A little over a year ago, I wrote a post here about the coming of UST standard approved tires and rims. I recently got a question regarding this subject:
Is there any word on when we will get more choice in tire(s)? This article is over a year old and still only one tire is available.
Well, while this is true, there have been several developments since then that bear looking into. Let’s see where we are and where we might be going.
The “tire” in question that has a UST certification for use with sealant is the Hutchinson Python. Huthinson has also introduced a Toro model in 29″er size that should become available soon. This would make two 29″er tires available with the much ballyhooed UST certification seal. That doesn’t quite seem to be cutting it for some folks. The feeling I get perusing the various forums and talking to folks is something that isn’t congruent with what tire manufacturers are doing, and really, is incongruent with riders own expectations.
Right now there is a group of folks waiting for a “true UST” tire in 29″er size. My opinion is that you will probably never get it. What is “true UST”? It is the idea some folks have based from the earliest 26″er UST tires that all tubeless UST tires need no sealant. In many riders minds, there isn’t any other UST type tire out there. But there is. It is the UST tire that requires sealant to work, most commonly known as “tubeless ready”. These tires meet UST certifications and are compatible with UST certified rims. Yet some riders do not recognize this as UST.
Why won’t you see a UST tire that requires no sealant in 29″er size? Because of weight. A UST tire requiring no sealant adds extra butyl rubber to the casing making it air tight. Some may see this as a cool thing for sharp rocks or more abusive riding, but for mere tubeless uses, it is a deal killer for 29″er freaks and the manufacturers know it. I’m not saying it will never happen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Why don’t we see more UST certified tubeless ready tires? I think manufacturers are finding out they can do rims and tire manufacturers are finding out they can do tires that will work together tubeless without spending the money for the UST certifications. Bontrager’s Tubeless Ready tires and wheels are an excellent example- no UST certification needed. However; in my mind the real underlying reason for the lack of tubeless ready UST tires and rims is Stan’s NoTubes and the efforts of individual riders all over the world who have turned to making tubeless work on their own terms. If you, as a manufacturer, see what is going on out there, why would you spend the money on a certification when you can make an end around on the whole thing. Think about Panaracer, who when introducing the Rampage more or less gave its blessing on using it tubeless. Continental has essentially done the same thing, declaring all their mountain bike tires safe to use with any of the mountain bike tire sealants commercially available. Doesn’t sound as though either of those manufacturers is interested in doing a UST 29″er tire anytime soon, does it?
Then you have the various rim manufacturers who are doing a lot of refinements to rim bead seat designs on 29″er rims, not saying they are “tubeless compatible”, but making it a lot easier to do just that. WTB, Sun, and Salsa are three that I saw at Interbike that were doing new rim bead seat designs, but not going so far as to say they were tubeless compatible.
What of Geax and Michelin? I have seen that Geax has gone their own route with the “TnT” concept and Michelin is also rumored to be doing their own tubeless ready type designs without seeking UST certification. At one time it was rumored that these companies would do a UST 29″er tire, but this seems to be not the case now.
So, revisting that article of over a year ago makes me say that I was wrong. There still is “that” argument against 29″ers. However; you can choose to stick with looking for a UST 29″er tire, but the rest of your riding buddies and competitors at the races are already doing something about it. Tubeless ready type tires are here now and there are rims that work as well. Some will scoff and say the risk isn’t worth it, but it’s something that isn’t going away anytime soon. Advantage or disadvantage for 29″ers? You’ll have to make that call.