Tire upgrades

So I was a bit bored this morning…

I ended up on the GCN YouTube channel where I came across a video discussing upgrades that can make you faster on the bike. One of the items was tires…

After a stop at bicyclerollingresistance.com I found out that I’m losing about 20 watts of power due to running conti 4 seasons on my bike, compared to their gp 5000s…

Now that got me thinking about switching to tubeless. My rims, Bontrager Paradigm TLR, already support it, but I would need everything else. The questions I have are whether it’s worth the added expense and what to do if I have a flat.

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IMO, tubeless is absolutely worth it for MTB and gravel. I’ve been running bikes set up that way for years now, and would never go back. I haven’t taken the same step on the road, but would do it immediately if I had rims that were tubeless ready.

Many small punctures (e.g., small glass shards, thorns, or tiny pieces of metals) will fix themselves as the sealant plugs the hole. Slightly larger punctures can be dealt with using plugs (e.g., Dynaplug® Online Store | Tubeless Bicycle Tires). I still carry a tube as a last resort, just in case the other options don’t stop the leak.

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Can’t comment on the performance improvement other than to say that wider tires at lower PSI is becoming more and more popular because of increased comfort and decreased rolling resistance, and tubeless really helps get that psi low. Wider rims even help push that down further. I’m running 55 PSI on my 32mm Bontrager R3s. Though apparently there are some aero loses above ~28mm.

For flats, if you do get one, there are options to repair in the field (look up bacon strips) or you can just throw a tube in.

While I like it as a site, I also really dislike sites like bicyclerollingresistance…

I liken it to going back in time and showing a savannah prairie-man fire. You’ve shown them something advanced and useful knowledge, but if you’ve not taught them that the dry grass they live in is flammable they’re likely to burn down everything with that knowledge.

That site is an interesting start, but it’s also completely misleading at the same time.
Their testing method is so specific as to be mostly redundant for any of our uses.
They test only on a completely smooth surface. Their results are, therefore, only relevant to a completely smooth surface.
If you’re looking for what tyre you should use as a track tyre on a carefully maintained surface then you can go by their results.

The issue comes that there is more to what creates rolling resistance than simply how a tyre behaves on a completely smooth surface. As soon as you introduce any break-up into the surface then the tyre behaviour can change.
I’m going to cull here as I could rant on that site and the thought process it tends to provoke for hours.

Basically, look at that site as a point of interest, but absolutely don’t use it as the final point of any decision-making process.

As for the rest of your question, personally I think tubeless is worth it, you’re less likely to get a flat in the first place and you will reduce your rolling resistance (over butyl inner tubes) a little also (though latex inners still tend to be faster than tubeless with sealant).
You can just carry an inner tube with you so if you get a flat that won’t re-seal you pop an inner-tube in for the rest of the ride and fix it when you get home.

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i have been running GP5000 TL’s on my road bike (28mm) and audax (32mm). while i haven’t had any flats, i have had slow punctures and tyres going flat due to air leaks. it is frustrating, and requires a bit of wiggling to get sorted, tyres in the bath looking for air leaks etc… on the whole though, happy enough!

I read some marketing by a big company a few months back that the difference in performance between a race tyre + latex tube and tubeless is really minor. Specialized was talking about their Rapide CLX wheels. I’m pretty sure the UCI teams that ride the SL7 are running latex inner tubes + clinchers.

I was thinking about tubeless last year when I got a new bike and decided against it because a friend told me about his horrible experiences with sealant making a big mess and you having to carry an inner tube + pump anyway. Recently I saw an advert about air-liners for tubeless. That spiked my interest because it would allow me to leave the tube, pump and pugs at home.

The difference between latex inner tubes and tubeless is quite small, but it does exist.
Let’s simply not forget in this whole process that “rolling resistance” is very small compared to aerodynamic resistance, to the extent that you can use whatever tyres you want if you’re simply prepared to tuck into your bars a little more and wear a tighter top…

If we’re getting to the point of discussing rolling resistance, however, latex are better (but tubeless more convenient (all in my opinion))

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I did an end to end ride on tubeless. I did not even bring a pump , while it saved weight, I would not risk that again…So it was 1000+ miles without a flat.I had my seat post bag rub my rear tire which caused a lot of wear, I replaced that tire when I got home . So 2 years later, still have the old front and newer rear tire and they are going strong.They are 25C but look wider .I thought the 28s would look ridiculous on my road bike

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As others have said, once you’ve got a proper flat, it’s just stick a tube in time. Same as normal, checking for whatever ‘thing’ might be in there

  • it can be easier to find the offending thing with a pile of sealant coming out of a hole. So just make sure you don’t wipe that off the outside of the tyre.
  • it’s a right mess getting covered in sealant putting a tube in and obvs you have to remove the tubeless valve as well. That’s easy enough. If the retaining nut is too tight then pressing the valve on the inside of the rim takes tension off the nut. So that’s a minor hassle.

Like a few above - started in MTB (before tyres really were tubeless and before rims were). Totally ghetto installs that were never perfect but it taught me a lot.
To this day I never use tubes on MTB’s and I’ve only had one proper pinch puncture in years (ham fisted rock hopping)but when it comes to road. I ran road tubeless for over a year.

Advantages:

  • safety at speed (in my opinion). Tyres are stuck to the rims and when tyres get normal punctures tubeless they often slowly deflate and are more likely to stay on the rim as you slow than thinner, normal clinchers. (Big deal? Dunno, it just crosses my mind sometimes)
  • IF (and this is key to my experience) the sealant is fresh AND I deliberately put loads in, then I do find even flimsy tubeless tyres seal.

Cons:
Once the sealant ages a bit it’s the pump up the tyres game all the time. And for me that starts sooner than it does on MTB systems.
I had a period where (lighter weight tubeless tyres) I was getting wee punctures that weren’t sealing or the tyres were delaminating due to tiny cuts. And I started getting fed up with it. As one decent non sealed puncture means a tube. And then you’re in to patching the tyre. This is where road and MTB differ again. MTB tyres just have more rubber and are easy to patch. Road tyres … thinner? Higher pressure? I dunno - I just find that whether I use thicker rubber patches or normal patches I start getting slow leaks and confidence goes.
They’re expensive and if I’m just ending up with a tube in anyway, then I might as well just use tubes to begin with.

So I’m now back with tubes front and back now.

I think eventually road will be as tubeless as MTB now is, but for me, it’s an investment in time /hassle and I’ve abandoned it

Oh and the BRR site. Yeah I think they use a rolling metal drum or something.
Roads around me don’t look anything like that so while
I think there must be ‘something’ in the watts thing … I’m not sure it’s as much in reality. But I don’t have a metric to prove it.

Probably a useful site to inform. But maybe not to make decisions entirely on.

(One aspect I like it for is the puncture testing they do - again that’s using tools that try and simulate things so pinch if salt a bit, so I like looking at their puncture score as an info thing)

Like there’s a tyre in there that on the watts thing I think is a bit slower. 15-18 or something. But it’s designed to be far more resistant to punctures

For 7hr days I really don’t wanna deal with mechanicals so I’m thinking about some of them because they have thicker rubber, more protection layers and that’s worth more.

Following up with my previous comments and your GCN rabbit hole, I do find the video from ZIPP and their 303 Firecrests I linked above interesting. It really shows how tubeless at lower pressure helps you stay connected to the road. I personally went from, tubed, to tubeless, to wide rim tubeless over the past 7 months. Each step has added much more comfort thanks to the lower PSI. As I said, I’m at 53/55 PSI at 32mm @ 175lbs. That’s the PSI for lighter folks on 28mms too.

I haven’t noticed any drops in performance. Possibly small performance gains but my fitness has been growing too so it’d be hard to say.

And it’s definitely an industry trend. The 303 Firecrests only support tubeless compatible tires at 28mm or larger. Ditto for the 303s but at 25mn. Some pro teams run tubeless now as well. Cadex has a similar set of wheels, as does Enve i believe.

I haven’t had any flats yet but I did have one bigger puncture that sealed enough for me to finish another 25 miles of riding. It was leaking slowly the next morning so I patched it with Hutchinson’s Repair Air patch kit. Basically a glue to close up the hole that you then cover with a patch on the internal side of the puncture. Worked great and no leaks from that tire in 6 months. I have to top off each tire with air about once a week.

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I’ve been running tubeless on my road bike for over a year now. My Giant Defy came with Giant’s own brand tubeless 28 mm tyres, which performed flawlessly last season.

But I have recently switched to 32 mm Pirelli Cinturatos for ultimate puncture protection and comfort. I don’t think they are the fastest rolling tyres in the world, but they are not obviously slow either. But they are very comfortable and I don’t worry about flats. I did a 100 mile GF on some nasty pot-holed roads last weekend and they were great. I saw at least 20 guys along the roadside with punctures. They were definitely slower!

For repairs I carry a dynaplug kit and a spare tube as a last resort. Haven’t had to use either yet.

I’ve been running my MTB tyres tubeless since 2004 and never thought about going back. It’s years since I had a flat, but I’ve always managed to plug any holes from the outside. I even ran them without sealant in the early days with Mavic tubeless specific rims. But now I’m using Muc-off sealant for both MTB and road.

One thing I did buy after going tubeless was a track pump with a pressure booster. It just makes it a lot easier seating tubeless tyres. Some tubeless tyres can be literally impossible to seat with a normal track pump.

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I think Specialized have made a big mistake making their latest wheels non-tubeless compatible. I really don’t understand their thinking there - maybe driven purely by racing logistics? I can understand why race teams might be reluctant to go tubeless as it would be more work dealing with tyre sealant when changing tyres, but that’s not really a problem away from the peloton. It’s not so much about tubeless being faster (arguably latex tubes are still a little faster), it’s more about real world puncture protection and comfort in running significantly lower pressures. I don’t have the luxury of a team car fitting me a new wheel every time I puncture.

Sealant is not really very messy and in over 15 years usage I’ve yet to be sprayed with tyre sealant. I’m sure I would survive!

Obviously I do carry a pump and tubeless repair tool (Dynaplug). I rarely carry a spare tube, except on long events. I basically don’t get punctures any more.

Air-liners look interesting, but they are only really suitable for limp home use.

So I called my LBS, they won’t have any GP5000 TL tires until late June! Also I took a look at BRR’s test protocols, they are now using diamond plate on their resistance drum. Better than smooth I suppose but I doubt I’ll be riding on diamond plate roads anytime in the near future.

Just due to availability, I’ll hold off on new tires, the 4 seasons are fine for training and I might as well get more use out of them. I’ll probably just order regular GP5000 tires and put latex tubes in for my double century in July.

Thanks for all of your input. I found it invaluable as always!!!

I went tubeless last year. It’s been a really good experience for me to date. I didn’t have a single flat for the entire season, and I rode a bit more than usual. With tubes I generally experience a few flats per season, sometimes multiples on a single ride. Nothing more frustrating. The downside is that I lose a bit more air between rides. Not sure if last years sealant is still good so I replaced it and removed what could easily be scraped away from the tire. A bit messy and time consuming. I’m running 25’s but would move up to a 28 if they’d clear my brakes when pumped. I’ll have to look into that.

You just get used to checking tyre pressures before the start of every ride. Good practice anyway.

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Ha, yes.
I do this as a matter of course these days, more now because I’m utterly shocked how long it is since I last had a puncture on my road bike despite non-sturdy tyres and me being completely non-careful about where I’ve been cycling.
It is a source of constant amazement how often I can get that bike out and still not need to pump the tyres now I’m riding for pleasure given how consistently I’d get punctures when riding on better roads but commuting and actually needing to be somewhere on time :smiley:

So one more question. My Trek Domane has 32mm tires on it, with a rim that has an inner width of 19.5mm. I have a set of barely used GP5000 25mm tires that I had removed from my wife’s old bike which I sold last year. I just checked on Mavic’s website, apparently I can run these on my rim, and may even gain a slight aero advantage, according to this article.

My question is if anyone has done this, what are your findings? Is it worth considering or should I buy a 28mm or 32mm tire? Also I’m not too concerned about comfort. I normally run my 32mm tires at 100 psi, and let the Domane’s frame dampers handle the comfort. So the 25mm at 100psi should be more comfortable than what I’m doing now.

You will get a small amount of aero benefit.
All of this only really matters if you’re racing at relatively high powers for relatively long times, though, the aerodynamic and rolling resistance advantages typically amount to seconds in hours at 25mph+ average speeds…

I still run 23s for most road riding, on appalling roads, but only because I already had a stock of them I’d rather use than let go to waste. Honestly, I’d prefer wider if I were buying new, but I’m okay with them.
The simple fact you have the tyres on hand might be an answer in itself, why not use them and save yourself some money? They will give you an aerodynamic advantage, I truly doubt you will notice it.

Additionally, I would strongly reconsider your tyre pressures. There is a possibility they are correct, but I would lean towards thinking it’s unlikely. Unless you’re riding on very, very smooth roads then lower tyre pressures not only increase comfort but also increase power transfer due to the tyre staying in contact with the road more consistently.

This is a good site to start working on tyre pressures from: SRAM | AXS

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Thanks for the link. I had no idea they’re recommending pressures that low!

58psi front, 61 rear for my 32mm tires.