Pros are ditching tubulars to switch to the improved performance of road tubeless thanks to the premium construction of Specialized’s all-new Turbo RapidAir tires. Many of the riders of Deceuninck Quick-Step have opted for the new tubeless tire at this year’s Tour de France due to claims of lower rolling resistance, better grip, and it tangibly more supple ride. But marketing claims aside, it seems that early season results by the first riders to test the Turbo RapidAir prototypes spread word-of-mouth through the team ranks.

Specialized Turbo RapidAir pro-level tubeless road tire

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire, Julian Alaphilippe yellow jersey holder Tour de France 2019, photo by CyclingImages
courtesy Specialized, TdF photos by @CyclingImages

We saw Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Fabio Jakobsen win a sprint finish at the Tour of California this spring after having a mid-race puncture self-seal, and then go on to rave about their faster feel post-race. Now it seems more of his teammates are following suit. Apparently 5 out of 8 riders started the 2019 Tour on the new tubeless tire.

Is the yellow jersey holder racing each day with Turbo RapidAir tubeless tires on his Tarmac, or is he one of the few holdouts on tubulars? Valve stem nuts are a giveaway of the tubeless setup, while the natural cotton basetape peeking out above the rim is a telltale sign of tubulars. Actual tire labels are harder to confirm, since Julian Alaphilippe’s bikes have been spotted with or without production hot stamps.

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire, Julian Alaphilippe yellow jersey holder Tour de France 2019, photo by CyclingImages

Development of top-level road tubeless tires seems long-overdue. We’ve seen wholesale adoption of tubeless on pro mountain bikes, basically erasing the market for elite MTB tubulars more than a decade ago. But even though proponents of road tubeless have claimed lower rolling resistance, improved grip, better flat prevention & a smoother ride, most (but not all) road tubeless tires have been made with stiff, heavy vulcanized construction that couldn’t compare to high-quality tubulars in the end.

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire

Now, Specialized looks ready to set a new road tubeless benchmark with their all-new Turbo RapidAir tubeless road tire. Specialized says founder Mike Sinyard’s first product was a tire, and even though we think of the brand more for its bikes now, they have continued to develop several premium road & MTB tires over the years. The Turbo has been sought after both as a tubular & a clincher. Now Specialized calls the new Turbo RapidAir the “best handling, smoothest riding, and fastest rolling tire our pros have ever used“. And that seems to be backed up as it’s the first tubeless tire we’ve seen typically conservative road pros pick over tubulars.

Tech details

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire

Many tubeless tires use many overlapping layers of butyl-impregnated fabric to get the necessary airtight construction & strength for road tubeless. (Road tubeless with pressures of ~100psi is definitely a bit more complicated than MTB tubeless where pressures are closer to ~30psi.)

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire

Specialized says their new RapidAir road tubeless tire feature a patent-pending construction with just two fabric layers under the tread’s contact patch for increased flexibility. That will be crucial in matching the suppleness of tubulars, but more importantly in surpassing them on rolling resistance due to less hysteresis as the tire flexes & returns to shape.

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire

While the crown of the Turbo RapidAir tire is more flexible, the sidewalls are thickened to offer stable support while cornering, and presumably anti-abrasion protection. The tire also features a tubeless-specific bead said to snap easily & securely to tubeless-ready rims, for easy tubeless setup.

The remaining plus of tubeless is sealant inside. Specialized says their RapidAir sealant was developed to combat the ‘run-flat’ capability of tubulars, by eliminating the flat in the first place.

Pricing & availability

Specialized Turbo RapidAir road tubeless, pro-level tubeless road bike tire

Specialized hasn’t yet given much more specifics on the new road tubeless tire like what sizes will be available (besides the 28c versions we see here, and the 25c versions on Elia Viviani’s Venge above) or how much it will cost. But they have committed to consumer availability this autumn 2019. We’ll be waiting in anticipation.

Specialized.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. People running road/gravel tubeless: How is the retention during “catastrophic” events. I’ve had one bad flat on a tubed tire that almost tossed me and also hit a razor-blade at 20mph while running inserts. The insert definitely made that event a lot less scary.

    • In a catastrophic event, the air will instantly escape any tire. Tubular tires are historically easier to ride when deflated because they don’t fold over the rim’s bead in the same manner, and the rim cannot come in contact with the ground (instant loss of control). A good tubeless setup will have solid enough bead retention that if it goes flat, the beads will not unseat while you ride to a stop, but that’s still a little bit of a gamble. I have had varying results within samples of the same products.

      A regular tubed clincher still represents the biggest risk in this scenario.

    • Just over a week ago I had a tubeless gravel tire blow off of one side the rear rim on my bike. New tire with only 100km on it. The fabric layers inside the tire suddenly delaminated and tire started to wobble. It only took 4-5 seconds before one bead just blew of the rim, at 30 km/h. So luckely I wasn’t going that fast and it wasn’t the front tire. Just minutes before I had ridden a fast downhill at 65km/h. Best not to think about it. Have run the same brand/model tires for 3 seasons without issues. No damage to the wheel or rim, so I bought a new tire and remounted it tubeless. So far so good. 🙂

      • That sounds like either a defective tire or too much pressure. Did you contact the manufacturer? I imagine they’d like to see the failed tire and perhaps they’d replace it at no cost.

    • way better than a standard clincher but nowhere near as well as a tubular. ‘best’ catastrophic incident I’ve had is some train tracks that I hit just wrong at 35MPH and sliced both tires. I rolled to a stop on rubber.

    • I ate a truly massive amount of shit on a road tubeless fail. The problem with tubeless is that when it fails, it fails worse than any other kind of tire design. In my case, I hit a pot hole, tire came off and the sealant inside turned into a lubricant on the inside of the tire. This prevented me from riding it out to a safe stop and instead, caused the rim to “slip” inside the tire and send me down hard.

      Until then, I was REALLY stoked on the road tubeless but now I may not go back. That was scary stuff.

  2. Hmm, I would be interested to hear more about their RapidAir sealant. So far what I hear from road tubeless is a mixed bag, to some, it works splendidly and to some, it failed to seal on the first puncture. So lets see if it’s truly a great sealant or marketing fluff.

  3. The previous gen turbo cotton was a brilliant tire. I’m sure these will be awesome. The only comment I have to make is that people shouldn’t be running a tubeless road tire (especially a 26mm tire) at 100 psi (7bar). At some point the industry needs to change the number that is used for the “standard” graphs like we see in this article.

  4. Been running tubeless on all my bikes MTB, Gravel and Road for years. With Specialized and Maxxis tyres mostly. 98kg hard rider….no problems! Fit them properly, maintain them properly and it’s easy. Haven’t had to stop for a puncture in any of those bikes for a long time apart from tearing a sidewall on the MTB which nothing is going to seal.

  5. Enough with all this bullsh*t!
    we need any tubeless related news for commuting around town.
    commuter need tubeless too!

    tubeless sealant only last for one month in hot climates.

    • Regarding the claim that the sealant only lasts for a month in hot climates, I say ‘fake news’! I live in Florida and have no problem with sealant remaining viable for several months or more. I have used Hutchinson and Stans with no problems.

      • Yeah in FL it’s humid AF dude. Come chill in AZ, 113 degrees and 3% humidity will suck the moisture out of everything, real quick.

    • I live in an area with a hot climate, and often have rides that the air temperature is over 100°F. My tire sealant lasts much longer than a month. Orange Seal Endurance is my sealant of choice as it lasts even longer than Stan’s and seals punctures better.

      • ah yes i mean humidity.
        i live in a town where average humidity is 55%.
        changing valve every month is another story.
        but stan’s not works for me, always ended up with tubeless plug.

        • for comparison, sealant changing schedule for my motor scooter is one year.
          in one year, it gets slimy not dried up.
          will try newer tubeless slime when its time to change my tire.

  6. I generally get at least 3 months in the summer(rarely gets under 80 at night and over 100 most days). Primarily use Orange Seal standard formula.

    • They allow prototypes and such. Think of all the testing that had been done with electronic groups before release.
      Also, I have never seen Continental Competition “Pro Ltd” tires, with their different tread and latex tubes, available to the public, but they’ve been used by pro teams for years.

      • “Equipment shall be of a type that is sold for use by anyone practicing cycling as a sport,” reads UCI rule 1.3.006. “The requirement of commercial availability shall be understood as equipment having to be available through a publicly available order system (whether with manufacturer, distributor or retailer). Upon an order being placed, the order shall be confirmed within 30 days and the relevant equipment shall be made available for delivery within a further 90-day deadline.

        “In addition, the retail price of the equipment shall be publicly advertised, shall not render the equipment de facto unavailable to the general public and shall not unreasonably exceed the market value for equipment of a similar standard.”

        • They say in the article that they’ll be available in “autumn 2019”, which is well within 90 days of the start of the Tour.

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