With much fanfare, last year Schwalbe launched their ONE tyre, which comes as tubular, clincher and more interestingly tubeless. I say more interestingly because the current road tubeless market is minute and lacks competition between manufacturers, as well as choice for the public. Since then, I haven’t heard much, partly because not many dare running road tubeless tyres yet and partly due to cronic lack of stock. I therefore enquired whether I could have a pair of these babes in 25 mm format to test ride and review and Dave at Schwalbe UK promptly sent me a pair, together with their own branded sealant, which is made by Stans.
As I unpacked the tyres, it became immediately evident these are no lightweights and in fact they come at 350 grams a piece… Why are tubelss tyres so much heavier than clinchers? Essentially because they are air tight, hence made of rubber with low porosity, which weighs more. They are also reinforced and have a more robust carcass compared to your average race tyre. Does it matter? Well, that’s what this review is hopefully going to find out.
The fit: I washed tyres and my HED Belgium plus rims with soapy water to help with the fit and improve air tightness and they went on without fuss, much like an average clincher, in fact less fuss, as I didn’t even need to be careful not to pinch the inner tube. I pumped them up to 80 PSI, they popped nicely all along the bead. On my rims, they come at a fat 28 mm. They are air tight with no need of sealant, but I injected 20 ml of sealant via the valve and re inflated them to make them puncture proof… Ready to go!
The ride: over a full week I rode the tyres every single day for a total of about 300 Km, including 4 commutes into work and two hilly rides, one in the Chiltern hills with Colin and one on my own around Box Hill. So, how do they ride? The answer is they ride great! I didn’t honestly expect a 350 grams clincher to have the same ride quality of my Corsa CX tubulars, but with better cornering. The range of recommended pressure is between 70 and 110 PSI and I stayed on the low side at 80. Over the week they never really lost pressure and from the initial 80 PSI, there were still well over 70 today. They feel very lively, with the characteristic hollow sound of light race tyres. Acceleration is excellent and once at speed they like to stay there. Schwalbe makes a big fuss about the low rolling resistance and there is some truth in it as on smooth tarmac (not that there is much round here) they are very fast indeed. How do they climb? I managed to keep Colin’s pace up the climb to the old Ski resort in Wycombe and Winter hill in Marlow, so that’s good news, as he is always in good form. Because I put on a couple of Kg over summer, I dropped the water bottle at the bottom of Box hill and managed to match my best climbing time (or I should say beat by 1 full second?) achieved on a marginally lighter bike and a lighter body. I don’t think it is by chance: the perfectly smooth road surface, combined with gentle gradient of Box hill are an ideal terrain to test whether rolling resistance matters even uphill. I didn’t get the chance to ride them in the wet, but I am not very aggressive when it rains and unlikely to take full advantage of any improvement in grip. They did seem excellent in the dry. In terms of comfort, I was hardly going to be impressed, as I spent the previous week riding a set of spongy cyclocross tyres. They seem OK and I’d have no problem in recommending them to any long distance rider, although in terms of suppleness I’d say a pair of Vittoria Pave’ fitted with latex inner tubes is still the benchmark.
Wear: 300 Km is not a lot and I wasn’t certainly expecting to square off the rear tyre or anything, but I have had tyres which showed cuts and bruises after a similar mileage. I have gone through the front and rear and didn’t spot any cut, so it is possible they might be reasonably long lasting. Remember this is a high performance tyre, which should be compared to the high end Vittoria and Continental range, rather than to a high mileage touring tyre. Most if not all punctures will be sealed by the latex emulsion, so some extra mileage can be squeezed before the tyre becomes useless.
So is this THE ONE tyre that will convince you to try tubeless? I think so, the combination of a faff free installation and the fact that it doesn’t come short of speed over a top end clincher tyre on the flat and on an incline, makes it ideal to overcome the fear of trying new technology. It is a fantastic tyre, it is not a tyre that comes cheap, but if you care more about performance than how things look, then money spent on tyres is invested in fun, rather than wasted on fancy stems, integrated handlebars and carbon seatposts.
Eight common myths about tubeless:
1) If the sealant doesn’t work you are stranded: sealant works for most punctures, not all punctures. In case of a very large tear, you should carry an inner tube and fit it in exactly the same way you would with a clincher
2) Tubeless is messy: a latex emulsion might spill when you inject it, it’s not as bad as having to clean baby’s sick or having to pick a dog’s turd… it doesn’t smell and it’s not toxic… it’s just rubber, water and a mild alkali and looks like milk past its use by date. If you can live with a dog, you can live with tubeless, get over it.
3) Tubeless tyres can burst off the rim: Do you ever think about that when you drive? Your car tyres are tubeless, it’s been like that for 60 years.
4) Tubeless road tyres are pointless: read above.
5) Tubeless is not a mature technology: read above.
6) I read horror stories about tubeless tyres gone bad on the web: I am sure on the web you can find horror stories about baking or decorating gone bad. I tend to believe in horror stories which involve weapons and things gone bad.
7) If I puncture, latex will spray all over: true in the case of large punctures, as above, it’s only water, latex and a mild alkali… most of it ends on your seat tube. if it was baby’s sick I wouldn’t use it, honest!
8) Tubeless tyres are impossible to fit: on a tight rim they can be hard to fit… in my experience they are not particularly hard to fit.