Whilst recently researching the suitability of tubeless tyres for road bicycles, I came across Schwalbe’s document “Technical Info – Bicycle Tires”. This is the latest version direct from their website, and appears to have been written no later than 2011. It’s a very useful document but this bit from the manual caught my eye:
Why are tubeless tires only available for mountain bikes?
In offroad terrain, tubeless systems offer a clear advantage. Tires can be operated with lower inflation pressures, which improves the grip and the rolling characteristics. On the other hand, on road, a high inflation pressure is an advantage and the current tubeless system, as found in MTB’s is unsuitable for high pressure. Pressures above 4 bar would blow the tire off the rim.
There have been numerous attempts to offer suitable high-pressure tubeless tires and rims for racing bikes. Such tires are very hard to fit because the tolerances of both rim and tire must be extremely accurate in order to achieve an airtight fit. Because there are no apparent advantages, we do not see much sense, nor a future, for such systems.
Of course, Schwalbe do now offer tubeless tyres for road bicycles; I use the Schwalbe “One” tubeless on my road bike! Their website describing the Schwalbe “One” tubeless technology says:
There are hardly any tubeless tires for racing bikes. In practice, however, this system offers outstanding benefits. The rolling resistance is noticeably lower than with conventional folding and tubular tires because this system minimizes friction losses. At the same time tubeless systems are extremely safe and a sudden loss of air is almost impossible. There are no longer any tubes that can overheat and burst. A puncture protection liquid seals punctures within tenths of a second.
Now it would be easy to laugh at Schwalbe, but it’s a good sign that companies are always looking at technology and the market. It was probably Hutchinson’s success with road bicycle tubeless tyres that caused Schwalbe to do a re-think. It may perhaps have been better if Schwalbe had worded their original pre-2011 statement along the lines that current technologies do not appear to be suitable but that Schwalbe were actively involved in research.