EF Pro Cycling's TT win could signal the start of a tubeless revolution in the peloton
Tubeless in the peloton could pave the way for greater wheel and tyre development
Competitive road cycling has a curious relationship with technology. In a sport that prizes both innovation and reliability, it is often the latter that keeps the former hostage.
It is rare for a professional cycling team to debut new technology. In the last three decades, most of the innovation has been secured by customers as early adopters.
Carbon fibre as a frame and rim material was first popularised by daring private bike owners, before professional teams started adopting the technologies.
The same can be said of disc brakes. Road riders have been experimenting with disc brakes for a decade. But it was only in the late 2010s that professional teams and the UCI managed to come to some form of agreement about the inarguable benefits of distributing brake force through a rotor instead of a wheel’s rim surface.
Professional cycling adopts that which has been supplied to the market and then validates it. Once pro teams use new technology, they desire performance gains in each consequent iteration of it.
Examples are the advancement in aero with carbon road bike frames and ride quality damping due to the fatigue-mitigating requirements of Grand Tour riders. Disc brakes are now a pro team fitment so one of the few new technologies which remain unadopted in the competitive realm is tubeless tyres.
Technically they promise lower rolling resistance and better ride quality, but for the most part, pro teams have avoided them. But change might be in the making.
EF Pro Cycling recently won a time trial in Colombia on a tubeless wheel and tyre combination. Professional cycling is so competitive that any possible advantage of success is observed with keen interest from rivals.
The EF Pro Cycling team rolled to victory in Colombia on a set of new Vision Metron 81 SL Disc wheels and Vittoria tubeless tyres. Wheelset and tyre reliability is sacrosanct for a pro cyclist, because it is the one component failure which renders a rider static.
Proving the tubeless concept in competition
Mechanics and team technical directors are most resistant to adopt new wheel and tyre technologies, because the risk of teething failures carries a heavy burden of consequence in competition.
What the EF Pro Cycling team has proved this early in the 2020 racing season, is that they have discovered a tubeless system which works. The carbon wheel has an 81mm deep profile and is 26.8mm wide. Perhaps most importantly, its internal diameter is 19mm.
Vittoria’s 25c Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR tubeless clinchers are seated to the rim with latex sealant. These tyres are handcrafted and feature non-vulcanized 320tpi construction, a key contributing factor to the incredible 205g mass claim.
Although the Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR tubeless tyres used by the EF Pro Cycling team have scant puncture protection, the latex sealant is what should give the team’s technical director enough confidence for the 2020 season.
The EF Pro Cycling’s win has also harvested some exciting information from Vision about its diverse new rim profiles, available for 2020. Metron SL Disc wheels can now be had in depths of 81-, 55-, 40- and 30mm. All four of these retain the same 19mm internal tyre mounting diameter.
If you fancy this new competition-proven Vision tubeless wheelset, a set prices at $1,834.00. Rival pro teams will certainly be monitoring the progress and performance of EF Pro Cycling this season.
Perhaps 2020 could be the tipping point for greater tubeless wheel and tyre acceptance in the peloton – which could launch a huge progression in research and development, ultimately benefiting amateur riders.
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Lance Branquinho is a Namibian born media professional, with 15-years of experience in technology and engineering journalism covering anything with wheels. Being from Namibia, he knows a good gravel road when he sees one, and he has raced some of Africa’s best-known mountain bike stage races, such as Wines2Wales and Berg&Bush.