We all know that sinking feeling. The bouncing up and down, as your rear tyre deflates on the rim. The headache of needing to stop in the freezing cold, to pull a mucky tire off the wheel, and replace the scarred inner tube. No matter what you do; if you take the road less travelled, then punctured inner tubes are a way of life...
Ditch the inner tube and traditional clincher tyre though, and replace it with a sealing-bead tubeless tyre and latex sealant, and you have a package that may well banish the hovering puncture fairy. This is what I've been testing out over the last few months, with Hutchinson Tyres' Fusion 5 Tubeless Tyres and a Fulcrum Racing 3 2-Way Fit Tubeless Wheelset.
Here are my findings...
I have had mixed experience with tubeless tyre set-ups on my mountain bikes in the past. Sometimes the tyre pops reassuringly onto the rim, and seats itself well; the sealant does its job, and you have an airtight combination. Other times however, I have had it when the tyre will not inflate; or it will not seat; or it gradually deflates because of leaking side-walls or tyre imperfections.
Setting up the Hutchinson tyres on the Campagnolo Zonda wheelset, has been super simple though. I mounted one side of the tyre on the rim; added 50ml of latex sealant; mounted the other bead onto the rim, effortlessly; then inflated the tyre first time, with a standard floor pump.
A fool-proof combination!
The benefits of tubeless road tyres
The benefits of using tubeless road tyres, like those from Hutchinson, are plentiful:
The reduced risk of punctures is a huge benefit. No longer is there a chance of pinch-flats, caused when you over-compress and pinch the inner tube. You also significantly reduce the chance of thorns or flints causing a leak; as the sealant should seal around any intruding objects.
The benefits of tubeless road extend far beyond puncture protection though, into the realms of grip and comfort. A good tubeless set-up can be a lot more comfortable, and have better grip than a tubed combination. This is because the tyre is allowed to conform to the road surface to a greater extent; so rather than bouncing over it, you remain firmly planted.
Reduced friction on tubeless systems. Unbeknown to many, there is actually more friction when a tyre is bouncing over a surface; so by reducing this, you reduce the friction between bike and road. Tubeless tyres also have less friction because the inner tube is not moving around inside the tyre; preventing it from changing shape optimally, as the tyre rolls along. It is this reduced friction element that is one reason why latex tubes are popular with road racers and time trial racers (they are more malleable than butyl tubes), and it explains why a good tubeless set-up can be faster, and feel better, than a tubed counterpart.
Tubeless tyres have been around for years, and brands like Hutchinson were the ones that first pioneered the tyre technology. With tubeless rims and wheelsets now becoming more common place though, and with brands like Campagnolo and Shimano getting on-board, tubeless road has become far more accessible.
The benefits of ditching your inner tubes are multiple; with the puncture protection peace-of-mind, as well as the added grip and comfort, proving to be great for rough roads. For me, tubeless road is a simple, great technology, which is well worth trying out.