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Technical FAQ: Tubeless for road, gravel

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Aug. 13, 2013
Schwalbe Ultremo tubeless tires can be run at a lower psi, around 85-90. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Ideal tire pressure?

Dear Lennard,
As a tubeless convert, I always find your articles on them interesting and informative.

I recently mounted new Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tubeless road tires after running Hutchinson tubeless for a couple of years (one flat). My subjective impression is that they are a bit more sticky and maneuverable than Intensives, but noticeably less supple and bump absorbent than Fusion 3s at the same psi.

I’m speculating that’s because the Schwalbes are belted, while the Fusion 3s aren’t.

Schwalbe is making a big deal about being able to pump the Ultremos up to 130 psi, but I found them pretty harsh over about 110 and not worth the trade off. I also didn’t find them any easier to inflate or mount, but I use an air compressor anyway.
—Winsor

Dear Winsor,
Below are responses from Schwalbe.
― Lennard

From Jeff Clarkson:

Lennard,
Speaking from my own personal experience with these tires, 110 psi is probably too high of a psi to achieve a comfortable (and also fast rolling) tire experience, unless our friend Winsor is a larger, heavier rider. I weigh about 155 pounds and currently run my Ultremo ZX 23c tubeless around 90 psi front and rear on my Ultegra Tubeless road wheels. I find that is the ideal pressure for me to have a smooth, very supple ride, still very fast rolling (because of the small bump absorption at that pressure), without feeling soft or sluggish.

I know Sean, who is around the same weight, maybe a smidge more, ran his Ultremo’s in the 95-100 psi range for the most part, only down around 85 psi for a crit race to get maximum grip, noting a possible slight sacrifice in rolling resistance.

Yes, the tires can go up to 130 psi; that just happens to be the max. By no means are we saying they should be regularly run at that pressure, again, unless it’s a very heavy and/or large rider which would require that type of pressure to achieve ideal tire drop while riding. I’ve found a lot of cyclists are overinflating their tires thinking it is going to help them roll faster, which isn’t the case. Usually a lower pressure (to a certain point) is going to roll smoother, easier and with less rolling resistance (watts) than a higher pressure. The higher pressures feel rough, the tire bounces more on the road, and that bouncing motion is a redirection of your forward energy and momentum into an upwards or backwards direction, robbing you of rolling speed. The lower pressure absorbs that better and the tire rolls easier.

As far as mounting the tires, that can vary between model and tire combination. I also had to use the air compressor to get my tires seated.
—Jeff Clarkson
Customer Service and Tech Support
Schwalbe North America

From Sean Cochran:

Lennard,
I’m unsure of what Winsor’s referring to, as our tires are belted vs. the Hutchinson. Our construction technique is essentially identical to that of the Hutchinson.

Secondly, I’ve mounted our tires to over 13 different rim types/brands and have been able to do so by hand on all but Stan’s rims. Stan’s does not follow typical industry standards, so this does not come as a surprise to me. When it comes to inflation, when utilizing our “Easy Fit” solution I’ve been able to air up the tires with a floor pump on all wheels accept for American Classics. (On a side note, these wheels were the easiest to mount the tire, which could have something to do with the inflation problem.) In the minimal time I’ve had working with the Hutchinson products, the mounting and inflation is far more tedious than our tires.

On another note, we have our all new Schwalbe One that was just launched at the Tour. The new tire has been redesigned from the ground up with new casing construction, a puncture protection belt, and a rubber compound mixture. All this combines to be the fastest rolling tire, yet the most reliable racing tire we have ever built. We have three executions of this tire: Folding, Tubeless, and Tubular.
—Sean Cochran
Media Liaison – Marketing Coordinator
Schwalbe North America

Tubeless options for gravel

Dear Lennard,
I have a set of tubeless-ready rims, similar in profile to the HED Ardennes (it’s an Industry 9 wheel). I’m looking for the ideal tire for gravel grinders and would prefer tubeless. Suggestions?
—Chris

Dear Chris,
I talked to Velo managing editor Chris Case about it, as he has a ton of gravel grinding experience. He says the ideal situation is to get Clement tires to set up tubeless; he ran the 40mm Clement USH at Dirty Kanza with inner tubes and also likes a bit more aggressive model called the MSO, available in 40mm and 32mm.

He believes that Clement can be set up tubeless, even though it’s not a tubeless tire, but for him it just wouldn’t seat and seal — even with extra tape on the rim.

His mechanic said, “I think Chris’ issue had to do with a road tubeless rim and a non-tubeless tire. I think that the Clements would seal right up on a Stan’s rim like the Iron Cross wheels that I have. They are too loose on the Easton road rims that Chris has. We also didn’t have a lot of time to make it work. He waited until a few days before the Dirty Kanza to put them on.”
― Lennard

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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