German tyre company Schwalbe used Eurobike to to launch their Ultremo ZX road tubeless tyre - giving those road riders who want to go tubeless a greater choice; currently it's either Hutchinson, Kenda, or Maxiss. Ironically while we've seen a fair few new tubeless road rims - Schwalbe's Ultremo is the only new tyre.
Based on their top-end race tyre the Ultremo, the road tubeless version is claimed by the company to be the fastest tyre they've ever made. They've been three years in development as “it was technically quite challenging to produce a high-pressure tubeless racing bike tyre,” Christian Lademann, Schwalbe’s Product Manager tells us.
With the new tyre Schwalbe is confident they've overcome the high pressure and ease of fitment concerns with a new carbon bead. Fitting tubeless tyres can be a right pain, but Schwalbe reckon their design solves the problem.
The issue with tubeless road tyre development, Schwalbe tell us, has been designing a tyre that sits firmly on the rim with the high pressure a road tyre has to be run at. The tyre has to be absolutely air tight at these high pressures yet the tyre must be easy to fit, which places limits on how thick the bead core can be. Their solution is the use of carbon fibres in the bead core to give the tensile strength to avoid the tyre coming away from the rim.
Fitting solved, the next step involved vulcanising the tyre and tube to form one complete component, with additional reinforcing all round to increase puncture protection. This design, claims Schwalbe, leads to the low rolling resistance that makes the tyre faster than their lightweight Ultremo ZLX (which weighs 160g). The road tubeless version weighs 290g, which while sounding heavy you have to take into account there's no inner tube.
And with the inner tube vulcanised inside the tyre, there is no chance of sudden blow-outs. Instead air leaks very slowly when a puncture does occur which has obvious benefits when descending very fast and heat buildup is a concern.
If you're not sure of tubeless tyres and their suitability for racing, the company has been testing the new Ultremo with Fabian Cancellara Tirreno-Adriatico tour and some of the Radioshack Nissan Trek team. As such we could now start seeing a lot more tubeless tyres and wheels being offered and is perhaps one of the most exciting developments in tyre technology for a long time.
Tubeless road tyres have been around for a couple of years but so far only Hutchinson have been championing their benefits of reduced punctures and ride quality. Tubeless advocates claim they're faster than clinchers and as fast as tubulars even (they're far easier to mount than tubs as well). You can also run lower pressures so boosting ride comfort without the chance of puncturing, as there's no inner tube.
Availability is slated for September, so…er, now then.
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.