For those of you keeping score at home, you know that I've been dabbling in trying tubeless tires for cx. You probably also know that I've previously had dismal success, swearing off the technology... Well, I have to admit that the tide seems to be changing and my luck with tubeless improving!
Today, I mounted up a set of Clement (now Donnelly Sports) MXP clinchers to my test set of H Plus Son The Hydra rims. To be fair, the tires are not the newest "tubeless compatible" version but a little birdie I know told me that I "unofficially had blessing to use them tubeless".,, So, mounted up and pump in hand, I pumped furiously!!! To no avail... Yup, not seating these without a compressor. Once I fired up the compressor, the tires mounted up just fine.
Of note to the racing set... Mounted on the 25mm wide H Plus Son rims, these tires will NOT pass the UCI 33mm width limit. Mine measured 36mm. Consider yourself forewarned, no crying when the friendly official tells you your tires don't pass!
The ride: So let's start by saying that this is the only tubeless(cx) tire thus far that has made it past ride one and will advance to ride two for me! Usually, my testing has ended with a cut tire, burped tire, cursing and a walk home from the trails... Not today! I started out 2 PSI higher than my usual tubular setting and headed toward my local park. Once there I noted how stiff and generally terrible the ride and cornering was. I grabbed my pressure gauge and quickly lowered my pressure to where I run my tubulars... MUCH better! After cruising a bit more, I decided to push my luck and head over to the MTB trails. When I arrived, I dropped the pressure a bit more (1.5 psi lower than my preferred tubular setting). Much to my surprise, these tires worked! No burps, no flats, decent cornering and an excellent ride. Are they tubulars, no. Are they close, absolutely. I'll check back with you all after a few more rides!
So as unhappy as I am about it, there's no avoiding the fact that winter is coming... If you live in an area like I do, that means snow. Which in turn means yucky roads. Which then means you probably don't want to ride your super nice wheels outside! No worries about that, I can build you a nice set of winter wheels that won't break the bank!!!
Pictured above is a set of winter commuting wheels that I built for a client in Boston. He specifically wanted disc brake, tubulars to ride. Being a big dude, weight wasn't a primary concern so we beefed things up! These wheels feature 23 mm wide Kinlin tubular rims, 32 stout 14 gauge Sapim spokes with brass nipples and finally, 6 bolt mountain bike hubs. All said, these wheels will be super strong and weigh in at a respectable 1700 grams (did I mention how stout these are)?
So you're probably wondering "why tubular"? Well, these hubs have the ability to run many axle configurations. They are currently set up for standard 9 and 10 mm axles but simply changing endcaps will convert the front to 15mm thru axles. The rear is almost as simple to change to a 12mm thru configuration. Back to that "why tubulars" question... The client is mounting up super tough Tufo Tubulars with sealant, virtually eliminating flats and also meaning... the ability for these wheels to serve as pit wheels at the local cx races!!! Win, win, win!!!
As you can see, the ability to change configurations makes it easy to switch these wheels between bikes.
I've been saving the best part for last. The price... As configured, this set of wheels sells for $490. Want something different??? Let me know and I can give you a quote!!! Tubeless compatible clinchers more your style? I have tubeless road wheels starting at $450!
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
-Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin'
Any of you who know me well know that I DISLIKE TUBELESS TIRES for anything other than mountain riding. When I say hate, we are talking the kind of dislike reserved for root canals and DMV's. Yeah, I don't like them at all. I'm that curmudgeonly old guy that revels in huffing mastic, only the finest tubular for me. So let me surprise you all with a set of wheels that I just built up for some serious testing. I'm not going to beat around the bush, they're tubeless and pretty awesome so far... For the times they are a-changin'.
You may be asking yourself what in God's name made me, a confirmed anti-tubeless and ordained Tubularophile build a pricey, light set of tubeless wheels? Well, that's a great question and it stems more from my customers than me... It seems that everyone wants tubeless. Cyclocross and gravel riders everywhere are flocking to the tubeless camp, claiming ease of set up and comfort second to the ability to run low pressures. I can understand where they are coming from but I'm by no means a tubeless virgin... I've tried many set ups with varied results... burps, flats, hitchhiking and one tire so stuck on the rim it took bolt cutters to cut the tire off! So... since I don't want to become a glue huffing dinosaur I figured I need to start testing more combinations to see if/what works!
To start, I made my checklist of my wheel requirements- relatively light, relatively strong, easy to set up, easy to service and aesthetically pleasing.... Oh and carbon performance at alloy prices (I can dream, right?). Lot's of choices out there for parts so I picked some of my favorites... White Industries CLD hubs and Sapim Lazer spokes. Can't go wrong with either! When it came to rims, tons of choices... I settled with the newish H Plus Son “The Hydra” rim. It's a true tubeless design that's disc only, wide and relatively light. It's beyond the scope of what I'm aiming for here to get into the technical mumbo jumbo of any of these components, if you want more info about any of them leave me a comment or ask Uncle Google, he know's everything!!! (Just so I get this in here somewhere, this set of wheels is 24 spoke front, 28 rear and weighs in at 1625 grams with brass nipples).
Tires- For me it's the time of year that I do lots of endless, mindless miles in preparation for my events of next year. Lot's of those miles are on dirt or in inclement weather. I decided to go with a gravel tire... I'm sure I'll be swapping around a bit to try setting up different brand of tires, testing how well they hold at low pressures and such but for now, a gravel tire. This time I went with a set of Panaracer Gravel King 38c Tubeless.
Initial impressions: Set-up. The tubeless set up was simple. I wrapped the rims in one layer of Orange Seal 18mm tape (I should have used wider but that's what I had). I mounted up valve stems, dumped a splash of orange seal sealant and grabbed my floor pump! Oh, I should have mentioned that before... One of my criteria for tubeless is that it has to set up with a floor pump... I don't want to have to use a compressor to set up tires! That said, I started pumping and after oh, maybe 10-12 strokes, I heard a reassurring “Pop, Pop”. Ok... that was easy! Tire/wheel two, same thing! I pumped both tires up to 30 psi and let them sit for 12 hrs. After 12 hrs one wheel still had 30 psi and the other 27. Not bad for a new install. The tires measured 40.7mm mounted and inflated to 30. Ride: So this is an initial impression. A quick 20 mile ride on road and a little dirt... These wheels roll fast! On first ride, they seem plenty stiff when standing and sprinting. Super comfortable too, though I'm attributing that to the BIG tires. So far, super impressed!
Moving forward I'll try a few different tire combos with more terrain. Obviously I'll keep you up to date but for now, you guesses... The times they are a-changin'