Friday, March 12, 2021

Tire Wars - now it's clinchers vs road tubeless?


Tire Wars Deja Vu - Clinchers vs Road Tubeless?

Above: a couple of our favorite (clincher) tires* both run with Michelin A1 butyl tubes.

Is there a changing tide these days? We covered tubular vs clincher almost a decade ago, but some things never seem to change. Instead of tubulars you're now supposed to chuck those old-time clinchers as enthusiast magazines and websites tout the supposed benefits of "road tubeless" (as in special rim, special tire and liquid sealant) for a few years now, but is the marketing bullspeak falling flat?

Zio Lorenzo will admit you have to be way, way into this subject to listen to stuff like this. but he recently did (well, most of it anyway) so you wouldn't have to.

That Big-S company, the one that uses a slogan something like "Innovate or Die" (or used to anyway) seems to be backtracking on their push for road tubeless tires with liquid sealant inside, an idea that Zio Lorenzo can almost completely understand for low-pressure MTB tires, though for us good old inner tubes are still just fine, whether its on road or off, 26" or 700 c. No messy sealant required - in case of a puncture just pop in a new tube, pump it up and be on your way. 

Of course the pros aren't going to do that, their team car will be along in seconds to change their wheel...or as is the case more and more nowadays with "improvements" like disc brakes and thru-axles, to swap out their complete bicycle.

The whole tubeless road scheme seemed way too much like the push for disc brakes - less about actual improvement and more about making whatever it is you have now obsolete so you'll lay out some big cash for a bunch of new stuff, whether it's an entire bike for disc brakes or just new wheels/tires/sealant for road tubeless. Various advantages were touted, none of which seemed to be all that advantageous to us, so we've not even bothered to try road tubeless so far.

But wait! Now the Big-S seems to be suggesting (or vice-versa) to their sponsored pro road cycling teams that good ol' (in this case latex, something else we have doubts about even AFTER trying them) inner tubes are the way to go, even in tires and wheels specifically designed and manufactured for road tubeless? They're even claiming lower rolling resistance despite a small increase in weight. 

Zio Lorenzo's personal guess is few want to fool around with messy sealants when the claimed benefits seem almost a fantasy compared to the ease of installing a simple inner tube. Team mechanics couldn't help more-or-less admitting as much in the podcast Zio listened to.

It's also interesting to wonder if (for a change) pro teams are no longer blindly accepting whatever their product sponsors insist they use and just getting on with it? Of course there's always the fake labels and brand names slapped onto whatever they've already been using (sometimes for years) with success, just to confuse the consumer and make the sponsors happy, but in this case it seems they rejected the road tubeless concept (as in not having a separate tube to contain the air) in a way forcing the sponsors to re-think their idea...or at least their marketing. 

Clinchers are even OK for the cobbles of Flanders now but for some reason they're still hesitating on using them for Paris-Roubaix, despite the "Hell of the North" being won by Frederic Guesdon using Michelin clincher tires (with tubes) way back in 1997.

What's that, Deja vu all over again?

But wait, HERE's an attempt to salvage the entire road tubeless idea! Tougher to install, takes special tools but the pro teams that use 'em can at least claim to really be using road tubeless, right? But aren't these foam things also TUBES...just of another type...a type that costs a lot more and is a pain to install?

Update: “It’s the first Monument (Tour of Flanders) won with clinchers. We’re really proud. It’s about using the best, Specialized has the best and we just execute. It’s truly unbelievable!" said Ricardo Scheidecker, Elegant – Quick-Step’s Technical and Development Manager. 

Which is 100% wrong as noted with the 1997 Michelin reference above while some have pointed out Milano-Sanremo 1990 was also likely won using similar clincher tires. And let's not forget those Big-S tires are (like everything else they sell) not made by them but in this case a private label product of Lion Tyre..parent company of Vittoria.

*Disclaimer: we get nothing from either Vittoria or Michelin

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