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Hutchinson Intensive Road tubeless tyres are excellent off-season tyres, offering a good ride and decent puncture resistance.
Tubeless tyres have been around in the mountain bike world for a few years, but are still new territory for road bikes. Hutchinson is one of several manufacturers adopting the new technology, with tubeless-specific options including the lightweight Atom and the mid-weight Fusion. Recently added to the collection is the Intensive, a heavier tyre designed for rough roads in both wet and dry conditions.
The Intensives are size 700x25c and have a Kevlar puncture resistant strip under the tread. They're not light, with an advertised weight of 320g and coming in around 350g on the road.cc scales - but that's still a pretty reasonable weight for winter tyres. And don't forget, when comparing the weight of a tubeless tyre against a normal tyre, you can deduct the weight of an inner tube (80-120g depending what you ride), although you do need to add a bit for the liquid latex sealant solution that goes in the tyre (20g - more on this later).
But before going any further, a clarification might be called for. When we say tubeless tyres, we mean clincher tyres that fit straight onto the rim with NO inner tube. This is totally different to tubular tyres.
All clear? Right. On we go...
To test these tyres, we fitted them to a pair of tubeless-specific Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels, and it was not a straightforward job. Firstly because tubeless tyres by their very nature need to be a tight fit to get the airtight seal between tyre bead and inner rim, and secondly because the internal section of the rim on the Fulcrum 3 is a different shape to a normal clincher wheel, with a well that's narrow and shallow. The first bead of the Intensive went on the wheel okay, and then most of the second bead was okay too, but the last few inches of the second bead was a bugger to get over the rim, even with a dash of washing up liquid (as per instruction leaflet) to help lube it over.
But once on the rim, the beads of the Intensive flexed outwards enough to contact the rim all round, and pumped up first time using a track pump. There was no need for any sealant solution to plug the gaps, or for C02 canisters to supply a big rush of air to force the tyre to make first contact with the rim.
At first, the tyres did not align perfectly on the rims, and showed a bit of side-to-side and up-and-down wobble. But that was easily sorted. Dropping the pressure to about 40psi meant they could be gripped in the palms of both hands and twisted slightly to sit nice and straight.
Next, we pumped the tyres up to their maximum recommended 115psi. Although the packaging promised 700x25, the road.cc callipers had the width a tad under 24mm when fitted to the Fulcrum 3s.
To test the tyres' airtight qualities, we left them on the wheels overnight. After eight hours, the pressure in the front tyre had dropped to 70psi, while the back was at 95psi. Not ideal, and more investigation was needed. But the sun was shining, so we pumped the tyres back up to 100, put the wheels in a bike, and went for a ride. After four hours, over some pretty rough roads, they'd dropped to the same 70/95psi.
Why the front was dropping more than the rear was initially a mystery, but when cleaning off the bike after the ride, the tyres got wet and small air bubbles appeared on the surface of the front tyre, between the tread and the sidewall, rather than between the tyre and rim as you might expect.
It was time to break out the latex.
Most tubeless tyre manufacturers recommend using latex solution in tubeless tyres. It goes in the tyre as a liquid but it solidifies when it's squeezed outwards through a small hole, so it helps seal the tyre to the bead when fitting. So we removed the valve cores and poured 20ml of latex solution into each tyre, spun the wheels, then pumped them up to 100psi and left them overnight again.
Eight hours later they'd lost 5psi each. The latex seemed to be doing the trick.
But just to be sure, another test ride was called for. So off we went on a long jaunt through the Peak District. Covering a little under 100 miles in around seven hours, riding over some very bumpy roads, the tyres had dropped by just 5psi once more. The latex was definitely making a difference.
Now the Intensives were holding their pressure, we were able to assess their performance. Fitted to the tubeless-specific Fulcrum 3s, and running at 100psi, they rolled along very nicely, inspiring confidence, with a feel comparable to a good set of clinchers or even heavy tubs at a slightly higher pressure. The lack of an inner tube allowed the tyre to be at a lower pressure, which meant more grip and comfort on rough winter roads, but without the tyres feeling sloppy, which meant less energy wasted.
So far, so good. But although the ride quality was great, it wasn't THAT different to a set of normal good quality clinchers. Which begs the question: Why change to tubeless?
Apart from ride quality, the main benefit is less chance of getting punctures. With no inner tube, snakebites are impossible, while objects such thorns effectively plug the hole they've made, so air escapes more slowly – a definite benefit, as anyone who's suffered a sudden blowout, especially on a descent, will tell you. And with latex solution inside tyres, the holes are quickly and automatically filled and mended - often without you even noticing.
But if you slice your tyre on a large piece of glass or flint and get a real flat, things start to get tricky. Theoretically, in emergency situations, tubes can be fitted inside a tubeless tyre, but reality proved somewhat different.
First we had to get one side of the tyre off, and it was pretty tight. Some tubeless wheel manufacturers recommend not using tyre levers when removing or fitting tyres but we found this impossible and resorted to plastic levers so as not to damage the rim. After snapping two levers we finally got one side of the tyre off, and promptly got our hands sticky as the latex solution escaped.
Taking the second bead off the wheel was easier, although we had to take the valve out of the rim, which was also wedged in pretty tight.
Then we refitted an Intensive with an inner tube in the usual way, which was a very tough job, but just about possible without tyre levers - but with a lot of straining. And all this was in the road.cc workshop. Doing it at the side of the road would be a nightmare.
But once fitted, it was impossible to get the Intensive tyre seated properly on the rim. It wobbled from side to side, and up and down. No amount of gripping, twisting and swearing would straighten it.
Fitting an inner tube in an emergency might be easier with different brands of tubeless tyre or with different brands of tubeless wheel, or with tubeless tyres on non-tubeless rims converted using a kit, but successfully fitting an Intensive tyre and inner tube on a Fulcrum 3 tubeless rim was impossible.
So can we recommend these tyres? Yes, as tyres, the Intensives are very good. They roll along nicely, and are very sturdy, with good grip and comfort, and resistant to (let's say) 99% of punctures. If you've already embraced tubeless, then these tyres are a great option for autumn, winter and early spring riding.
But if you're the sort of cyclist that worries about that 1% when you might be stuck far from home with a flat you can't fix, then these tyres are best avoided.
Great tyres for autumn, winter and early spring rides, giving a secure, comfortable ride, and should prove highly puncture resistant. But if you do get a flat, you'll need a good back-up plan.
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Make and model: Hutchinson Intensive Road Tubeless tyres
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The website of Extra UK (Hutchinson's UK distributor) has this to say about the Intensives: 'The performance of the Fusion tyre concept but in an ultra long distance version incorporating 'Hardskin' technology to resist cuts and perforations without loss of comfort or power.'
The claims about resisting cuts is true, as is the claim about comfort. However, weighing about 30-60g more than the Fusion, there will inevitably be a minor impact on the power you transmit from pedalling to moving the wheel along the road, but this is a payoff most riders will be prepared to take if it means less chance of punctures.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Extra UK website emphasises two key tech features:
* Kevlar-Protech puncture protection
* Thermoplastic reinforced gum improves longevity and performance without decreasing grip
The rubber compound of the tread and sidewalls seem fine, with no cuts evident after some our first few test-rides on some pretty rough roads. The strange apparant leaking out of the front tyre knocks a point off, although this was easily fixed with the latex solution.
The tyres inspire confidence on winter roadfs, rolling along very nicely, with a feel comparable to a good set of clinchers or even heavy tubs at a slightly higher pressure. The lack of an inner tube allowed the tyre to be at a lower pressure, which meant more grip and comfort on rough winter roads, but without the tyres feeling sloppy, which meant less energy wasted.
Judging by the first 200 miles or so, these tyres are strong and durable.
Each tyre's advertised wight is 320g, although we found them nearer 350g on the road.cc scales. Still not a bad weight for a winter tyre, and very good indeed when you remember the weight of the inner tube can be deducted. Weight weenies will need to consider the extra 20g of latex solution, plus of course a valve. But no rim tape....
The tyres give a comfortable ride, as mentioned under 'Performance'.
The Hutchinson Intensive's recommended retail price is a penny under £57. If you're a tubeless evangelist, you'll say this is a fair price. If you're still a doubter, then this may be another aspect of tubeless to put you off making the switch.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable, conmfidence-inspiring ride on winter roads
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Fitting and removing. Fear of punctures far from home.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes. Definitetly. Very impressed with comfort and ride quality.
Would you consider buying the product? Personally, no. The spectre of a serious (and irreparable) flat tyre, far from home, puts me off.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they've already embraced tubeless.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
As tubeless technology on road bikes is still a relatively new phenomenon, it's tricky to separate specific comments about the Intensive tyres from more general comments about tubeless tyres as a whole. I have tried as far as possible to focus on my experience riding (and fitting/removing) the Intensives. Other riders may have other views – especially on options for repairing punctures and getting home without having to phone a buddy or understanding spouse for a lift.
Age: 50 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,