Cyclocross Gear: Wheels and Tires
The easiest upgrade for any cyclocross bike is wheels. A good set of cross wheels can make a huge difference in how your ride, how well you corner, and how fast you are over the flats.
And by far the best upgrade is a set of tubular wheels. Here is a short video about the difference between clincher and tubular wheels.
For cyclocross, tubulars are the best option out there. Despite the messiness and hassle of gluing the tires onto the rims and the cost of tubular tires, tubulars allow you to run really low tire pressures (usually between 22-28 psi) that allow the tires to literally conform to the ground. You can corner faster, ride through mud, sand, and other materials more solidly and confidently, and not worry about pinch flats.
A third option that racers are exploring are tubeless tires. These are clinchers but instead of a tube inside, the tires are filled with sealant that prevents flats. You still can’t ride pressures as low as tubulars, but if you just have clinchers wheels and they are compatible with tubeless tires, it is a close second for tire options.
Ben’s has numerous options for wheelsets, including Reynolds, Easton, Hed, and Shimano. In addition, we can build up wheels for you so you can choose sweet hubs from Chris King, DT Swiss, or White Industries and pair them with Velocity rims. I paired Velocity Major Tom tubular rims with Shimano disc hubs to create some bomb-proof solid wheels for this season!
Finally, if you are running discs this year, you can also choose wheelsets that are set up for 29er mountain bikes! Just add cross tires and you’re ready to go.
Cross tires have generally three tread patterns: light or file tread for grassy courses where you don’t need much traction; mid for pretty much everything; and heavy or deep tread for muddy races. Again, the advantage of clincher or tubeless set ups is that you can one wheelset and several sets of tires that you can interchange as the conditions dictate.
With tubulars, racers usually needs several sets of wheels with tires mounted for different conditions. I have wheelsets for file treads, mud tires, and mids.
Clincher: We currently stock clincher tires from Hutchinson, Kenda, Michelin, Panaracer, and Vittoria. We can also get Clement tires. Each of the tires is 31-34 mm wide. If you race UCI races, your tires must be 33mm or less.
Tubular: We currently have Vittoria, Clement, and Challenge tubulars in stock. Last year, we started selling the Clement LAS and PDX tires, which became one of our most popular items. I rode these all of last year and loved them. The PDX is a mid knob tire, so I often ran the PDX in front and LAS file tread in the rear for optimal speed.
Ben’s also can glue up your tires for you if you purchase tubulars. Gluing cross tires is a practiced art. If you haven’t done it before or just glued road tires, please make sure you talk to a seasoned tire gluer for cross. Cross tubulars are stressed often in corners and if you have a poorly glued tire, it can easily roll off, dumping you to the ground.