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Best tubeless road tyres 2021: Cyclist's guide to road bike tubeless tyres (video)

Cyclist magazine
4 Aug 2021

‘Going tubeless’ has the potential to transform your ride, so here is everything you need to know to get set up

Road cycling has long remained an outlier in its reticence to embrace tubeless tyre technology. Unlike other vehicles with pneumatic tyres, it’s taken several years of persuasion for road bike tubeless tyres to make the switch from niche to mainstream.

Today tubeless is increasingly replacing conventional inner tube-based systems across the board, with the benefits of going tubeless including reduced weight and rolling resistance, improved comfort, and, when used with sealant, drastically reduced chances of getting a puncture. Sounds good, right?

They are increasingly easy to fit at home, so if you're keen, below you'll find our favourite tubless-tyres for race-focussed riding. Scroll down further still and you'll find our guide to the science behind their benefits along with how to get them into place...

Best tubeless road tyres 2021: Tech editor's picks

Schwalbe Pro One TLR

For many, the Schwalbe Pro One is the gold standard for tubeless tyres. Schwalbe claims the tyre's advantage hinges on its Microskin construction: a high-tensile fabric embedded within the rubber compound.

Schwalbe says this allows the tyre to be supple and light yet tough.

Generally, Pro Ones are considered to be easy to mount, very supple and grippy yet are expensive and do wear slightly quicker than their competitors.

Full review: Schwalbe One tubeless tyre review


Goodyear Eagle F1 Tubeless 

Not only are Goodyear’s Eagle F1 tyres incredibly fast and grippy, but they’re also incredibly easy to set up.

With a dual bead design, this additional section of rubber helps them seal with the rim bed. Easy to get on and likey to pop straight into place with just a floor pump, add a dash of sealant and you’ll be ready to go in around the time it takes to fix a puncture.

Rounded off by decent volume, respectable weight and not too outrageous pricing, they’ve fast become one of our favourites.

Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL

Having been the reference brand for racing tyres, Continental took an age getting its first tubeless tyre to market. An update of the famous GP4000, the new GP5000 now finally comes in both standard and tubeless-ready versions, just make sure you get the right one.

Supposedly faster and a bit tougher than its predecessor, the tubeless model uses a tougher 180tpi casing opposed to the finer 300tpi weave on the standard tyre. Regardless of this, it’s still stinkingly fast, and with the familiar Black Chilli compound, very grippy. Starting from 25c and up, the narrowest size weighs a respectable 300 grams.

Read our review: Continental GP5000 clincher tyre review


IRC Formula RBCC

You may not have heard of this Asian manufacturer but it has been a reputable name in tubeless tyres for a while.

The ‘RBCC’ moniker stands for ‘Rice Bran Ceramic Compound’ which is a revised additive to IRC’s tyres that reportedly improves grip by 4% and rolling resistance by 10% over it’s previous designs.

The tread pattern extends way past the shoulder of the tyre in the name of grip and the weight of these is mid-table among competitors: a 25c tyre weighs 275g.

Full review: IRC Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard tyres review

Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir

Having been developed with Deceuninck-QuickStep, the world's best professional cycling team, you can assume that these tubeless-ready tyres from Specialized are going to be quality.

At 260g, they are certainly light enough to race on while the Gripton compound keeps you upright without effecting rolling resistance or comfort.

Vittoria Corsa Speed G+ tubeless

The Vittoria Corsa was long heralded as the fastest tyre in the world but never revered for its ability to protect from those nasty punctures.

However, thanks to combining a Graphene 2.0 compound with a 4C layer material, the durability of this rubber has improved while the ability to run lower pressures will help keep you inflated too.

Hutchinson Fusion 5 11Storm Performance

The Hutchinson Fusion 5 11Storm Performance tyres claim to be a true all-rounder, balancing grip with durability, comfort with puncture protection.

Hutchinson was the pioneer of road tubeless so its technology offers some unique advantages over its competition. The tyres challenge normal clinchers for weight and Hutchinson says the Fusion 5s can be used just as effectively on a wet winter ride as a long summer day, because the rubber compound is durable yet grippy.

Full review: Hutchinson Fusion tubeless tyres review

Why should I use tubeless tyres?

More speed

Tubeless tyres differ from clinchers in that they are designed to form an airtight seal with the rim of a tubeless-compatible wheel.

This means the inner tube can be done away with. In a clincher system, the friction between a tube and tyre moving against each other adds to the rolling resistance of the wheel.

Remove the tube and the tyre deforming against the road is the only form of meaningful rolling resistance. Thus, you can go faster.

Less weight

The weight-saving benefit is easily quantifiable. To iron-clad the seal between tubeless tyre and rim, it is recommended that tubeless sealant, or ‘milk’, is added into the tyre cavity.

An average tube weighs around 100g and the weight of 30ml of sealant, the generally agreed upon amount necessary to add, is 30g.

Over two wheels that is a 140g saving. Admittedly tubeless tyres are slightly heavier than their clincher counterparts – by around 30g per tyre, yet switching to tubeless still usually results in a net weight loss of around 100g.

Greater comfort

The tyres and tubes of a clincher system rubbing against each other not only slows you down, they are also less able to cope with an imperfect road surface.

Tubeless tyres can deform around the micro-obstacles of tarmac more readily and as there is no risk of a pinch flat (because there is no tube to pinch) they can be run at a lower pressure, further smoothing out your ride.

Better puncture protection

A happy by-product of their heavier weight is tubeless tyres’ better resistance to punctures. However, further decreasing the chance of a flat is the second function of the sealant.

It not only prevents air leaking from the tyre, but in the event of a foreign object piercing the tyre (for example a sharp stone or thorn) some of the sealant is forced out of the hole created by the pressure differential between the inside of the tyre and the outside world.

The sealant contains solid flakes of material that act like the platelets in your blood: they clog up the hole, sealing the puncture usually before much pressure is lost from the tyre.

Bid farewell to those occasions by the side of a road on a grotty morning in February, trying to change a tube with numb hands.

How to go tubeless

Admittedly the tubeless systems of a few years past were tricky to set up, but thanks to the determined refinement of a few wheel and tyre brands modern systems really are no harder to get rolling than a regular clincher setup.

The first job is to fix the tubeless-specific valve through the wheel rim. These valves have a removable core that allows the sealant to be poured into the tyre once it is seated on the rim.

Next it is a case of mounting the tyre as you would a regular clincher. The necessity for an airtight seal might make the tyre harder to get onto the rim than usual, however it can usually be coaxed on with the help of some levers or a pair of particularly strong thumbs.

The tyre then needs to be inflated. Nowadays tubeless tyre and rim designs mean a regular track pump can be sufficient, but sometimes you may need to use an air compressor to achieve that initial burst of air to ‘pop’ the beads of the tyre up onto the special shoulders of the rim bed that are designed to hold the tyre beads in place.

Soaping the rim bed and tyre bead can help get the beads in place.

The tyre has to be visually inspected to ensure it is evenly seated on the wheel. Look for the same depth of tyre wall visible around the entire wheel: any dips will highlight areas where the tyre bead hasn’t seated up against the rim properly.

Once this has been checked the tyre can be deflated – the design of the rim bed will hold the tyre beads against the rim walls.

Unscrew the valve core and squeeze/pour/inject sealant into the tyre cavity – the sealant manufacturer will provide guidelines on a suggested method.

Replace the valve and re-inflate the tyre. Holding the wheel in both hands tilt, shake and turn it for a few minutes to ensure the interior is coated in sealant.

Dribbles of sealant may escape the rim in this process but it can be easily cleaned up and will stop once the airtight seal is established.

Rest the wheel horizontally and leave for an hour or two. This will allow the sealant to settle and consolidate the coating within the tyre.

After that, you’re ready to roll.

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