In the last few years, tubeless tires have become more and more commonplace in the world of cycling. The mountain biking, gravel, and cyclocross community has been quick to adopt this new technology, but it seems like us roadies have (per-usual) stuck in our old ways of inner-tubes and tubular tires.
Specialized set out to change all that with their new S-Works Turbo Rapidair tubeless tire. According to Wolf Vorm Walde, the Director of Tires and Tubes at Specialized, their aim was to make a tire that “is faster, more comfortable, better handling, and self-sealing”. I can attest that Specialized has achieved all of those goals.
I got a set of Rapidair tires back in the fall to test out over winter training. The first thing I noticed was how easy these tires are to set up. I have used several sets of tubeless road tires in the past, and they are normally a pain to get mounted and seated, requiring a lot of fussing with tire levers and using an air compressor to seat the tire. I was able to get the tire onto the rim completely by hand, and just used a floor pump to seat the tire. This is great if you like to work on your own bike at home and you don’t have access to tool like an air compressor.
Once I got out on the road, I instantly noticed just how supple and grippy these tires are! This in due in-part to Specialized using two thin overlapping plys of casing instead of one ply found on most clinchers. When I would pitch the bike into a corner, I felt so much confidence as the tire held my line. I felt like the harder I pushed, the more grip the tires had.
When it comes to puncture protection, I didn’t get a single flat in several months that I was testing the tire. Specialized has developed their own RapidAir tire sealant, that is the only sealant on the market designed specifically for high pressure road tires. They claim that if you were to get a puncture, it would seal within one tire rotation (so basically instantly). I didn’t get to test this first hand, but Pro rider Fabio Jakobsen got a puncture on Stage 4 of the Tour of California in 2019 and said he would not have won the race if it wasn’t due to the tire self-sealing.
In conclusion, the S-Works Turbo RapidAir tires are some of the best tubeless road tires on the market today. If you have been hesitant to try a tubeless tire, these tires will preform better that you could believe. They feel fast, smoother, and more comfortable than clinchers, and you don’t have to worry about getting flat tires anymore!