I had a bit of an online chat with Lee Shunburne today who’d read the Paul Oldham interview talking about – amongst other things – tubeless tyres for the 3 peaks. Lee and I go back a few years and he’s one of those familiar faces at all the national trophy cyclocross events over the years. Paradoxically (to me!) he’s never ridden the 3 peaks but will put that right in the next couple of years.
Lee’s generously volunteered some hands-on experience with riding tubeless on a CX bike and it’s a fascinating insight, backing up quite a bit of opinion that seems to be coming over from our enthusiastic ‘cross cousins in the US.
From Lee himself:
I got sick of constant pinch punctures at pressures that actually gave any grip, so thought I’d give it a go (been running tubeless on the MTB for a while so I had some of the kit already), my cx training wheels are bog-basic Open Pros with Vredestein Premiato tyres. I like the Premiatos as although they’re narrow (34mm actually comes up as a 30) the tread pattern is the same as a Typhoon so it’s good practice for racing. Anyway, I picked up a couple of proper Stans strips from nextdaytyres.com and fitted them along with some yellow spoke tape. Tyres went straight up and sat properly on the rim with a bit of soap suds on the bead. Half a scoop of Stans liquid shaken around inside and they sealed within about 10 minutes.
I’ve been running them at about 30 front 35 rear for a few weeks and have had no problems at all, bouncing them off rocks and roots pretty much with impunity. Grip is pretty good, particularly in comparison to others out with me who have to run 60-70 to prevent pinching! Ride quality is much improved over using a tube, more flexibilty and comfort.
I tried to go lower with pressure to see what it would be like on a standard cross course, but at 20-25 it was possible to unseat the bead slightly in corners and lose pressure. They’re a narrow tyre though so I bet with something bigger like a Mud 2 you could go lower. The ride still isn’t up to tub-quality, partly due to the pressure but mainly I suspect down to the stiffness of the sidewalls. And I’d say that I might have been lucky so far with the tyres, they’re fairly fragile all in all so I might go for something tougher when these wear out. I’m using them well out of their design spec though so I can’t complain!
So all in all I’d say for normal racing tubs still have a clear advantage, but for your mid-pack rider or those who can’t be arsed with tubs then they’re miles better than tubes. For the 3 Peaks they might just be the Holy Grail!”
I’m interested to see if he’s right – it certainly makes sense when you hear about those sort of tyre pressures and no punctures. I’m sticking with tubulars for now though and will let others carry on with the research for me…!