Tube-type or Tubeless? Pirelli's advice to choose the best solution to meet your needs

A comparison between the tubetype and tubeless-ready P ZERO Race tyres offers an excellent insight into what product is most suited for the type of cycling you usually do

Home Road Bicycles Tyres Tube-type or Tubeless? Pirelli's advice to choose the best solution to meet your needs

Lightness, comfort, resistance, smoothness, responsiveness, versatility, maintenance and assembly process are the key issues on which tubetype and tubeless-ready tyres are compared: the single consumer alone can decide the winner, based on their needs.

To understand what the best choice for the road is, you're going to pedal on, Pirelli has compared two top products of its racing range: the P Zero Race tubetype tyre and the P Zero Race TLR tubeless-ready tyre.

Barely different weights

Both are made using the SmartEVO compound, following Pirelli's experience in the top Motorsport competitions, in size 700x28c the two products compete for the greatest lightness down to the last gram: the tube-type adds the weight of the tube, which ranges from 35 to 100 grams, to the 225 grams of the tyre, reaching a gross weight between 260 and 325 grams; the tubeless-ready type, on the other hand, reaches 335 grams by adding the 10 grams of the valve and the 30 grams of the sealant to the 295 grams of the tyre. Of course, the P ZERO Race can be lighter or heavier depending on the tube being used.

Tubeless smoothness

The tyre casing for the P ZERO Race tubetype tyre features a three-layer fabric structure, with TechBELT Road technology, which offers a fourth extra layer for protection, made in aramid, just under the tread. The P ZERO Race TLR, on the other hand, features the SpeedCORE technology: a four-layer casing, the same four layers of the tube type plus a coating layer reinforced with aramid particles directly into the rubber compound. When it comes to smoothness, what makes the difference between the two tyres is the inner tube, which can heavily affect rolling resistance. The Pirelli in-house tests showed that the tubeless-ready version beats the tubetype in terms of speed: the former reached 19.9 Watts with 6 bar pressure, the latter reached 14.7 Watts at 5.5 bar pressure, giving it more comfort and grip compared to the tubetype clincher option.

Putting grip and robustness to the test

While the chemical grip performance is the same with both tyres, by virtue of the SmartEVO compound that both tyres share, the P ZERO Race TLR may be pumped at a lower pressure compared to the tubetype version, without negatively affecting rolling resistance. Quite the opposite, riding safety and grip in the case of rain and cold or with irregular surfaces benefit from this. When it comes to punctures, the two tyres both offer excellent protection; however, the P ZERO Race TLR's casing features extra material compared to the P ZERO Race and the sealant comes into play to maintain the same pressure after the penetration of a foreign body. Moreover, thanks to lower inflation pressure, tread tearing is less common and the absence of a tube results in no pinch flats. Therefore the tubeless version offers comprehensively better protection on all types of terrains and challenging surfaces.

A matter of pressure

A clincher tyre of the size used for this comparison is normally pumped at an extra bar of pressure compared to a tubeless one: this makes it more responsive and faster when speeding up. This feature, along with a lower weight, makes it more remarkable with climbs. Instead, the lower pressure makes the tubeless tyre smoother when riding fast, as well as more comfortable, more resistant to punctures and safer on irregular asphalt surfaces and gravel.

Moreover, when it comes to tyres, two of the major aspects to bear in mind are maintenance and a practical assembly process: here the clincher tyre performs far better. The P ZERO Race is assembled faster and does not require specific skills or maintenance, apart from a periodic pressure check. The P ZERO Race TLR needs a bit more attention, because inserting the sealant can make the set-up more complex and requires a check every 2-3 months. The almost total absence of punctures gives it an advantage in the long run.

What do the Pros choose?

As everyone knows, tubular tyres in races are no longer the main choice, at least as far as the top teams are concerned, while the “tubetype or tubeless type” discussion continues and emerges during every Tour or one-day Classic races. Pirelli is the partner of major teams such as Trek-Segafredo, AG2R Citroën and Q36.5 Pro Cycling. These teams have a wide range of tyres, both with a tubeless and a tubetype setup. Therefore Pirelli obtains special insights in terms of which version is chosen at every race. Here are some facts and figures:
A) None of the Pirelli teams have chosen the tubetype setup during races that include cobbled or particularly difficult and rough surfaces, such as the Northern Classics;
B) On flat or sprint stages, most teams opted for tubeless-ready tyres (70% vs 30%);
C) On the mountain stages most teams opted for the tubetype with lightweight TPU tubes (80% vs 20%);
D) When it comes to mixed terrain, there is a balance between the two options.

Time to choose

After this comparison the only thing left to do is to choose based on one's personal preferences. Those looking for a light, responsive product that is easy to replace and requires no maintenance will opt for the P ZERO Race tubetype tyres, while those looking for greater smoothness, better comfort and versatility and greater resistance to punctures will opt for the P ZERO Race TLR tubeless-ready version.