Coming down the north “face” of Fleet Moss at 100 Km/h takes some faith, but coming down at any speed with 50 Km/h gusts of wind that try to splatter you on the side of the mountain takes some balls! And balls were needed last sunday at the Etape du Dales. Buttertubs was just as scary and at the bottom the faint red glow on my front rotor immediately turned into a black layer of pungent charred pads material. By the time we tackled the descend of Coal Road I had brushed the dust off my Alpine descending and managed not to overbake the pads.
But this article is not about the Yorkshire Dales, but rather about a pair of IRC Roadlite 25 mm tubeless tyres, that I have been kindly offered to test by Mario and Olivier at Sabma.com, the European distributor. IRC, together with Hutchinson and a restricted number of other manufacturers pioneered road tubeless tyres and they now offer a range of products, as opposed to only one tyre. The Roadlite is a mid range training tyre in their rooster, with the pricier Formula range engineered with racing in mind. That said, the Roadlite 25 mm weighs 335 grams, a feather less than the most obvious competitor and market leader Schwalbe ONE .
The tyres are equipped with a row of small round indentations, which work as wear indicators and just like the Schwalbe, they are pure slick. They are marginally less tight, which means building up the initial pressure that allow them to seal has been less straightforward. However, with a bit of soap and water, I managed with a normal track pump. Once up, the seal was perfect and they did not lose pressure overnight. I then injected 30 ml of sealant, as usual. When mounted on my HED plus rims, they bulge to a reassuring 28 mm width, just like the Schwalbe did. So it is reasonable to expect them to have a 26+ mm fit on an Archetype and 25 mm on a narrower rim.
I have ridden the tyres for over two weeks, training in preparation for the Etape du Dales, totalling 650 Km, including last sunday’s mileage. Given the demanding terrain, I think it is far enough to draw some conclusions: these are exceptionally good tyres, fast, grippy, feel light as a Vittoria CX tubular and just like a light tubular, they “sing” when you get to around 40 Km/h. I did not experiment too much with pressure, but I have always used less than the recommended for the front (85 PSI) and just the very minimum they recommend for the rear (90 PSI). At this pressure they feel as fast as a tyre can be with a good level of comfort over bumpy roads at my weight (72 Kg).
As much as I have tried to find faults, I have not been able to spot any: not a single cut on the surface, while the Schwalbe ONE seem to cut fairly easily, yet the grip these IRC offer is in my view even superior. I have never lost the rear wheel going up steep monsters like Coal Road, while the Schwalbe did skid on occasions, going up a few steep lanes in the Surrey hills.
Moral is: IRC seem to think this is a training tyre and I would be really curious to try what they rate as a racing tyre, because this one in my world is already a superb racing tyre. I can’t comment on the durability, although the lack of cuts at what is normally 20% of the life expectancy is very encouraging, but I will certainly update this article once I have more miles in. I can’t even comment on how easily they seal after a puncture, as I did not suffer any.
So, how much for these babes? I have been informed they are priced at 55 Euro each RRP, which is in line with the Schwalbe ONE… the only problem is they are not as widely available yet, so it might prove difficult to find them heavily discounted from your usual German retailers… what else can I say? Just talk to your bike shop and get them, they are that good!
EDIT, now available in the UK
EDIT, June 1st 2015: another big day out yesterday at the Chiltern 100 sportive. As it is now a corporate profit driven event, I did not enter it, but I did follow some of the course (roads are public after all) on a rather wet day. The country lanes were wet pretty much start to finish, with the usual washout of flint that characterises this beautiful part of the world. We did 130 Km and at pretty much every lay by there was someone fixing a puncture. My riding mate did puncture on a set of Schwalbe Durano, which are supposed to be impenetrable, while no sealant was sprayed on my IRC Roadlite. I checked the tyres this morning and spotted a few very small cuts on the rear and none on the front… I can only confirm these are rather exceptional tyres!