25 November 2014

Rice tires? RBCC from IRC

I got a set of Fulcrum Racing 3 tubeless (2-way fit) wheels early this year.  I had some near-new Hutchinson Fusion 3 tires getting old in the garage, and the wheels were inexpensive via Wiggle.  I must say they are a more refined product than the Fulcrum Racing 1 two-way's that I experimented with back 5-6 years ago.

First, the spokes are regular steel bladed, not the fat, stiff aluminum ones of that era's Racing 1.  And I have had no issues with the wheels staying true so far, or with spoke nipples coming loose as I did with those.

Second, the tubeless tires went on the rims much more easily than I had remembered, and I had no problem adding some Caffe Latex sealant inside each tube by removing the core of the valve.

No flats so far.  (When I removed the rear tube I could see that the sealant had formed a tight rubber block around one area of the inside of the tire ... presumably where it prevented a leak from expanding.  Pretty cool.

Juliane used these wheels this summer, and I have used them a bit in spring and again on several longer rides this fall.  Henry also used them on some short rides this September.  Total mileage on the tires is around 1500 kms, I expect.  Now they are worn to the point near danger.  I guess the age of the product prior to use (they were purchased 4-5 years back) plus some skidding on rough roads did most of the damage.  Time for a change.

... Time for a change from the Hutchinson Fusion 3's.
I was pleased to find a much more diverse set of choices for road tubeless tires than the last time I looked.  Also prices have come down from former nosebleed territory, so that when you add in the cost of a few tubes you would need during the life of a clincher, they are about the same, or even a potential cost saver.  And this time of year they are actually in stock, even in the 25mm versions.

What tires to get?  More Hutchinson?  Specialized?  Schwalbe?  Or how about IRC?  I had used and liked one of their tubeless tires back in 2009, but they were too expensive.  So I was glad to see that their high end RBCC version are now available here in Japan for around 6000 yen including tax (that is about US$45 plus tax).   I also ordered some closeout-priced Schwalbe Evolution One tubeless that have yet to arrive.

For now, IRC.  What is RBCC?  Rice bran ceramic compound.  Yes, tires with a special ingredient to increase the grip.  Very Japanese!

Hiroshi tells me that IRC was once known for making tires that slipped too much in the wet -- treacherous in rain and they had a bad reputation with his generation of racers.  Well,  IRC obviously took that to heart and decided to fix any issues in the intervening years (decades?).  One way is with the RBCC coating.  "Grip +" the package says, and it is true.

These tires have incredible grip.  I felt firmly attached to the road as I took my first corners.  They will be great for descending.

They are also incredibly comfy -- the first time I have tried 25mm tubeless tires and they roll very nicely at 90psi.

They went on the rim easily -- on my first try they held air and slotted into the bead perfectly.

If road tubeless can now be this easy ... I may need to use it more going forward.

They are a bit heavy (300 grams in the 25mm version, 260 in the 23mm) ... but when you add the weight of an inner tube to something like a 230 gram Conti Gran Prix Four Season 25mm version, that brings them very close in overall weight.  Insert sealant and a gap opens a bit more.

An interesting and attractive made-in-Japan product!  Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE -- Nov 30.  I got in my first real ride with the IRC tubeless RBCC tires today.  141.6 kms.  After rain yesterday, and with the humidity still very high and rain threatening at times today, the roads were still damp, and covered in leaves in some places.

The tires worked fine.  I tried skidding by braking hard on a road covered with wet ginko leaves. Nope.  Stopped perfectly.  On the forest road North side of Lake Tsukui was covered in wet leaves many places.  No problems.  Grip.  And comfort.
One of the better sections of the forest road on N side of Lake Tsukui.

No comments: