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.”

Specialized S-Works Project Black prototype tubeless tires WorldTour Amgen Tour of California ToC Fabio Jakobsen, photo by Chris Graythen of Getty Images
c. Deceuninck Quick-Step, photos by Chris Graythen of Getty Images

“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.”

Specialized S-Works Project Black prototype tubeless tires WorldTour Amgen Tour of California ToC Fabio Jakobsen, photo by Chris Graythen of Getty Images

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.

Specialized S-Works Project Black prototype tubeless tires WorldTour Amgen Tour of California ToC Fabio Jakobsen, photo by Chris Graythen of Getty Images

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.

Specialized.com

37 COMMENTS

    • Compared to tubulars? Tubeless is a cinch.

      In the desert, it only takes a weekly pressure check and sealant refresh every 4-6mo to keep tubeless happy. And thorn/glass small punctures are largely a memory.

      • “And thorn/glass small punctures are largely a memory.” Or cause a sealant fountain and mess up all your bike…

  1. Tubeless tires and disc brakes, let the ranting about losing rim brakes and tubular tires begin!
    Also edit this: “In his first appearance at the Tour of California appearance”

  2. Specialized ads like these actually hurt both Specialized AND BikeRumor more than they realize.
    Both looks like a greedy clowns and loose the little respect they still have left. IMO.

  3. Most of bike rumor and other blog sites are just long winded ads now. Look at a few of the last posts. That being said I’ve been on tubeless for the last 6 years. I do have a set of tubulars I will use sometimes, they are on some older carbon wheels that fit on my B bike. So if I’m going to race my B bike (rain or crash happy race) I’ll use those. Other than that it’s tubeless for me.

  4. Seriously? Listen to those guys talk. That doesn’t sound like an ad to me. And Specialized definitely didn’t pay me to write this either. I’m just happy to hear that pros are riding the same tech I’ve been happily rolling on for years. We write about what we think is cool and what readers will find interesting. And we remain staunchly (& uniquely) independent between all editorial function & separate revenue streams. (Does Specialized even advertise with us?)

  5. Of course tech sites sound like ads! They are trying to provide riders with necessary and interesting info about things we may want to buy for our own bikes! That includes a list of nice things about a product. How boring would the articles be if they were “Guy who didn’t win today says he still likes Tubulars” “Bad things about the new Huffy” “Spy Shots of the old Univega outside my apartment”.
    New shit is cool

  6. To make a good tubular tire you need skilled workers a clincher is mostly machine made so that Specialized see the future with less workers and higher profit is no wonder.

    But Cory honestly cool tech to you seems to be what you prefer.
    Discs, tubeless and gravel bikes and all articles here reflects that.

    It would be like if I was to comment on Remi Cavagnas win saying that’s it for discs in the peloton since they make you descend like shit.

    If you are a curious reporter just blindly write off the manufactures promos does seems a bit lazy.
    Surely there must be more to it than that. A lot of the cool new stuff here will be in the trash soon enough
    and I honestly think you have a responsibility to help new riders to make better choices.
    By understanding different technology free from the big company’s pushing relentlessly for their new more profitable wonder tech. A lot of the new things are really good but…

    And apparently I’m not the only one that have observed the trend to mindless hype the latest thing without so much as a question.

    • i think the posts here do make a clear distinction between “Here’s something new that I saw”(or that the manufacturer sent me) and “Here’s what I think about something that I tested”. I’m fine with just learning what’s new out there. I’d hope that obviously false claims would be flagged for the reader, but a full evaluation of every new product is logistically impossible.

    • @Max I’ve ridden discs on MTB for 20 years, tubeless on MTB for 20 years (a mess for many of those early, homemade years), tubeless on road for maybe 6, tubulars on road & CX for 21, dropbar bikes on gravel for 23. None of this is new tech or will be a quick flash in the pan. I cover a lot based on my personal & professional experience.

      And new riders to road are not making the better entry choice by picking tubulars… as much as I still enjoy many road & cross tubulars that I have – where commercially available tubeless tires can’t yet match the casing quality (vulcanization is mostly not your friend.)

      But as @Lyford says, if you want to read more of our reviews vs. just tech news, you can easily get those with the Categories pull-down at the top, or by reading the headlines.

      But do, please keep commenting. The interaction is both helpful for us to gauge reader thoughts, and helps us communicate our editorial direction as well.
      Thanks.

      • Well I might not been so clear of my point that is; every time a company comes out with something new we are supposed to switch over since everything else is inferior.

        That is modern marketing preferable written as a serious tech report. Save 21% watt with new rims, pulleys god knows what. These figures rarely pass a scrutiny and I think it would serve the community good to question it.
        Or at least judge the new stuff in a more open way. Not just rambling on how superior it is, there is always drawbacks.
        Like if you are heavy and don’t want snakebites you have to pump your clincher so hard they loose both comfort and grip.

        Btw, the disc comment I made was to show how ridiculous it is to take an singular advent and turn it to something that fits your (or mine) idea of how things are or should be.
        It is tempting.

        • so let me get this straight Max you come to a site who job (meaning they need to make money too, im sure you dont work for free) is to report on latest news, tech, and rumors and then criticize condemn and complain when they do so

        • “every time a company comes out with something new we are supposed to switch over since everything else is inferior.”

          We are supposed to decide how we feel about new products for ourselves.

        • Max is certainly right in pointing out that responsible journalism requires that fresh tech news with “facts” and figures requires disclaimers like saying “Specialized claims that…” before you state how much more aero, or lighter, or how much time this would save you in a 40k TT, etc…but I feel like Bike Rumor does a decent job of this already. It could be that if I went back and read all of these hot take on fresh tech articles, while trying to view it through a newb’s eyes, it would actually seem more manipulative (not going to take the time to comb the archives to verify, although Max is certainly welcome to do so), but from my perspective as someone who has seen certain tech come and go (and sometimes come again), it’s not hard to tell the difference between breathless reporting on fresh news and a review or recommendation.

    • The bike industry consists of companies selling stuff. This publication is about the bike industry. You are kinda shooting the messenger here. Although, I think there is an aspect of angry trolling here. I’d like to join in and say that Cory Benson is a poser that is controlled by the big S. He doesn’t know about bike tires.

  7. Pretty impressive that Specialized has accomplished such ride quality with road tubeless. The only TL road tires I’ve tried that felt as good as a regular clincher were a little fragile, and if the sealant wasn’t really fresh, it didn’t do very much to prevent superficial punctures. I’m still running tubes on the high-pressure road stuff, but anything 32c or larger, I’m on tubeless.

    • The quotes from the rider, the photos, and the video are the same, but that’s the only similarities that I see between this post and the post on road.cc. The copy is completely different.

  8. Been on road tubeless for 8 or 9 years years and I am praying that Specialized adopt the new ETRTO tubeless standard!

    • If you are referring to the poor Roval tubeless rim design (lack of a meaningful bead shelf that holds the bead when the tire is deflated) then I’m with you! When i read the article my thought was I hope the Pro Team mechanics are giving Spesh/Roval an earful about the bead shelf and the BS velo plug like sealing system. Even the Roval supplied valve stems are lame (wider than necessary preventing bead from dropping into channel).

  9. Tubeless has become practical for my main bike. It has been a learning curve, but it has worked great for me for sealing punctures. But to keep it going on multiple bikes is not practical. On bikes that you don’t ride regularly, tubes are a better choice.

    • We’ve got 9 bikes between my wife and I. All tubeless. Mostly stans but some orange seal. I use a white paint pen to write sealant type and latest checked/filled date on each tire. Just got back from Moab and saw someone else doing the same thing there, but with the bonus of how many ml he used. Makes it much easier to just look at the tire to know if it’s fresh or not.

  10. Did you watch him descend at all? Th eff kid has ZERO descending skills! Almost crashed several times. Poor guy really needs to learn how to corner at speed.

  11. Went Tubeless little over a year ago, remember changing out the rear tire from wear and running my finger on the inside of the tire and feeling about 4 things (glass,staple) that would have probably given me a flat with tubes. Recently put a pretty big hole in the tire that wouldn’t seal (yeah there is a LOT of crap in the road where I ride) and took about 2 minutes to fix with a tire plug, sold.

  12. My experience with road tubeless was kind of a bust. I’ve run tubeless in my MTB’s for several years now and love it. But on my street bike (used for training) I just had a lot of problems. Not all wheels are susceptible to this but mine had the corroding nipple issues so I kept breaking spoke nipples. Had to inflate the tires to pressure every ride as high pressure air does seep out. I would get punctures that were too big to seal or because of the high pressure air would leak too much air before sealing and still need to be re-inflated or I would never trust the tire again and would replace it (because the sealed hole would often re-rupture and start spring milk all over). I did feel like they rolled a bit faster and were a bit lighter but very subtle like all of these things. Finally gave up on the whole deal after 1.5 years, put some tubes with a lot of baby powder in them and haven’t had a single problem since. I actually got more punctures with tubeless because an object only had to penetrate the tire carcass whereas with tubes it has to penetrate the tube as well. Anyway, I am not a tubeless neophyte but it was just a big pain in the butt on high pressure thin skinned road bike tires.

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