Summary: As new tubeless tires are introduced, I continue to test more of them and update my evaluations and comparative ratings. I recommend the 25c and 28c Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR (available online here and at local bike shops) as one of the better-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) will be your best option for hooked rim wheels that have deep center channels as it has superior rolling resistance among all tubeless tires with a puncture belt. It is not compatible with hookless rims and the 28c model is less aero on all but the widest hooked rims.

If you want the best tubeless tires for your road bike, there’s a lot to consider.

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


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


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 Firecrest 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 rider 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 the front wheel. If you can’t decide between prioritizing aero performance and comfort, you have my permission to put a wider tire on the rear wheel 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.

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 comparison

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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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.

Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR

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 and independent tests show better than average puncture resistance, 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.

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.

Much worse than average rolling resistance is the major negative with the R3 tires. This mars an otherwise stellar report. It also adds to the complications involved in buying tubeless tires these days.

But if you prioritize aero performance, road feel, and ease of installation and have a relatively narrow rim (19mm inside and 28mm outside or less, or 21mm inside and 28.5mmm outside or less), or insist on riding 28mm tires or have hookless rims, the Bontrager R3 tire is going to be your best performing option.

If you aren’t riding fast enough to get serious aero gains (20-25mph/32-40kph), prefer 28mm or wider tires, have rims with bead hooks, or have a shop or friend install your tires, the R3 isn’t going to be as fast the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL.

If you are unsure, I encourage you to review the above discussion and charts in the What Matters Most section.

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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. You can also find them at other stores I recommend in my Know’s Shop.

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 Wiggle, 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 inflating them on rims with 19mm through and 25mm inside widths.

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 that “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 Competitive Cyclist, 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 others.

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 the independent rolling resistance data on this new tire is higher than most in this review.

* * * * *

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.

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


  • Steve
    Great review as always, thank you. I didn’t see the Zipps reviewed and I recalled that you had ranked them high previously. Do they no longer make a tubeless tire?

    • Steve, Thanks for the kind feedback. Yes, Zipp stopped selling tubeless road tires. Steve

      • Steve – Do you have the width data from the Zips on the ENVE AR still? Wondering how wide it actually is and I don’t have fancy calipers like you. Thanks!

      • Hi Steve, which tire do you recommend for the new Zipp 353 NSW’s? I’m more interested in climbing so perhaps rolling resistance is more important to me.

        • Jay, if you care principally about rolling resistance in your tire selection, the Spech and Schwalbe tires reviewed above have the lowest rolling resistance of the tires we’ve tested that are also compatible with hookless rims. There’s a new Conti tire released that is designed for hookless rims and shows slightly lower rolling resistance than the Spech and Schwalbe in one independent test I’ve seen but I’ve not road tested it as yet. I’m planning to ride and review that tire in the early spring. Steve

  • Hi Steve, first time caller here.

    Interesting findings, I like that you use data instead of “they roll good” type of thing.

    The biggest question I have is with this statement:

    “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.”

    Would you have any data about the impact of drafting and Rule 105? I know in a road race or typical A ride, there is minimal time taking pulls if there is a peloton over 20 strong. And if you are following wheels, what’s the difference?

    In so many real-world situations, wider is better. 25s are not suitable for most events now, or at least not advisable. Most races are now mixed surface, and the rest have a lot of bad surface. Also most races are climbing competitions where you are not exceeding 18mph. And when you are descending, well, you gain or lose time due to technical skills rather than aerodynamics.

    Then, with punctures, you will have much easier time plugging a 28-32, while plugging a 25 would carry probably 80% failure risk. And plugs are the thing that will make you get through a race much faster.

    Lastly, I’ve been mounting tubeless before there was tubeless, and GPs go on as good as any other tire. The toughest tires to mount are open tubulars like Challenge Bianca Strada (straps needed). The better test is whether you can inflate them without a compressor, which most people don’t have. GPs can be inflated with a floor pump.

    So my concern is if the conclusions here are steering people back to 25s, and downgrading quality tires like GP5Ks due to difficulty of installationb, his might or might not be the most complete set of data points.

    • Ilya,

      Riding in a draft is obviously the best thing you can do to reduce aero drag (estimated 30% reduction) and would matter far more than any aero benefits from a 105% rim-tire ratio and probably as much as some combination of aero equipment like an aero bike, aero bars, aero road helmet, 105 rim-tire combo. Then again, racers and A group riders use all those things and still shave their legs and don’t ride in an endurance position during races and group rides even though they ride in pacelines. In my two-part series, I put power and time savings numbers on the various ways to ride faster on your bike.

      So why bother with any aero approach if you are doing an A group ride or road race? It’s for the times when you aren’t tucked into a paceline – you are in the wind, breaking away, trying to get back, there are small separations in the group, or the wind is coming from yaw angles that the paceline isn’t blocking.

      If you want to give up the aero benefit from having 40-65mm deep wheels by mounting tires wider than your rims, then yes, go with wider tires. Assuming you run lower pressures on your wider tires, you are also likely to add to your tire’s rolling resistance though can save yourself some energy by reducing the losses from vibrations (impedance losses) by inflating the wider tires 5-10 psi lower than narrower ones.

      Clearly, some of us ride on worse surfaces than others but I don’t know if I’d agree with your characterization that most races are on mixed surfaces (that term usually means paved and unpaved), bad surfaces, and are climbing competitions. I’m not active in the road racing scene but those I know who are don’t race on mixed surfaces unless they are called out as such and organizers try to avoid holding races on bad roads. Every club is different but I’d expect most ride callers also try to avoid leading group rides on bad roads if they can avoid it by modifying the route the group takes. Fast rides on bad roads – be they races or group rides – can create safety issues that everyone wants to avoid.

      There are certainly plenty of races where the selection is made on climbs but probably just as many if not more that aren’t. But, like any race or ride, you can choose different depth wheels or other gear to go along with tactics specific to the route profile, your skills, and team. And I’d think aero is especially important in the growing crit racing world.

      I don’t know why a puncture would be easier to fix on a wider tire than a narrower one. I’d think it’s more a function of how bad the puncture is than the width of the tire.

      As to mounting and inflating tires, I can only report my experience from mounting all the tires I’ve reviewed here on the range of rims I’ve installed them on. I’d love for the Conti GP5KTL to install easier than I’ve found it does. It has a great road feel and the lowest rolling resistance.

      And I’m not trying to steer readers to 25c tires. Instead, I’m pointing out the best aero solution. While my charts show 28c tires are a good aero solution for some rim-tire combinations, they aren’t currently for most. Steve

  • After my first year of road bike ownership, I was looking to improve the stock aluminum Affinity wheels on my Trek Domane SL5. I worked down to a list of 3 potential wheels (thanks to what I learned from your site). My final decision was made by the fact that the LBS had one of them in stock and there was an unknown wait for the other 2. So, I got the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels and then had to find better tires.
    The LBS shop encouraged me to try out tubeless. They attempted the Challenge Strada TLRs in 30c. They succeeded in mounting one and it held pressure well. But they called me and informed me it was the hardest install they’d ever performed and I’d likely not be able to mount them myself at home and it would be impossible on the side of the road. So they recommended the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR.
    My choices were 32c and 28c. Not having read your article, I knew nothing of the rule of 105/108 (the 32c tire is about 2.5mm wider than the rim at 70psi). I thought the 32c would be better because it would better protect my new wheels on the pothole filled local roads. They found them easy to mount, but it did take double the sealant to get them to hold pressure well (sort of like those Michelins).
    Now that I’ve rode them about 100 miles on 3 rides, I’m not really impressed. With new rims and tires, it’s hard for this novice to accurately say what characteristics are the wheels and what are the tires. I think everything that feels better (climbing, stiffness, responsiveness) seems like it’s more related to the wheels. But when I’m trying to cruise along on the flats at 18mph+, I feel like I’m putting the same effort in as I did on my old wheels. Unfortunately I don’t have a power meter, so I don’t really know.
    The tires suppleness, grip, rolling resistance, and control feel like they are only on par with my old tires. FYI, I had Affinity TLR wheels with Specialized Espoir Sport Reflect 30c tires that I took off my Specialized Sirrus Elite Alloy (the R1 tires that came with the SL5 suffered several punctures and then a sidewall blowout within the 1st month of ownership). I’m 6 feet and about 210 lbs. and far from aero with all of my body hair and wide shoulders.
    So, would you recommend trying the 28c R3 tires before I start looking elsewhere? I wasn’t unhappy with my old tires, so my problems with the new ones is really that I expected an obvious improvement from a tire that should be an improvement. Am I too inexperienced, heavy, non-aero, etc. to discern the differences? I’ve got a handful of 9th and 10th place leaderboard spots on some well-travelled local strava segments and I usually average between 17-18mph on my usual 30+ mile rides with a handful of short climbs and lots of intersections. So, I’m not fast, but not slow either.

    • Hey Big Doug, Welcome to the world of cycling and the second-guessing that comes with it. A couple of things. 17-18 mph isn’t a speed that you’ll notice an aero difference from your tires and wheels and the Pro 3V isn’t deep enough to provide aero benefit. So forget about the Rule of 105. You’re on a good set of wheels and tires and that should provide you some added confidence out on the road. Neither will slow you down or hold you back.

      There are many, many things beyond wheel and tires that you can control to affect your speed and the best ones don’t cost anything except time and effort. I’d suggest reading through my two articles on the subject and start working on the list starting with this one. It may take a few years to get through them but that’s the normal progression of a cycling enthusiast. Welcome to the club! Steve

      • Ok, thanks for the note on aero. If I had aero wheels, what is the speed that I would notice aero? On the flats, without a headwind, I’m usually going closer to 19-20mph (it’s all those intersections and a few steep hills that really drop my avg). I thought these new wheels with these new tires would feel faster on the flats, but I’m really only noticing the improvement on the climbs (it’s a significant improvement though).

        Thanks for the link. I’ve worked on a few of these things already and made my biggest strides with my pedaling and cadence. But I never thought about some of your points. I’ve got a lot of work a head of me because I really enjoy getting faster. And I think my next significant purchase needs to be a power meter and a bike fit. The LBS wasn’t doing bike fits because of COVID when I got my bike. But the fitter did give me advice regularly when I’d stop in and share my problems with him (which were many being older with destroyed knees and ankles). My DIY bike fit and changes yielded huge positive results, but it’s probably time to get the real thing now that they’re doing it again.

        FYI, I did 3,300 miles on the road last year during COVID. Which was more than double what I did on my flat-bar hybrid the year before. Kept me sane through the worst of it. And I’ve lost over 60 lbs. since I began cycling 3 seasons ago. If I can avoid getting hit by a car, lol, cycling will certainly be the best change in my health I’ve made in my entire life. Thanks again for all the great info!

        • Big Doug, Sounds like you’re really progressing well. It’s a process and sounds like you’re getting great results from it. 19-20 mph is about where you would start to benefit from aero tech. The second part of that review I sent to you gets more into that. Steve

  • Very insightful review Steve, thank you!

    Zipp say you must run a “labelled” tyre width of 28mm or greater with their new 303 Firecrest. Given your knowledge of how a tyres “labelled” width doesn’t necessarily mean the “measured” width will be the same, what’s your thoughts on running 27mm tyres (Enve SES) to get that magical 105% on these rims? Do you see a safety issue with a 27mm tyre not holding a strong bead seal with a hookless rim that has a inner and outer rim width of 25mm and 30mm, respectively.

    Thank you in advance!

  • Hi Steve, thanks for the in-depth and insightful overview. I’m just about ready for a new set of tires and was interested the in the 28c Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR, but their min recommendation is 90psi, but the zip 303s calculator says I should run 62 psi rear and 57 on the front.

    Does this mean the bontragers are a no go in your view?


    • Ben, I’m pretty sure that’s a mistake on Bontrager’s part. That’s probably the max. No one would ride at a tubeless tire at that pressure. I’ll pull a 28c tire off of one of the wheelsets we’re testing later today and see what it says on the sidewall. Steve

  • Hi there, based on this article I went looking for a pair of Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR‘s for my new ENVE SES 3.4 wheelset (excited!).
    However, I seem to be reading elsewhere that the only tubeless version of the R3’s is 32mm?
    Am I missing something?

    • Steve, see the link in the review of the tires above for the 25, 28 and 32mm size options. They might not be available online but should be at Trek/Bontrager bike shops. Steve.

      • Thanks Steve – the Bontragers were sold out everywhere near me, so I went with the Conty TLs. Thought I’d do the right thing and shopped local… which cost me $60 more for the pair in NYC. I’ll know to order from your store links next time! Thanks for such a great article (among others!)

  • Hi Steve, when it comes to the 105% rule, and outer rim width, is it the direct tyre to rim width edge dimensions that matters or the maximum outer width of the rim?

    As some of the more modern rim designs are now somewhat bulbous , i.e. dt swiss for example may be 23 or 25 at the narrowest but then increase the width to 28-30mm. Does that ‘help’ in maintaining the transient air flow or is the air lost at interface and do not reattach, even if the width of rim increases?

    I have seen a fee videos by Jean-Paul Ballard who leads aero research of Swiss side and DT Swiss where he recommends a 23mm tyre on their old ARC wheel and 25mm on their new wheels. However given the rim egde widths on either it appears both tyres would exceed the rim width at rim edge interface.


    • Eric, Good question. DT Swiss is actually one of the few major brands that still make the toroid-shaped rims you describe where the max width is more than a mm or two wider than the “brake track” or tire edge width. Most have gone to more of a U rim profile or a UV one where the max width is essentially the same width at the brake track edge and is narrower at the spoke edge.

      That said, the original Rule of 105 came about during a time when Zipp and others were making toroid-shaped rims such as the original Zipp 404 Firecrest and HED wheels that were the most aero back then. But in articles and forum posts I’ve read from Poertner about this, he hints at using both the brake track width (which wasn’t parallel – so wider further from the tire edge than closer to it) and the max width for the rule but doesn’t make a definitive statement about it. My tables in this post used to show the max and brake track edge to tire percentages when those rim widths were different but so few are now that I stopped complicating the chart further by dropping that measure.

      I’m certainly not an aerodynamicist but the theory behind reattaching air flow suggests to me that the sooner it happens and the longer you can hold it, the better. This would suggest getting the flow to reattach at the narrowest point. Mavic used to employ a tire flap that would cover the junction between the tire and the rim edge to improve aerodynamics but the UCI outlawed it. Then again, Zipp claims its dimples create mini vortexes that help the air stay attached.

      Needless to say, there’s a lot of proprietary testing and ballsy marketing that go with all of this aero stuff. The Rule of 105 or at least the design concept that the rim should be narrower than the tire does seem to have been adopted by most and continues to guide design some 10 years after it was articulated.

      While the tests I’ve seen show that a narrower tire is almost always going to be more aero, most wheelmakers who talk about it say they have designed their current rims using a 25mm tire these days and recommend you use that width for best aero performance.

      Setting apart that a “25mm” tire can measure anything but 25mm wide depending on who made it, what rim it’s on, what pressure it’s inflated to, and how many miles or km it has been used for, the biggest challenge these days is getting enthusiasts to ride tires narrower than 28mm that so many mistakenly think they need to be comfortable. As the charts show, you really need a 30mm wide external rim width to abide the Rule of 105 with a 28mm. And until the last generation or two of rim designs and the most recent generation of tubeless tires, most wheels violated the rule even with 25mm tires.

      DT’s ARC 1100 62 and 80 rim brake rims are still rather “old school” in their toroid design and 17mm inside width with 27mm and 28mm external max width respectively. So, yeah, a 23mm tire is probably going to be the most aero on even those current wheels. The disc brake versions of those wheels have 20mm inside width with a 27mm wide external max width on the 62 and a 32mm external max width on the 80. Per the other wheels of similar rim dimensions I’ve measured, a 25mm tire is not likely to follow the Rule of 105 on the 62 but I’d defer to Ballard as he’s done the aero testing. Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    I haven’t seen a review on the Pirelli’s P Zero Race tires on your site. Only info I found here is that they have higher rolling resistance than the best of road tires in that regard.
    Did you have a chance to try them out? I’ve just bought them (waiting still), but have no experience with them so far.

  • Hey Steve….. do you expect to review the new Continental GP 5000 S TR’s? I’ve used conti’s for years and am especially interested in what the actual mounted width’s turn out to be.

  • I have a pair of Specialized Turbo Rapid Air 26mm mounted on a set of Zipp 303S. I mounted them myself because I wanted to see how hard they were to put on. To Zipp’s credit the rims came taped with valve stem mounted, very easy compared to mountain bike tubeless.
    After two months the rear tire had minor hole that sealant wasn’t sealing, despite having plenty of sealant in tire, occurred on group ride. Happily I was able to dismount tire easily and install tube and put tire back on using my hands, sealant was messy but repaired in very little time.
    The problem I see with tubeless road tires are unlike mountain or CX tires you are dealing with very thin rubber, especially when tire has some wear on them. As long as you remember to break both sides of bead on tires, and if tires mount back up without using tire iron I’m fine with tube replacement.

  • Hey Steve – just purchased a set of the ENVE Foundation 45’s and am now having to switch from the Continental GP5000 TL’s I’ve used and been very happy with for the past couple of years.

    I know you point to both the Bontrager and Schwalbe as being supported (and I’ve definitely checked out ENVE’s compatibility chart for other options), but I’m wondering if you have a specific suggestion on the best alternative to the Continental’s I’ve loved for these new hoops? Would love to get as close as possible to what I know and love tyre wise.

    • Brandon, Conti announced the hookless compatible GP 5000 S TR a month or so ago. I haven’t tested them as they aren’t in stock yet but probably should be in the next couple of months. I’ve got them on backorder and will review them once they come in. Not sure exactly what you love about the 5000 TL but my Tubeless Tire Ratings comparative chart shows the performance characteristics of other tires that are closest to them. Steve

      • Hi Steve – thanks for the reply and will be eagerly awaiting their release. I’ve just had tremendous luck with punctures/flats and find the rolling resistance to be incredible on the 5000’s. I’m looking at the Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir to mount on the ENVE Foundation 45’s based on your article – does this seem like a reasonable choice?

        • Brandon, yes, that’s a very good choice too. Great road feel and rolling resistance within a couple watts of the Conti. A bit of a challenge to put on your rims but no different than the GP 5000 TL in that regard. Go with the 28C for best overall performance. Puncture resilience shouldn’t be an issue for most normal size holes if you make sure to put and keep enough sealant in the tire (30-45 ml or 1 to 1.5 oz). You can pick them up (and support what we do here at the site) at these links to Competitive Cyclist, Mike’s Bikes or Tredz (UK/EU). There’s also deals on purchases at Competitive Cyclist and Tredz that you can see on my home page. Enjoy, Steve

    • I picked up a set of the ENVE 65s a little while back and was lucky enough to score a set of the Conti S TR from Condor Cycle in October when they just came out. I know ENVE hasn’t specifically approved them on their webpage, but being hookless compatible is enough confirmation for me. I had to sit on the 65s for a little bit before I got the Contis, but last I checked there are supply shortages for basically all hookless compatible tires, so getting in line and waiting for the S TR might be the way to go if you really liked the TL. Condor is out of stock right now, but shipping was free and delivery time was pretty good for international.

    • Actually, Condor has the S TR in 25mm in stock now, in both black and transparent side wall.

      • Thanks Kevin – I pulled the trigger on the Specialized Turbo RapidAir as they would arrive today and get me out on the new hoops this weekend. That said, I ordered the S TR as well so I can get a feel for both! Appreciate the pointer!

        • Steve and Kevin – my LBS had the 5000 S TR in 25mm in stock when I went in to mount the ENVE’s so I decided to put those on for my first ride today.

          Have to say I’m thrilled. They ran super fast, and I didn’t find the wheels to have much of a comfort penalty (even moving down from the 28mm Conti’s I was running on my old hoops). Will definitely test out the RapidAir 26mm at some point as well and share feedback. Overall though, incredibly pleased with the setup after the 1st test ride.

          Thanks for the detailed content here, was invaluable in making some of these decisions (including the ENVE 45’s)

          • Brandon, You’re welcome. Thanks for the compliment. Glad things are working out so well. If you want to help keep the site going and get better at providing that “invaluable” content, here are 10 ways to support the site, 9 of which won’t cost you anything. Cheers, Steve

          • Brandon, great job on finding the Contis at a local bike shop, and getting them before the start of Winter. I was thinking they wouldn’t be available until December or January at the earliest. Get those rides in while there’s still daylight and warmth!

            Steve, thanks for the very informative reviews and advice on the site. Although I still probably spend way too much time contemplating various purchases and upgrades, I definitely feel much more confident when deciding to pull the trigger based upon your assessments.

  • Looking for suggestions on comfortable tubeless tires that don’t sacrifice much (/any) aero performance with the latest generation Zipp 454 NSW wheels. Any suggestions? Currently thinking Schwalbe Pro 1 TLE in 28c, but curious if there are others you’d suggest instead. Would the Bontrager R3s be better? The new GP5000s are now apparently hookless compatible – any experience with them yet? Are they still a nightmare to get on? In case it helps, they’ll be on an S Works Tarmac SL7.

    • Dave, We rode the Schwalbe Pro One TLE (25C on front, 28C on back) successfully on the 454 NSW this season. That tire is sufficiently aero on front wheel and has lower rolling resistance than R3. Expect to have new GP5K S TR delivered off backorder and installed, sized on a range of wheels including 454 during Dec. Many/most of the tires I rate highly are hard to find now so not a lot of good choices currently. A lot more discussion of tires for these wheels in the comments at the bottom of my 454 NSW review here. Steve

      • Thanks, somehow I’d missed that whole discussion when reading the 454 NSW review! One last question regarding the 28s — would you expect the aero benefits to be significantly reduced if I ran it up front as well? I’m able to find both the Schwalbe and R3s in stock locally, but the GP5k S TR are still just a myth (and my biketiresdirect backorder keeps being pushed further and further into the future…). I like the idea of running 28 for the comfort, but wonder at what cost to my efficiency…if it’s negligible I’d rather have the extra volume; if it’s large maybe I should reconsider.

    • Dave, compared to the 5000 TL, the 5000 S TR is notably easier to mount. I did break a relatively cheap tire lever, as well as a couple fingernails, trying to get the 5000 TL on a set of HED Ardennes Plus (from what I hear a notoriously bad combo). The night spent trying to mount them may be my most painful biking experience. Getting the 5000 S TR on a set of EVNE Foundation 65s (again, from what I hear is a bad combination) wasn’t easy but the war of attrition against the tire was much shorter.

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