Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Tubeless" sucks. Tubeless rules!

I shot a pic on tonight's ride that, to me, sums up the need for a 'real' tubeless tire and the downfall (at least around here) of all ghetto/homebrew tubeless stuff.
This section is indicative of many, many miles of our local and regional trails. Hit one of the available lines just perfect and you're golden--at least until the next section. Miss the line and hold your breath, waiting for the nearly inevitable hissing that tells you just cut a sidewall.

Because our local loops have so many square edged ledges and hatchet rocks, you'll pinch or cut a sidewall at least once per ride if you're running tubes at anything less than ridiculous pressures. Because the terrain is often kitty litter over hardpack that rewards, nay, demands lowish pressures to keep you upright, *AND* because the roads en route to all of our trails are littered with goatheads, I've spent mucho time and $$$ the past 7 years trying to get a ghetto tubeless system to last more than a ride without shitting the bed. And it was a rare setup (or a lucky day) that lasted more than one ride before I had to stick a tube in and limp home.

It seems those days are over.

Earlier this summer Hutchinson released what they called a 'tubeless ready' 29" tire. Thrilled that such a beast finally existed, I ordered several, inflated them with some goop onto a few different tubeless ready rims, then proceeded to be deflated as the reality never lived up to the promise. They never held air (not even overnight), sidewalls were very thin and easy to cut, and the tread was sub optimal (and that's being optimistic) for anything I like to ride. Gradually I wore them out or gave them away, and went back to tubes and too-high pressures.

Not too long after, Bontrager released the ACX TLR tire. I bit. Again. And they bit, again. This time the tread was decent and the casing size was good, but damn if I could ever get them to hold air even overnight. For a few weeks I just dealt with it, pumping them up every few hours on rides and telling myself that eventually they'd seal. Nope, they never did, and a sidewall cut at 12,000' as a thunderstorm bore down sealed the deal: I was done with these tires.

Well, I'm nothing if not a sucker for the latest geegaw, so when I saw that Bontrager had released a Dry X TLR tire, I ordered a few in and went to work.

And this time, they get a HUGE thumbs up.

I've been riding them on two different bikes for the past two weeks, with mucho miles through terrain similar to the pic at the top. They hold air *without* sealant. That alone is huge, although because of the goatheads I'm running sealant anyway. But they also have a thicker, more durable sidewall than any other 29" tire to date. I'm sure that at some point I'll screw up huge and earn a sidewall cut on these guys, but it's gonna take something special to do it. Haven't been able to burp them yet, despite running ~20psi on both ends and riding the bikes pretty aggressively through stuff like what's pictured above.

Color me happy.

More tread patterns and varying widths are needed to compliment this one for sure. But it sure is a great first step.

On a non-tech geek related note, I'm very much enjoying my time on the SS lately.I'm not remotely in SS shape (ahhh--those were the days) but enjoying riding it and seeing some small improvement each time I head out. Great stuff.

MC