I’ve been patiently waiting for the next step in the evolution of BMX racing bikes since reviewing Alienation’s prototype tubeless TCS system back in 2012. I’m happy to say the tubeless revolution is finally here, well, nearly. There have been a lot of announcements of late about the release of tubeless tires. There was the Michelin prototypes that ICE have been working with and the VEE Zolder tire that the Dutch Army have been testing.
There have been many who have claimed they are #1 or the leader of tubeless tires for BMX racing but for me it’s Alienation who have lead the way and here’s why. In 2010 Alienation started development of the TCS (Tubeless Compatible System), by 2012 they had a number of prototype systems being put through their paces. From this the Alienation Malice rim was born, a 6069 T6 alloy rim that’s strong and as light as it’s carbon rivals, at a fraction of the price. The TCS Malice and front specific Mischief have made a big impact years ahead of the release of the tires. After a few delays in production, around mid 2018 Alienation released the TCS F1 and F2 tyres. The F1 is a front specific 20 x 1.95″ and the R1 is rear specific 20 x 1.60″ race tyre. Along with these the TCS valves, tape and sealant are also available. It’s a tubeless system that’s nearly 10 years in the making.
What is tubeless and how is it different to standard tube system?
In it’s simplest form, in a tubeless system the tube is replaced with a valve (with a removable core to inject sealant), air tight rim tape and sealant.
Advantages that come to mind include
- BMX without punctures
- weight savings
- decreasing the rolling resistance of your bike
The Alienation TCS system also means perfectly fitted tires sitting straight on the rim every time all the time without having to massage the tire in to place, this is specific to Alienation’s tubeless system, I can’t confirm that it’s possible with other “tubeless ready” setups.
MTB Vs BMX
The requirements from tubeless in BMX racing vs Mountain Biking are completely different.
In MTB you have much heavier thicker tires to allow them to hold up to the rough terrain with low tire pressures to help make the ride that little bit smoother. In BMX racing with highly groomed tracks we have lighter tires with thinner sidewalls and tire pressures around the 100psi mark. When you talk to BMXers about tubeless options the first question they ask is about “burping”. This happens in mountain biking where the tire can come away from the rim and release a lot of air all at once. With the tire pressures that BMX racers run this isn’t possible. Another difference I have noticed is sealants for BMX racing need to be of a thicker consistancy, with the thinner side walls there is more potential for leakage when initially setting up a tubeless system. While it may leak at the start it just takes a little longer for the sealant to cure. You could put a little more sealant in than the normal 2 oz or run a thicker sealant. I’ve had better results with Stan’s and the TCS sealant, and I hear that Orange seal is highly recommended too.
One of the biggest issues with tubeless options for BMX racing, at this early stage, is there is only one standard system created to ensure compatibility and that’s Alienation’s TCS system. “Tubeless ready” or “tubeless compatible” is a loose term. Anything labeled as such “should” work, but there are no guarantees, which means you could be up for a period of trial and error.
TCS Tubeless Standard
To find out about Alienation’s TCS system check this link alienationbmx.com/tubeless-compatible-system.
The following is a selection of rims that are tubeless ready.
There are many others who claim tubeless ready, the above are just a selection of the better known tubeless ready rims.
Vee Tire Co
While it’s starting to become more common, the biggest thing holding back tubeless right now is availability of sizes, but like any new product this will continue to grow over time. Vee offering a wide range of sizes with the Zolder tire might help move things along.
There’s also bound to be a bit of confusion with tubeless standards to get started, especially with the non-standard tires and rims. With any luck manufacturers will work together to standardise tubeless, maybe even adopt Alienation’s TCS system, for both reliability and the safety of the riders.
*** Update: After reading our article about tubeless tires Zachary from Alienation left a comment on our Facebook page that we thought you would be interested in.
The fundamental difference between Alienation and the other(s) is simple; the others want to release a tire that may or may not interfere. Alienation designed the TCS rim and tire in unison. At no point has another manufacturer reached out for guidance. Selling a BMX tire and telling the public its tubeless ready is unethical. The product will never reach the intended potential and will sour the consumer on tubeless.
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