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Back 2019-07-10

New on ZippCast: Road to Tubeless Smooth for CANYON//SRAM Racing

CANYON//SRAM Racing is on the leading edge of professional road teams adopting tubeless tires for competition. Team mechanic Arne Kenzler tells us about the transition and gives tips for roadies thinking about going tubeless.

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Edited excerpts

How did CANYON//SRAM start experimenting with tubeless tires?

Tubeless is big now, and as of this season, with the team. Personally, I have been on tubeless for four years. For me, it has a big advantage. We are happy to bring it to the team and give the girls the best riding experience. They immediately felt the difference between the regular training tires and of course to the race tires.

When did the transition happen?

It started at the team camp in the beginning of our season. We tried it first in training to see how the girls felt on them because in pro road cycling, tubeless is kind of new. But they had adapted to it quickly and now you could say we are racing on tubeless nearly every race.

How would you contrast tubular wheels and tubeless wheels for pro use compared to the average cyclist?

With tubeless you have better cornering, can run lower tire pressure, and have better rolling resistance. Even as a daily rider you can switch from your normal wheel set ups and can have the same advantages as the pros.


Photo by Thomas Maheux


Considering Road Tubeless? Start here.

Road cyclists are embracing tubeless. The technology began almost two decades ago off-road, and is now the dominant setup for mountain biking, almost completely eclipsing traditional clincher tires. On the road, tubeless tires and wheels are still in limited use but are poised for massive growth as cyclists experience the benefits they offer over traditional clincher wheels and tires, on pavement or gravel. The information below is designed to help you make informed decisions when considering tubeless options for wheels and tires.

  • Benefits of Tubeless
  • Better cornering grip
  • Improved comfort
  • Reduced rolling resistance
  • Less chance of a pinch flat
  • Ease of installation

Potential Challenges of Tubeless

  • Setup more involved than clincher
  • Installing sealant can be messy
  • Limited tire options compared with clinchers
  • Weight can be slightly heavier

What to Know about Tubeless

With a tubeless setup, the tire forms an airtight seal with a specially designed rim bed. Since there is no tube to worry about, tubeless eliminates the possibility of pinch flats, allowing lower tire pressures. Sealant, applied during installation, guards against punctures from on-road and off-road debris.

Cyclists running tubeless typically reduce tire inflation by 10 or more PSI compared with clinchers. Less air pressure helps dampen road vibrations for improved rider comfort. It also allows the contact patch – that part of the tire on the ground – to spread out for better traction, especially in corners. Tubeless tires also often have a different construction for a smoother transition in the rubber between the crown, or top of the tire, and its sidewall. This means, similar to a tubular tire, there’s a smoother feel for a rider leaning aggressively into corners.

To optimize aero efficiency, a rider could run smaller tubeless tires (25mm wide) at lower pressures for a similar level of comfort as a 700x28 or 700x30. A road racer or triathlete could gain crucial seconds from the increased cornering grip and lower rolling resistance.

With no inner tube interacting with the tire, tubeless systems have less friction, which lowers rolling resistance. That means no more baby powder between your tube and tire in an attempt to eliminate the friction already absent from a tubeless setup.

To assist with setup, Zipp has developed step-by-step instructional videos to make the process as simple as possible. Most cyclists new to tubeless will gain proficiency seating the tire and adding sealant with just two or three installations. The popping of seating a tubeless tire gives you a clear indication you’re doing things correctly. With tubeless, there’s no worrying about pinching and blowing out a tube during installation.

What You’ll Need to Install Tubeless

  • Tubeless compatible wheels
  • Tubeless ready tires
  • Tubeless tire sealant
  • Valve core removal tool
  • Air compressor and floor pump
  • Safety glasses
  • Clean rag

Zipp’s Approach to Tubeless

Zipp’s first tubeless wheel, the 30 Course Disc brake, was introduced in April 2015. This came at a time when the gravel riding movement was just gaining traction. Zipp designed this wheelset with an eye toward a cycling future of wider tires as well as a wider definition of what’s considered road cycling.

Zipp’s tubeless wheels and rims were carefully dimensioned following ETRTO guidelines. Zipp engineers tested multiple design iterations before settling on the Firecrest and NSW designs. The challenge was multifold; following the guidelines while meeting our internal high standards for high aero efficiency, durability, light weight, impact resistance, and tire retention.

Beyond those qualities, Zipp engineers tested a wide variety of tubeless-specific tires to ensure compatibility and ease of installation with as many tire brands as possible. Zipp’s Firecrest and NSW wheels are optimized for ease of setup without tools for our Tangente RT25 (25mm width) and RT28 (28mm width) road tubeless tires. Zipp’s carbon clincher tubeless wheels also were designed to allow riders to easily use standard clincher tubes and tires, if that’s their preference, or to repair a flat on the roadside.


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