Schwalbe One Tubeless road racing tyres: the answer to my prayers… or are they?
“The name alone indicates how significant this tire is for Schwalbe”, so says Schwalbe own marketing blurb. “It is the fastest and at the same time most reliable competition tire we have ever made. It is manufactured in a separate facility built exclusively for the production of this new top-class tire.” With such an intro surely I’m in for one hell of a ride?
It’s certainly some really compelling marketing, but of course, to prove the tubeless concept to the ever skeptical, traditionalist roadie, any manufacturer has a mountain to climb in practice, no matter how good the tech is in theory.
I am typical of that genre. I don’t like change and my previous experience of tubeless in cyclocross is less than encouraging. However, as with tubulars if the performance gains are worth it then surely it’s worth the hassle?
I want to love tubeless as much as I hate gluing tubulars on; after all we use tubeless tyres everyday when we drive our cars anywhere. It’s a reliable safe system that works.
I’ve actually cheated on this preview a bit as I have already been riding the Ones around prior to writing their introduction, mainly because my affair with road tubeless didn’t start well. Before I had even had a chance to fall in love there was an issue. The tubeless wheels I was testing came equipped with the Schwalbe One’s predecessor, the Ultremo ZX tubeless. On only my second ride a piece of glass bottle tore a cut in the side of the tyre too big for the sealant to handle. I was dismayed that I had flatted that which was supposed to be puncture proof. To add insult to injury, it then managed to get latex all over my new black team shorts which is not a good look.
That may be a major obstacle: roadies do like to stay clean. Anyway that incident with the Ultremo ZX’s is why I fitted the Ones, and have been riding around on them prior to this ‘Preview’.
As I mentioned I hate gluing tubulars. Pre-kids, it never used to bother me as I was well practiced at it and could do it in my front room watching TV. Now I’d risk hell’s fire, so it’s become a major hassle, made even worse when you puncture one…
Tubeless sounds like an easier option. It fits onto what is in essence a normal clincher rim with a bit of extra sealing on the spoke side. Just drop in a bit of sealant and away you go… But no. Fitting tubeless is never easy in my experience. The Schwalbe One lived up to that billing and refused to go onto the rims. It literally took me twice as long as any other tub gluing or tyre tweaking session had before to fit – and that was just one tyre.
So fitting is a major downside to tubeless. It put me off using them in cyclocross and has almost done the same on the road. However, once they are on and providing you avoid glass bottles, the promise of many miles of puncture free cycling may just be enough to override the workshop fitting marathon…
Schwalbe point out that ‘there are hardly any tubeless tires for racing bikes’ despite the fact that ‘this system offers outstanding benefits’ – or maybe we already know why there are still hardly any tubeless tyres for road racing. According to Schwalbe, these benefits include ‘clear advantages in speed, comfort, grip and puncture resistance’. OK, so with three of those being of prime importance to me, I am interested in tubeless again.
First lets look at speed, which Schwalbe claim comes from lower rolling resistance. They claim it is ‘noticeably lower than with conventional folding and tubular tires because this system minimizes friction losses’. They are claiming that because there is no friction between the tyre and tube there’s a noticeable decrease in rolling resistance.
However, ‘noticeable’ must refer to when measured under lab conditions as, unless I’m simply expecting too much, it is not noticeable when riding. Yes the tyres and wheels combo (American Classic’s Argent Tubeless weighing just 1372g) feel fast, but faster I cannot feel nor vouch for; they may be faster but I cannot say that for definite. Are they faster than my clincher 40mm carbon wheels and clincher tyres? They feel similar. It’s hard to differentiate between me being on a good day and extra speed from my equipment at the best of times, and often it’s wheel/tyre combinations that make you think, “Wow!”, but not in this case.
But (on the American Classic wheels) they feel fast, as you’d expect from Schwalbe’s top of the line tyres, so the conclusion is that if you opt for the One Tubeless you will have a fast tyre, comparable to any clincher out there. But if you are looking at the ideal race set-up, then you’d need even lighter wheels then the 1372g Argents, which are pretty damn light, to compete with my best carbon tubular set-ups. Still you could win races on them no problem.
So having established that they are fast, let’s move onto comfort. Tubeless tyres can be ridden at lower pressures which is going to bring about improved comfort as Schwalbe suggest. But as this is a road racing tyre, most of you are going to run it firm as that’s what what we do to avoid that squidgy feeling.
The ability to run at lower pressures, as with tubulars, is great news for wet races but again, on the road the difference in pressure we use between wet and dry races isn’t huge; if you are brave you may drop to 90 from your dry 120psi, but how many actually do that? I don’t. I therefore found myself again hard pressed to score the tubeless much higher than either clincher or tub I currently race on.
This brings us onto grip quite nicely. Tyres at lower pressures should grip better, as you have a larger contact patch with the road, but with bicycle tyres the contact patch is so narrow that apparently this makes little difference. This is the reason that many road racing tyres, including all of Schwalbe’s top end tyres, are smooth without a grooved tread.
I know that Schwalbe tyres grip very well. I have yet to have one let me down, wet or dry, and having raced on them for donkey’s years now, I trust them 100%. Grip-wise the tubeless is no different to a clincher or tub; but that’s it again, they are the same as my other Schwalbes. I can’t ascertain a difference.
So finally into puncture resistance. Unlike with that unfortunate Ultremo ZX tubeless incident, I have had zero issues with the Ones, not that that means anything. I was unlucky to strike a seriously large piece of glass withe the Ultremo; it would have cut any tyre. The only difference is that not every tyre would then have proceeded to spray me with latex!
That’s an issue then but it happened once. No more punctures since and there’s the added security in the back of my mind that I have that latex in the tyres ready to deal with flints and small bits of glass. In the event of such an item puncturing the casing, the tubeless tyres should deal with it themselves, as the ‘puncture protection liquid seals punctures within tenths of a second’, according to Schwalbe.
Checking the tyres over there’s not much evidence of this having happened actually as of yet, which is a good sign for the durability of the Schwalbe One, but odd given my ability to cut Schwalbe tyres with depressing regularity, including a One clincher on only my second or third outing. I obviously need to run them for a bit longer to do a full test.
‘We at Schwalbe believe that Tubeless is the tire technology of the future!’, they conclude. I am not quite there with them on that as of yet. However, I do see tubeless as a superb innovation for use by me and other roadies out training, especially if you do high mileages. It also makes sense when doing sportives where support may be a long way off and you just don’t want to be stopping to fix punctures. In a similar vein, for racing cyclists who want reliability and need to finish the race above all else or are racing on a budget, tubeless is a sensible option. In fact I am now going to have to go back and read this article again to remind myself why I was unsure about tubeless…
When all is said and done, the ability of a tyre to absorb road debris and deal with it instantly is a major plus, especially thinking about how many brand new tyres I have had to either bin or resign to the indoor trainer after just a couple of outings. Is it time we were all riding around on tubeless?
Check back for a full review in a few months to see.
Compare prices and buy tyres from:
|Chain Reaction||Cyclestore||Evans Cycles||Hargroves Cycles|
|Merlin Cycles||ProBikeKit||Ribble Cycles||Rutland Cycling|
|Wiggle||AW Cycles||Biketart||Cycle Surgery|
|Leisure Lakes Bikes|