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.

Rogers Adoption Curve

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.

ENVE 3.4 AR, one of the climbing (and gravel wheels) we’re now reviewing

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.

Gravel Tires

Gravel tires we’ll be testing include, clockwise from the top, Specialized Trigger Pro, Kenda Aluvium Pro, WTB Radler, Bontrager GR2 Team, and Panaracer Gravel King SK

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.

3. AMA-BAY or use these links to Amazon and eBay to buy anything you typically buy at these stores. We will also earn an affiliate commission from these stores to help cover our expenses.

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.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

“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!

19 comments

  • I have to believe that many people fall into my category. I have 2 high end road bikes, one rim brake and one disc that are 4 and 3 years old. I have upgraded each of those bike with ENVE 3.4 SES Wheels. After sinking roughly 6 grand into those wheel sets I will be riding them for the foreseeable future as the cost to update to tubeless far outweighs the benefits of tubeless. I have ridden, and do like tubeless wheels and tires however, and my next set of wheels will be tubeless but that will probably be in the distant future.

  • Nick Mannerings

    I’m not interested in gravel, discs or tubeless. Your site is becoming less and less relevant to road cyclists. Tubeless tyres are heavier, discs are heavier. Clinchers with latex tubes roll better than tubeless, there is no need to top up sealant and repair on the ride, even with a split is relatively straightforward. A disc group-set will weigh up to 400+g more than rims.

    No one talks about the aero cost of spoke lacing of a disc front wheel but it’s certainly not as efficient as a radial spoked wheel. I know it is claimed that aero trumps weight but that is in steady state analysis. If you slow and accelerate repeatedly then weight is extremely important. I have multiple bikes and whatever anyone says the lighter the bike the more fun it is to ride.

    There seems to be so much dishonesty even among the so called independent sites like yours. Not all things are considered and it seems not mentioned because it’s inconvenient. Rolling resistance is not better on fatter tyres if you lower the pressure to get the so called comfort benefits.

    Let’s have some honesty rather than trying to get people to buy stuff they don’t need.

    Nick

    • Nick Mannerings, I absolutely agree with you 100% on all counts, and I’ve been working inside the bike industry for 35 years. Thank you for saying it.

    • Hey Steve, you’re so smart you figured out the way to properly respond to the troll. With that said great reviews and can’t wait to hear about the new wheels you’ve been testing

  • Nick, Stevie, Thanks for sharing your views. As I mentioned above, I encouraged readers to share their detailed experiences with tubeless in an earlier post and many, many did. While my analysis of tubeless and discs differs from yours (and is detailed in the reviews I’ve sited), I see little to be gained from further debating, praising or trolling their pros and cons. The point I’ve tried to make above is that tubed and tubeless tires will be available for years to come for those who want each. I will also be updating my review of tubed tires this spring.

    I’ve also published many, many reviews on rim brake wheels and components and update them regularly. I’m not writing many new ones because there just isn’t much that is new in those areas.

    I and most enthusiasts want to go faster and do it in the least expensive ways possible. I have never worked in the cycling industry or in a bike shop in any capacity. This site is not supported by the cycling industry or any advertiser in any industry. My perspective is of a fellow enthusiast trying to use my research and analytical abilities to determine and share what is real and what I recommend in our common quest to enjoy riding, go fast and save money. Best, Steve

  • I ride tubeless (Conti GP5000TL on Token Carbon C35 Wheels) to go faster with the lower rolling resistance and less drag at a reasonable price premium.
    I am driven to choose products that make me faster but cost less (or very little more.) As such, I will not be choosing disc brakes or electronic gears for the foreseeable future. The price premium is way too high and the race speed penalty, both weight and aero drag, much too great. The only new technology I have recently adopted on my road bike is the Sram Force One by 11 and I love it. I run the XX1 10/42 bomb proof but light cassette and an Absolute Black 46t oval chain ring. Similar top & bottom gearing to 11/32 cassette & 50/34 compact crankset but lighter & simpler!

  • I’m interested in tubeless tires, because where I drive most of the time, poor quality asphalt roads. therefore, on my home road bike with rim brakes, I start to use HUNT wheels with tubeless zipp RT and panaracer Evo4 A tires. but for ultra bikespacking only tubed tires. I have never been able to install tubeless on any of the 4 pairs of road wheels without a compressor. But I can install 4.6 fat tubeless tires on 100 mm rims with just al floor pump.

    Pls, test the HUNT wheels.

  • I have not tried tubeless, but am concerned about how the sealant holds up in the climate where I stay.

    About 32-35°C all year round, with humidity at 90% or higher.

  • Vincent Deslauriers

    Hi Steve,
    I just bought a Ti T-Lab X3 from Montreal and contemplating to acquire also from Montreal a wheel set of carbon wheels F 40R with Tune hubs King/Kong tubeless and tube. I would like to encourage Canadian companies as long as they are competitive in prices, service and quality with the big US and European names.

    Could you test these wheels and tell me your opinion about them?

    PS
    Regardless of your answer I will donate to your website. I appreciate your comments.

    Vincent

    • Vincent, Thanks for supporting In The Know Cycling and congrats on the new bike. I looked it up and it looks awesome. I don’t know the wheelset you are referring to and couldn’t find any mention of it online. I don’t review wheels from local wheel builders or custom-built ones as most readers wouldn’t be able to buy it and it’d be of limited value to review versus ones that are more widely available and made to a consistent standard. That’s not a comment on the quality of the wheel builder or wheelsets they build, it’s just a choice I have to make based on where I should spend my limited time and resources. Best, Steve

  • I really want to love tubeless road tires….and I did, for about 10 rides. Have Schwalbe G-One 650b Allrounds on my single-speed. Factory installed by Hunt on their adventure wheelset, with sealant. Rode 90% asphalt with a small amount of gravel and dirt roads, 48 PSI and I’m very light at 143 lbs/65 kg.

    Everything was great — comfortable, great handling & traction, super-fun, loved the tires. Until I got a flat in my rear tire after only 10 rides. Saw the sealant bubbling up around the (very small) hole in the tread, but it wouldn’t hold more than 20 PSI even after I kept adding CO2. I got home but I don’t know what to do next — throw away the very expensive, brand-new tire and replace it, try to patch it inside with a vulcanizing patch kit (which seems iffy and unreliable when I read how to do it online), add more sealant, something else?

    I can’t remember the last time I got a flat with tubed tires. I mark my CO2 cartridges in permanent marker and the cartridge I used was marked “2016”. So this is a dilemma for me, not sure if I can repair the tire, what the best way to do it is, or if I have to replace it. Perhaps this kind of experience is putting off other riders? It sure is discouraging for me after such a promising early start.

    • North, If it’s a very small hole that isn’t sealing, it may be that there wasn’t enough sealant in the tire in the first place. Try refilling it and see it if it holds. (Check the sealant in the front as well.) More in this earlier https://intheknowcycling.com/category/knows-notes/page/2/ post. If you’re still having an issue, reach out to Hunt who sold and set up the wheels and tires for you. It likely didn’t cause the small hole but you’re probably running your tires 15 psi too high. Steve

      • Thanks Steve, I’ll try what you suggest! I usually run my Continental 700×28 tubed road tires at 60 PSI, so 50 PSI seemed like a lot less. But I actually wasn’t sure what pressure to run the G-One Allrounds at.

        • North, Check out this chart that suggests the tire pressure you should ride given your weight, inside rim width and tire width. It’s from ENVE but it doesn’t cost anything 🙂 Steve

          • Hi Steve. I took the tire off, removed the small amount of remaining sealant, washed and cleaned both tire and rim. Saw there was a tiny but very sharp, nearly invisible arrow-head shaped piece of gravel stuck in the tread that punctured all the way through the casing. This must be why it wouldn’t seal.

            I re-mounted the tire, which went on very easily I might add, and I got the bead to seat with just a floor pump. Added a generous 4 oz of Orange Seal through the valve stem which kept things very clean. It seems to have sealed up just fine, went for another ride with some gravel and it’s working great! Thanks again.

  • I think your current analyses and content are spot-on and highly relevant. I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical back when you first started shedding light on disc brakes and electronic shifting but then my friend let me test ride his Giant Defy with both of those features which ultimately sent that skepticism out the door. Compared to my mechanical rim brake Ultegra groupset the riding experience was in another league. Plus, recabling internally routed shifter cables isn’t my favorite thing to do. When the budget becomes available, my next bike will include your recommendations, tubeless tires and all.

    I’m curious about your thoughts on lightweight bikepacking / credit card touring, as I’ve noticed more gear becoming available to assist folks with extending the boundaries on their “fast bikes.” Do you see this catching on with enthusiasts or is it beyond the scope of this site?

    • Jeff, thanks for your comment. Trying and comparing new gear is a great way to assess its value. That’s what I do with this site. As to touring, I don’t know anything about it. Steve

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