Monday, July 06, 2015

The State Of Tubelessness: Progress

WTB's Nano 40TCS led the way, but others are coming
Last January I wrote a piece on the tubeless gravel bike tire scene, (which you can check out here), and it wasn't looking too great back then. Now the landscape has changed, and it looks to be improving significantly very soon.

WTB's Nano 40 TCS tire was the pioneer here. With TCS rims already in existence, both in rim and disc brake versions, the introduction of the Nano TCS meant that a true system approach for gravel bikes was attainable. I've used the TCS Nano extensively since it's introduction and it has worked very well. I can run any reasonable pressures I want, air retention has been good, and the performance of the tire is also quite good. I have had some reports of premature wear issues, but nothing that affects its tubeless performance that I am aware of has been a negative so far.

So, that's one choice, but obviously, there needs to be more, and the good news is that there will be several more tires soon. What "dimension standard" they use is yet to be determined, but I feel these will be like WTB and be based upon UST type tubeless dimensions. One of the announced additions to the tubeless gravel tire scene is Schwalbe, who have been a brand that has been highly regarded in the past by gravel riders. The other exciting news is that a new tire brand called Teravail will debut soon with a gravel specific design tubeless tire in a 38mm size.

These tires, and probably more we don't know about quite yet, will be coming out, likely late this year and early next year. The wildcard is what rim type these new tires will be designed to. Again, I hope that it is UST and not a marginal, half way in between UST and Stan's deal. Time will tell, but the good news is that there is progress, and soon there will be no reason to run tubes in gravel road bike tires. That will be a welcomed time.


Arky said...

Wow! I'm a 230# guy with 1000 or so miles (and no flats or other troubles) on my Stans Arch wheelset set up with Scwalbe Marathon Mondial 40s, at 40 psi........and that is not a safe or reliable combo? I beg to differ. The sidewall of those tires recommends 50-85psi: I would bounce off the road at those pressures.

I won't say that I don't look forward to the day that real tubeless gravel tire options are more readily available--I do. That said, there is stuff out there that works pretty good. Isn't that very type of thing the Internet and this forum are ideal for?

By the way, Guitar Ted, I'd sure like to know your recipe for tubeless sealant. And, thanks for all the great posts

Guitar Ted said...

@Kenny Ness- Your set up is exactly what a Stan's rim is for: Converting non-tubeless tires to tubeless. That said, your combo seems to work, others......maybe, maybe not. Not all "standard" clincher tires can handle sealant. (Kenda, Clement, and some older WTB tires come to mind immediately) So, "is it safe"? Maybe.....maybe not. It depends upon your tire choice to go along with that Stan's rim.

On the other hand, a WTB TCS rim set up with a Nano 40 TCS tire will be safe.....everytime. See the difference? Add in more tubeless ready tires based on UST dimensions, (like the Nano 40 and TCS rims), and you suddenly have a choice in tires across other brands, just like 29"er tires have now. It's a system approach that you can bank on and not have to wonder about whether the tire is going to come apart or blow off, as you do with standard clincher tires and Stan's set ups.

I've never thought Stan's was the "best solution" for riders looking for tubeless tire set ups. Does it work sometimes and is it safe sometimes? Sure it is, but it isn't "always" that way, and that isn't Stan's fault. It is the premise that some folks have that "any clincher tire" will/can work on a Stan's rim set up tubeless, which isn't at all the truth. That's why a systemic, purposeful design for tubeless tires is better.

Back at the end of the 19th Century, there were several competing designs for pneumatic bicycle tires and rim systems. Some were reliable and worked, and some weren't. You had to "buy into" one system or another, and you couldn't "cross" tires from one system over to another system's rim, because that was an incompatible situation. Kinda like what we have with non-tubeless tires, Stan's rims, tubeless ready tires, and UST designs today in terms of tubeless tires.

Someday, this will all shake out and there will be one way to do tubeless tires and rims for bicycles, (as it is now with automobiles), and there won't be any guess work. No one will want to convert clincher tires meant for tubes to tubeless anymore because tubed tires will become archaic. Until then, buyer beware.