see in a wind tunnel, the SES 25 should have quite good aero performance on wheels like the ENVE 5.6 disc with its hooked, 19.6mm front rim, the hookless, 21mm ENVE 45 Foundation and similar width wheels I measured from the likes of Zipp and Roval.

However, the SES 29 proved too wide to suggest good aero performance on wheels using rims with internal 21mm, 23mm, or 25mm widths, either hooked or hookless. The 27c ENVE tire would likely be more aero on their 25mm internal width ENVE 3.4 AR and 4.5 AR wheels and others in 23mm to 25mm width range.

On the road, I found the comfort and handling of the ENVE SES Road Tires to be adequate and provided confidence but not more than average in their comfort, grip or handling. They didn’t make me want to go out and test the limits of my speed or endurance.

I actually found the tan walled SES 25 quite buzzy even after several hundred miles and the SES 29 to be only slightly less so. The tires were nearly as loud as the freewheeling sound that comes from ENVE’s hubs. I actually don’t mind the relatively low-frequency acoustics of ENVE’s rear hubs when coasting, I just don’t want to hear that volume of sound all the time coming from my tires.

Independent testing has shown that these ENVE tires are in the third rolling resistance tier (see chart above), certainly not where you’d expect an ENVE product to land.

Unfortunately, the only place where the ENVE Road Tire seemed to match established tires like the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL and Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir was in the competition for how hard it is to install these tires. The ENVEs are darn near beastly with their beads the stiffest I’ve come across.

Yes, I could get them on but doing so took 3 or 4 tire levers worth of lifts to accomplish the tasks. They were no easier to get on the ENVE wheels (5.6 disc, 45 Foundation, and 3.4 AR) with their supposedly deep channels than on wheels from other brands that I tried.

Mercifully, once on the wheels, the beads lock out well and 1-1.5 ounces of sealant does the trick to hold the pressure as well as any tubeless tire does.

ENVE has been transparent about having these tires made by Tufo, an established Eastern European tire producer. As with other wheelset companies that took a few iterations to get improvements in their tire lines – Mavic and Bontrager being notable examples – I expect or at least hope that ENVE will keep working to raise the performance level of their SES Road Tires.

Vittoria Corsa G+2.0 TLR

Vittoria Corsa G+2.0 TLR

Market price USD$51, £44, €51. Available at the best prices through these links to Amazon, Merlin, and other recommended stores in Know’s Shop.

With all the acclaim for the chart-topping, low rolling resistance of Vittoria’s Corsa Speed Graphene pure racing tires, I was looking forward to testing the Corsa G+2.0 TLR, an update of their Corsa G+ TLR tire.

Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment.

Aerodynamically, the tire is wide, seldom meeting the Rule of 105 or 108.

Worse, the very supple tire sidewalls made it difficult for the tire to inflate on a couple of the wider 21mm wheels I tried even with a compressor and the core valve removed. Without the rim walls to assist them, the Corsa G+2.0 TLR didn’t have enough strength to stand up on their own in rims wider than 29mm and just wouldn’t inflate.

This meant I could only inflate and test the tires on “narrower” wheels where the aerodynamics would be compromised.

The Corsa G+ 2.0 gripped and cornered well but wasn’t terribly comfortable at several inflation pressures I tried. And while I’ve not seen independent rolling resistance data on this new tire, testing of the old and new clincher version of the same tire shows that performance actually declined and would make it no better than an average performer.

* * * * *

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.

As new tubeless tires with puncture belts get introduced, I’ll add our reviews of them to this post. For now, I’ve passed on reviewing the Pirelli P Zero Velo Race TLR and Goodyear Eagle F1 Tubeless tires as reviews from others I trust suggest they are no better and in some ways not as good as those in this current review.

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First published on August 9, 2020. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.

83 comments

  • I had 2 sets of Hutchinson which both delaminatef at the joins clearly seen when immersed in water. These were exchanged. The third set I binned same type of issue. Since changed to 5000tl love them and no problems

    • My experience with the Conti 5000 TLs is similar. They are EXTREMELY difficult to mount when new. But otherwise, they perform and hold up well. The Schwalbe Pro One TLEs are easier to mount, but don’t roll as well. Also, the Schwalbe are more susceptible to “cuts”. I’m on my second set of both brands with the same observations.

  • Again- thank you. Site is awesome and today it was incredibly timely as I have had 3 flats in a week with brand new rubber (Bontrager R3 clincher but 2 unlucky cuts and one hasty mount that pinched) and was about to order Conti5000 TL when I saw your article this morning…. Four questions: 1) is there a better sealant? lasts longer, evaporates less, seals more, better container so less mess… 2)I had a LBS employee say that he had a few customers he was switching back to clinchers because the tires lost considerable pressure every day. I was sort of confused by two things as I walked away: they said that one ladies tires went from 90PSI to 70 in a day and had to be pumped up each day. I check tire pressure every day so…. so who cares about having to check tire pressure, and why 90PSI to start based on values you checked… essentially shop guy might have many missing knowledge pieces but maybe something to the losing pressure? 3) why would Trek’s own tire not be a good aero fit with their own rim? they know the rule of 105 – right? I’m on last years Madone with Aeolus XXX 4 wheels so had been also considering the Bontrager R3 but were pretty pricy and now seem to be an aero disadvantage…. 4) haven’t gone to TL yet but I lowered my clinchers to the recommended pressure today (82) just for kicks and they felt pretty “squirrelly.” Is that the clinchers or the pressure? will I feel that when I go tubeless? Again – Thank you! Site is my goto and will be buying in a few days based on links from the site.

    • Scott, thanks for your kind feedback and support. Your questions are good ones. My accompanying post called The Realities of Tubeless Road Tires provides some perspective that you may find helpful as you decide what to do next.

      In answer to your specific questions.
      1) I’ve used different sealants but haven’t tested them for the things you’ve asked about. I use Stan’s No Tubes tire sealant. However, with any sealant, you’ll need to be willing to learn how to use it and maintain it in your tires if you want to have success with it. The “Realities” post I linked to above will help get you there.
      2) Tubeless is not for everyone and especially not for riders who aren’t comfortable with change. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who doesn’t do their own regular maintenance and things like checking their pressure frequently before riding, cleaning and lubing their chain regularly, washing their bike, etc. Most road cycling enthusiasts do these things, enjoy keeping their bike in great shape, look for the right gear, optimize their pressure, train for events, etc. Most recreational riders leave the maintenance to others, do what the salesman suggests for things like gear, tire pressure, etc. and enjoy riding a few times a week without ever considering a training plan or preparing their physiology for an event. Both are fine but I wouldn’t recommend tubeless to recreational riders as shouldn’t most sales and service people at bike shops.
      3) I asked Bontrager about their view of the Rule of 105. Was told there are many, many factors they model to determine rim and tire dimensions. This is true about most companies that do computational fluid dynamics (CFD) now and trade-off many considerations within and beyond aerodynamic drag. Rule of 105 isn’t an end/be all but is a rule of thumb that seems to work out for many.
      4) “Squirrelly” is a subjective term. If the cornering feels sloppy on you XXX 4, you are likely underinflated. But if the tires just feel a little more comfortable or less hard than what you are used to, that doesn’t mean that they are underinflated. Recommended clincher pressure is typically a little higher than tubeless so make sure you’ve got that dialed into your calculations. Use the Zipp pressure guide to make that distinction. It might take you a while to get comfortable psychologically as well as physically riding at lower pressures. I know it did for me. But after a while, the increased comfort and better handling overcame the sense that I wasn’t hardened up enough. Steve

  • Steve, it’s nice to see your tire reviews not only in-depth but with their selection criteria evolving. I’d like to see your test of the new Enve SES TLR tires, not only the 25c but also the 27c on wide wheels like the Enve 3.4ARs (I ride Light Bicycle WR50s = same width). These being made by Tufo adds a new manufacturer to the mix. I want aero performance but comfort and feel are at the top for me to let me keep riding at 60+ years. Thanks

  • Dan, Thanks for the feedback. Just received and installed the 25c on the SES 5.6. Photos up on our social media accounts. Trying to get a hold of a set of 27c for 3.4 AR tests now but ENVE site shows they won’t be available until December. Will report out on both. Least I can do for a young man like you still wanting aero while enjoying comfort. Cheers, Steve

  • Awesome review as usual, I’ve really come to trust your advice and so far it’s helped me (among other factors) achieve better average speeds – currently about 17.5 to 19.5 mph (depending on the hills and wind) which is about a 2 mph increase since I’ve started reading your posts. The hills are what really kill my average speed, I normally cruise along at 22 to 24 mph on flat pavement and the only advantage I can not seem to gain is the aero effect of the correct rim/tubeless tire combo since I have alloy wheels. I’ve pretty much upgraded every component on my bike so I’m left looking for any marginal gain I can get. I was wondering if you might have any interest in reviewing the Kenda Valkyrie Pro TLR? I already bit the bullet and I’m waiting for a set of 23mm to arrive in hopes that they will fall into the rule of 105 on my rims but I was curious to see if the larger sizes might be a good option for carbon wheels if I ever choose to upgrade. I do realize Kenda tires probably create as much excitement as watching paint dry and the names they choose aren’t the greatest or even remotely related to cycling for that matter but these tires have received some solid reviews from customers (one mentioned that they are narrow) and might be a decent budget option. None of the major cycling websites have done an in-depth review it seems and Kenda doesn’t give any statistics other than weight. I’ve been running the GP 5000TL in 25mm and while they feel amazing and roll fast the amount of air I lose daily is concerning and they always seem to have a bulge in the tire, while this is probably nothing to be worried about it doesn’t inspire confidence. I was also wondering if I should even be concerned about the aero gain with shallow (27mm) rims?

    • Steven, Thanks for your kind feedback. Glad to help. Those are pretty impressive speed gains. As your questions about tires, your last point is the key one. There’s no aero benefit or loss you’ll see because of tire width on 27mm deep wheels. Inflation pressure and the rolling resistance will affect your speed so you want to get both right. I know nothing about the Valkyrie but do know that the Conti GP 5K TL has very low rolling resistance. Steve

      • Might be time to upgrade to carbon wheels after all, thank you.

      • Seeing as the Kenda tires will not be beneficial in the way I had hoped I was looking to get the Zipp Tangentes but the company I like to buy from was out of stock so I opted for the new Michelin Power Road TLRs and I’m actually quite impressed with them. They mounted and seated easy enough and the bead actually stays locked in place on my Easton rims when deflating them completely and removing the valve core which scores major points with me, topping off or replacing sealant will be simple with a syringe and reinflating them will be stress free. Michelin is also buying into the lower pressure concept and has 87 psi listed as the max pressure on 19C rims for these tires. The ride quality (to me) feels better than the GP5000s, they seem to absorb more road buzz but still let you feel enough feedback and they also feel just as fast. I only have about 120 miles on the pair so of course durability and puncture resistance is still in question. Unfortunately I do not own a pair of calipers so I couldn’t tell you how wide they get on 19.5 mm internal rims but they appear similar the the GP5000s so they may or may not be a good aerodynamic option for some carbon wheels. Not sure if you would be interested in trying them out but they seem like a pretty good option.

        • Steven, I have checked into those tires. As a filter to choose between tires, I’ve tested only those that I’d consider everyday training and racing tire and that have a puncture belt. While I hope not to jinx you, the Power Road TLR don’t have a puncture belt in them so I passed. Steve

          • That does concern me, although the puncture resistance is supposed to be decent it is strange they chose to not put one in. Time will tell I guess.

          • The Michelins (surprise) did not end up working out for me, you just may have jinxed me but I’m not blaming you – I should have listened to reason regarding the lack of a puncture belt. I got about a 3 mm cut that would just not permanently seal, too bad because I really enjoy the way they ride. Thankfully I bought the Zipp tubeless tires in anticipation of failure with the Michelins and will install them soon, I was wondering how your luck has been as far as punctures go with them?

          • Steven, Did you try patching the Michelin? A 3mm isn’t that big that you shouldn’t give it a try. Steve

          • I tried using the Stan’s Dart Tool but broke the plastic tip off two of them (wrong angle), I will patch the bad tire and keep them as backups for the Zipps. I just mounted the Tangentes and they were surprisingly easy to get on the rim, so easy I was afraid they might pop off at high pressure but of course that didn’t happen. The beads do stay locked in when the tire is fully deflated (awesome) and first impressions are these are going to have a really nice ride, hopefully my horrendous luck with punctures and sidewall cuts doesn’t continue with these. Thanks again for the in-depth review, if you hadn’t covered the differences in bead thickness I doubt I ever would have considered buying Zipp’s tubeless tires.

          • I’m at a loss here, the maiden voyage with the Zipp tires ended up with my front tire completely popping off the rim (both beads) 13.5 miles into the ride as if it exploded. I don’t know if it’s my rim or a faulty tire or the garbage roads I ride on but I followed the installation instructions Zipp has on YouTube perfectly. I’ve had a Hutchinson tubeless ready tire and a GP5000TL do the same thing when trying to inflate it for the first time but never had a tire do this on the road, has this ever happened to you with any tire?

          • The obvious questions: What wheels are you using? Are they tubeless ready? Tape well? Sealant or tubes? How much sealant? What pressure? What condition are your wheels in?

          • I have Easton EA90SL tubeless ready wheels, the tape (DT Swiss) is in good condition and I use 30-40ml of Stan’s Race sealant. I used Zipp’s tire pressure guide and ran 85/90 front/rear, my wheels are in good condition as far as I can tell – both are still true or very close. There is a very small nick on the outer edge of the rim but I highly doubt it would have caused the tire to blow off. Maybe the Easton’s bead hooks are too small but the Michelin and Zipp beads looks pretty similar to me, I suspect I got a bad tire. I tried reinstalling it to see if it would hold but air was leaking past the bead in at least 2 spots so I couldn’t get it to seat, I did put the Michelins back on with no issue.

          • Steven, Not sure what is going on. That tire and rim combination, if each are sound, should be good up to 100psi or so. Perhaps there’s something going on in the rim that is not easy to see. You might want to have a trained eye look at it.

            I’d also suggest you set aside the Stan’s Race sealant in favor of the Standard sealant. While neither should have caused the tire to blow off the rim, the Race sealant is known to dry up pretty quickly and no longer seal; it is best for race day only. If it was a few days from when you sealed up the tires to when you rode them, that might have contributed to the problem and your Michelin not sealing earlier after the cut you got in the tread.

            Backing into where you’ve set your pressure, I’m estimating you are riding the latest EA90 SL that has a 19.5mm inside rim width, the 25mm width Zipp tires, and you weigh 200 lbs or more. If you weigh less, are using a 28mm tire, or have the prior model EA90 SL that was 17mm, you might want to recheck your pressures settings. Also should use the standard tire casing settings. 85-90 psi is pretty high for tubeless but, again, shouldn’t cause the tire to blow off. Steve

          • You’re right about the wheelset and my weight (205-210), the tires did feel a bit harsh and really fast at that pressure and I was going to drop 5 psi each on the next ride. Thinking about my rim I have had quite a few flats and they always seem to happen at higher speeds or I won’t notice a slow leak until I hit a crater and feel the rim slam against the road. Although the wheel is still true I may have stressed it enough to cause some flex which contributed to the tires blowing off. Seeing as the GP5000TL and Michelin tires inflate well over their advertised widths they most likely would have enough flexibility to stay on the rim whereas the Zipps combination of running true to size and the high pressure I ran them at would make them much more susceptible to blowing off with a compromised rim.

            Thanks again for your feedback, I will switch to the regular Stan’s and have my wheel checked out.

          • Hey Steve, so I ended up replacing my front wheel and getting another Zipp tire and so far they have been excellent. These hold air better than any tires I’ve tried (tubed or tubeless), for the first time ever I actually had to let air out the next day to get the comfort level where I wanted it. They really feel rock solid when leaning into corners, no noticeable deflection even after dropping the front to about 75psi. I don’t know if it’s the compound or the wall thickness but I get the sense these will not puncture (not easily anyway), kind of reminds me of using the GP4000 SII when I felt safe running over just about anything.

            I did buy two more tires to have a spare and one of them has white lettering where the first three have gray. I’m guessing the white lettering is the newer version but was wondering if you know one way or the other or have seen both? I got them from Planet Cyclery so I highly doubt either one are fakes.

          • Steven, Good to hear. Let’s hope your puncture-free rides continue for a while. As to the lettering, I’ve only ever seen white. Steve

  • Michael Faragher

    Great article as usual Steve.

    I run the new Giant SLR-1 disc hookless wheelset and I’m very impressed in combination with the Giant Gavia tyres.

    I have been a dedicated GP4000 and 5000 user in the past.

    I’m puzzled as to why Continental have painted themselves into a corner with there “DO NOT USE ON HOOKLESS RIMS” ruling.

    Surely they are or should have accelerated testing in order to open up a growing and future mainstay of the market in hookless rims?

    Do you have any information from Continental on this?

    When big hitters like Enve, Zipp and Giant are backing hookless rims a big tyre hitter like Continental should be onboard. Both Pirelli and Goodyear have just launched tubeless, hookless compatable tyres as relative newcomers to this area of the market.

    • Michael, I don’t know any more than what Continental has stated. Making tires for cars, bikes, and other wheeled vehicles, they certainly know tires and wheels so I’ll go with their recommendation. There are certainly other brands to choose from that work with hookless rims. Steve

      • Thanks Steve

        Please could you list some of the tyres that you know that are compatible with hookless rims?
        Nick

        • Nick, The list I trust is this one that ENVE publishes and updates for their hookless rim wheels. Zipp says any tire works with their 303 hookless rims but they don’t test different tires (ENVE does) and some tire makers like Continental say their GP5000 TL shouldn’t be used with hookless rims. Steve

    • “I’m puzzled as to why Continental have painted themselves into a corner with there “DO NOT USE ON HOOKLESS RIMS” ruling.”

      The Conti seems to dominate, at least on the Internet. Virtually every single discussion threads or tyre reviews have the Conti mentioned and compared to. It seems that every person on earth who rode a bike have tried them.

      So Continental can afford not to hurry for anything.

  • I can concur with the findings about Pro One TLE – I fitted a pair without having read this review. My first go at tubeless. Fitting was on 24mm external Kinlin 26T rims – and was very easy. The 30mm labelled tyres filled out to only 29.5mm, weighing 290g. The ride quality is OK but not same feel as high quality supple sidewall tyres with latex tubes. I was a bit disappointed having read the glowing reviews.
    My past experience includes the Zipp Speed R28 (non tubeless), looks like I should have stuck with Zipp.

    • Greg, thanks for sharing your experience. One thing I will say in Schwalbe’s favor is that they were first ones I’ve tested that have modified their sizing for modern rim sizes and in sync with where the standards appear to be going. So while tires once mounted and inflated used to be (and many still are) 1-3mm wider than the labeled size, the Schwalbes are a lot closer. Steve

  • I have Easton R90 alloy rims (for rim brakes) and ride on Continental GP5000TL tires. I think the rims are shade under 25mm wide. The tires appear to be >105% when inflated to 75psi. The tires are due for replacement and I’m considering the Zipps you recommended. I ride at 20mph on the flats and do a lot of climbing. What are your thoughts about the aero characteristics of the Zipps for my setup, and should I maybe consider a different tire because of its width?

    • Robert, I wouldn’t worry about the aero characteristics of your tires. The R90 rim specs are 27mm tall, 24.25 max outside width and 19.5mm inside. Your rims aren’t deep enough to bring you any aero benefit. I’d use the other criteria to make your choice. Steve

  • Hey Steve, a general question….do you find that the wear/longevity of a tubeless tire tends to be inferior to that of its non-tubeless counterpart?
    I’m new to tubeless this season (so only have experience with one brand), but note that tread wear is surprisingly quick- particularly on the rear.

    • Dave, I think it depends on the compound and perhaps tire thickness in the tire model regardless of whether it’s tubeless or clincher. For example, the Conti GP 5K clincher and TL both use the same compound so I don’t know why one would last longer than another. Steve

  • Hi
    I Have recently bought a Giant TCR Advances Pro 1, which comes with Giant’s own SLR 1 42mm (deep) wheelset. The rims are 17mm internal and 23mm external. Tubeless ready, but can run clinchers.
    Going by your recommendation, from an aero point of view, at least, I should be looking for a tyre that ‘comes up’ as 22mm.
    Is this correct? Or would a tyre with an actual width of 23mm suffice?
    Many thanks in advance
    Nick

  • Hi Steve: sorry if I missed it in the article, but do your recommendations apply to Enve 3.4 wheels, particularly the Rule of 105/aero benefits? I need new tires and have always used Contis, so am wondering if I should switch up to the Zipps you recommend (on Competitive Cyclist, of course). Thanks!

    • Jay, Depends which ENVE 3.4 are you referring to – 3.4 rim, 3.4 disc or 3.4 AR disc? You can get aero benefits from each using the rule of 105 but they are more limited on shallower wheels like the 40mm or so 3.4 series. The Zipp Tangente Speed Road Tubeless RT25 will give you those benefits on the 3.4 rim and 3.4 disc. The Schwalbe and Specialized reviewed in this post will be marginally more aero than the Zipp RT28 on the 3.4 AR disc but have other drawbacks I wrote about that would steer me toward the Zipp. You should not use the Conti on the 3.4 AR as both Conti and ENVE say they are incompatible. And thanks for supporting the site by using the link to my recommended stores. Steve

      • Thanks for the response, Steve! I should’ve said the ENVE 3.4 disc.

        When ordering the Zipp Tangente, I see references to the “RT25” tire, but also just to the “Speed” tire. Are they different models? By the way, Competitive Cyclist appears to be sold out.

        • Jay, I’ve added links to stores that have the tires in stock. The best price is now $59 at this link to Planet Cyclery, another store I recommend and that supports the site. The tire model is the Zipp Tangente Speed Tubeless. The RT25 stands for Road Tubeless 25mm. It also comes in an RT28 or Road Tubeless 28mm. They also make Tangente Speed Clincher and Tangente Speed Tubular tires for clincher and tubular wheels. But you want the Tangente Speed Tubeless 25mm tire often referred to as the RT25 for your 3.4 disc. Hope that covers it. Cheers, Steve

  • Love you reviews. Do the Zipp NSW 303 have an internal width of 21 mm, I thought NSWs were 19 mm? In your review on the best rim carbon wheelsets where the best performers were the NSW 303 and Bontrager XXX4, you said you ran tubeless, do you remember the tires you used for that review in Feb. 2020?
    Thank you

  • There seems to be something wrong with Enve’s Aero Drag + Rolling Resistance Drag chart in the 3rd section. The blue line (Aero Drag + Rolling Drag) should be a simple sum of the other two (Aero and Rolling separated) shouldn’t it? It obviously isn’t. For example, at 20MPH Aero Drag looks like 120W and Rolling 45W, the combination should be about 165W. I agree that rolling drag is certainly less important but I don’t come to the conclusion that it is insignificant.

    Other than that I very much appreciate this analysis!

    • Clarence, Yeah, I agree. It looks like it’s poorly drawn. Best to look at the orange and grey lines. However, I don’t think I wrote that rolling resistance is insignificant but that it “matters relatively less than aero drag starting around 12 miles per hour and increasingly less as you go faster.” With few exceptions, the amount of difference between like tires is so small (a couple of watts) that making a choice on rolling resistance alone rather than also considering aero performance would be a mistake. Great aero and rolling resistance performance would be ideal but I’d prioritize the aero drag (rule of 105 as a surrogate) if I had to choose between them. Steve

  • Bought a pair of Zipp Tangente in early 2019 – without being ridden, both sprung leaks in the centre of the tread (sprayed my mechanic’s workshop with sealant)! These were successfully returned and since then have used original Pro 1 (cut-up quite quickly but pretty reliable) and Hutchinson (easy to install, grippy, but have had a few sidewall gashes and gone through tires quite quickly). GP 5000 in the cupboard for next tire change (not looking forward to fitting).

    Performance not being my main goal, my general argument for tubeless is, if it saves you having to change a tube even once, it is one time you did not have to do a puncture repair by the side of the road. But be sure to prove you can get the tire off if you have an issue, and be able to remove the valve (I use ones that let you use a hex key and little spanner e.g. muc-off). Following these rules, I did convince my partner to go tubeless and she has already avoided at least one puncture stop.

    Regarding Zipp, I have also had a Zipp wheel fail with a negative warranty experience (should post details of this somewhere more appropriate for other’s to consider when buying wheels), so overall would never purchase a SRAM / Zipp product ever again!

    • Anthony, That’s an unbelievable experience you had with the Zipp tires. With your experience on the Schwalbe and Hutchinson, sounds like you are pretty hard on tires. With performance not being your main goal, you might want to go with more of an all-seasons kind of tubeless tire rather than any I’ve reviewed here. Steve

  • Thanks for the in-depth review! Much appreciated. I am getting ready to install my 2nd pair of Zipp Speed rt25 tires. I started using them last year mainly due to ease of installation compared to the competition, and have been very happy with them. I have a new wheelset (HED Jet6) which will be used mainly for racing next year. With winter coming and only occasionally using these wheels, I was thinking of just leaving tubes in for while and having one less bike/wheelset to worry about maintaining sealant or the sealant drying out. But I notice the Zipp box and tire itself say “Tubeless Only”. Do you have any idea if this disclaimer is meaningful in practice? I thought you could always put a tube in any tubeless tire. Thanks.

    • Bill, As with you, I can’t think of any reason why you couldn’t put a tube in. Perhaps give a call to Zipp on Monday to see if they can explain what’s on the box. Steve

  • What has happened to the Zipp Tangente tubeless? The have become almost impossible to find and now the RT 28 doesn’t even show up on Zipp’s website. I got one from R&A Cycles that came with a white decal which was discolored (yellowish) where it had been exposed to light in the original box. Although I didn’t find that acceptable, I kept it since they are so scarce. Eventually R&A somehow got some more in stock (when nobody else was), so I ordered a second one. It came with a silver/grey decal rather than white, but looking at it closely you could see it was also discoloring where it was exposed to light in the box display opening. Now the R&A website says the RT28 has been discontinued. The do show RT25’s in stock. Zipps website never showed them with a silver decal. Very confusing. Any idea what’s up Steve?

    • Greg, This is another case of demand exceeding supply and supply being constrained by Covid. I know it’s very frustrating but is happening all across cycling and in most other industries where product is in high demand. I called Zipp customer service and they confirmed the RT28s are out of stock on their site but have not been discontinued. I regularly update the post after searching all of the stores I recommend and post links where they are available from the best stores at the best prices.

      As to your experience with R&A, I can only say it’s not a store I recommend because their customer service rating from the independent services I use rate them poor (Trustpilot) and average (Google). Discolored labels could mean they didn’t store the tires well or they are older tires that have been sitting around for a while. Either way, they aren’t ones that are likely to give you the performance of a newer tire. Not sure what the deal is with the silver/grey decal.

      While I do recommend the RT25 tires, there are other good 28C tires, some of which will give you better aero performance if that’s important to you or are available at a lower price if not the same performance to hold you over until the RT28s are back in stock. Cheers, Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    I bought a pair of Enve SES 3.4 rim brake wheels this winter and am very anxious for the snow to go away so I can get on the road to ride them.
    I know you rate them well , as I used your advice and a recommendation from a wheel builder to confirm my decision.
    These are new 2020 model with 21 mm inside width , 38 deep front and 42 deep rear.
    My question for you is which tire do you think is best for this wheelset.
    I have the new Enve 25 mm tires ( I ordered them with the wheels), but I wonder if you have a particular 700×25 tire you know works especially well with this wheelset ?
    My priorities are , comfort , and then speed and ease of installation .
    Thanks , you remain a trusted resource .
    Dave

    • David, I haven’t completed my review of the ENVE tires but, since you already have them and they are designed for the wheels you bought, I’d start there. If you don’t care for them, you can refer to my recommendations in this review. But no, I don’t recommend specific tires for specific wheelsets. Rather, specific tires maximize aero performance on specific rim widths and other factors I detail in the post. But since comfort is your priority and the 3.4 aren’t deep enough to have a big aero impact, you could easily pick from those I’ve rated at the top of the recommendations section based on what is most important to you. Steve

  • Hi Steve – impressive work with this post!

    I just took delivery of my 4.5 AR earlier than expected and now I’m scrambling around researching the best tubeless tires to get.

    The ENVE website states the front wheel width is 31mm (30.5mm for the rear) and after speaking with their support team they stated that their new SES 27c Road Tire inflates to 30mm and their 29c inflates to 31mm.

    If I’m understanding correctly, 30mm + 105% = 31.5mm.. so even though ENVE say the wheels are optimized for 28c, their own 27c inflates too much to have any aero benefits – is that right?

    I’m waiting for them to email me back with what their 25c tires inflate too.. was really looking forward to running 28s though lol.

    • Edward, It’s a bit more nuanced than you describe it but it’s probably my fault for not making this clearer in the post. While I haven’t tested or measured the production line ENVE tires, I think you’ll be best with the SES 27c or the Schwalbe Pro One 28c tubeless tires.

      Here’s why. First, these numbers and their effects are more shades of grey than black and white. For example, ENVE shoots for 31.0 and 30.5 front and rear external rim widths but on the 4.5AR I tested, the front rim width came in at 31.2 and the rear at 30.4. Since there are tolerances around these widths (along with my measurement accuracy) and, in my experience widths vary 0.1 to 0.3 at different places on most rims, yours may be wider or narrower than the target.

      Second, tire widths depend on both tire pressure and tire use. Higher tire pressure increases tire width and a tire with 1000 miles on it is wider than a new one. Exactly how much difference depends on the pressure range and tire but were talking about 0.1 to 0.5mm in my experience.

      Third, the aero benefit starts to kick in around 18-20 mph and, since it’s exponential, you really start to feel it in sustained momentum around 22-23 mph and up. The 4.5AR is aero for sure but is more of an all-around wheelset that brings aero, comfort, handling, crosswind mgmt. and other benefits in good measure. If aero is your overwhelming priority, you’d want to go for a deeper wheelset, for example, the ENVE 5.6 or something with 55-65mm deep wheels.

      And finally, as long as the tire isn’t wider than rim, you aren’t wiping out the aero benefits of the wheelset when riding at 18-20 mph speeds and higher. Yes, the greatest benefit kicks in at 105% and there’s notably less benefit below but if you are at 103% (31/30), you aren’t wiping out all your aero benefits of a deeper wheelset.

      BTW, I definitely wouldn’t go with a 25c tire on that rim. Yes, it will likely exceed the rule of 105 but on a 25mm internal width rim, the tire’s sidewalls will get rounded off, provide less support to your rims, and make your handling very sketchy.

      I hope that makes things clearer. Steve

      • Hi Steve, thank you for the detailed reply!

        ENVE wrote back to me saying do not use 25c on 4.5AR as they just won’t work.

        I primarily ride in Miami where it’s flat as a pancake so 100 mile rides at 20mph avg are quite common, with shorter rides averaging 21-24mph so I almost went for the ENVE 5.6 – but.. it gets hella windy here with the various tropical storms and hurricanes we frequently have, plus I plan to travel with my bike to more mountainous regions so opted for the 4.5AR as I’m also a big fan of comfort on my long rides and hoping wider tires will help with that, as well as with grip when caught in a sudden downpour.

        I ended up ordering the ENVE 29c last night before reading your reply, and have put an order in for the 27c but probably won’t receive those until May!
        Hopefully the 29c won’t feel too sluggish and I’ll be able to get some use out of them on light gravel after I run 27c as default.

        • What did the Schwalbe Pro One 28c inflate to for you?

          I noticed you said the 28c is like their old 25c, so if they’re 28mm inflated then I’ll try cancel my ENVE order.

          • Edward, See the Rim to Tire ratio chart in the post for all the details. Steve

          • Got it – thank you.

            Curious to know why you would recommend the Schwalbe Pro One over the S-Works Turbo RapidAir?

            One reason for going for the ENVE 29c was the aesthetics of matching to the rim, but S-Works will match my frame and your write up on them seems better than the Schwalbe.

          • Aesthetics!$%&? We do science 🙂 Look at the numbers; the Schwalbe is a slightly narrower (and therefore more aero) tire that is also less expensive than the Spech. It performs similarly except on comfort.

          • Haha I hear you. Didn’t realize there were further aero gains going beyond 105%, surely there’s a point where 108% vs 111% see incredibly diminishing returns vs say 103% vs 105% because even though it’s only a 2pt vs 3pt difference, you’re crossing the threshold required to see gains?

          • Look at the chart. The 4.5 AR front rim width is between the HED Eroica and 3.4 AR on the chart. Based on how the Schwalbe and Spech measured on those rims, I’m projecting that the Schwalbe will come in closer to 105 than the Spech on the 4.5 AR.

          • My mistake then, I had been assuming the width was the same between the 3.4 and 4.5 AR and was just using data in chart for 3.4, but there’s a 1 and 1.5mm smaller width on the 4.5AR per ENVE’s specs (weird the rear would be narrower than the front).

            From Schwalbe: “The 28c Pro One is true to width on a 19mm wide internal rim, so on your 25mm internal rims it’s going to be about 30-31 mm wide.”

            From Specialized: “Unfortunately, we haven’t mounted our tires and measured them on those wheels so I can’t give you an exact measurement. I can tell you that our S-Works Turbo RapidAir 28mm measures 29.9 on our CLX 32 rim with an internal width of 20.7mm. So on that ENVE rim that you have, maybe 31mm.”

            It seems there’s no tire that will meat the 105% rule for 4.5 AR even though both of the above mentioned do on the 3.4 AR.. I wonder if the 1/1.5mm narrower width makes up for not being able to recapture the air around the rims?

            If I can find the right tool, I’ll measure my 4.5 ARs for you. But let’s assume the 31mm is really an average of 31.2mm around the rim based on the variance of the 3.4 – this would mean I need a tire that inflates to no more than 29.7mm if I’m to hit that sweet spot, correct?

  • Sebastian Riedel

    There is no link to rolling resistance tests in the article. Where was the Zipp tire tested as fast as the Gp5000?

    • Sebastian, Rolling resistance test results vary depending on protocol so my ratings show relative differences from tests done by respected, independent testers rather than absolute scores based on a single test or protocol or a company-sponsored test or set of claims. For the Zipp tires, I looked at tests done by Wheel Energy for Bike Radar reported here. Yes, not exactly the same tires against the same competition, blah, blah, blah but the same/similar compounds as in the current tires made by the same companies. BRR will be testing the Zipp tire using their own protocol later this month for added perspective.

      I’ll also use this opportunity to paraphrase what I wrote in the section above on this topic: Rolling resistance differences found in the lab between the kind of tires I evaluated are not more than a few watts, will be more or less significant depending on the road surface you ride, and matters relatively less than aero drag at the kinds of speeds most enthusiasts ride. Steve

      • Sebastian Riedel

        Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately I cannot open the link (‘this site can’t be reached’). My rims are 31mm wide, so all 25c tires should obey the 105% rule. Also, according to the figure in your article, rolling drag is bigger than 10% of the total aerodynamic drag (wheels 10% of total) even at 30 mph. So for me rolling resistance is the deciding factor (if I compare tires with proper puncture protection) maybe price and weight as well. Never had tubeless installation problems except with a corsa speed 1.0

  • I’ve been riding regular GP5000’s for 3-4 years with very little problems. I think I’ve ran 2-3 tires in the rear in that time, around 4-5000km per year. So I was really happy about that, also because I had only 1 or 2 flats.

    Now with my new bike I run the same width (28mm) GP5000’s, but now in tubeless. Getting them on was a b*tch, but once they were on they were a-ma-zing. Really great rolling and subtle.

    However, now around 6 months later I’ve had 2 flats, which couldn’t be fixed by the sealant. I’ve managed to patch one hole, but now again another similar hole. Not in the center of the contact patch of the road, but also not at the sidewall, a little in between.

    My main concern is that I’m screwed when this happens when I’m far from home. Both times happened near home so I could work. I always carry a spare tube, but I don’t see myself changing a TL GP5000 along the road, they’re so difficult to get back on…

    I think the last flat happened when I did some light gravel where they used some concrete rubble to patch some holes. I love to do some light gravel sometimes, and it was fine with the tubes, but seems to puncture quickly without tubes and can’t get patched with just sealant.

    So I’m wondering, what kind of tire should I go for next? Something still fast, but easier to get off and on when I need to, and something maybe a bit more suited for light gravel. I do 90% of my riding on smooth tarmac, so I don’t want to lose too much speed, but having something that doesn’t puncture this quickly would be nice. I’m on a gravel bike so I can fit wider tires, like 36 or 38c without issues.

    • Gerben, Yeah, road tires in this review will puncture riding over gravel like what you’ve described. I did a gravel tire review with tires in the 35 to 40c width range. They are intended for a wider range of gravel surfaces than you are describing but there are some very fast ones in that group. Steve

  • That’s insane Zipp is discontinuing production of the Tangente tubeless tire, did they happen to mention why? I’ve been loving these tires – fast rolling, no punctures, they hold air incredibly well and haven’t worn down all that much. I’m wondering if they might be cooking up a TLR version that weighs less as that seems to be the trend lately. I was also wondering if you will be reviewing the new Pirelli P-Zero tire?

    • Steven, Haven’t heard a good reason for Zipp pulling these tires and don’t know their plans for the future. Not planning to review the P-Zero Race TLR. Reports from others suggested that they are rather average. Steve

      • Wouldn’t you know it, the next ride after mentioning no punctures I get a slice that sealant won’t fix – had to be at least 5mm. Looking forward to seeing which tire you recommend to replace the Tangente.

  • So seems like ENVE 4.5 AR Disc + Bontrager R3 TLR – 28mm is the best performing combination overall?

    • While I haven’t tested that combination, I rate each as best performers and based on how the R3s size up on other 25mm wheels, would expect they would be an aero combination.

  • I’m running Bontrager R3 HC Lite non tubeless, on my 3rd set, 10k km and still no punctures. Could I run a tube in a set of Bontrager HC Lite TLR without ruining the performance?
    Dont ask why or tell me to run tubeless please….

    • Yes. You can run a tube in any tubeless tire including the R3

      • Steve, just a heads up that Rennrad included the bontrager in its recent tire test. Came in about 7 watts (single tire) behind the test winner (pro one TLE and GP5K) in terms of rolling resistance. Also to note, having spoken to Schwalbe reps, this year’s run on the Pro One TLE has been reinforced with a thicker side wall (now 15g heavier) and the compound has been tweaked. And based on Rennrad and RoadBike tests, appears to now be on level with the GP5K (and arguably faster given the well documented drop in Crr performance of GP5K as they wear).

        • Kevin, Thanks for your comment. I looked at the Rennrad test results. If the Bontrager R3 is indeed 7 watts behind or 56% higher than the Conti GP5K TL and Schwalbe Pro One TLE, then there is a problem. I don’t know where the problem might lay – the tires we rode, the tires they tested, the test protocols and controls, etc. or the rolling resistance is actually that much higher – but Miles, Nate, and I would likely notice if one tire had that much more rolling resistance than another. I expect BRR will run their test on the Bontrager in July so we’ll have another data point from a source whose tests and protocol are independent and a bit more transparent. (note, Rennrad did their lab testing at Scwhalbe.)

          I also wouldn’t (and don’t) put a lot of stock in what a company rep says. And I’d expect the Crr increases somewhat for all tires as they age. BRR’s tests on the clincher Conti GP5K showed the rolling resistance to be only about a watt higher (10%) after 5km of wear.

          I’ll also reiterate that rolling resistance matters less the faster you go and the deeper your wheels. Other things like the actual installed and inflated width of the tire on your rims (Rule of 105/108), the road feel (grip, handling, comfort), and their ease of installation (mount, inflate, seal, dismount) are equally if not more important depending on how and what you ride and what’s most important to you. Steve

  • The update to this review prompted me to check and realize my 5000TL’s have just about reached the end of their useful (and disappointingly short) life. For anyone looking to try the R3 TLR, better grab them fast if you can find them. At least in the 700x 28mm, they are backordered til Nov ’21 (which is not exactly prime riding time here in the northeast). After calling around, I finally found a shop with 3 on their shelf, and thus grabbed a pair. This supply shortage of bike stuff is a drag.
    Thanks, Steve, for keeping us in the know.

  • Hey Steve, were you running the Rapidairs in the recommended pressures range? 85-100 seems counterintuitive for tubeless although I’m sure they have their reasons. I was able to find one Bontrager tire nearby to replace my rear tire but unfortunately the bead was too wide for my alloy rims so I went with a set of the S-works instead. I’m heavy so I tried running them at 90 front and 95 rear but had to let air out during the first ride since it was quite harsh.

    • Steven, Depends on the tire size and inside rim width in addition to your weight. I’d use one of the tire pressure calculators I put up links to in the post to close in on where you might start and then go up or down in 5psi increments from there to get the best combo of road feel (grip, handling, comfort) for your preference. Steve

      • I have used the calculators before and they typically suggest pressures slightly higher than I prefer. I was pretty happy running 75/85 with the discontinued 25mm Zipp tires, and I may have been taking Specialized’ recommendations too seriously. Those pressures are probably there for racing since that is supposed to be what they were developed for, just wasn’t sure at first if it was risky to go lower than 85psi. I’m most likely overthinking the matter, definitely going to try dropping to the pressures I was running before. Thanks again for a great review and the recent update, the search for the perfect tire may be never ending but they are definitely improving. I’ve only done one 16 mile ride on the S-Works but initial impressions are very good, just hoping they last me a few thousand miles or more.

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