I ride dirt. I ride a lot of it, as much as I can find. I think it’s truly beautiful to be somewhere on a deserted road, farms and wildlife rolling by, side-by-side with my friends. The dirt roads on Colorado’s Front Range are perfect for a 28mm road tire; the roads aren’t too rough and the sandy clay usually is firm and fast.
I have been making my own 28mm tubeless solutions for years (this is a great happy hour story, replete with deafening explosions and showers of sealant) but now that Hutchinson is making a tubeless 28mm, hopefully those days are behind me.
What amazes me is that it almost didn’t happen. The Sector 28 tires were originally produced as an alternative to tubulars for the FDJ racing team for use in the cobbled classics in Europe and were not intended for retail. Only after seeing significant growth in the U.S. tubeless market was the decision made to offer these tires to the public.
After hearing about the Sector 28, I was eager to get my hands on them. Hutchinson has been making tubeless options as long or longer than anyone else and the company has it down. The Sectors I have averaged out at 289 grams each, which would be respectable even for a tubed tire, and the casing seems to be reasonably supple, critical for traction and comfort.
In the past, Hutchinson tires have been very tight and difficult to mount. This seems to have been rectified, however, as the Sectors slide onto the rim with just the right tension and inflate easily. Mounted on my trusty Shimano C24 clinchers, the inflated tires initially were on the narrow side at 26.7mm. But after a week of riding they topped out right around 27.5mm. That’s not quite right, but recently I had it explained to me just how difficult it is to correctly size a tire and how many variables are involved. As far as I’m concerned, they’re right on the money.
On paper, this is an outstandingly good tire and in the field it stands up pretty well, too. I had to experiment with the pressure a little bit because my tendency is to get the pressure way down, so I started in the low 60 psi range. This was way too low and although the tires were incredibly comfortable and soaked up the terrain, they were sluggish and slow. That, however, would be the case with almost any tire at that pressure until you pinch-flat, which did not happen with the Sector. In the last couple weeks, I have dialed up the pressure and found a great feel right in the mid 70 psi range.
Once I got the pressure right, it became obvious that Hutchinson had done its homework. Improvements in casing design and rubber compound add up to a tire that rides surprisingly well. The center compound is harder for rolling on pavement but when you lay it into a turn, the softer cornering compound and subtle tread take over to keep you glued to the road. The casing is considerably more supple and lighter than that of previous tubeless editions but after throttling my pair of Sectors up and down the Front Range for six weeks, I can report they are every bit as durable and tough. Used in conjunction with Hutchinson’s Protect’Air sealant (you need to use sealant), it would be reasonable to think you could ride these tires down to the casing without a single flat.
Retail on the Sectors is $109.95. That’s pretty steep, approaching what you might pay for pavé tubulars, but considering the extended lifespan of the tire and what you might save on tubes, it might be worth it. And think of all the places you’ll go.
Australian native Michael Robson grew up racing dirt bikes and flat-track and in his teens progressed to BMX. He first came to race in the U.S. in the early 1990s and ended up in Europe as a workaday roadie. Now a professional photographer and rabid cyclocrosser, Robson is reliving his youth ripping it up in ‘cross, making great photos for a living and testing gear for VeloNews.