With the return of wet weather (who are we kidding, when does it really go away?), and spurred by this forum discussion, it’s a good time to take a look at the current tubeless options for wet weather (and of course these tyres are especially useful in the winter).
Swapping lightweight race tyres for sturdier rubber is a sensible idea for riding in wet weather and 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- and wet-weather-specific tubeless tyres. We've rounded up our favourites for your consideration below.
Reduced susceptibility to punctures makes tubeless tyres a good choice for wet weather.
Most of the tyres here also come in wide versions for better cushioning and grip when road surfaces are obscured by water.
Thicker tread, tougher carcasses and anti-puncture layers also help ward off flats.
It's debateable whether the wet actually increases your chances of a puncture, but it's not debateable that changing a tube in the wet is a dirty, unpleasant task best avoided.
Unless you like getting covered in road crud in which case, well, YKIOK.
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.
Despite the clear advantages of tubeless tyres, the choice is still a bit limited, though it does get better every year. There’s still a reluctance from some tyre brands to fully embrace tubeless, though the last major hold-outs, Continental and Michelin, are now on board with performance-orientated tyres. Many others have been willing to invest in the technology to make it a viable alternative to regular clinchers.
What do you want from a wet-weather 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 is slippery.
The Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance is an excellent all-rounder at a good price. For fast group rides, commutes and café rides, they don't skip a beat regardless of weather. It provides plenty of speed yet good puncture protection, and is reminiscent of the excellent Continental GP 4000 II – with the added benefit of being tubeless ready without extra podge.
The Fusion 5 Performance feels fast and grips well whatever the conditions, and even on greasy lanes.
The Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Tubeless Complete tyre is surprisingly quick and supple for something that is also robust enough to deal with all the grit and flint being washed out of the verges this time of year. Its new design makes it a step above the rest too when it comes to tubeless capability.
The Vector 4Seasons makes up part of Goodyear's Ultra High-Performance (UHP) line-up, which focuses on optimising low rolling resistance and weight, and, in the Vector's case, dealing with year-round road debris. It's quite a difficult balance to achieve but Goodyear has done a good job. The Vectors have proved themselves to be highly durable in all sorts of horrible conditions, and punctures haven't been an issue.
The Dynamic:Silica4 compound has a tacky feel to it and grip levels are very impressive, giving loads of confidence in fast bends or when tackling roundabouts while keeping up with the flow of traffic.
Vittoria's Corsa Control TLR G2.0 tyre is a fast wet weather option. Grip is very good in the wet, and the supple casing gives a really nice ride feel. Tubeless setup is easy, and the tyres perform well on faster rides.
At 323g, this isn't the lightest tubeless option out there, but it does come with the added casing reinforcement and thicker tread. If you compare these to summer race tyres then you will notice that the Corsa Control TLR feels a little slower, but we'll trade that for the increased mileage and added protection against punctures.
One to consider for wet-weather racing as Maxxis bills them as a performance tyre, the High Road Tubeless have carried over all the great points from the non-tubeless version, such as excellent grip levels and great durability, but with the added bonus of not having to stop and fix a puncture.
Puncture protection is taken care of by Maxxis' K2, a layer of Kevlar composite under the rubber, and it does a very good job. With a test period that's included heavy, sustained rain washing the debris and hedgerow cuttings into the road, I haven't had a single issue with cuts or punctures.
The Vittoria Rubino Pro TLR G2.0 is a very good general riding tubeless road tyre or even wet weather race tyre. It is designed for high miles on poor road surfaces and this is where it shines, though it isn't as fast as others.
Vittoria made a big thing about its use of graphene in its tyre compound when it first used the technology. This 2.0 version features a similar compound, but with enhanced wet weather grip, according to Vittoria.
The '3C' compound feature, Vittoria says, increases wear life and provides better rolling resistance, though it doesn't specify what that's in comparison to. I found the tyres to be grippy, with plenty of traction on both wet and dry roads. On steeper climbs in wet weather, there was no slipping from the rear wheel.
The Goodyear County Ultimate gravel tyre, which uses a specially developed Silica4 compound, offers a decent performance across road and light off-road, with good puncture resistance but perhaps a bit less suppleness than the best tyres of this type.
Goodyear describes the County as "multi-surface", which could describe its intended use as well as its tread design. Goodyear has really crammed in all the different types of tread across its 35mm width. In the centre, across around 8mm of the tyre, it's fully slick. Either side, there's about 5mm of diagonal file tread, which then segues into a fine hexagonal stipple. The outer edge of the tyre adds some square tread blocks, designed to cling on when you're cornering on a loose surface.
The Vittoria Terreno Zero tyre is nominally a gravel tyre, but it's fast-rolling on tarmac, with good puncture resistance and a reasonably grippy compound.
The Zero tyre uses a lot of the technology from Vittoria's established cyclo-cross range – the Terreno Dry, Terreno Mix and Terreno Wet models – but with a tweaked tread pattern more suitable for hardpack gravel without sacrificing performance on the road sections in between them.
Pumped up firm, they're good for pure road use, and would make for a great commuter tyre through the winter thanks to their wide profile and plenty of rubber on the road.
The Panaracer GravelKing will take some beating on rough roads in this whopping 38mm size. We've already reviewed both the 26mm and the 32mm versions of these tyres and this pothole-conquering, gravel-busting 38mm version in Nile Blue is just as impressive. It's light for a 38mm at 337g, is very easy to set up tubeless and comes in restrained black as well as blue, green and ivory. What more could you want from a winter tubeless tyre?
The Pirelli Cinturato Velo TLR is a very good tyre, especially during the winter months, offering plenty of cold and wet weather grip while also providing loads of puncture proofing. The small cost to the rolling resistance is worth it for the durability.
Ritchey has gone inverse with the tread on its Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyres to create a tyre that grips on light gravel and rough sections of broken country lane while also offering a smooth ride if you want to get a shift on on the tarmac. A very impressive all-round tyre choice indeed.
You'll need room in your frame for 35mm tyres to fit the tubeless version of the Alpine JB WCS Stronghold, as the 30mm version is only available with a conventional casing.
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 tubeless 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 31mm width, weighing a claimed 375g.
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.
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 tubeless 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 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.
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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.