Hard to believe, but it's time to get ready for cross already. We've got our teeth sunk into a robust tubeless testing program, which will inherit a lot of data we learned last year, but will encompass a scope and rigor that we haven't been able to achieve previously.
First off, we've got a better test pilot. Mike and I often bump up against wanting the business to be better at various things than we personally are at those things. I'm adequate at testing stuff on the road, but off road I'm just too much of a Barbie Doll (tm) to put things near their limits. This is a case where we want something done right, so we're not going to do it entirely ourselves. The guy we've got to help us is seriously legit.
Why are we barking up the tubeless tree so hard, anyway? For one, we think it's incredibly versatile, on the micro-and macro scales. Micro scale, if you have two good sets of wheels and you know that the weekend forecast is dry, you can install a set of file treads to start the race and pit a set of intermediates. The next weekend it's going to be wet, so you swap the files for muds for the start, and pit the intermediates. On the macro scale, your buddies want to do a big ass fire road ride one weekend, you swap one set of tires for some 40mm semi-fatties and go do that. You can commute all week on semi-slicks and then switch to cx tires to race on the weekend. When cx season is over, throw some road tubeless on and do your entire off season on the same wheels. It's a good program. And the whole time, you can run lower pressure than you can with tubes, plus you've got better puncture flat protection.
If you do get a flat with tubeless, it's easy to deal with. Glue a patch on the inside of the tire if the hole is too big for sealant to deal with, and away you go. No sending them out for tubular repair, no $120 wasted tires, none of that.
The bulk of the A fleet will use tubulars for the foreseeable future, and we realize that. That's why we're also back on the tubular game. Product quality will be there in spades and then some, and you'll be able to build a wheel quiver that won't require you to sell some molars and/or children.
The disc thing is only going to gain steam. We'll do the homework for tubeless on both SL23s and SL25s (rim brake and disc brake tubeless rims, respectively), but man is the heat ever on for discs.
Road tubeless, at this point, is so dirty simple it's pretty nuts. People I meet on the road seem to want to almost bait me on the topic, it's nearly always a leading question slanted negatively away from road tubeless, like "do you see any point at all to road tubeless?" They're usually somewhat surprised when I'm almost always able to say "well, I'm on tubeless right now if that tells you anything." Despite the slower uptake on road tubeless compared to the ubiquity of it in mtb, and the desire for it in cx, my personal opinion is that road tubeless is the cat's ass.
The testing menu for tubeless cx goes like this: Kenda Slant Six Pro DTC/SCT, Kenda Happy Medium DTC, Maxxis Mud Wrestler DC EXO TR, Hutchinson Toro CX Tubeless, Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO Pace Star. When Clement comes out with tubeless, we'll be the first in line but until then we know that they're unreliable in tubeless applications. The mandate is not at all to evaluate every tire out there - we've already put the better part of a g into just buying tires, and we've barely got enough time to get the list we have done. The goal is to simply get a range of tread patterns to cover most, if not all, conditions, and be able to say with good surety "go ahead and use this, it will work great for you."
Kitchen sink not necessary, I stayed shockingly on topic the whole time. Hooray, me.
Those Kendas are thirsty – they'll drink up your sealant in a good way. In my experience they have more supple sidewalls than other clinchers, which means they handle great and more easily. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs…
Kendas worked great for me last year, was able to use them as low I was would have used tubulars (but not as low as the really really good people seem to like riding tubulars) and I liked the treads. Small Block Eight is a cruel joke on anything other than a dry, perfect surface, though. So they are toward the top of the depth chart right away, but we're not assuming that "works awesome on Grail rims" = "works awesome on SL25 rims." And we've got a straight up baller to do most of the testing. Should be good.
Love that you guys are testing the Kenda tires. I'm running a Happy Medium in the back and the Slant Six in the front. I've had great success with these. I actually spend more time racing these than I do my Clement MXP tubulars on my Major Tom rims. …don't want to influence the results though.
Hasbeen -1000% with you. On Grails last season, I almost never ran the Kendas as low as I knew I could, simply because they are so supple they began to feel TOO supple below about 25. Some of the other tires we're testing are LOONY light – the Racing Ralph was like 280g. I'm interested to see how that one goes. Thanks.