My Love for Tires Never Tires: Part 1, Trying Tubeless and Wide Wheels
Spring calls, and riding outside is becoming a lot more enticing. I cannot wait to get out more and explore. Last year as usually happens after a long Buffalo winter; the roads were awful. Potholes, gravel, salt, and glass were everywhere.
The first thing I did was to get out the tubeless set up. It was time to rekindle my love for road tubeless. I had given up the summer prior when I wore out a set of Schwalbe Pro Ones, and they simply would not seal anymore. I was really pissed, and I whined a lot. There are people who would not believe I would ever go back to tubeless after that episode and pouty BS. I later learned that this was just a tire coming to the end of its life span. It wasn’t that tubeless was a bad idea. I put 3,000 miles on those tires, and there was not a lot of tread left.
When it’s cold and wet outside, as it often is in spring, tubeless keeps you from flatting and having to change a tube with cold, wet hands (often in dim lighting on the side of the road). It handles glass shards and all the little debris that puncture tires in the springtime.
I realize that road tubeless is not for everyone, but I think this stems from poor wheel and tire choices. And in some cases, people lack the tire mounting skills and the patience required to set the tubeless tires up properly. See the post on this from last April.
No discussion of tires, tubeless or not, can start without considering wheelsets. Like running shoes, there are many types of performance shoes, but if you’re putting good shoes on bad feet…. well, you see where I am going.
Some wheelsets are a bear to mount any tire on. I had a set of Pacenti SL23s that rolled wonderfully, if you could get a tire on them. I struggled to even get an old loose tire on them. I tried every method I could find on the web to mount a tire. I tried centering the bead in the rim channel. I tried lubricating the tire bead with dish soap. I tried Schwalbe tire mounting fluid. I tried starting at the valve. I tried starting opposite the valve. I broke at least one tire lever along the way, too!
I eventually sold those wheels off only to find out that Pacenti is now under new ownership. They are currently taking great steps to right the wrongs of the previous designs. I think they actually had a buyback program in place. It was a little too late for me, but at least it proved that I wasn’t crazy for complaining or totally inept at putting on a tire. The rims were flawed.
Eventually, I went a little crazy in an expensive way, and bought a set of fine American Waterloo, Wisconsin made Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheels. These wheels are the bomb. They are worth every penny I paid for them, and deep down I know I do not deserve them. They have a bomb proof build, have wide internal rim dimensions, and the strip inserts make problems often associated with rim tape disappear. They are tubeless ready out of the box. I have had zero problems getting tire beads to slide over the rims and set up. I have tried various tire brands (Vittoria, Panaracer, Schwalbe, Hutchinson) and designs (tubeless and regular clinchers) and have had excellent results with the tire bead firmly settling into the rim.
A nice new development from Bontrager is the new Pro Line which takes Aeolus technology and manufactures the wheelsets overseas at a lower price. While the new design does not utilize the same DT Swiss hubs as the US made 5’s I own, the Pro line offerings of wheels are a quality product. I bought a set of the Pro 3’s last fall, and I can attest that they are every bit as bombproof, smooth rolling, and easy to set up as their US counterparts. I can tell there is a very slightly perceivable difference between the hubs, but they cost about half the price. At around $1,000, the Pro 3 wheelset is a great all around wheel. The 3’s sports a 35mm depth OCLV Carbon rim (27mm outer, 19.5mm inner width), and the 5’s are the same except they sport a 50mm depth.
Both of these lines feature tubeless ready construction, but you can use them with tubes if you prefer. I have, and they work just great with the TLR strips inserted instead of tape. The two things I like so much about these wheels, and what I think you should look for in your next wheelset purchase, is that tires go on easily with a good fit/seal, and they have a slightly larger than normal internal rim width.
I Like Big Rims and I Cannot Lie…
The 19.5mm internal rim width gives all types of tires the ability to expand to their fullest potential. Wider is better! (Make sure you check your frame; as more than one unfortunate soul has told me they looked at these wheels only to find they would not fit in their frames). I have a 2014 Trek and a 2013 steel All-City Mr. Pink, and these both work great in either. The 5’s did not fit on my Cannondale CAAD10, and so I sold it off. It’s weird, but take your frame with you if you go wheel shopping.
I like to run 28mm tires, but even if you regularly run 25mm (or if that is as big as your frame can fit), you will thank me. The wider rims result in more air volume in the tire itself. Therefore, you can run the tires at lower pressure enjoying less rolling resistance, better cornering, and less pinch flats when running tubes. They are also more aerodynamic and more comfortable on rough roads. The wider contact patch created makes them faster, as they distribute vibrations more efficiently from the road.
So, before we get into favorite tires, consider your wheels. Having a nice easy to mount, tubeless ready, wide internal width set up is going to be a great place to start.
(Imported Aeolus Pro 3 left and US Made Aeolus 5 right)