Tubeless road tyres have been a long time coming but it looks as though 2009 will be their breakthrough year. After a false start in 2004, when we expected Michelin and Mavic to bring tubeless tyres to the market, Hutchinson took the project on, collaborating with Shimano for the wheels.
The French company, which supplied the tyres for all seven of Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins, now has three tyres in its Road Tubeless range. The new Hutchinson Atom, at 270g is the lightest and the fastest. The Fusion2, 295g, is Hutchinson’s original Road Tubeless tyre and is meant for all-round riding. The Intensive, also new this year, is a heavier 25mm tyre intended for long-distance riding.
So why tubeless? Cars and motorcycles have been running on tubeless tyres for years, and mountain bikers swear by them too. There’s no inner tube, and though they’re a little tougher to mount on a rim than a standard clincher, they’re a hell of a lot less hassle than sticking on a tub! Tubeless tyres are claimed to be faster than clinchers, and Hutchinson says it has proven in tests that its tubeless tyres are as fast as top tubulars. Without an inner tube, tubeless can be run at a lower pressure for increased comfort and grip with no loss of efficiency. Of course, not having an inner tube also means a reduced risk of pinch flats.
Admittedly, fitting and inflating road tubeless takes a bit of practice, not to mention strength, but once you’ve got the hang of getting the carbon bead to make the ‘pop’ sound that tells you it is seated in the rim, you’re away and you won’t look back.
We rode the new Hutchinson Atom at the Hutchinson Open Tour in May. Measuring 21mm rather than the published 23mm, it is narrow, but Hutchinson’s mechanics stressed 100psi was enough and they were dead right. On the road the Atoms felt soft yet fast — two adjectives which rarely go together in cycling — and cornering was ultra-precise. We ran them in conjunction with Hutchinson RT1 deep-rim carbon wheel (a rebadged Corima Aero+), and this was another winning combo, one that we reckon would be extremely effective in hilly time trials.