For the last three hundred miles I’ve been running a tubeless set up on my Orange Five. Not some cobbled together adaptation either but the Real McCoy, a Mavic 819 UST Tubeless wheelset with Panaracer Fire XC tubeless tyres.
So how have I got on?
Well, first of all I was a bit dubious of the whole tubeless idea to be honest, the thought of being marooned in the middle of nowhere without a means of holding air in the tyres just wasn’t too appealing. But I allowed myself to be talked round to the concept and I’ve countered potential problems by carrying a spare inner tube and making myself a tyre boot to cover those kind of emergencies.
The first thing to note about the experience is how stiff the wheels are – the absence of spoke eyelets going right through the rim means these wheels are inherently stiffer in any case, especially when coupled with the bolt-through front set up. So far I’ve not needed to tweak the spoke tension or anything which is a very good sign and the wheels themselves in stealth black look strong and durable.
As for the Panaracer tyres, again I had my doubts. They are much faster rolling than my previous treads (basic Continental Verticals) which serves as a reminder of how much of a difference tyres (and tyre width) can make. For most of the time they hold on predictably, to the point where I haven’t really given them much thought even though occassionally the back has stepped out under power on wet roots.
Having said that, I haven’t really had much reason to think positively about them either, they just seem to do what you want. I guess you could say they are the epitome of a good all-round trail tyre.
The reason I went for them was I was advised firstly that they were good for our Surrey Hills riding but also that Panaracer tubeless tyres are that bit tougher than the equivalent from other manufacturers. That may well be the case, but last Thursday proved a bit of a disappointment when I punctured with a flint cut near Denbies. Fortunately my backup supplies came to my aid but it was a bit messy as the liquid latex I had in the tyre to seal smaller cuts got everywhere!
Now I have a quandry – do I replace the ‘temporary’ inner tube with a new £30 tubeless tyre and latex combination or just quietly stick to running a tube again? Apart from what is a relatively minor flint cut the tyre is fine with barely any wear to it so it seems a shame to waste it. If I replace it, should I go for the same tyre again given that so far I’ve found them competent but not awe-inspiring?
Maybe I’ll put the Panaracer on my On-one instead because on balance the tubeless idea is great and I don’t want to give up on it yet. I personally haven’t found the whole ‘you can run it with less tyre pressure’ thing to be very accurate, nor have I noticed the ‘lower rolling resistance’ effect. In fact, on occasion when the tyre pressure did drop the bike felt very weird and squirrelly.
But on balance it really is quite liberating to be riding with little expectation of a puncture even if you know sooner or later you will get one. Given that when the tyres are properly set up the bike just goes where I want it without me having to second guess the grip level I would give the whole experience a big thumbs up.
It’s not a chalk and cheese change from running tubes, but there’s something to it. If nothing else, it’s one less thing to worry about and if you just want to ride, that’s a good thing.