While their acceptance is widespread in mountain biking, tubeless tires are still an outlier on the road. New products are showing promise, though, as a few companies are jumping on the wide-rim bandwagon now. We're seeing more choices for both tires and wheels, from aero and racy, to durable and reasonably priced.
For starters, while the Schwalbe One tires went onto the Easton EA90 SLX wheels relatively easily, we broke two tire levers getting the Bontrager R3 tires onto the Bontrager Aura 5 wheels. On the plus side, both pairings seated easily using just a floor pump — no air compressor required.
Still a novel concept for most roadies, tubeless systems are becoming somewhat more widespread for 2014
Easton EA90 SLX tubeless wheelset - US$1,200
Part of Easton's newly redesigned 2014 lineup, the EA90 SLX wheels are claimed at 1,400g but tipped our scales at 1,426g (623g front, 803g rear), plus 150g for the pair of quick releases.
The EA90 SLX hoops get Easton's new Echo hubs, the rear of which features large, wide-set bearings and an inverted driver-ring/pawl configuration.
We measured the rims at an 18mm internal width and 22.5mm external width.
The included valve stems do not have a removable core, so we added sealant into the tire itself before mounting. This isn't the end of the world, but a minor annoyance.
Easton's EA90 SLX are lightweight, all-aluminum hoops
Schwalbe One tubeless tire - $87
The Schwalbe One 25c tubeless tire is what the German company claims to be its fastest and most durable tubeless road tire yet — but it certainly is not the lightest. We weighed the 25c tire at 360g, which is 20g more than the claimed weight. It measured 25.65mm on the Easton EA90 SLX.
Schwalbe is making this One line in standard clincher and tubular options, as well.
The new tubeless tire also comes in 23 and 28c widths.
Schwalbe's One tubeless tire comes in 23, 25 and 28c widths
Bontrager Aura 5 TLR tubeless wheelset - $669
The Aura 5 TLR draws on the work Bontrager engineers did on the top-end Aeolus wheels. Here, a 50mm carbon sheath is bonded to an aluminum brake track for most of the aerodynamic performance of the all-carbon wheels at a much more reasonable price. We measured a 18.5mm internal width and 23.2mm at the outside of the brake track.
The included valve stems have a removable core, giving you the option to add sealant into the tire itself or through the stem. While not affecting the structural integrity of the wheel, the external carbon flexes in to the touch.
We weighed our test set at 1,780g for the wheelset (750g front, 960g rear) plus 70g for a pair of rim strips and 140g for the pair of quick releases.
With 18 front and 24 rear spokes and internal nipples, Bontrager claims these wheels are faster than Mavic's Cosmic Carbone SLs.
Bontrager mates a carbon sheath to an aluminum rim for good aerodynamics at a reasonable price
Bontrager R3 tubeless tire - $89
Whether it was the wheels or the tires, we don't know, but mounting the R3s on the Aura 5 TLRs made us second-guess the whole 'tubeless tires are much less hassle than clinchers' argument. Time will tell, of course, and in the past we have definitely appreciated tubeless sealant addressing punctures from a piece of glass or a goathead that would otherwise have had us by the side of the road with the wheel off.
In any event, a 25c R3 tubeless tire weighed 270g — better than the packaging's claimed 290g. It measured 25.5mm on the Aura 5 TLR.
Our Bontrager R3 test sample weighed 20g less than advertised
Check back in a few weeks for reviews on each of these road tubeless products.