TUBED OR TUBELESS, WHAT YOU’LL KNOW, 10 WAYS
Haven’t heard from you in a couple of months. Hope all’s well. This coronavirus is serious sh*t.
That’s how I started an email to a colleague late last week.
It’s hard to go about doing anything in the usual way with this pandemic of unknown scope and duration working its way through our society. A lot is different and limited for now yet I feel the need to keep doing what I normally do in as many ways as I can and do some new things so it doesn’t bring me and those around me down.
Do I keep riding? Yes, but maybe in a more social-distanced paceline or on dirt and gravel roads. Do I keep working? Yes, albeit more remotely than ever. Do I keep looking out for my family? Absolutely, and in a more spirited and vigilant way than ever.
And yes, I’ll also keep posting and doing In The Know Cycling reviews and all the things that go into testing gear and linking you to the best stores and all that goes into all of that. I know you and I need to keep riding to stay physically and psychologically fit. To the extent that keeping the site running helps you do that, all the better. It certainly helps me.
So let’s roll.
TU BE OR NOT TU BE? (aka Tubed or Tubeless?)
Back in October, I wrote about the love or hate relationship with tubeless tires roadies are developing based largely on our experiences installing them. I asked for you to share your specific experiences in response to seven questions that covered the models of tubeless-ready tires and wheels you have, what techniques, pumps, and sealant you use, what your experiences are with punctures, and to boil it down to whether and why you are for or against tubeless.
Your responses were numerous, detailed, and informative. What I took away from them is there are some of us who have changed the ways we do things with tubed tires to gain the benefits of tubeless and others who can’t or won’t because we either don’t see the benefits, see greater risks, don’t believe the benefits are worth changing for, or are perfectly happy with what we have now regardless of what benefits tubeless may bring.
While I and some of you have changed and converted to tubeless tires, others have not. What I read from you and have read and heard from other fellow roadies is not unlike the experiences many of us have had with carbon wheels, power meters, electronic shifting, disc brakes and other new technologies outside the cycling world.
While we can debate, praise or troll how well the cycling industry has made tubeless wheelsets and tires, informed us about how to change our ways to adopt them, and whether they offer significant benefits or risks, I see little more to be gained from doing so here. There’s plenty of that discussion available elsewhere.
Instead, I’d like to suggest that each of us falls somewhere on the classic Rogers Adoption Curve when it comes to tubeless and other cycling technologies including those I listed above. If you’re not familiar with this line of thinking, here it is. Take a look at the descriptions and see which best describes you.
If you fall to the left, there’s a good chance you are a road tubeless convert. (If so, here’s my review of the best tubeless tires). I’ve read that tubeless tires now make up about 20% of road tire sales. That would mean that most Innovators and Early Adopters are likely using road tubeless now and some of the first of you Early Majority types are riding on tubeless tires too.
(All but the Laggards are buying tubeless tires for off-road riding but why is a discussion for another day.)
The interesting part, at least for me as one who evaluates, critiques, and recommends cycling products and perhaps you as one who buys cycling products, is how far along this adoption curve we’ll get with tubeless tires and what percentage of cyclists will end up rolling on them.
I could posit that we didn’t get very far into the Early Majority with carbon rim brake wheels but that we will with carbon disc brake ones. The declining price for carbon wheels and the slowing innovation and new product introductions of alloy ones suggests carbon will eventually become the dominant wheelset material when most of us are riding road disc bikes.
And even though some scream that disc brake bikes are being forced on us by the cycling industry, I’m quite confident that they wouldn’t be outselling rim brake ones and likely well into the Late Majority crowd of new enthusiast-level bike buyers if those cyclists saw big risks with them. Say what you will about bike makers, they wouldn’t be sidelining rim brake bikes if they thought enthusiasts would rather buy those instead of disc brake ones.
Power meters and electronic shifting products are likely both into the late majority but neither have a commanding market share. Because most enthusiasts don’t train using power or don’t care about what their power output is, power meters are probably not seen as beneficial to them. Electronic groupsets probably are but their cost makes for lower adoption rates with every segment of adopters on the curve.
Tubeless tires and wheels? My guess is that it will take another 2-3 years before road tubeless technology advances to “proven”, further developments make the benefits compared to tubed tires greater and accepted by more enthusiasts, and the Early Majority learns or changes to turn what is viewed as a hassle into no big deal. Even with that and similar to the travails of carbon rim brake wheels, it may take another 2-3 years more before the bad experiences some are experiencing now recede in enough Early and Late Majority riders’ consciousness for road tubeless wheels to outsell tubed tires.
So for all of you who prefer to put tubes in your road tires, rest easy, they will like remaining on the scene for many years to come.
WHAT YOU’LL KNOW
New bikes come with stock wheels that hold back what you can get out of your fitness, frame, and components. Unfortunately, that business practice hasn’t changed with the growth of road disc bikes.
For those of you ready to get some better road disc hoops, I’ve posted my reviews of the best alloy upgrade, performance carbon all-around, and value carbon all-around wheelsets in the last several years. While I regularly update and will continue to add reviews of new wheelsets in those categories this year, I’ll also be adding reviews in a couple of additional categories.
My fellow testers and I have begun reviewing aero road disc wheels and climbing road disc wheels. While all-around wheels are typically 40-50mm deep and are good in most riding situations, those of you who are more event or terrain focussed will be able to see our in-depth, independent comparisons of the best performing wheelsets in 60mm+ depths for flat terrain to crit racing and those lighter, shallower wheels for long, steep climbing.
We’re riding some now, awaiting delivery of others, and ordering still more from brands Bontrager to Zipp. (Sorry, there’s no major wheelset brand that begins with the letter A.) If there are any wheelsets in these categories you’d like to see us review, let me know in the comments below.
I’m also getting down and dirty with a new series of gravel gear reviews we’re working on. The number of you that read my post on how to choose gravel bike tires for the top gravel events around the US and your gravel training rides was a welcome surprise. It always feels good when I put a ton of hours into a review and so many of you read it. That usually means you see some benefit from it. Nice!
With the temperature rising and ground thawing around In The Know Cycling land, we’re practicing the best kind of social distancing I know – riding our gravel and CX bikes off-road. I’ve ordered and begun testing a dozen of the semi-slick, small and large knob gravel tires listed in my earlier post and will be doing comparative ratings on criteria developed specifically for gravel tires.
Consistent with the symbiosis that exists between tires and wheels for road cycling, I’m also working on reviews of alloy and carbon gravel wheelsets that gravel tires are best suited for. While you can ride many road disc wheelsets off-road, these reviews will evaluate 700C gravel wheelsets that have inside (23-25mm) and outside (28-32) widths a good deal wider than most road disc wheelsets (17-21mm inside).
The added rim widths better support wider gravel tires (32-45mm). This improves the handling, overall performance, and confidence riding at speed on dirt and gravel. Most of these wheelsets are shallower and lighter than all-around road disc wheels and some have bead hook designs optimized for the lower tire pressures you ride on gravel.
And yes, these tires and wheels are all tubeless setups. Many are quite easy to mount and inflate, so there’s that too.
I’ve got other categories of cycling reviews in the pipeline and many that are already published that we’ll add to or update. Let me know in the snap poll below what you’d like to see. I’ll do my best to respond to those you most want to know about.
10 WAYS TO KEEP YOU IN THE KNOW
As I hope you can appreciate, all that goes into producing these reviews, answering your comments, and running the site takes time and money.
A member of my cycling club recently told me he was “blown away” after he discovered and spent his first 2 hours reading a couple of reviews on In The Know Cycling. He wondered how I could have a life outside of it. (Good point John!)
I was also “blown away” after doing my taxes this year and tallying up the 5-figure total of expenses for all the gear and site costs I spent last year.
If In The Know Cycling, this ad-free, conflict-of-interest-free, one-of-a-kind platform for in-depth, comparative reviews written by and for cycling enthusiasts provides any value to you from “hmmm, interesting” to “that post just helped me decide what I’m going to buy and where I’m going to buy it,” then, good.
If you want more of that value, let me give you 10 ways to support the site, keep it going and get better, 9 of which won’t cost you anything more and some that will cost you less than you were already planning to spend.
1. BUY your cycling gear and kit after clicking on the links in the posts to the stores we recommend because they have the best prices, customer satisfaction, selection, and support. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission from some of these stores
2. SHOP for the best prices on cycling gear using our shopping tool at the top of the column on each page. When you enter in a product name, you’ll go to our Know’s Shop where you’ll see prices and listings from my best ranked US stores including Competitive Cyclist, Power Meter City, and JensonUSA and top UK stores (many that sell to cyclists in the US and around the world) including Chain Reaction Cycles, Tredz Limited, Merlin Cycles, Tweeks Cycles, and Wiggle.
4. DONATE whatever you think the site is worth to you with this link to PayPal. I only set this up because some readers asked me to give them some way to support the site when they felt guilty about buying products based on our recommendation from their local bike shop rather than through one of our links. OK, you can relieve any guilt this way.
5. DISCOUNT code your way to saving money. On the home page and on every page of Know’s Shop, you can see and link to a regularly updated list of store-wide or category-wide deals and discounts, most of which require a discount code to get the savings. When you link to these stores and use these codes, some of which are available only to you as an In The Know Cycling reader, you will save 10%-50% and the site will earn an affiliate commission. Win-win!
6. SEARCH for and click on In The Know Cycling’s reviews on Google. When you enter a keyword or phrase in your Google search and click on the summary of our post that comes up in all CAPS on the first or second (or sometimes later) pages of search results, it will help move that post up in the rankings. More people will see it, come to the site and be able to support it.
7. FOLLOW and like In The Know Cycling on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I put content up there several times each week that you won’t see on the site. The more followers we have, the more cycling brands are willing to send me gear and kit to test and review for you (and then return it to them or donate it). That cuts down on the gear I purchase out of pocket. You can click on those links or the icons at the top of each page of the site to follow.
8. SUBSCRIBE to get each new, in-depth and independent In The Know Cycling post sent to you. If you ignored entering your email address into that pop-up window that comes up when you leave this and other sites (I do it too!), you can still subscribe. Go to the bottom of the right-hand column and you can do it there.
9. SHARE the site or a post with your friends or cycling club if you think they’d get some benefit from reading it. Maybe they will become a regular subscriber or follower and get all of the good stuff that comes to them and the site from joining in.
10. COMMENT at the end of any post with your helpful feedback or thoughtful questions. You don’t need to tell me what a wonderful site this is before asking your question. I try to respond to them all. But, if you want to share sincere feedback about the site, good or bad, I’ll gladly take it and use it to try to improve the site.
And, if you’ve got a really good, constructive question or comment about something I’ve written, don’t keep it to yourself. Let’s all benefit from reading what you have to say or want to know and from my answer and the responses from other fellow enthusiasts. That will help us make better choices about what gear to get next and where to get it.
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“We’re all in this together” is what I hear a lot of people saying nowadays about overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also true about our shared passion for cycling and my hope that you’ll join me in reading and supporting In The Know Cycling.
Enjoy your rides safely and stay healthy!