CX tubeless - our final word (for now)

cross tires tubeless Uncategorized

My cross season has begun to circle the drain. I've had far more fun than ever racing this year, and am fully mourning the season being nearly over, but my joints can't take the cold and damp, and all the stupid Rule 5 in the world won't change that. When stepping off the bike for the barriers feels like that scene from Misery, your season is done.

Despite our protestations that we aren't tubeless evangelists, that may have become inaccurate. Despite know-it-all bloviators claiming that tubeless has "no place" in cross, it absolutely does. It works a hundredfold better than tubed clinchers do, and is stunningly less of a pain in the ass than tubulars are. There's an enormous middle ground where it's an incredibly effective option. So there is no misrepresentation, I'll clearly make the following point:

The top of the sport is going to continue to race and win on tubulars for the foreseeable future. Helen Wyman and her 16 sets of tubular wheels and ace mechanic husband (I know he's an ace mechanic, but I have no firsthand knowledge of his husband skills. Judging from her omnipresent beaming smile, they can't be that bad) have no interest in or need for tubeless. Many people at levels far below Helen's will continue to prefer tubulars. We recognize that. We continue to search for improved tubular products. If tubulars are your preference, we support that wholeheartedly. 

I am just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told, but let me give you a brief synopsis of me and tires since June. My cross bike has seen neither inner tube nor tubular in 2015 - it's been 100% tubeless whether with tires for road or cross. In cross use, no tire has ever been used above 28psi. No front tire has ever been used above 24psi. I weigh 160 pounds. Those are barely higher than what I used with tubulars. I am a competent cross racer, whose skills are weighted more heavily towards "watts" and less toward "ninja bike driving ability." I've spent enough time on the cross bike this year that my bike driving ability has distanced what it ever was before - even when I was using tubulars exclusively - but that's simply because time on the bike works. Most people don't have the ability to ride tubulars at super low psi. It feels VERY weird and takes a lot of practice to be able to take advantage of it. 

Keira says you're an idiot if you think tubeless doesn't work. But she says it VERY nicely. I love Keira

The cumulative burping of my tires this year, through 14 races and probably 30 practice sessions, is zero psi. Ze. Ro. The number of places I lost in races because I used tubeless versus tubulars is also zero. The number of people who I passed while they were carrying either flatted or rolled tubulars to the pits, however, is very strongly higher than zero. 

If you say that tubeless doesn't work in cross, or that it has no place in cross, you are wrong. It's that simple. There are examples of very high level successes with tubeless (see also Mical Dyck, Dan Timmerman, Adam Craig, Carl Decker, Jake Wells, et al) but that's more of a proof of concept than evidence that the tip of the spear will adopt tubeless. Quite obviously, it works. It's also easy to manage and convenient. 

BUT, and it's a big but, you have to use the right combos. Many people out there are trying to set up whatever combo they want using whatever tires and rims they choose, and they don't have success and they damn the entire category because of their failures. That's like saying that chocolate chip cookies "don't work" because the ones I made with cream cheese, tortilla chips, sriracha sauce and liver paste tasted like shit. 


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  • Mike e. on

    fairly sure I was about the same psi as you when I raced DCCX…the only reason I'll go back to tubulars is for weight, my tubeless setup had performed flawlessly for both cx and gravel grinders…no flats no burps. Never running tubes on this bike again.

  • Dave on

    I honestly don't know what the right tire choice is for your situation, but I'd go big. CrossBoss tires are big with lots of volume. We haven't tried Archetypes tubeless. They might work great, would be interesting to know

  • Ben on

    Jeremy- The Nimbus/Grails are cross only so far. I've been using Schwalbe One tubeless 25c on Rail 52's at never more than 90 psi and absolutely love them. Great road feel, durability and no flats.Dave-Thanks for the tip on keeping beads clean.

  • Dave on

    Nice, I love hearing this all. Mike – You can certainly go lower. I do. But with a dry-ish season, and the attendant high high speeds, and tons of roots and rocks exposed, a soupçon of extra pressure sometimes works out just great.Ben – Great stuff. The only thing I'd add is be sure to occasionally clean the sealant off the beads if you're switching tires a lot. Hot water, dish soap, and an abrasive dish sponge make very quick work of this. Too many dry sealant boogers can compromise the lock.Jeremy – Read this if you haven't http://www.novemberbicycles.com/blog/2015/9/3/tubeless-testing-summary-report.html Rails are not designed for cross tubeless at all, and currently don't have a "tubeless ready" bead seat, but they work well with road tubeless. I use that all the time. Maxxis Padrones are my default road tubeless tire. Chris R – That makes you 1 of about 200 people to have flatted at Gloucester, including the entire Cyclocrossworld team BOTH DAYS if I'm not mistaken. Tubular, tubeless, tank tread – that course flatted EVERYTHING. My tires took one look at those conditions and wanted to stay in the car, though they survived both days and are still going strong (used the exact same tires for NoHo last weekend).

  • Chris R on

    I've been running tubeless exclusive for the last 30 races. One flat which was a slice from a sharp rock at Gloucester. And I love the low pressures… I won't go back to clinchers.



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