[This article was last updated on February 1, 2018]
With winter nearly upon us, and spurred by this forum discussion, it’s a good time to take a look at the current tubeless options for the winter. Swapping lightweight race tyres for sturdier rubber is a sensible idea for riding through the winter, with extra puncture protection and tread compounds designed to provide more traction in the wet. With the rise in popularity of tubeless, there's a growing choice of winter-specific tubeless tyres, we've rounded up eight for your consideration below.
Let’s get the why bit out of the way first, just in case you’re not already a fan. Almost zero punctures being the biggest advantage over a regular inner tube clincher setup, and nowhere is that more of a benefit than during winter riding. Okay, so the installation can sometimes be a tricky old mess, but it’s getting easier all the tyre with better tyres, rims, tubeless kits and pumps. This guide below takes you through the tubeless installation steps and shows it doesn't need to be all that difficult.
I’ll happily admit to being a road tubeless convert. My personal tubeless epiphany came during one cold and wet winter ride many years ago. Riding along a busy road the rear tyre suddenly burst a leak. Fortunately, the sealant in the tyre quickly plugged the hole (and thanks to mudguards I was suitably protected from a stripe of gunk up my back) and the escaping air quickly stopped with only a small pressure drop. Importantly, I didn’t need to stop while this incident occurred and continued the ride.
What are your options?
Despite the clear advantages of tubeless tyres, the choice is still somewhat limited, though it does get a bit better every year. There’s still a reluctance from some tyre brands to go near it, while others have fully embraced it, willing to invest in the technology to make it a viable alternative to regular clinchers.
What do you want from a winter road tyre? You want extra durability compared to a summer race tyre, with a carcass and tread that is more resistance to the debris that can litter wet roads during the winter months. You might want a bit of extra width, provided your bike has clearance, for additional comfort and the benefit of lower pressures. Tread materials for winter tyres are often modified to provide better traction when the going it slippery.
Eight tubeless winter tyre options
IRC might not be the most familiar tyre brand in the road bike market at the moment, but its Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard road tyres offer exceptionally good performance, with easy tubeless installation and great durability. The price does put them at the top end of the tyre market, though.
Traction is impressive, too, whether in the dry or wet, but it's the latter where they IRC tyres pull ahead of the latest generation Schwalbes. The IRCs feel more predictable and planted in the wet, and handle fast corners superbly.
Most of the Bontrager wheels are now tubeless-ready, and to complement them the company has started adding tubeless tyres to its range, and there are now quite a few to pick from. The R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR is its flagship road tubeless offering and is designed to be durable thanks to a butyl liner providing the reliability you want and need in the winter. It’s available in 24 and 26mm width options.
We haven’t tested this tubeless tyre yet, but have tested the regular clincher version - you can read that review here
If you crave more width, the cheaper A2 Hard-Case Lite TLR tyre is offered in extra 28 and 32mm width options, and if your bike has space for them, those are probably the ones to pick for winter riding.
The Roubaix Tubeless tyre from Specialized is pitched as an all-rounder and we reckon it has all the right ingredients for a reliable winter cycling tyre. Of course, we haven't tested it yet but that's something we'll be aiming to address very soon. Why we think the tyre will be good for winter cycling is because it uses the company’s Gripton compound, which we’ve found to be very grippy in a range of conditions, dry and wet, with shoulder sipes to increase traction through the corners. It features a 180 TPI casing with an Endurant flat protection and comes in 25mm width, weighing a claimed 295g.
The Fusion 5 is a brand new tyre from the French company that pioneered Road Tubeless many years ago, and with three models to choose from the All Season 11Storm looks the ideal choice for surviving a winter of cycling.
road.cc has tested the Performance version of this tyre. We were highly impressed with the ease of tubeless installation, traction, rolling resistance and durability. The All Season version has a specific tread pattern designed to improve wet cycling performance and has Kevlar reinforcement to prevent punctures.
The new tyre is available in 25 and 28mm widths and weighs a claimed 325g for the former.
The new Zipp Tangente RT tyre, available in 25 and 28mm widths, isn’t expressly designed as a winter tyre but tubeless goes a long way to reducing flats and the company has added a “water-siping tread pattern” to these new tyres, though there is evidence to suggest such grooves on a road bike tyre are largely pointless.
Further boosting their puncture resistance is a polyamide layer under the tread. The tyres are reasonably light, 292g claimed for the 25mm tyre and 302g for the 28mm version.
Not all bikes are going to have space for 30mm wide tyres, but if your bike does, these new Yksion Elite Allroad tyres from wheel specialist Mavic look like being a good option thanks to the tubeless-ready construction and bead-to-bead polyamide casing reinforcement.
The tyres also have a tread pattern designed to ramp up traction in adverse conditions, with side grooves for extra cornering grip on dirt and loose surface roads, while the centre section is smooth for fast rolling on the hard stuff.
Not so much a winter tyre as an adventure and gravel tyre, but we’ve been impressed with the rolling speed of this dimpled tyre on the road, and if the roads are covered in mud thanks to local farmers then they do offer a compelling benefit over narrower slicks.
Once you're off the good roads and onto the average ones – and we have plenty of them around here – any conceivable difference in rolling speed is easily outweighed by the comfort of the big air chamber, and the fact that you don't have to ease off and pick your line: just batter on through. I've not managed to put a hole in them that the sealant hasn't immediately coped with. Plus you can take them off-road as well, and they’re right at home on the canal towpaths, bridleways and trails like the South Downs Way.
There's now a road version of the G-One Allround pictured and reviewed above, called the G-One Speed. It comes in a narrower 30mm width with V-Guard protection that could be a good choice for more road-based riding, providing your frame has space for them.
Throwing a bit of a curve ball into the short list here, the fat WTB Horizon is another possible contender. Granted, it won’t fit all bikes and it might require a new set of wheels, but if it fits this is a durable, grippy, comfortable and fast rolling tyre that might, as the name suggests, open up new horizons…
It’s a 47mm wide tyre which is simply massive compared to everything else in this article, but on a 650b wheel (an old French standard resurrected by the mountain bike industry) the outside diameter is roughly the same as a regular 700c wheelset.
The tread pattern is mostly slick save for a few grooves and chevrons on the shoulders, and the grip is impressive in the wet. They instil bags of confidence on treacherous roads covered in water, mud or wet leaves.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.