Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve bought a new set of Zipp Hookless/TSE wheels. You unbox them and are eager to ride. First let’s talk tire selection. Could you go through what people should think about as far as widths for different disciplines?
For road riding, a great place to start on our new tubeless wheelsets (such as 303 Firecrest) is with 28c tires. What’s more, 35c tires with very light or no tread work great with mixed pavement with light gravel and/or hard packed dirt. As the gravel gets bigger or there is a mix between gravel and single track, I would recommend 40c or bigger tires. The model of Zipp wheel you ride, and its internal width, also influence optimal tire width.
We get a lot of questions about tire selection. Without endorsing any brand (except ours!), what should people look for?
For tires, a rider should follow the same mentality that we do with Total System Efficiency. They should consider the environment they are going to be riding in, and then optimize for those conditions. The Zipp selection of tubeless tires is a great place to start for both road and gravel. In regard to compatibility, I will refer to Zipp’s official stance, “(Zipp hookless wheels) are compatible with tubeless or tubeless-ready tires unless the tire manufacturer specifically prohibits the use of their products on tubeless hookless (straight side) rims.”
We have a 73 PSI limit on our Hookless TSE wheels. That is quite low relative to historic standard tire pressures. How did we get to that limit?
That limit is driven by the ISO standards for a hookless tubeless bicycle rim. But this is no limiter because we are in a new era of tire pressures. Historical standard tire pressures typically were driven by the assumption that a smaller contact patch = lower rolling resistance. The higher tire pressures in standard clinchers using tire/tubes also was to prevent pinch flats.
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What effect do larger tires and lower pressures have on aero performance? What about the effect of the hookless rim-tire interface?
Running larger tires does affect aerodynamic performance; however, it is not as simple as stating that larger tires are slower than skinny tires aerodynamically speaking. For zero-degree yaw (or incoming wind flow directly in front of the wheel) nothing beats an infinitely thin flat plate, meaning the skinny tires win out. But that picture starts to change the moment you have some amount of yaw angle or off-center incoming flow. This is because the tire and rim start acting like an airfoil and are now producing lift and now are producing lift. If you design your rim to match the profile of larger sized (28-32c) tires, then the aerodynamic penalty is quite low and can be outweighed by the efficiency gains from large tires with the reduction in rolling resistance, better vibration damping, and increased corning grip. This is where the real magic lies within the TSE approach to wheel design. To circle back to the second part of your question, the hookless interface provides a better transition between the rim and the tire and improves the overall aero performance for a given tire size.
Let’s give specific examples on tire pressures for riders of different weights. Please give examples of riders using the new Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR in sizes 700x28, 700x30 and 700x32?
First, I am going to use this question as a plug for our excellent tire pressure calculator tool. The tool is web based and easily found by googling “AXS tire pressure guide.” I’m happy to talk through some specific combinations using a Zipp 303 Firecrest as an example. However, riders should always keep in mind that our recommendations are just a starting point and are encouraged to find the right pressure for their given setup: