In his first appearance at the Tour of California, Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen rode away with a sprint win on stage 4, rolling on a set of prototype Specialized Project Black tubeless tires. Pros winning on prototypes is really nothing new. But the Deceuninck Quick-Step rider followed up his victory with a clear statement that he prefers the tubeless tires over tubulars, and intends to race on them exclusively as long as the team & mechanics allow. It’s kinda hard to argue with a rider winning on the UCI WorldTour, right?
Specialized Project Black tubeless tires, victory at ToC
What do we know about the tubeless tires Fabio Jakobsen is racing? Teams and tire makers are always cagey on the details when race testing prototypes, but we do know a few things. One, the team was racing relatively wide 26mm tires. Two, Jakobsen was racing with latex sealant in his tires. Three, that sealant saved him a bike or wheel change in the race. Post race, the team realized that Jakobsen actually got a puncture that was automatically sealed. (Btw, the video is courtesy of Specialized Racing, so don’t blame us for the vertical filming.)
Jakobsen talked about a sense of greater stability & cornering confidence at high-speed on the tubeless tires. He also said they felt more comfortable on his body and smoother rolling on the road, likely due to the wider tire, the larger tire volume of tubeless & the likely lower pressure it allows them to run (vs. tubulars), saying the Project Black tubeless tires “filter the bumps out of the road.”
“I’m really in love with them, because they take the bumps better in the corners. I feel more confident for sure… when braking, I feel I have more connection to the road with tubeless. From now on, if the team allows me, I race with them all the time.”
His teammate and Danish national champ Michael Mørkøv spoke about a distinct feeling of lower resistance, ‘really good grip’, and feeling ‘much faster’ on the tubeless tires vs. tubulars. It’s important to note that these guys are comparing ride quality & performance to the 290tpi cotton S-Works Turbo tubulars they have been racing, widely held to be some of the best tubulars out there.
So we have to assume that these Specialized Project Black tubeless prototypes feature both supple casing construction, and premium Gripton rubber compounds, in addition to direct tubeless benefits.
As for more concrete details, Specialized says, “We have no further information to provide on this product other than to say Specialized firmly believes the future of road tire technology, both racing at the highest level and for every rider, is tubeless. The speed, handling, comfort and flat protection of tubeless tires is a benefit for every rider and something our athletes believe in as much as we do.”