Words & Photos by Dave McKenzie (IG: @david_mckenzie Twitter: @davemacka)
For many years, there were pretty much only two choices it came to wheelset configuration: Clinchers (tyre and tube) or tubulars (single piece tube encased in tyre). Generally, everyday casual cyclists would opt to run clinchers. These made the most sense in terms of overall affordability, ease-of-use and availability of inner tubes.
Tubulars were pretty much reserved for pro athletes and racers due to the higher cost of ownership, the expertise required to mount tubular tyres correctly and the inconvenience if you were to get a flat on the road, as most casual riders don’t have the luxury of a service car following them around!
Mounting tubulars involves carefully gluing them directly onto the rim and patiently waiting 72 hours for the cement to set. Punctured tubs are basically useless unless you know some old-school mechanic who is an expert at un-stitching, mending and then re-stitching the tube. Otherwise, new tubular tyres can be nearly twice as dear as equivalent clincher tyres.
Tubeless have recently become a popular third choice for road bikes. They’ve been around the MTB/CX scene for quite some time, but they’re starting to catch on with the road cyclists, especially with more and more wheel and tyre brands entering the market.
So what does a tubeless setup entail? It’s basically a clincher-style tyre inflated onto a tubeless-compatible rim, but with no inner tube. Instead of a tube holding the air pressure, an airtight compartment is created within the tyre. The bead locks firmly onto the rim and forms an airtight seal, and with the help of tyre sealant, the chance of getting punctures are greatly reduced. They do tend to be harder to mount than a standard clincher, however once on and sealed correctly, your chances of getting flats are certainly lower than tubulars or clinchers. Say goodbye to pinch flats too, as there is no tube to pinch.
If you saw my review on the Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite wheelset recently but prefer to run disc brakes – look no further, as the new range of Fulcrum Racing Disc-Brake wheels are all tubeless-compatible!
- Fulcrum Racing 7 Disc Brake AFS Clincher Wheelset
- Fulcrum Racing 6 Disc Brake AFS Clincher Wheelset
- Fulcrum Racing 5 Disc Brake AFS Clincher Wheelset
- Fulcrum Racing 4 Disc Brake AFS Clincher Wheelset
The “2-way Fit” rim they’ve designed is compatible with both tubeless or clincher tyres, so you have the choice of running either. If you start with tubeless and do unfortunately get a flat – worst case scenario, pop in a tube, effectively switching to a clincher, and that should get you home. Apart from being virtually puncture proof, tubeless offers a smoother ride as there is much less rolling resistance and friction that you would attribute to a tyre & tube combo.
For weight-conscious riders, it can vary depending on your tyre/wheel brand etc, but you can generally save around 50-100 grams per wheel over a typical clincher setup. Not enough to worry about in my opinion, but I’ve never been one to worry about a few grams here and there.
So if you are interested in going tubeless, now is as a good time as any. It’s quickly becoming an excellent alternative for consumers, with very few drawbacks.
Some great tubeless products to get you started:
- Schwalbe Pro One TL Easy Folding Clincher Tyre
- Stans NoTubes Tire Sealant – 473ml/Pint
- ZEAL CAMERIG44 TLR Carbon Clincher Wheelset
- Silca Platinum Tubeless Rim Tape