Specialized have announced a new tubeless road tyre, the S-Works Turbo RapidAir, which the company claims surpasses the performance of tubular tyres for both grip and rolling resistance. Five out of the eight Deceuninck–QuickStep riders, including Enric Mas, chose to use these tyres on stage 1 of the Tour de France.
According to Wolf vorm Walde, the Director of Tyres and Tubes at Specialized, the “goal was not to develop a tubeless tyre, but a tyre that is faster, more comfortable, better handling and self-sealing.”
While citing that professional riders value the ability to continue riding on a flat tubular tyre when necessary, Specialized argued “why not eliminate the flat in the first place?”, and created their own tubeless sealant to complement the tyre – though Specialized have not provided any information about its puncture testing protocol or results.
However, data was provided from Specialized’s own internal testing, comparing the new Turbo RapidAir tubeless tyre to the Specialized Turbo Allround Tubular tyre, showing a claimed increase in grip and a decrease in rolling resistance.
Specialized also contends that “due to its innovative construction”, the Turbo RapidAir bead “will seal with a standard floor pump on most wheels”. Reading between the lines, we suspect that this could mean that these new tyres are designed with the (hopefully) soon to be announced ETRTO tubeless guidelines. This should make them a little easier for the home mechanic to live with than other tubeless tyres (that often require an air compressor to properly seal the bead).
Is The WorldTour Tubeless Ready?
Though the widespread adoption of road tubeless technology in the professional ranks has, until now, been slow, this season appears to have seen a step-change in attitudes towards road tubeless systems, with several WorldTour teams now using them in both training and racing.
Then in March, Alexander Kristoff, of UAE Team Emirates, won Gent-Wevelgem and finished 3rd at the Tour of Flanders on Vittoria Corsa Graphene 2.0 25mm tubeless tyres (before using the same tyres at Paris-Roubaix and suffering multiple punctures that effectively ended his race).
At the Tour of California, in May, Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck–QuickStep) won stage four using the Specialized Turbo RapidAir tubeless tyres, and a number of teams at the Tour de France are now using tubeless systems for both road and time trial stages. It seems that the axe could finally be looming for tubular tyres.
Specialized Turbo RapidAir tubeless tyre specifications
- 120 TPI Casing
- Butyl wrapped tubeless-ready foldable bead
- GRIPTON compound
- BlackBelt puncture protection Layer
- 700x26mm and 700x28mm sizes available
- Approximate weight 260g (700x26mm)
- Available to purchase from September 2019, pricing not yet available