We at Cyclocross Magazine declare 2013 to be the year of cyclocross tubeless tires and wheels. Had a bad experience, or heard it doesn’t work? Feel free to tune out, but we’ve had the luxury of trying almost every tire and rim combination and we believe it’s ready for prime time, even for those who rather not deal with experimentation or getting soapy water and sealant all over the garage floor. That’s not to say it’s better than tubulars or meant for everyone, and sponsored racers with plenty of race and training wheels and tires may never make the switch. However, almost everyone who rides clinchers, and anyone who tires of gluing, flatting, or being tread-constrained with tubulars should consider the many advantages of a reliable tubeless setup. More on that soon, but see our Going Tubeless for Cyclocross series for a start.
We’ve seen a lot of tubeless tire technology at Interbike, and after hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless might be the hottest trend in cyclocross. At Interbike 2013, we noticed WTB has a new rim and tubeless version of its Cross Wolf tire for the skinny tire dirt cyclist.
WTB is a late entrant into the tubeless world, but it’s going all-in by expanding into the area of cyclocross. By our count, it becomes at least the seventh company to fully embrace cyclocross tubeless, behind NoTubes, Vittoria, Specialized, Kenda, IRC and Hutchinson.
Before making its cyclocross tire tubeless, the company first needed a rim that it was confident would be compatible with its tire. So the company created a rim specifically for cyclocross, the new ChrisCross i19 tubeless rim. The rim is wide, featuring a 25mm outside width and a 19mm inside width, using a UST and sealant-compliant design.
Made from WTB’s proprietary alloy and weighing 435g, the rim is claimed to be 20% stronger than a typical 6000 series aluminum. It also employs WTB’s 4D design, which drills the spoke holes at an angle towards the hub flanges. Testing by WTB demonstrated an increase in rim durability and life due to their 4D design.
Another nice feature we saw on the new ChrisCross i19 rim is the brake track wear indicator. In gritty, sandy locales, rims take a beating during the cyclocross season and WTB hopes to alert you when your rim needs to be retired.
The ChrisCross i19 rim could be a much-needed option for rim brake tubeless racers, as many good low-pressure tubeless options (as opposed to road tubeless) like the Iron Cross rim from NoTubes come in disc-only formats. American Classic and Industry Nine might be WTB’s biggest competition with their rim brake-compatible tubeless rims.
Disc brake cyclocrossers needn’t fret, as WTB has an option for the disc brake user: The WTB Frequency i19 has similar parameters without the brake track, saving 21 grams per rim. That’s a relatively light option for the weight-conscious racer.
Both rims, upon visual inspection, show features that should prove helpful for reliable tubeless use, as they boast a wide bench and small raised lip before the center channel. Both of these features should make it harder for the tire to fall into the center channel and burp.
These rims, paired with the Cross Wolf 60tpi TCS tire with a dual density tread, are intended to run flawlessly as a tubeless system, especially with the UST bead on the rim and tire, but stay tuned as we intend to test them.
The Cross Wolf TCS tire is labelled 32, and has a true 32 profile on the WTB rims. It has been updated with a different bead and rubber for tubeless use (it is part of WTB’s TCS tubeless system), but remains the same tire we’ve tested years ago and have come to appreciate for its durability, grippy aggressive side knobs, long-lasting tread, moderate rolling resistance and decent overall performance in most conditions.
The downside of the Cross Wolf is that it remains a bit narrow, and although the true width of 32mm on the ChrisCross rim will make it UCI compliant, we maintain that the target market shouldn’t be the small numbers of UCI racers but the everyday racer who is trying to find a reliable, affordable way to run lower pressure. WTB has followed a common path though, as Kenda, Vittoria and IRC all went UCI-compliant in their tubeless widths, and only Specialized and NoTubes offer higher-volume tubeless tires.
Stay tuned as we get our hands on a set for testing.
Clifford Lee and Andrew Yee contributed to this report.
More info: www.wtb.com/products/cross-wolf (chriscross rim not yet posted)
Check back often over the next week with our Interbike 2013 page for plenty of new cyclocross bikes and gear news, along with some random cyclocross eye candy, as we publish stories on all the products we saw.