Road Tubeless - What’s it like then? - Part 1, In the beginning….

Ed's been riding road tubeless, here's his first impression :

Having read all about tubeless for MTB and road, I’ve been keen to try it out for myself for a while now. When the opportunity arose to get myself a new pair of wheels I talked it over with Fraser and agreed this was the perfect opportunity.

I had already settled on a pair of Hope RS Mono hubs and Fraser recommended Pacenti rims and Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tyres. My spec for the spokes was “I want shiney ones” and he duly obliged. No idea what they are but there are 28 per wheel and they meet my spec.


I had to spec 25mm width tyres of course or the fashion police would have been on to me but alas they have become so popular that after waiting a couple of months for them to still not come into stock I went with 23mm. Funny thing is that when you fit them to the Pacenti SL23 rims the tyres end up measuring 25mm across anyway.

Fraser built the wheels and I love them, so, thanks a million. He also fitted the tyres. I will let him explain how this went but to me this is still no job for a rank amature like me. Apparently the back went on a treat but the front was a bit more troublesome….and you need a compressor to get them to seat properly...and a special valve...and the right kind of rim tape...and you have to put sealant in them too. Apart from that they are a doddle!

After all that they finally went on the bike...along with a new chain and cassette but only because the ones I had were done….and most importantly, I think they look fab...especially if it’s sunny...which it is now and again.


So what are they like to ride then? As Del Boy would say “lovely jubbly”!

I’ve been out twice now, done over 100 miles and although it’s still very early days I love them. I’m running at 90 psi so 10 psi below what I run normally and the comfort has improved considerably. Apparently I can go down a few more psi if I want but I’ll do a few more rides first. They are great for rough tarmac and really smooth things out. Obviously a big hit is still a big hit but for what passes for “normal” tarmac around these parts they are just what the doctor ordered.

The tyres are holding up well and not cutting up as much as the normal soft compound tyres I usually ride. I’m no demon descender but grip has been excellent so far but unusually for this time of year the roads have been bone dry so wet weather performance has still to be tried….and no punctures. As for weight, well I’m not obsessive about that so don’t have any figures but the wheels are lively and responsive and any performance issues I have can be attributed to the engine.

So, so far so great! I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for an update but for now it’s a big thumbs up from me.


Time Out

It's a busy summer here at The Happy Cog and because of that I am unable to accept any new work until August. I'll still be answering emails, phone calls and messages and there will be someone about at the workshop but the doors will be closed to the public.

When the doors re-open it will be full on CycloCross season preparation time: tub glueing, custom builds, 1 x 10 conversions and wheels galore. So get in early if you want stuff done. Email now at to join the queue.

Enjoy your summer hols, get riding and keep the rubber down.

PS you can track my TCR progress over at when it's live.

Endura Convert Softshell

Endura Convert Softshell I could write hundreds of words about how useful, versatile, breathable, warm, water resistant, perfectly tailored and hard-wearing this jacket is but to be honest I can't be bothered, I've got miles to ride.

Suffice to say I live in Scotland, I ride every chance I get, be it commuting, touring, training or just for a laugh and this bright Green softshell has been on my back for every one of those rides since it landed on the doorstep in January.

Ditch the Gilet and Roubaix and go buy one, you won't regret it.

Endura Convert Softshell RRP £84.99

PS get the Green if you commute, no one can miss you and it's not dayglo, bonus.

Bespoked Bristol 2015 or bust or both

It's not everyday you jump on your bike and ride from the South of one country to the South of another, not in our house anyway.

When Russ at Shand suggested we did just that and ride from Edinburgh to Bristol I immediately trotted out the usual excuses; no time, dead busy at work mate sorry, err no, the kids/dog/wife would miss me etc.. But a bit like that song from Les Miserables - you know the one - that get's under your skin and you can't get out of your head, the idea slowly crept further up the ranks of my subconscious and after a few days of brewing I agreed to do it if I could take in Bespoked Bristol 2015, the hand made bike show.
Plans were hatched, kind of. Routes were plotted, kind of. We got permission from loved ones colleagues and dogs, kind of - my dog is still sulking.

All packed up and ready to go.

We hit the road aboard our super Shand Stoaters on Wednesday eve, adorned with Wildcat gear soft luggage that we had stuffed to the gunnels with sleeping kit; bivvie, pad and bag, a warm jacket, spares, grub and our passports (i'll come back to this). The ride through the borders to Moffat was glorious, perfect temperature and sunshine. We stopped for a fish supper in Moffat where Russ somehow managed to fire up a conversation with the guy who was responsible for the Gates belt drive as he smoked a fag outside the chippy.
Fed and watered - tea'd - we decided to crack on a bit to lessen the load of what was going to be close to 200 miles the next day if we stopped at Moffat.

When the gritter passed us at around 11pm for a second time we realised it was getting a tad chilly and that we should maybe try and grab some kip somewhere. This proved more difficult than I had envisaged as the M6 was so close to the road we were on which left really only one side of the road to find a quiet bit. We eventually found a spot behind some hay bales just south of Ecclefechan. When we emerged from our frost covered bivvies at 5am the next morning, it was baltic and the ride to Gretna services was a hand and foot numbing experience despite spring gloves and over shoes, thank god I packed a down jacket as a precaution.
Russ offered to pay for the first round of coffee, silly bugger, £18 in StarF*cks for 2 coffees a bacon roll and danish. Oh well, we soldiered on with Russ's wallet a lot lighter and our bottles filled, down to the Lakes, over Shap summit, through Preston, Lancaster, Wigan, Warrington and we made it to my brothers house in Northwich by about 8pm by which time we were ready for the shower, some hot grub and a sleep. Thanks bruvv.

5am came around too quickly and it was time to hit the road again, dogs and therefore all house occupants were woken, kettle boiled, butties made and we got going again at about 5:45, South again, this time on the A49.

Lights, camera, action

Shrewsbury, Leominster and other places came and went, the day got hotter and I was running out of space for my warm kit, things were stuffed and attached all about me and the bike but we made good time, but perhaps not good enough. We had to make a hard decision to cut the ride short by about 40 miles at Gloucester.
Despite the ride being for fun there was a more serious part to it and that was to stick our bikes on the Shand stand at Bespoked and that opened to the public Friday at 2:30, we knew we would never make that but 5 O'clock was our cut off to arrive and be there for a few hours before the visiting public left at 7. In no way did it have anything to do with the party we 'had' to go to with free beer and food courtesy of Chris King, nope, nothing at all, honest.


Train tickets were purchased at Gloucester and we rode the last 40 miles via British Rail. It would have been great to have finished the whole route but I don't think we did too bad anyway, we averaged 15mph for the riding and covered 350 miles in under 46 hours. Not bad at all for a pair of 40+'ers who had never ridden anything approaching that distance before.
Bespoked greeted us with open arms, hand shakes, back slaps, head shakes and a nice cold cider courtesy of Euan and Look Mum No Hands. Not too shabby.

Chris King put on a great evening over at Mud Dock with loads of food, coffee made by the man himself and buckets and buckets of ice cold Cielo beer, I think I managed 3 plates of food & 2 beers before it was time for bed. Beth from Wildcat took over the beer supping for us.


The rest of the weekend was great, I spent all my time on the Shand stand answering questions as best I could and generally enthusing about all things Stoater, I saw some amazing feats of engineering, some lovely paint and met loads of great people from around the world. I discussed, bikes, dogs, Norwegian cabin plumbing, Vincent motorbikes, saddle choice, Transcontinental racing and domestic travel without a passport or photo ID. Guess who forgot his?! Nope. Want a clue? It was Russ. At least we were only in Bristol and not Istanbul.

Lessons were learned, nothing broke and I had a brilliant time, thanks to Russ, Steven, Euan, Fraser & Matt at Shand, Beth and Ian at Wildcat, Endura - Convert jacket and merino arm warmers are without doubt the best bits of riding kit ever-, Supernova lights form the guys at Amba, ShaggyJohn, Chris King, Phil at Bespoked, Look Mum No Hands, Mud Dock, The blokes from Norway and their dodgy plumbing, The Festka guys, Saffron, Condor, the guys who gave me loads of positive advice about the TCR and shed loads of others.

See you next year.

ISM Performance Saddles

One of the best parts about being a small independent business is that I can offer my customers products that I have used (in some cases abused) and recommend. One such range of products is ISM Performance saddles.

Over the years I have tried dozens of saddles from a variety of manufacturers. I swore by the Specialized BG range for a while, in particular the Toupe and Oura, then I started getting problems when riding longer distances whilst using them. I love the Prologo Scratch for Cyclocross and MTB and short road rides, but after a couple of hours in the saddle I started to get hot spots and numbness.

With this summers TCR creeping up on me I decided to try something different. The ISM range of saddles is as different as it gets.

The guys at Upgrade bikes provided me with 2 demo saddles, one of the Performance Short range (Road model) and one of the Performance Narrow range (Attack P1.1 Model), the Short range is designed for TT's and anyone sitting in one position for hours on end, the Narrow range is designed more for climbers and road riding. Being much narrower than the Short saddles there is a lot more room to move around.

Setup is different to a traditional saddle as the ISM saddles are roughly 2 inches shorter in the nose, so saddle position relative to the bike needs to be adjusted, but the results are nothing short of miricaulous.

One short ride was all it took for me to be convinced. It's a very different feeling and totally pleasant, the nose (if you can call it that) is wider but you sit further forward so you don't feel it. Your sit bones take the weight with absolutley no pressure or even contact with your soft tissue. I had to drop my saddle by 6mm to accomodate the higher profile of the ISM and I moved the saddles back from my traditional saddle position of 54.5cm nose to bar clamp to a huge sounding 59cm, but with no nose the relative position is almost identical to a traditional saddle. There is contact with the saddle that you can feel but it's not uncomfortable, i'm sure after 2 or 3 rides and a couple of tweaks it will be spot on.

To sum it up; For a traditional saddle that will be used on my 'Cross bikes and for MTB then a Prologo Scratch is the one. For everything else it's an ISM and I won't be going back.

They do look weird though, but if looks were everything then no one would ride a PlanetX, right kids! :)

ISM Road SRP : £129.99 ISM P1.1 SRP : £99.99 ISM Attack : SRP £174.99

Transcontinental Race 2015

What are you doing this summer?

I know what myself and my good buddy Russ over at Shand Cycles are doing; racing our bikes from somewhere in Flanders to a bar in Istanbul. That's a distance of 4000km (2500 miles ish) and we have only 14 days to finish if we want to make the finishing party that's being held in the Bosphorus brewery.

This years Transcontinental Race is the 3rd incarnation and looks like it's the longest and possibly the hardest that Mike Hall and his band of sadistic helpers have put together so far. There are 4 check points en-route, including the top of Mont Ventoux and the whole event is run like an ITT (Independent Time Trial).

I've looked and read about the TCR since it started 3 years ago, but I've never been brave enough to contemplate it seriously, this year though Mike has allowed Pairs to compete officially and this appeals a bit more and it means that some of the stress and responsibility is shared not to mention the navigation. (I could get lost going to the corner shop)

Funnily enough Russ had been of the same opinion and when I suggested we take a look at getting an entry he agreed (silly bugger). We made it through the application process, negotiating the over subscribed servers and waited with baited breath until we got the nod in Dec that we were in!

Obviously kit choice is a major consideration, none more so than the type of bike capable of carrying us in a befitting manner that distance. Russ and I spoke about bespoke custom Shand frames and forks but when we looked at the numbers it was obvious that an off the peg large Stoater would do nicely, ta very much.

For wheels up front I'm building us some Supernova Infinity S dynamo hubs onto Stans NoTubes Grail rims with Sapim race spokes 32 hole 3X which when coupled with Supernova lights and USB charging devices will provide us with light and power along the way. The guys at Amba marketing have been great providing some great advice and supplying us with everything we need.

For tyres we are going to try a few options but i think my preference so far is Schwalbe 1 in a 28mm width running tubeless (there's an off road section along the way).

We will both be using Widcat gear's excellent bike luggage to carry the little kit we will have with us as it's British made and they have years of experience with Bike Packing and sleeping in ditches :)

Training has begun, the freezing weather is not helping much but we are still clocking up the miles, and by starting early in the year we get a chance to try out the majority of our kit before we board the ferry to Belgium in July.

We aim to update our blogs and social media feeds with further equipment choices and things we discover over the next few months as our minds and bodies adapt to the vast mileage and stresses, then when we start it may go a bit quiet, but we will carry spot transmitters to allow people to know our whereabouts.

Istanbul here we come! EEK!


Gale force winds, sub zero temperatures, snow, road closures, travel disruption, trees down all over the place. Perfect conditions for the 10th Anniversary of the 'StrathPuffer' this weekend.Several of The Happy Cog's customers are brave daft enough to be competing; Addy, Sam, Doug, Rob, Fraser and Davy good luck to them all, try to have fun and rest assured we'll be watching via the live timing (obviously next to the fire with a nice hot cup of tea, which we promise not to enjoy at all.)

Wrap up warm and keep the rubber side down, all be-it that some of you have ice spikes in that rubber.


Wrapping Up

That's it, we're closing the door for Christmas. It's been a busy last few months and it wouldn't have happened without you, so a huge thanks to everyone that has been involved; all our lovely customers (and Addy ;) ), commentators ( Neebo, Simon, Doug etc. ), team mates (the VCM massive), James Orr the Mechanical Overlord, Chris at 2Pure, Rusty Sprout and loads of other people that have helped us get going this year. Cheers.

Enjoy the time off with your family and friends. Wrap up, go out for a ride and have a cracking Christmas.


Sssshh Don't tell...

We've got some Carbon coming... Working alongside the splendiferous Bike Village out in T'Alps we are bringing some rather special carbon mountain bike rims in for a test. Sam at BV has been riding them for a while now and swears they are awesome, and if he rates them for use over in 'Bourg on his mighty trails then they must be good.

The rims are slightly different in build and shape and work wonderfully Tubeless.

More info and some pictures, diagrams as we get them.

Tubeless Cyclocross Tyres - What Works?

Graeme Warren gives us his rundown on what tubeless cyclocross tyres have worked for him over the years : "The last couple of Scottish Cyclocross seasons have allowed me to run a variety of different tyres (I'm not a serial tyre swapper, but I have tried different tyres depending on what was on offer and what I had lying around).

Initially I ran a tubeless setup use Stans Crest rims - a wider rim designed for 29" mountain bike wheels, also perfectly capable of being used as a cyclocross wheel, albeit giving a slightly wider tyre profile than traditional skinny CX rims. The first tyres used were the Maxxis Raze - inflated after a bit of persusasion and stayed inflated well. The grip is low though - these are quite a quick, fast rolling tyres but struggle for grip or traction in the mud.

The following season I ran a Schwalbe Racing Ralph at each end - these inflated relatively easily and lasted relatively well - the rear eventually gave up after a year of regular use. Grip is much better than the Maxxis - a reasonable all round tyre.

For 2013 I moved to Stans Iron Cross Rims (1mm or so narrower than the Crest) and tried a Clements PDX at each end. These are slightly lighter and more supple than the Racing Ralphs, and that was reflected with the slight extra difficulty with which they inflated - I eventually succeeded with the compressor, but ran the front tyre for a year without incident once it was inflated. These have a slightly more aggressive tread than Racing Ralphs and were faultless in a relatively dry year of Scottish cross. The rear unfortunately didn't fare so well - a ripped lug in it's first race wouldn't seal, and whilst it would probably do a turn with an inner tube in or with a tyre patch, I haven't used it since.

This year, I am back on a Racing Ralph on the rear (a new design which seems perfectly grippy and inflated ridiculously easily with a track pump) and started off with a Rocket Ron upfront. Thin sidewalls on the latter led to a puncture on a rock at Strathclyde Park, which has given me the opportunity to finally try a Challenge tyre up front. Whilst Challenge are better known for their super supple tan sidewall tyres and tubulars, they now do the Grifo in a more regular tyre casing - in 60tpi or 120tpi flavours. The latter is supposedly more supple. These inflated as well as any other CX tyre I have tried, and stayed inflated without issue. I only have one race under my belt on them, but initial impressions are good - they seem to roll better on the road than the Clements PDX, but still have a good tread which kept me upright on Irvine's off camber grass. I might have a new favourite all round CX tyre here"... Graeme.

Oh heck oh no it's the Grifolo

Whilst we all love the Challenge Grifo Open Pro [the one with the skin wall] for it's grip and speed in all but the muddiest of conditions, there's one thing it cannot do, and that's run Tubeless!Although I have run them tubeless successfully for a 'while', they are not a viable Tubeless option and there are much better alternatives, including the 120tpi Grifo. The problem with the Open Pro design for Tubeless setups is that they are incredibly flexible and they can roll off the rim with some combinations of rim, tape and pressure. As such I no longer recommend the Open Pro Grifo for tubeless with any combination of rim, pressure etc. If you want to run Tubeless and want the Grifo tread then you should chose the 60tpi or 120tpi version produced by Challenge.

The 120Tpi version is now standard kit on Helen Wyman's signature bike from Kona and it's set up Tubeless from the off.

The RRP of the 120tpi is £35

50 Days until Christmas?!

My daughter reminded me today that it's 'only' 50 days until Christmas, and as any 6 year old will tell you that's really not that long to get your Santa list ready.

To help you on your way to being ready for when the fat man comes down the chimney here's my Christmas list for 2015, and yes there's 12 items on it, but sadly no 'Maids a leaping'.

Pedro's tyre levers

Pedro's tyre levers

Probably the best plastic tyre levers on the market. Strong and solid, almost indestructible and now available in colours other than Yellow.

Pedro's Prestige Track pump

Pedro's Track pump

Rated up to a max of 160psi, the Prestige floor pump is a great purchase for the enthusiastic rider or busy workshop.

Pedro's Starter tool roll

Starter Tool Kit

The Starter Tool Kit is designed for the aspiring mechanic looking to get started with the right tools and room to grow.

Chris King Stainless Steel Pint Tumbler

Chris King Stainless Steel Pint Tumbler

Klean Kanteen's lightweight and durable stainless steel pint tumbler issubtly etched with the Chris King bearing logo, making it the perfect takealong for 'cross races, river floats, or summer concerts.

Chris King coffee tamper

Chris King coffee tamper

Our espresso tamper is born from an appreciation of the coffee making process as much as the coffee it produces. We worked in collaboration with the Portland, Oregon based America Barista & Coffee School to develop a professional grade espresso tamper with precise dimensions, exceptional feel, and the iconic shape that every cyclist recognizes as the very best.

Pedro's grease gun

Pedro's grease gun

Keep you hands clean and grease-free by using the Pedro's grease injector! Designed to fit Pedro's grease tubes and all standard 9/16' grease tubes.

Pedro's Pro brushes

Pro Brush Kit

Bicycle specific brushes designed to detail any bike. Specific brushes for each job clean even the most hard to reach places of a bicycle.

Birzman - Zyklop C Bag With Tools

Birzman - Zyklop C Bag With Tools

Trailhead style toolkit or a long distance tourists "get out of jail free" card the Zyklop C bag has everything you could need to keep you rolling in all but the most exceptional circumstances. There is even a chain tensioner ready to convert your steed to a single speed should your rear mech fail.

X-Tools Steel Core Tyre Lever

An awesome dog

Nylon tire levers with heat-treated high grade steel cores for superior durability without damaging the inner tire.

Stans no Tubes Valve core tool

Stans no Tubes Valve core tool

Can be used to remove the valve core from any schrader valve or from our removable core presta valve. High quality tool is fully CNC′d from 6061 aluminum, red anodized, and features a laser etched logo.

Pedro's Chain Keeper

Chain Keeper

This ingenious chain mounting accessory eases maintenance and cleaning.

Muc Off 8-In-One Bike Cleaning Kit

Muc Off 8-In-One Bike Cleaning Kit

The Muc-Off 8 in 1 Bicycle Cleaning Kit is perfect for any lover of bikes. Complete with our Nano Tech Bike Cleaner, Expanding Microcell Sponge, Soft Washing Brush, Detailing Brush, Claw Brush, Two Prong Brush, Bike Spray and Storage Tub this kit has pretty much everything you need to keep your bike looking nice and tidy. It makes a great Christmas or Birthday gift for your bicycle obsessed friends and family.


Tubeless tyre pressure

Something i don't think enough people re-enforce is the correct tyre pressure to use when running tubeless.The clever blokes over at Stans quote this on the matter :

To determine a starting tubeless tyre pressure when running a ZTR rim use this simple formula: Rider Weight in pounds divided by 7 = x x - 1 = Front tyre pressure in PSI x + 2 = Rear tyre pressure in PSI

Example: 185lb rider (13 stone or 84kg) 185/7 = 26.4 Front tyre pressure: 26 - 1 = 25 PSI Rear tyre pressure: 26 + 2 = 28 PSI

Their road pressure recommendations are listed below and this is ONLY with an appropriate Road Tubeless tyre such as the Schwalbe 1:

< 60 kg / 130 lb = 5,5 bars / 80 psi

65 - 75 kg / 140 - 165 lb = 6 - 7 bars / 87 - 101 psi

> 80 kg / 185 lb = 7,5 bars - 8 bars / 108-116 psi

I would also recommend starting 10psi less than this and see how you get on (Stan says the same BTW).

For reference all Stans No Tubes rims carry a sticker stating their Max pressure, this does not apply if you put a tube in, in that case note the max pressure stated on the tyre.

If you have any query regarding pressure for other rim manufacturers then drop me a line and I'll fill you in with the necessary info.

New road disc rims

More road disc rims are available than ever before, my current favourites both feature the ability to run tubeless (of course) have no braking surface and half decent weights too:

Pacenti SL25 - 430g, 25mm width, 26mm depth.

NEW 25mm wide disc specific rims, light strong satin black a classy looking rim.


Stans NoTubes Grail - 460g, 24mm width, 24mm depth

The Grail


The right tubeless tools for the job

Steel shanked tyre levers are the tools for the job when it comes to Tubeless tyre changes. Even with the best technique sometimes a little bit of extra oomph is required. Schwalbe seems to have the tightest rim/tyre fit I've encountered. X-Tools Steel Core Tyre Lever Set are nylon with a steel core so they provide the strength without damaging the tyre or rim (so long as you use them correctly) Never use them to seat a tyre with a tube in it unless you like patching tubes.


X-Tools Tyre Levers


A valve core removal tool is handy if you want to stand a cat in hells chance of inflating and seating your tyres with just a track pump and absolutely essential for getting the sealant into your tyres and not all over the floor or yourself.

The Stans No Tubes valve core remover does both Presta and Schraeder and is of an all metal construction.


NoTubes Core Remover


CX Tubs, Tyres & Tubeless

Cyclocross, It's a funny/weird old game. No more so than when it comes to Rubber. For new-comers to the sport the options can be mind boggling and packed full of Jargon, for example who would know that an 'Open tubular' is not a Tubular at all but a very pliable clincher? Not I cried my good friend and ex DH MTB pro who has joined us on the start line this year (therefore depriving me of yet another point ).

To help clear up any confusion here's my round up of all things Rubbery in the world of 'Cross, CX, Cyclocross, Gravel etc...

Tubular : The pro's choice.

Tubulars or Tubs as they get called are basically a tyre and latex tube stitched together into a big sausage, this then gets attached (I'll come back to how in a minute) to a special Tubular rim. Tubular rims have a different profile from normal (Clincher) rims and cannot take normal open tyres as they have no bead socket.

The advantages are that Tubular tyres can be run at low pressures without fear of pinch flats, they give masses of grip because they can be run at 20psi, the tyre wheel combination is lighter and because of the way they are fixed to the rim the transfer of power is actually better than with normal rims.

There are disadvantages though and this is why Tubs are found mainly on Pro and 'serious' (not that serious it is 'Cross after all) riders bikes. The Tubs themselves are expensive roughly twice the cost of a clincher (read on and I'll explain). Fixing tubs for 'Cross to rims is a messy and time consuming job. If it's done correctly Tubs require a combination of glue and special adhesive fabric tape (often known as belgian tape) built up layer by layer over a period of a few days, then some poor soul has to wrestle these sticky rubbery things onto the other sticky carbon or aluminium things then tug and pull them into alignment and then put sealant in them. God forbid you make a mistake like putting the tyre on the wrong way (Sorry Steven) as the rim and the Tub are not parting company in a hurry and the mess is horrendous. [I know you can use tape only but I've seen quite a few riders carrying their bikes back to the pits when a Tub that was taped has let go of the rim] Having different tyres for different conditions means having multiple wheelsets with you, tyre choice is critical in Scotland where we can go from sand to thick mud in 24 hours, but you can run really low pressures so your intermediates can be suitable for mud, but they're still not mud tyres. They do puncture and they are not easy or cheap to repair. I for one do not like the Schwalbe Tubs as I have ripped them open so often it's not funny. On the other hand the Challenge Tubs are excellent.

In conclusion : Tubs are the Pro's choice for a reason, once you've ridden them you'll understand why, but they are not cheap and they are not home mechanic friendly unless you're significant other has no objection to the smell of solvents and glue invading the living room while you try to keep the glue warm to stop it from setting instantly during the depths of winter. Tub rims start at about £50 for Velocity Major Tom's and go upwards rapidly from there into the £000's, Tubular tyres are roughly £80+, Glueing and sticking costs £25 a wheel.


Clinchers : Normal tyres and tubes

You may not know it but you're probably riding clinchers already. Normal vulcanized tyres (ones that have shape when you take them off the rim), butyl rubber inner tubes and traditional rims are what most bikes will be equipped with. The advantage of this combination of tyres, tubes and rims is the endless combinations that can be put together and the cost. The disadvantage is the lack of puncture resistance, the pressure required to improve this and the weight. Pinch flats are what happens when the rim and the tube get 'pinched' together on impact with an obstacle or hard landing,  this results in a 'snake bite' puncture, so called because of the twin holes like the bite of a snake. To minimise the risk of the Pinch flat you can do 3 things:

  • Run higher pressures. This then looses you grip and makes the bike handle poorly.
  • Use super supple tyres such as the Challenge Open Pro. These are awesome tyres and do add a good amount of puncture resistance, and with a Latex tube don't weigh too much, this is a very common setup at CX races.
  • Use sealant such as Stans No Tubes inside your tubes just in case you puncture. Again this adds weight and is not fool proof as sometimes the holes in the tube will be too big for the sealant to cope with. Also you need tubes with removable cores to allow you to pump sealant in.

In conclusion: Most people will have ridden and raced on Clinchers and for the majority of people that aren't concerned about weight or grip they will be ideal due to the cost and readily available tyres, tubes and rims for all conditions. But there are better options out there in the form of Tubeless ...

Tubeless : Tyres that fit like Clinchers but as the name suggests no Tubes .

People will tell you that Tubeless is a new thing and unproven. Not True. Myself and Andy Kyffin were succesfully running Tubeless on a certain Sheffield DH'ers bikes in 2002. Tubeless involves the use of a few specialist ingredients and has many versions, for 'Cross I've used both the 'Rim Strip' method and the 'Tape' method. There is also UST - Universal System Tubless (UST) rims that require no sealant or rim strips but I've not used them for cyclocross, yet. If you take a standard clincher rim it is possible to make it Tubeless using a rubber Rim Strip, this basically seals the rim and provides an air tight seal for a standard Clincher tyre. Chuck in a bit of sealant and Bob's your Auntie. BUT I have found when using the combination of the narrow profile of most road rims ( 19mm ish ) and the wider tyres ( roughly 32mm ) that tyres do sometimes 'Burp' (leak air and sealant in corners) or even roll off the rim. This is not a problem with MTB wheels where the width of the rim and the tyres is much closer and the tyres tend to be stiffer, i've succesfully run this style of Tubeless on my Mountain bike for years with no problems.

If you invest in some Tubeless specific rims then it's a different story. Tubeless rims from the likes of Stans No Tubes, H+ Son or Velocity have a different profile and include a 'Hook' in the rim to provide more grip to the bead of the tyre to stop burping or rolling off, no need for rim strips just some light tape also means the weight saving is impressive especially when you consider the weight is saved at the outside of the rotational mass where it counts most. Combine these rims with one of the emerging Tubeless specific 'Cross tyres such as the WTB CrossWolf or the 120tpi Challenge Grifo and your good to go, almost...

The advantages of Tubeless are numerous:

Low tyre pressures so more grip, more feel and more speed. Lighter weight than Clinchers so more speed. No pinch flats so much better puncture resistance. You can use standard tyres and rims if you want so you can have tyres for every occasion and condition. The Tubeless specific tyres are half the price of tubulars and don't need messy glue to attach them. In some cases if you pick you're wheel components carefully you can go Tubeless for less money and less weight than Tubular. If you do get a puncture just bung a tube in, no problem.

There are some lessons to be learned though, it's not all a bed of roses:

Not all tyre and rim combinations work, even the Tubeless specific ones. You will get covered in sealant changing tyres if you're not careful. You might want to invest in a small compressor to seat the tyres properly, a garden spray with soapy water helps too.

In Conclusion: Tubeless is the way forward for those riders that want the grip and weight advantage of Tubulars without their cost and their technically awkward fitting, and riders that want the benefits of the ease of use and cost of Clinchers without their disadvantages; punctures, weight and lack of feel & grip. Setup can be a bit hit and miss. You don't want to be changing tyres the night before a race, but get everything done in time and the results are impressive.


This should go some way to helping understand the jargon and hyperbole surrounding the subject of Tyres and Wheels for 'Cross, if i've missed anything, you have any questions, or want to discuss what would suit you best then get in touch