Bontrager RXL TLR Wheels Road tubeless (6)

Road Tubeless is an interesting topic, because it came on the scene very fast in 2010, and many thought it would become the next big advance in road bikes through 2011 and 2012.  However, as we venture into model year 2015, it still has not taken off in a significant way, with modest or underwhelming offerings from a handful of suppliers that may or may not work together.

So, what’s the hold up?

Well, to put the whole situation into perspective, we need to look at the evolution of mountain bike tubeless tires.

Lets step back to 1999, when the first standardized mountain bike tubeless system, UST, was launched by Mavic. Established over 16 years ago yet really only becoming popular in the last half decade, mountain bike tubeless also took a while to catch on, even though there are arguably a lot more benefits to tubeless tires off road than on. But, despite nearly universal agreement that mountain bikes perform better with tubeless tires, there is still not an agreement what the interface between tire and rim should look like…


There are essentially three different interfaces on the market today, and only one of them is truly standardized: UST. UST is a standard that defines the bead and rim shapes, and it must be validated by a labratory before it can be labeled as such. This posed problems because UST’s standard does not allow for tape or sealant to be used, instead relying on the rim and tire construction to create a fully closed system. Sealant can be used, but the system must be airtight without it. That meant a solid rim bed (heavier, harder to manufacturer) and an airtight tire carcass with precise bead dimensions (also heavier, and also harder to manufacturer).

The UST system is defined by ETRTO, the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization, who creates standards for of all kinds of rims and tires for cars, motorcycles, tractors, bicycles and more.

Many people see the term ETRTO and think it is a measurement, since it is mostly listed as “ETRTO 559″ when talking about tire or rim sizes. They do specify the bead seat diameters that we commonly know such as 559 (26″), 584 (27.5″) and 622 (29” or 700c), but the organization does a lot more than that. In the case of tubeless, they created a standard that defines a rim valley’s depth-to-width ratio, bead seat diameter, tire bead shape and size, etc. Since they are a standards organization like ISO, there is absolutely no requirement to comply with their standards. That is, until a legal body adopts their standards as the standard to measure against for law, and that is what the EN regulatory body has recently done. That means any wheel on a complete bike that’s sold into the European Union must meet ETRTO standards. Standalone wheels and rims are a separate story, and how strictly this is enforced is up for debate, but those are the rules. And that explains why huge companies like Cannondale will only spec ETRTO-compliant rims on their bike. It’s also why SRAM’s Rise/Roam wheels are all ETRTO compliant, because their volume sales are all as OE parts on complete bikes, and Europe’s a huge market. Keep in mind, the ETRTO and EN law has no basis or requirement in the U.S., but many U.S. companies maintain compliance so their goods can be sold into the massive European market without having to create country-specific specs. ‘Tis a global economy, after all.


Outside of UST are the other two “systems”. We’ll call one of them “NoTubes”, not because they defined a standard, but Stan’s was essentially the pioneer of this method, and it is arguably the most common. With the NoTubes method, the tire was left alone, and the bead seats and valley of the rim were raised up to compensate for any air loss during inflation between the bead and the rim, and then “stretched” the tire into place to hold the seal (this is the tell-tale “ping” of setting up NoTubes-style rims). It required tape to seal the rim’s spoke holes, and non-UST tires need sealant to make them nonporous. Because of this non-standard change, and the ability to use non-tubeless tires, most rims that fall into the NoTubes category are not ETRTO compliant.


The other system we will call “TCS”, mostly because WTB created a system for their own tires and rims that does not fall squarely into either camp. WTB wanted a simple tubeless system using tape and sealant, which avoided expensive tire and rim constructions, yet wanted to be ETRTO compliant.  WTB’s TCS can best be explained as similar to UST, except needing tape and sealant, and not using Mavic’s proprietary rim shape. Systems following the NoTubes method typically change the rim, and leave the tire alone, whereas systems following the TCS method typically create a tubeless-style bead, and leave the rim shape to be ETRTO compliant, so these two systems are mutually exclusive.  If you’ve ever tried to mount a TCS tire to a Stan’s rim (which WTB strictly warns against), you know that it does not work. And if you go the other way, and mount a normal tire to a TCS rim, you will probably have a hard time getting it to inflate, short of using a very large, powerful air compressor.

This is where the lack of standardization creates confusion, especially now that most companies simply bill their products as “Tubeless Ready”. Let’s take Bontrager’s TLR system for example. Depending on who you talk to, and how you measure it, it could fall into either the NoTubes or TCS camp. Virtually none of the “tubeless ready” tires out there declare which design they used, which can actually create dangerous situations if you combine a tire with a thicker tubeless bead with a rim using a higher-than-ETRTO bead seat. For instance, the new SRAM mountain wheels are billed as tubeless ready but are based on ETRTO standards, so you’d want a tire with a thicker bead (like a WTB TCS tire, or even a UST tire) than than what you’d want to run on a NoTubes style rim.

It can also create potentially dangerous situations if the rim and tire interface allows for the tire bead to slip out of place, burping air or even coming off at the worst possible time.

Hutchinson fusion 3 tubeless 25 road (2)


So, that’s a lot of talk about mountain bike tires in an article about road tubeless, but it highlights some of the concerns that have prevented Road Tubeless from taking over: Confusion, weight and safety. After all, do we really want a standard if it means things will be heavier and more difficult to manufacture?

Here’s where we are today:

In 2006, Hutchinson and Shimano launched a campaign to standardize the road tubeless area, but it didn’t take off because of the increased weight of the system. Almost exactly like UST, it dictated specific rim profiles with a non-pierced bed. That meant more weight and difficult manufacturing. For the tire, it meant a specific bead shape and size and an impermeable casing. This meant extra material, which committed two mortal sins of road tires: added weight and decreased compliance.

This led to a big of stagnation on the idea, until, just like mountain bikes, the smaller innovators saved the weight by moving over to a tape and sealant system, allowing the continued use of the lighter non-tubeless tires.

Following almost exactly the same path as mountain, the next step was for NoTubes to introduce a road tubeless rim with the Alpha 340, which worked with normal tubeless tires, tape and sealant. These rims have been slowly adopted into the road world, but likely because of the deeper attraction to carbon wheel systems, the individual rims have not created the splash on the market that the Arch did for mountain bikes. Only recently have major brands like Reynolds started offering tubeless ready carbon fiber rims.

But those systems rely on tires that aren’t necessarily optimized for their rims, and since not everyone’s licensing the NoTubes design from Stan’s, tire manufacturers have little incentive to change their molds to fit one particular shape of rim until they know which particular rim profile will become the next “standard.”

And as mentioned above, the lack of a standard can create a dangerous situation for the tire and rim interface. On mountain bikes running about 25-35psi, the risks are fairly small. On road bikes however, at 90+ psi, these problems are uncovered much quicker, and with potentially worse results.

Fortunately, we might be slowly moving to a tubeless ready standard we can rely on. Check back next week for Part 2 where we’ll hear from various manufacturers as they answer our questions on industry-wide standards, compatibility and future plans.


  1. “Following almost exactly the same path as mountain, the next step was for NoTubes to introduce a road tubeless rim with the Alpha 340, which worked with normal tires…”

    No, it did not.

    The reason why road tubeless isn’t popular is because it doesn’t solve a problem that needs solving and it prevents the use of tires that cyclists want to use.

    I can’t wait for the propaganda portion in Part 2…

  2. woah woah woah. You cannot use normal road tires with Stan’s road rims. Per Stan’s – “Only Road Tubeless tires are strong enough for tubeless use on ZTR Alpha road rims. Tube type road tires can be used only with a tube.”

    Secondly, on SRAM’s new MTB wheels. They are UST dimensions, but not necessarily sealed, so not “true” UST.

  3. I’ve been using Hutchinson Sectors on Mavic K10 Ksyrium wheels with Stans tape for 6-months now. I really think it is an awesome set up. The tires feel fast and handle rough roads.
    I’ve tried the same on H Plus Son Archtype rims with good results.
    I also mounted the tires on Pacenti SL23 rims and the tire was too big to fit under a Whiskey or Enve road bike fork. Those are wide rims.

  4. I’ve used regular road tires on the Stan’s rims. A real pain to get on and get the hop out but they eventually made it on. They were so tight I bet I could have run them tubeless…and no, the bead never really got more loose

  5. For me, a joe-average kinda guy, who rides about 4000 miles a year, the hassles just aren’t worth it. I ride good tires (GP4000s) and don’t have any problems. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve ridden with who have gotten flats and I find the roadside hassle (and mess) a joke. A true “standard” would be welcome.

    p.s. – I work in a shop and our rule of thumb is… if the tire and rim aren’t a match, you’re welcome to try it yourself. For liability reasons, and to avoid hassles, we aren’t interested.

  6. I am running two road tubeless setups. I have enve XC which are tubeless rims running Secteur 28mms with Stans Rim tape and Stans sealant. The Enve XCs do the nice ping when you inflate them. I have put 2,000 miles on those with no issues. I run 80 psi and have had no flats and runs very efficiently. I also converted Enve 3.4 smart road disc rims to tubeless. I also ran Stans sealant and tape but they don’t make the same ping when you inflate them which is likely because of a different bead interface. I have run about 1,000 miles on them and had no issues.

    Tubes really do suck and once you go to road tubeless you will never go back. Just wish there were more rim options that were truly designed to be road tubeless.

    In all scenarios make sure you only use true tubeless tires which have a stronger bead to prevent popping the tires off the wheel.

  7. I’ve always kept up with the latest tech, but last fall for a final post-season ride, I took stock of my situation and realized I was up to my eyeballs in a heap of incompatible obsolete non-standard “standard” parts and frames and couldn’t get a single complete bike together. My only two working bikes that have always just worked and never needed parts that couldn’t be found anywhere, in minutes, were an old fat chance mtb and an old merlin road bike, both from the early 90s, when the biggest “standards” incompatibility was over a .2mm difference in bb spindle taper between Campy and Shimano. I went with Campy, and you know what? 15 years later, this bikes ride smooth and solid. So I sold off all my new useless disposable-after-a-season junk, quick tuned up the ooold race bikes, and am happy to wait for today’s bike manufacturers to figure out how to do as good a job as they once did before I buy anything new again. You want retrogrouches? Because this is how they are made.

  8. Explaining road tubeless with the history of mountain bike tubeless is really numb. The path is not the same, at all. Mountain tubeless went to a tape and sealant system for the non-UST tires and tubeless rims, offering much greater confusion, much greater safety concerns initially. Anyone dabbling in mountain tubeless at it’s inception should remember this. For road, non tubeless tires don’t work. And that is the most important point. Mountain tubeless went a completely different direction because it could. There was little confusion with road tubeless, if one had been paying attention. There were a handful of tires, and a handful of compatible wheels. The selection has grown, but there was little confusion as to what worked. There was little concern whether or not it was safe because the offerings were very reliable, albeit a bit heavy(40g oh dear). It was quite simple. Tubeless road tires worked with tubeless road rims. The Stan’s road rims didn’t take off because they suck. They cracked, they are flexy, not available in carbon, and didn’t offer anything that Shimano, American Classic, Fulcrum didn’t already offer. It is important to note that the rim shelf and bead on the Stan’s road rim is shaped to accept road tubeless tires, just like the compatible road wheels and rims before them. So again, there really isn’t any confusion. Road tubeless tires work with road tubeless rims. To say that there was “confusion” and “concern about safety” shows that you were not paying attention to road tubeless. Sure, it added weight, but the benefit of road tubeless has ALWAYS been increased compliance. And as someone has mentioned above, you cannot use non tubeless road tires. Also, there has never been a “lack of a standard.” There has always been a standard. This article is so erroneous it needs to be removed or completely re-written by someone that has knowledge of the history of road tubeless.

  9. Dingo,
    Are you using the plastic molded bontrager strip? That reduces the space between the hook and the rim? Because aren’t those smart wheels hookless? Just seems like a weird way to go about it.

  10. Dingo –

    Thanks for your comments, but I disagree. Having been on the manufacturing side of the industry during the growth of road tubeless, I will say that there is no standard. While to the outside of the industry, everyone saying “Road Tubeless” appears to be consistent, there is a lack of definition about what that means, and that creates issues and concerns, so your statement that “road tubeless tires work with road tubeless rims” is not correct, and the problem we are trying to discuss here. I stand by what I wrote, and it comes from direct experience.


  11. Yes, it is the symmetrical molded strip. The Smart rims are not hookless. The tubeless rim bead fits tight(too tight), but works beautifully. Tape alone would not do it. I have been using road tubeless since 2008. I despise tubes. Personally, I have had tremendous luck with road tubeless resulting in a dramatic decrease in flats and increased ride quality. Having Orange Seal come along dramatically increased flat resistance. I have gotten one flat since 2008 that could not be sealed. It was a big hole. With the new light weight tires, I can see no drawbacks.

  12. Tim, a couple of points.
    One, you are wrong about using normal tires with Stan’s rims. Per Stan’s site I quote “Please note, unlike with mountain bike conversions, specific Road Tubeless tires are required for conversion. They have been designed with a folding tire bead that will not stretch and cause catastrophic blowouts. Road Tubeless tires must be used and we have partnered with Hutchinson to provide three excellent options.”
    The same is true for Road Tubeless wheels, from my understanding. One cannot use normal tires with Road Tubeless wheels. I am not sure how you can stand by that. This fact flies directly in the face of your mountain tubeless analogy. The two are not at all the same. Because of the need to use Road Tubeless tires, there is no confusion as to what can or cannot be used. “Can my GP4000 tires be used tubeless?” The answer is not…”gee, I don’t know, I am confused…” No, the answer is…”no.” In the mountain bike world the answer was…”gee, I don’t know…let me see if this tire blows off in the middle of a group ride.”
    Two: I am trying hard to understand how you can say there is no standard. Shimano and Hutchinson collaborated to come up with Road Tubeless and Stan’s partnered with Hutchinson on their rim shape. Road Tubeless rims are designed to work with Road Tubeless tires because of the bead shape. Explain to me how there is no standard if all of these companies are working together to make their products work correctly, reliably. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Shimano, Notubes, DT Swiss, Specialized, Bontrager and Fulcrum’s rim bead shelf and bead hook look remarkably similar in order to fit Road Tubeless tire beads. With those choices, there seems to be a “standard” shape.

  13. Thats a huge wall of text on history of mtn tubeless, while still not offering a good set of reasons why anyone would want tubeless at all. I have heard some ok points on why its something mountain bikes would appreciate. Other than SHINY! the road discussion falls flat.

  14. I’ve been running the Easton EA90 tubeless wheels for about 15 months now. Schwalbe and Bontrager tubeless tires. Zero problems, zero flats. The only issue I had was the rear schwalbe tire wore so thin that sealant was spraying out during the last 5 miles of a ride. As the PSI got down to around 35-40PSI, it stopped spraying though the casing. I had enough pressure to get home no issues. If this had been a tubed tire, I think that the tube would have punctured because the tire was so thing. Basically my fault for riding the tire too long.
    I’d still prefer to race tubular, but for everyday riding, I’m a tubeless convert.

  15. Dingo I am running the exact same setup as you which is Enve Ses 3.4 road disc wheels. I double wrapped Stans tape and put Stans sealant and it works perfectly. All road tubeless setups require that you immediately take the wheels for a spin for 10-20 miles to get the sealant evenly distributed. After about a week of adding air and riding the wheels they are good to go for a long time. I had the same experience with my tubeless Enve XCs.

    I have put 1,000 miles and have had no issues since the first couple of days of riding.

  16. I’ve been running road tubeless for two or three years now, with absolutely no confusion. It’s clear in just about every article online that you MUST use tubeless ready tires. I don’t give a damn if there’s confusion within the industry about what “road tubeless” actually means. If a major tire manufacturer is going to sell a tire labeled as tubeless, you have to assume that they’ve taken the potential liability into account. I’ve used Bontrager road tubeless tires on Shimano rims. I’ve used Vittoria CX tubeless on Stans and Pacentti SL23 rims. I’ve used Hutchinson road tubeless tires on both Shimano and Stans, and soon to be Pacentti. I’ve helped a friend set up Hutchinson road tubeless on Bontrager rims (with strips). And now I’m testing Schwalbe One road tubeless on some Chinese manufactured OEM carbon rims (my teammates raced them all of 2014). I’ve used both Stan’s and OrangeSeal sealant, and am indifferent. My overall results have been nothing short of flawless. Yes, initial set up can be challenging. But if someone says road tubeless setup is a pain, they’ve obviously never tried gluing tubular tires. But it’s completely worth it because the reward is that flats are almost entirely eliminated. It is possible to have a catastrophic tear/puncture, but you can insert a tube. You can’t do that if you cut/tear your tubular. I do find them to be more compliant, but that benefit is nowhere as significant as in the mountain bike tubeless systems. So for the average weekend warrior amateur racer, I find road tubeless to be safe, reliable, and better performing than tubed tires, and more practical than tubular.

  17. Awhile back I attempted to convert my Mavic wheels to road tubeless. There were a bunch of articles on the success, but I was not able to get the Hutchinson tubeless to properly seat. When I upgraded my wheels on my current road bike, I went the route with Hed Belgium Plus and and had Prowheelbuilder set them up for tubeless. I had to research and ultimately follow Hutchinson’s process to get the tires to bead set. You do hear a valid pop and once they do, the wheels are air tight. I added sealant and been running this setup problem free for a few months now.

  18. Why road tubeless didn’t take off – increased weight, increased rolling resistance, increased installation difficulty, and there’s no point in lowering tire pressure to a degree that would threaten pinch flats with a tube because you’re risking rim damage as it bottoms out.

    Solution if you want a smoother ride: Bump up your tire size 2mm and lower the pressure.

  19. My 2 cents–since moving to wider rims (Archetypes) and using 25, 27, & 29mm tires I find I’m perfectly happy on my ‘retro’ clincher setup. Its pretty wonderful to be able to run 80 psi and not have as much of a threat of pinch-flats, especially this time of year with so much debris on the roads. I’m just not intrigued by road tubeless, though I do love tubeless on my MTB.

  20. The beginning of the article also says road tubeless came on fast in 2010. That isn’t true either. Road Tubeless was introduced in 2006. The Dura-Ace 7850SLs were out in 2007-8 with the accompanied Hutchinson Road Tubeless tires. I guess at the time I could have gotten confused with the one tire being offered, but somehow I didn’t. As of 2012, the Corima, Dura-Ace and Ultegra, and Fulcrum 2-way fit were really the only wheels available. In the past couple of years, choices have really grown. Really, the choices started arriving in 2012 and 2013 when Schwalbe, Bontrager, Hutchinson, Maxxis(2014?) and Specialized started offering tires and American Classic, DT Swiss, Syncros, Pacenti, Hed and others started offering tubeless wheels and rims. I am not sure if that is a sign of growing popularity or what, but Giant, Trek, and Scott(Syncros) offer bikes stock with tubeless options. If anything, Road Tubeless really got going the past two years and was incredibly slow from 2006 to 2012. I was scouring the tire companies often looking for new tires to try and I tried them all as they were introduced, on 7850-SLs. My opinion is that the stagnation was due to initial lack of choice and roadies’ resistance to change. If someone could compile a list of products and when they were introduced, we would certainly see a ramping up in choices and not a plateau, especially since 2008. So if anything, it goes like this…Road Tubeless was introduced in 2006…remained stagnant until 2012-2013 and then exploded with options. This whole article is BS. Just BS.

  21. Robert,
    Those issues have been addressed. The tires are lighter and Schwalbe recorded a lower rolling resistance in their tubeless tire than their tubular. In fact, Cancellara was using them because of this. I frequently run 65psi and never had an issue with rim damage in thousands of miles. It makes the bike so much more comfortable.

  22. Robert W,

    Sorry you are dead wrong here. You have decreased rolling resistance because at lower pressure you get less deflection off of the thousands of bumps along the way as the tire soaks up the bumps and keeps on rolling. You also have less friction generated between the tube and tire rubbing against each other.

  23. Looking forward to the next installment.

    I think most people commenting here are over qualified to answer the question why or why not regarding road tubeless. Start with the simplest explanation: most people ride what comes as OEM on the bike they purchased. If the bike companies aren’t willing to risk road tubeless as OEM spec, then it’s going to be a lot harder for the standard to propagate.

    We weren’t given a choice on integrated shifting vs. downtube shifters, or 8 vs 9 vs 10 vs 11 speed, threaded vs PF30, and so on.

    Then once you get to the middle level and upper level road bikes, the manufacturers don’t spec spendy wheels anyway because they want to hold down the MSRP and figure serious riders will ditch the OEM wheels anyway.

    Back to the middle and lower end of the market: consumers are looking at price and weight. You’ve got a tough row to hoe to convince a bike manufacture to spec road tubeless when it is going to add weight and cost. The only way they will do that is if they are spec’ing their own equipment, as is the case with Specialized, Giant, and Trek.

  24. I ran tubless on Campy Euros Wheels, worked great until…
    I got a tire cut (1/2″ glass cut on tread) that sealant would not seal, so I tried to boot and throw in a tube.
    Epic hassle and total mess that ultimately didn’t work. I was stuck so I had to call for a pick-up,
    fortunately I was relatively close to home. On a Mtb tubeless it’s still a little messy if you get a sidewall cut etc. and have to boot and tube, but there is enough surface area and lower pressure allows for the emergency repair. Not so on the road bike… I guess you could run road tubeless w/o sealant until you get a flat, then tube it.

  25. Tubeless since 2010, riding an average of 3k miles per year…I’ve had one flat tire in that time period, and still managed to get home by stopping to pump up every 5 miles.

    It’s a no brainer for me as I don’t like flat tires.

    @dingo – Thanks for the info on your setup. I’ve been looking at the deep carbon tubeless options from Easton and Reynolds but kind of holding out for a proper Enve tubeless.

  26. Oh, and I highly recommend the Schwalbe One Tubeless. Much better comfort, ease of fit, and so far, durability, over the Hutchinson offerings.

  27. @meanie…Road discussion falls flat? Ironic considering how many roadies I pass changing their tubes while I roll along. Essentially tubeless, and the right sealant will handle nearly 99% of what causes garden variety flats. I have been riding tubeless for over 600 miles now, I’d say I’ve experienced close to 20 punctures that would have required a stop and tube change, not the case running tubeless & sealant. At worst I stop and add a few psi.

  28. Dingo has it right, Tim , industry experience or not, and that is an empty quantity, you need to get up to snuff on road tubeless. Tubeless Ready road rims from the established manufacturers and tubeless tires from the likes of Hutch and Schwalbe, work like a charm.

    For alloy rims HED Ardennes and Ardennes+, or Belgium C2, are an absolute charm for road tubeless for instance.

    Do better research.

  29. @Robert W, you’re putting out wrong information. If anything road tubeless overall has demonstrated less rolling resistance and better ride quality while eliminating pinch flats. Your claim about pressure so low that it risks rim damage is ridiculous. I’ve run 70psi front & 85psi rear on 28mm tires with zero issues for thousands of miles now. I weigh 200# and ride on rough, crap for roads, offroad as well. No rim damage to speak of. Regarding difficulty of installation, if 15 minutes and a compressor is all it takes for me to install new tires…then your definition of difficult is sorely out of whack.

  30. @Dingo – I’ve run many tubed tires on my Stan’s Alpha 340 wheels. These include Michelin Pros3, Lithion 2, Conti GP4000S. I also currently run tubed tires on my Ritchey Zeta II tubeless tire without any issue. So, yes, tubed tires do work on tubeless rims. The reason they work is because the tube pressure keeps the bead in place. Are they harder to mount then on a non-tubeless rim? Yes, but once you get the on there is no problem.

  31. I’m constantly amazed by people who talk about the risks of road tubeless being greater than the risks of mtb tubeless, at pressures around 90psi, or folks who review road tubeless tires at that sort of pressure and then complain the tires don’t ride well. Well, it’s because you over-inflated them.

    Drop the pressures where they belong (depending on tires/rims, this could be as much as 70 or as little as 50psi) and everything gets better.

  32. Alex, of course they work. I never said they would not work. The hypothetical question I posed was…“Can my GP4000 tires be used tubeless?” No, they will not. Will they work with a tube in Road Tubeless wheels? Yes, they will…just like the Fulcrums, DT Swiss, Shimano, etc.

  33. I had bought a pair of Shimano Ultegra wheels and after using regular tubulars and not being overly thrilled with using tubes again (went tubeless on my mtn bikes 7 yrs ago) I mounted Hutchinson Fusion 3’s. I have had zero issues and they roll fast and are pretty damn plush. I have nothing but good things to say about them.

  34. @bikermark

    Trek is stocking most nice road bikes as well as many hybrids with TLR rims. It’s OEM, but we still do fewer than 6 conversions in a year at a fairly high volume shop that drank the Kool Aid on tubeless a long time ago.

  35. @Dingo
    Schwalbe have produced a tyre with OK rolling resistance, which means there is less of a penalty than in the past. But still over 10% higher than a really good race tyre. And heavier than a good tyre with a latex tube. A deviation from the norm would need to offer a performance improvement to be worth the hassle. If they offered a benefit there would be a lot more chatter about them from the performance oriented set and thus more widespread interest.

  36. Im surprised theres no mention of the hookless tubeless wheels.
    Much simpler, stronger design.

    I run only hookless on both my MTB and road bikes and it works well for me. Tire and wheel selection on the road is pretty bad (basically only light-bicycle will provide me with a carbon hookless rim that is of correct dimensions my road bike !!) but the setup is nice.

    No gluing, can use a tube if you ever do flat (i flat the MTB from time to time when the sidewall ruptures – i have never ever flat’d the road bike on tubeless. not even once! – and i ride it about 15h per week since 2 years now..).

    Not only that but I run the road bike at quite low pressure (40psi, 33c tire, 74kg rider) which is oh my so comfy compared to anything else.

    Another, cheaper, hooked rim that works well for me on road tubeless is the pacenti sl23 rim. Needs taping and sealant of course.

  37. So I converted. Read all the threads and decided to try it. Mounted up Schwalbe One Road Tubeless to Mavic Ksyrium Elites. The air compressor was necessary to get the initial inflation completed with the valve stem removed. After the bead was set, replaced the stem and floor pump did the job.
    (My shop (wisely) said don’t do it. What if you roll a front bead when cornering? Face plant or worse. I understand their position. They shouldn’t advise clientele and assume some level of risk for their advice. I soldiered on like most shop clientele…..)
    I ran the Schwalbe set up for 5 months (July-Nov) at 90psi for my 200# of spandex restrained goodness. Missour-ah doesn’t have the roughest roads in the US but the road feel on my Noah is significantly better and the cornering grip is outstanding.
    Tim, is my gangsta set-up risky? Do I really run a risk of rolling the bead on the front? I’m a bit of a gear nerd so I’d like some perspective.

  38. Going back to the mountain bike side of the article, the bit about WTB and their TCS system confused me. That is the first time I had heard that you shouldn’t run a TCS tyre on a non TCS rim. I have had very good experience running WTB TCS tyres on Stans rims. They go up very easy with a track pump. There is no information that I could find on WTB website about this either.
    Then going the other way that you would have a hard time inflating an non TCS tyre on a TCS rim. A lot of Santa Cruz bike come with TCS rims and Maxxis tubeless ready tyres and again they convert well.

  39. I’ve been running road tubeless for a couple of years now. I have Hutchinson Intensive on DT Swiss Tricon (a true Road Tubeless rim) and Hutchinson Sector 28 on Pacenti SL23 (a ‘tubeless-ready’ rim) with Stans tape. The Sector/Pacenti combo is superb.

  40. @Alex – You may be getting away with standard road tires on Stan’s rims, but you’re doing so at your own risk. Neither Stan’s nor any tire company would recommend this setup.

  41. “Only recently have major brands like Reynolds started offering tubeless ready carbon fiber rims”
    Yes, but Dt product Carbon tubeless wheels and rim since 2015.
    I like tubeless with my aluminium wheels (ztr alpha and shimano dura ace c24 9000), but with carbon rims… Only tubular, never a clincher, too dangerous in France alpe’s.

  42. I tried to convert some American Classic 350 road wheels without success, never could get them to seal up and the tires, Hutchinson Intensive, were a total PITA to install. Then I got a DuraAce front wheel (tubeless ready) with a Hutchinson Atom already installed. I really loved how it gripped the asphalt and gave more comfort. When I tried to install a H/Intensive I discovered both tires I had, both still new, had deep cracks next to the bead almost the whole circumference.

  43. @ David: Thanks for clearing that up. The stiffness required for tubeless increases rolling resistance. I’m running 70psi in my 27mm clinchers with latex tubes. No need for tubeless.

  44. @UnfilteredDregs: You wouldn’t pinch flat on a tubed tire at those pressures, either. You’re chasing your tail, buddy. Rolling resistance tests continue to show that tubeless is not an advantage…and just because you use it doesn’t mean you have to defend it contra the facts.

  45. Good article I am looking forward to part 2! Having converted over in 2012 to road tubeless, I fell in love with the ride, the lack of flats (not 1 in 3 years running tubeless!) and its worth noting that I only use these for training (solves the Carbon race wheel issue = Ride Tubular for racing!!!). I have had great success with mounting Bontrager R3’s on Mavic Ksyrium Elites (sealed rim bed) with sealant. So in my experience running a TLR tire on a non-tubeless style rim I have found great success, Tim you might want to add that as a 4th type of road tubeless setup) or is the Mavic rim actually ETRTO but Mavic didn’t tell anyone?

  46. I run Alpha 340 Disc wheels with Hutchison Atom Galactik 240g tyres on both my city bikes and I absolutely love them.
    As long as you keep the sealant topped up, the majority of flats are a thing of the past.
    I firmly believe we will see 1x hydraulic tubeless road bikes with bolted axles in the coming years.
    Front mechs, inner tubes and caliper brakes should all be consigned to history books.
    I would cheer if Shimano or SRAM released a full range 16speed cassette instead of making us wait till 2020 with this lame trickle out, paying a fortune for ONE more gear every year crap.
    1x, hydraulic & tubeless are all awesome on MTB & Cross, why are road bikes always last?

  47. Can Part 2 of this series be authored by “Dingo”.
    There is 6+ years of practical experience and a lot of knowledge there.

  48. PRICE!

    Tube-less ready MTB tires opposed to non are all relatively the same in price.

    Road TLR however is incredibly expensive in relation to a normal clincher tire!

  49. Until you can get the the overwhelming majority of Elite Road and CX Pros away from their beloved tubulars, tubeless is still a clincher no matter how you measure your psi.

  50. I can’t think of a good reason to use tubeless on the road. I’m perfectly fine with my tubulars, they are fast, comfortable, light, easy to mount and they don’t do weird things to the spoke tension of my wheels (did you guys actually checked the spoke tension of your clinchers and tubeless wheels before and after inflating a tire ?) . Yet I still thank the tubeless world for providing sealant which I put on my tubulars too for puncture protection and repair. Works like a charm.

    I like tubeless on the MTB because I wouldn’t want to carry a spare MTB tubular and ride back home unglued after the occasionnal flat but on the road it is a non issue. Flats are rear and most can be mitigated (think slow flat) or resealed on the road without hassle.

  51. I found IRC the best so far, even for ladies IRC is easy to mount. Not sure about engineering. But I gave up with Schwalbe and Hutchinson, because their bead are too stiff. Also IRC is super light tubeless. I am using them on AM Classic, Fulcrum, Shimano, NoTube and Pacenti. So far no issue with rims. I ride 23 and 25c. I think the tubeless road will change the present market understanding day by cay. Guys you must try.

  52. I don’t know why people are so polarized on this topic. It’s a choice and I like choices and experimentation.

    Here are my experience with road tubeless with positive and negatives.

    Positives: Better ride feel, better traction, way less flats, faster than my tubed wheels in my opinion.

    Negatives: Cost, ~40 gram weight penalty over tubed tire, rim/tire bead is subject to total failure even with a slight bend, never have a tire in stock.

    My opinion: It is hard to justify the cost of tubeless. The ride quality out weights the weight penalty. It is a wash either way so you can’t lose. I hat flats so I obviously love tubeless.

    Background: I am using both Tubeless and Tubed tires on different bikes
    Bike 1: tubeless Stan’s Alpha 340 with Schwalbe One 23mm, and Bontrager R3 25mm
    Bike 2: Easton EA90 Aero with Mavic Griplink Powerlink and lightish tubes
    Bike 3: Fulcrum Racing 5 with GP4000S 25MM
    Bike 4: Tubular older enve wheels with GP4000S Tubular

    Rotating Weight:
    Bike 1: Schwalbe One 335 grams (tire 305, sealant ~1oz 25 grams, stan’s presta valve 5 grams)
    Bike 1: Bontrager R3 310 (tire 280, sealant 25, stan’s valve 5 grams)
    Bike 2: Mavic 270 grams (tire 205, tube 65 grams)
    Bike 3: Conti GP4000 305 grams (tire 230, tube 75 grams)
    Bike 4: Conti GP4000 tubular 288 grams (tire actual weight 270, glue 5 grams)

    Setup: Well I found the tubeless setup pretty damn simple. Not sure I understand any argument for setup issue especially since it is a one time event. Plus sometimes I pinch tubes setting up normal tube tires. Specifically on the fulcrum wheels.

    Ride/Performance: I well the ride characteristics of tubeless are the strongest point. Both my 23mm and 25mm tubeless setups ride better than any tube setup I have. Wet tractions is a standout benefit. Tubeless tire is a little stiffer than tubular so tubular 23mm rides a bit nicer than 23 mm tubeless. Nothing I have compares to the ride of the 25mm tubeless. Nothing seems to be as fast as my 25mm tubeless setup either. Rolling resistance is better on tubeless in my opinion. Some tires might not perform as well.

    Cost: This is a huge downfalls of road tubeless. I could by two sets of tires and tubes for the cost of a tubeless setup.

    Maintenance: You still have to carry a tube using tubeless with stands just in case. And a boot is a good idea too. I have never had a flat using tubeless but I had one total failure because I cased a pot hole and bent the bead of the rim. Ruined the wheel and tire. Couldn’t fix it with a tube and had to sag out.
    With the tubed tires I seem to have flats especially with the Fulcrum wheels.

  53. @UnfilteredDregs: See Tom Anhalt’s data on his blog bikeblather.blogspot. Hutchinson Galactik tubeless Crr of .0041. Lots of plain Jain clinchers with a lower rr. Even a Vittoria Rubino Pro beats it.

  54. I think 5000 miles with no flats on new england roads is good enough reason. This is the hutchinson and stan’s 340 combo, don’t trust any others at all. I still like the ride of tubs way better but screw clinchers and tubes.

  55. I also took a pair of those wehhls to eastern europe and was so so glad when we got lost in woods on old military base wih no cell signal at all. It was single track and flinty gravel roads with tons of holes and debris. I really think those saved me on that trip.

  56. And lastly (too bad we can’t edit these), you don’t have to carry anything at all with these. I despise using bags and carrying crap like tubes and co2, screw that, you simply don’t need it. If you hear a hiss, you do like you would on a mtn bike, remove the wheel, put hiss at bottom, seal hole. It has only happened to me once, 10 miles out, and I still had 60psi once it sealed. Caddy ride home. Tx Stan!

  57. @Rico then one day you will miss that one piece of metal that will slice your precious tubeless tire and you’ll have to call someone to pick you up.

    I very rarely flat with my tubulars yet I wouldn’t ride without a spare and a small pump. I just put them in my second bottle cage and forget about them. I would just hate disturbing someone because I f*cked up.

  58. Tomi, umm…your scenario is no different than with a tubed tire. Rico’s point, that rings true for those that use Road Tubeless, is that the “average” flats are virtually non existent. Of course, you could just solve the problem by carrying an extra tire, like you do…(deleted)

  59. I also wanted to chime in about the TCS tire and Stan’s rim combo: I’ve only ridden this combination in the past 3 years and never had a problem. I could even inflate and seat the beads with a hand pump. Fact check is required Bikerumor…

  60. Tomi, umm…your scenario is no different than with a tubed tire. Rico’s point, that rings true for those that use Road Tubeless, is that the “average” flats are virtually non existent. Last summer I got three flats in 20 miles on a demo bike I was riding. I ran out of tubes. Those flats would have never happened on my tubeless wheels as they were either pinch or very small pricks.
    If a Road Tubeless rider wanted to solve the problem of catastrophic slashes, then the solution is no different than your solution of carrying an extra tire. Same is true for tubed tires. Who wants to carry around an extra tire? I don’t. I think that is idiotic. I carry a tube and a dollar to get me home. Again, no different than a tubed setup. That argument is tired and irrational.

  61. Tubeless systems work great on mtb’s because lower tire pressures can be run for a bigger tire footprint and hence, better traction. Perhaps tubeless tires would be nice for gravel bikes.
    I think that tubular tires with Stan’s for flat protection would would be a better choice on road bikes than tubeless. They’re far lighter than clinchers.

  62. I’m with Robert W. on this one. His point on pinch flats vs rim damage is this: the touted advantage of tubless being that you can run lower pressures without flatting… if you’re running low enough pressure to make contact between asphalt, tube, rim and tyre (thus causing pinch flat) you’re still making contact between asphalt, rim and tyre (thus, possibly damaging your rim).

    I ran a tubeless set-up with shimano wheels and specialized roubaix tubeless. It worked decent enough, but I didn’t really feel too much difference in ride. In fact, I actually found myself getting flats more often, either from being too low on sealant and running over glass, or burping out too much air on a Tucson pothole. The problem is that you gotta carry a tube anyway, because if you flat, you have to make it home. And because I was a poor college student, I didn’t have a compressor, so I never ended up re-tubelessing them (and they didn’t seem so worth the trouble).

    Now perhaps, my poor experience was a fluke, or a one-off, and perhaps there is a certain rim/tyre combo that works amazing. But why, when the right high thread count 25mm tyre with tube is perfectly comfortable? Everyone lauds over their lack of flats. I’ve ridden 5000 miles this year (including 1100 miles on tour) all with tubes. A single flat (on said tour, after riding over glass, the tyre was fine, however). If you’re getting enough flats to complain while using tubes, I don’t know what you’re doing wrong, honestly. Either buy better tyres, keep them inflated properly, or stop running over glass.

  63. Road tubeless will not go anywhere until MICHELIN gets in the act the same way they did for high-performance clinchers back-in-the-day. They paid teams to use ’em and proved races from 3 week grand tours to Paris-Roubaix could be won using them. Read Laurent Fignon’s book to see what he thought of them. Prior to this nobody would race on clinchers just like today no pros will race on road tubeless. Once MICHELIN stopped paying teams to use their clinchers all the teams went back to tubulars. If I was a DS with a highly paid rider who might win some big races, I wouldn’t risk anything but the proven performance and safety of well-glued tubulars unless there was some real financial incentive. Until this arrives, and some big-time races are won using them, they’ll remain a niche market item. Personally I already run my Vittoria “Open tubulars” at reasonable pressure to have a smooth ride with great traction in the corners and next-to-no why would I spend the extra dough to deal with mounting hassles, expense and sealant that dries up eventually and must be replaced when I’d have to carry a spare tube and a pump anyway? But I’m a guy who enjoys riding MTB with (gawd) 26″ wheels with tubes in the tires…while having no trouble keeping up with those on fancy 29″ wheel bikes, etc. so what do I know?

  64. I’ve been running Hutchinson Tubeless tires on my Pinarello Paris with HED Belgium wheels in a variety of conditions for last year and a half with no major issues… Fill to 210 psi on average with about 4000 miles per year. Flatted out once due to slice and just put a tube in and kept going. in general, tired seem to last longer than Conti 4000s. Will, however, admit that they are messier to deal with than clinchers…

  65. @Dingo stop being a tubeless fanboy, it wasn’t a point against tubeless but against people like rico riding without some sort of repair options. The most punture prone tires on the road are urban/tires such as the marathon plus, yet I know of one or two commuters who got them sliced by sharp metal pieces.

    If you pinch flat on the road, whatever system you are using, means only one thing: you hit potholes on purpose or you don’t know how to mount a tube.

  66. Toni, I don’t think you are in any position to tell me what to do. I think it is important for you to understand that my point was that no matter the tire system you are using, the solution is the same…a boot and a tube or being so paranoid that you carry an extra tire. Except of course, if you ride tubulars…which you absolutely HAVE to take a tire with you. In addition, he specifically said “@Rico then one day you will miss that one piece of metal that will slice your precious tubeless tire and you’ll have to call someone to pick you up.”
    Aaaah, no. Boot it, tube it and go. Simple to understand…or is it?
    “If you pinch flat on the road, whatever system you are using, means only one thing: you hit potholes on purpose or you don’t know how to mount a tube.” This comment of yours is, in my opinion, myopic and lacking understanding of the road conditions in other parts of the world other than your own. In my neck of the woods, there is not avoiding large cracks and holes at high speed because they literally span the entire road at times. This is where tubeless excels. I would be happy to use tubes if they were reliable under these circumstances. They are not. I am not so much a fanboy of tubeless as I am a fan of reliability and a fan of not having to sit on the side of the road replacing the absolute cheapest, most unreliable part of a bicycle…the tube. And no, I am not going to carry a tubular tire with me on ever century…just in case. Which leads me to the only system that works…for me…in my neck of the woods.

  67. Toni, I get what you are saying about Tomi’s argument about not taking anything with you. you are right. And I agree that was a misunderstanding on my part. Thank you for pointing that out.

  68. Yes, tubeless tires are more expensive. But I can’t imagine how much I’ve saved on tubes over the past three years. Not one flat. Not one. This includes hard training and racing.

  69. It is not true that once you go tubeless you never go back. I ran road tubeless for a reason, flatted more than with tubes and went back to tubes. I agree with the sentiment that there isn’t a problem that needs solving here. Unlike MTB, people aren’t trying to run road tires at pinch-flat-prone pressures. There are better (faster, lighter) tires available that use tubes. Tubeless is a hassle to deal with and sealant (in my experience) doesn’t seal things that give me flats at road-level pressures.

    OTOH, I have had zero trouble setting up any rim as road tubeles. And don’t think there is any confusion about what RT is.

  70. It isn’t more popular because it isn’t safe. Michelin and many other companies refuse to get involved and for good reason. Injury is incredibly common and there are lawyers who specialize specifically in tubeless tire lawsuits. This isn’t to say everyone will get hurt riding them, but the risk of great bodily injury and death is too high when installation is left to the average user, or average bike shop employee for that matter.

  71. How many of these suits involve converted tube-only tires? I’m gonna guess here, but I’ll bet it’s most of them.

    Tubeless Road tires are not popular because they’re expensive, heavy, more difficult to set up than standard clinchers, and the benefits are marginal (if even existent) for most riders.

    The ability to ride road tires at 70psi just isn’t important to most riders. They have no idea that a 700×28 tire at that low pressure can double their riding options. They don’t know that a tire like that is half as likely to flat. They can’t comprehend that a decent tubeless tire at that pressure still rolls with less resistance than a typical 700c tire at 110psi.

    If riders are going to go through the expense of putting new high-end wheels and tires on their road bikes, they’ll be deep carbon clinchers. You won’t find many tubeless options there.

  72. I have been ridding and racing Tubeless tires in MTB for years. That’s why I did not hesitate to try it on my road bike when I got the chance to so so this year. I arrived in Tucson early January and put on a pair of IRC Formula Pro TUBELESS (700x23c) light on my Easton EA90 tubeless wheels.

    I quickly realized the wideness rolling surface that the rims gave to the tires. The combination made a very smooth riding surface and great cornering at hight speed. I had full confidence going down on Mount Lemmon full gas. I love the rolling on them as the good grip when taking a curve !

    I have about 1 000 miles on the IRC tires and still haven’t got a flat to report. I did not get the chance to try the IRC scealant so I put the Stan Notube one in them. I am anxious to see if the sealant will work as good as on my mountain bike.

    I will keep you guys posted in the coming weeks to give you a better feedback. But for now, All I can says beside this is I believe in the Tubeless technology and for now I can only wish that tubes will be a thing of the past in the coming years !!!
    Ride on!

  73. HED Ardennes + and Hutchinson Sector 28 pumped to 85psi on a Trek Madone 6 Series SSL.
    Floats over the road like a cloud while me race buddies vibrate to death on 23’s pumped to 100+psi.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.