Road Tubeless Tire Review

Road Tubeless Clincher Tires
By Jim Weaver, Service Manager
Fit Werx, Vermont

Traditionally there have been two choices of wheel/tire combinations:  tubular or clincher.  Tubular tires and wheels provide superior ride quality and lighter weight than clincher wheels, however, tubulars were not as easy to mount or change as clinchers as they require glue (TUFO tape has helped).  For these reasons, many riders limit the use of their tubular tires and wheels to actual races and events and ride clinchers the rest of the time.  Other rides simply will not own a tubular.  Regardless, clincher tires come as standard equipment on almost all bicycles and they provide greater convenience, easy mounting, and easy flat repair compared to tubulars, but at the expense of ride quality and weight.  With Hutchinson’s introduction of road tubeless clincher tires a few years ago, riders now have a third option that bridges some of the benefits of tubular and clincher tire technology.  Tubeless tires offer ride quality superior to that of conventional clincher tires and tubes and approaching the smooth ride and grip offered by many good tubular tires.

There are several wheels on the market that are specifically designed for use with tubeless clincher tires.  However, the reality is that no special rim or wheel is required to use tubeless; the majority of standard clincher wheels can easily be adapted to tubeless.  Tubeless tires work especially well with any wheel that does not have spoke holes on the inside of the rim, such as Mavic’s Kysrium and R-SYS wheels, but they can be mounted on most regular clincher rims with spoke holes, with the use of Stan’s Rim Tape.  Hutchinson tubeless tires can also be ridden with tubes, which is handy if you do flat out on the road.  This means that with tubeless you get many of the ride quality benefits traditionally only associated with a high quality tubular tire, but you get the familiarity and convenience of a traditional clincher all in one.

As noted previously, one benefit of the Hutchinson tires is a substantial improvement in ride quality and comfort.  Much of this benefit is because tubeless road tires can usually be ridden at 15 to 20 pounds less tire pressure than conventional clincher tires, as you do not have to worry about pinch, or “snakebite” flats due to under inflation.   Lower tire pressure equals a smoother and more vibration damping ride.  While offering comfort benefits to virtually any rider, the ride quality benefits of tubeless road tires can be of particular benefit to the smaller rider on a stiff frame, or using stiff wheels.   Another benefit is that the tire uses a liquid sealant to air seal the bead of the tire and the rim, but it also coats the inside of the entire tire in the process.   This provides an added benefit as the sealant can instantly seal many small punctures you may get while riding, thus reducing the risk of a flat tire.

The weight of a Hutchinson’s Fusion3 Tubeless tire, when combined with the required valve stem insert, is 315 grams, within 10 grams of a Continental GP4000S and light tube.   For many riders, this very minor weight disadvantage is negligible compared to the superior ride quality and puncture resistance the tires provide.  Hutchinson also offers a lighter Atom model, but our experience has shown that the Atom does give up some puncture resistance in exchange for the small additional weight savings.

There are a few caveats to tubeless road tires worth mentioning.  Some rims require the removal of the tire to access spoke nipples for wheel truing.  Reynolds and HED Jet wheels are examples of this type of design.  Using the Hutchinson tires on such rims will make truing such a wheel a bit more difficult and messy task.  Also, manufacturers like Zipp recommend against installation of tubeless clincher tires on wheels like their new carbon clincher.   We are unsure why as tubeless clinchers use the same diameter and same general hook and bead concept as a clincher always have.  However, the installation of tubeless tires could void the manufacturer’s warranty for wheels that specifically say not to use them.  If in doubt, check with us.

Many of our athletes have praised the superior ride offered by tubeless tires.  Especially if you are looking for some relief from rough roads or chip seal, you should seriously consider switching to Hutchinson tubeless clincher tires.  Be sure to look at some of the other tubeless tire articles in the mechanical services area and Tech Center of our site for further information and to learn how to mount and maintain these tires.   Give us a call, email or stop-in if you have questions or are interested in a pair.

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