The current crop of 30-40mm tubeless tyres for gravel bikes is amazing. For gravel bikes and mountain bikes I think tubeless is a no-brainer so everything discussed here is for pavement-based bikes.
Personally I think 28mm is the tipping point for tubeless. Anything narrower and you won’t get any advantages from going tubeless, and anything wider and you’re almost guaranteed to get the benefits of a more supple ride and fewer punctures. 28mm seems to have all the pros AND all of the cons.
28mm tyres are a squeeze on most rim-brake frames and brakes so for rim brakes we’re optimising rims around 25mm – 28mm tyres. Most modern disc brake frames will take wider tyres so our disc brake rims are optimised around 28mm tyres while keeping the ability to run 25mm without any problems. All of our carbon rims are tubeless-ready but can also be used with regular tyres and tubes.
Hooked beads are important. Hookless beads widen tyres out very slightly and give the marketing department something to yell about however they massively reduce safety. Enve, for example, doesn’t permit Specialized tubeless-ready tyres on their tubeless-ready hookless wheels as they risk blow-off. Continental doesn’t permit their new tubeless offerings on hookless bead rims. Not all tubeless road is created equal.
Sealant makes a different. Stan’s is the industry standard and generally has the best results in lab tests but Finish Line have a new sealant which doesn’t dry out and looks really promising.
Tubeless tyres are still harder to get on and off rims than regular tyres. Rim design has a part to play in this as generally rims are made a touch larger to be on the safe side. Tyres have a much bigger part to play because they’re made much smaller in diameter to avoid the risk of a blow-off, and their size varies a lot from tyre to tyre due to the production methods used. The combo of large rim and small tyre means cursing and swearing especially when everything is covered in sealant. I’ll talk more about this in another newsletter and explain why our carbon Maker range of rims are designed the way they are (hint: we’ve got one of the lowest possible outside diameters to improve ease of fitting tyres.)
Continental have just released a tubeless GP5000s tyre and I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair. Continental are definitely slow react to the tubeless trend but based on how amazing their GP4000s non-tubeless tyre is I think the entire bike world has high expectations for the GP5000s. They’re due shortly-ish.