Tubeless technology has long been the standard in mountain biking, but it's now making steady inroads in the skinny tire world. No surprise then that the 2013 Stan's NoTubes team is making a full commitment to a technology that, when it performs well, allows for lower tire pressure and lessens the chance of pinch flats.
The 15-rider regional pro squad will spend the upcoming racing season aboard Giant's TCR Advanced carbon fiber road bike spec'd with SRAM components and lightweight Stan's NoTubes 340 Pro and 400 Pro wheels mated to Hutchinson tubeless tires. Testing ground will be the Southeast Regional Series, the National Criterium Calendar, USA Crit Series, and a host of rough road roubaix style events that have gained increasing popularity in the U.S.
"The roubaix events provide the perfect testing ground for the tubeless tire systems we'll be using all season," explained one-day-race specialist Jake Wells. "Events like the Tour of the Battenkill and the Crusher in the Tushar in Utah are tough on riders - and equipment. But as a team, we're confident in the technology and gear available to us. It's going to be an exciting season."
The 150-pound Wells says he regularly runs his pressure as low as 85psi, and some of his teammates are going even lower. "Being able to run lower tire pressure is a huge advantage," said Wells. "You get the benefit of higher ride quality, without worrying about punctures. As a team we've been tracking our usage all year, and even during training there's not been one flat. It's really impressive. You get better handling up front and better energy transfer in he rear. It's a true performance advantage."
Of course, most high-level race teams solve this problem by running tubular tires, where the tube is fully encased within the tire, and then the tire is glued to a tubular specific rim. These set-ups also provide the desired supple ride and reduce pinch flat probability. But they are expensive and tough to maintain, requiring laborious gluing before you can ride. And if you do get a flat while out on a ride, unless you're carrying a spare tire (not just a tube), your shortest route home will likely be on a city bus or inside a cab.
Tubeless set-ups, conversely, are less expensive and easier to set up, requiring only a tubeless wheel and tire, and some latex sealant, which is added to the inside of the tire to prevent small leaks, and plug puncture holes if they do occur. And if you do get a flat while out on a training ride, as long as you don't completely rupture your tire's sidewall, you can just unmount the tire and add a spare tube, turning your tubeless system into a traditional tube-and-tire set-up.
It's a concept that was first introduced by Stan's NoTubes, which was established by Stan Koziatek in 2001. Koziatek is credited with devising the original NoTubes sealing system, which today has become a widely-accepted tubeless conversion system throughout the bike racing world. Key innovations include developing tubeless rims with short side walls, aka Bead Socket Technology. BST allows for what the company claims is lighter rim weights, lower sidewall heights, improved durability, increased traction, and decreased chances of pinch flatting. You can learn more at www.notubes.com.
RoadBikeReview has a test set of Alpha Team 400s on the way to our Colorado testing center, where we'll be putting them through the proverbial ringer on the myriad of rough dirt and dirt gravel roads in and around Boulder County. Look for a short product preview in the next couple weeks, and then a thorough review of the Alpha Team 400s later in the spring.
Photos Credit: Maria Quiroga