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Ok we're going to talk a bit about tires, cyclocross and tubeless specifically. I hear the groaning out there... Another tubeless tire discussion. I know, I know. With Dan Timmerman's 2nd place in a C1 race on a set of tubeless tires, it sort of proves that tubeless technology has improved to the point that it's a viable race tire/wheel solution.
That said, I've hated tubeless for cx for quite some time. Now, I should preface this all with I'm nowhere near a weight/physique that would be considered svelte... With earlier systems I was plagued with burps at reasonable pressures on bumpy terrain and sliced sidewalls. When I say reasonable pressure, I'm talking 40 psi. It seems to be a tire volume, rim and tire fit issue. Without going into a long diatribe about rim bead seat diameters, tire bead diameters and manufacturing tolerances; let's just say that if you're interested in tubeless for cyclocross don't mess around. Instead, run to your local bike shop and buy tubeless compatible rims and tires....
So if I dislike tubeless cx so much, why am I writing this? Well, I've spent the past several months riding tubeless cx successfully. What's different? Well to start with the rims. Earlier this year I put a call into a tubeless wheel expert, Pete of Pete's Wheels. I asked Pete to build be up a set of tubeless ready wheels for cx and gravel racing. They needed to be light enough for competition yet strong enough for some serious riding. He answered with a sweet set of wheels centered around a set of American Classic disc 101 rims. Yup, mountain bike rims. Before you laugh, these puppies are 380 grams each... Light. I've been riding them all summer without a single issue!
Shoes make the outfit... That said, for CX I've slipped a set of WTB Crosswolf 32 tires on these wheels. I'm simply amazed. Mounting these tires was not easy, there may or may not have been a bunch of adult language used (evidently the American Classic rims run slightly larger bead seats for secure tubeless systems). Once mounted, these tires seated with nothing more than a floor pump! With a squirt of sealant in them they pumped up and have held air without an issue. The tires themselves are a touch wide mounted on these rims. The casing measures out to 34.5mm at it's widest point making for a nice, round profile. That said, the tread isn't quite that wide. I measured the tread at 31.9mm from shoulder to shoulder.
So far, I've ridden this combination in terrain ranging from dry to moist. Due to the dry summer, I haven't had the opportunity to try them in the wet. They handled every situation well and seem to be a really nice all around tire. Pressure wise, I've been able to wander south of 30 psi. Into tubular land and without burps or flats. Hmm, these may just work! Do they “feel” as nice as tubulars? No. Are they close? Well, sort of. I'll continue riding this combination as everyday riders. For high performance, I'm not quite ready to put away the mastic. It does seem that the performance gap is closing though!