Last updated: April 8th by Tristan
So where are we at with Road Tubeless?
28mm works with road tubeless. 25mm is ok but not great. Continental GP5000 TL matched with Stan’s Race sealant is the best combo.
The last time I wrote about road tubeless was in 2018 after stuffing a small cut in a tyre which wouldn’t seal and left me standing on the side of the road in a race waiting for neutral support. 3 years ago I decided that road tubeless wasn’t ready but that progress would continue and I predicted that one day it would be ready for primetime.
And today that one-day has arrived! Road tubeless has come a long, long way since its inception in 2009 and today it works as it should: if you get a cut you’re unlikely to even know about it because the unicorns do their magic work.
If your bike has clearance for 28mm tyres mounted on wide rims then I strongly suggest you try road tubeless as I think it will improve your cycling experience. Yep, I know that’s a big call.
Pros and Cons of Road Tubeless
- Tyre + tube is approximately the same as tubeless tyre + sealant. Draw.
- All data I’ve seen is that road tubeless rolls faster on both smooth and rough roads compared to clinchers and tubulars by about 2 watts
- Generally there is about a 2 watt rolling resistance difference between 60psi and 120psi – think about that. Think of how little 1 watt is and how much energy you waste bouncing around on the seat or trying to keep the bike on the road.
- Winner: Road tubeless.
- Compare like-for-like and road tubeless is a little bit harsher
- Road tubeless is highly pressure dependent so please drop your damn pressures!
- You’ll get a smoother ride with a supple cotton tyre and latex tube (however at a higher risk of punctures) than you will with any road tubeless tyre because their heavier air-tight sidewall reduces suppleness.
- Winner: clinchers
Ease of install
- This is the big downside for road tubeless but will improve as time goes on
- Why are they so hard to install? In the name of safety tyre manufacturers have shrunk their diameter so they don’t blow off of hookless rim (hookless road rims are a stupid idea but that’s a topic for another article) – and rim manufactures have made their diameters larger to prevent the same thing. Smaller tyre + larger rim = sore thumbs. We’ve taken a few steps to improve installation by ensuring a super deep central gutter and a low sidewall height on our rims but they’re still tight.
- Ease of install will improve once tyres are fitted as they stretch a little
- Technique is everything – you’ll need to learn some new tricks or let us install them for you
- Winner: Clinchers
- Tubulars can be ridden with a puncture (good), however tubs can roll off if not correctly glued (bad)
- Clinchers deflate quickly when punctured (bad) and can peel off the rim when flat (bad)
- Road tubeless on hooked bead rims will deflate quickly (probably not as quickly as clinchers but still bad) but the tyres are tighter on the rims so less likely to peel off (good)
- Winner: I think you could argue either way on this but I’m voting for road tubeless on hooked rims.
- Hookless rims are a stupid idea for road bikes and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
FAQ of Road Tubeless
So what happens when the tyre gets a cut?
- Ideally: Nothing. The sealant will do its job and you won’t be any the wiser.
- You’ll see the donuts when the tyre is removed
- You may see a small dot of sealant on the outside of the tyre
What happens if the sealant can’t fix it?
- This is messy – you’re likely to get a high-pressure spray of sealant over your bike and you.
- Treat the cut like a regular clincher: Check for what caused the damage and if needed put a muesli bar wrapper inside the tyre as a boot, then remove the tubeless valve and install a regular inner tube.
- Getting a flat is way less likely than on a regular clincher: Road tubeless tyres are tougher, and the sealant tends to do it’s job.
Sealant makes a big difference
- Road tyres are high pressure – sealant needs to cope with this
- We use Stan’s RACE in road tubeless, and regular Stans in gravel and MTB tyres. We’ve tried others but return to this combo.
- Sealant will dry out over time. If I’m riding my bike regularly then I find I don’t need to top-up the sealant and just install new sealant with new tyres, however if you didn’t ride the bike for 6 months it would be worth checking and probably topping-up the sealant.
What’s the best road tubeless tyre?
- For general road riding and racing on NZ or Australian roads my suggestion is the Continental GP5000 TL. The 28mm width is perfect for most modern road bikes. The 25mm will work if that’s the largest your bike will fit. The 32mm is a ripper on ebikes or for a road-wheelset for your gravel bike but is noticeably slower than the 28mm.
- Many rim-brake road bikes will clear a 28mm tyre, but some won’t go larger than 25mm.
- Most disc-brake bikes will accept a 28mm or larger tyre.
- 28mm is the sweet-spot for road riding.
Hooked vs hookless beads
- We’re going to dedicate a whole video and article to this in the future, but hooked beads provide security (a BIG upside) with negligible downsides.
- Hookless road rims are basically a marketing-first approach to designing wheels.
- In the future I think hookless will be the norm, however we’re years or decades away from this.
- All of our Wheelworks road and adventure rims (the AR, SL, and OG) are hooked bead and will be for years to come.
Are my Wheelworks wheels road tubeless ready?
- Yes! Every carbon road wheel we’ve produced (right back to the original Maker in 2015) is road tubeless ready
- You’ll need some tubeless tape (which we install as rim-tape so it’s probably already on your wheels) and tubeless valves.