Introduction: Challenge Handmade Tubeless-Ready Cyclocross Tires

October 31, 2021

Introduction: Challenge Handmade Tubeless-Ready Cyclocross Tires

As tubeless tire technology continues to improve, demand keeps growing for higher-performance versions while adoption increases.

Challenge has previously offered handmade tubular tires*, as well as vulcanized tubeless-ready clinchers, but not a true handmade, high-end ("HTLR") tubeless-ready line. That's changing with the new line of handmade, tubeless-ready cyclocross tires recently announced by Challenge - I'll be offering them here at as soon as they're readily available, so I wanted to share some of the features of these new tires and what to expect.

ERTRO and ISO compliant, plus hookless rim compatibility

Up until now, tubeless tire performance on the newly-introduced hookless rims has been questionable. It's really worked better and more reliably on traditional hook-bead tubeless rims. With the new HTLR tires, Challenge specifically states compatibility with hookless rims:

Zipp 303 S hookless rim

Zipp's 303 S tubeless-specific, hookless rim

The HTLR line is gorgeous, with creamy tan sidewalls that look just like Challenge's Pro tubular line. It's very traditional and just looks fast.

Designed to meet the UCI tire width rules

Like the Donnelly PDX WC, the new HTLR cyclocross tires from Challenge promise to meet the UCI tire width rules. Challenge says you're good-to-go when paired with rims using an internal width of 23mm or less. With the existing Challenge tubeless tires (Challenge calls them "vulcanized") that wasn't always the case, as the tires sometimes measured out wider than 33mm once inflated.

Familiar, proven tread options

The HTLR (handmade tubeless ready) line uses a new tire casing and construction, but it's the same tread shapes you already know and love - Grifo, Limus, Chicane, and so on.

Challenge Grifo HTLR handmade tubeless-ready

The new Grifo handmade tubeless-ready tire from Challenge

Designed for use with tire sealant

The HTLR tires are designed for use with liquid tire sealants, adding puncture protection and improving air retention.

Competing tires

The first new Challenge handmade tubeless tire to hit the market wasn't a cyclocross tire, the Gravel Grinder and Getaway gravel tires beat them to market. Donnelly's high-end PDX WC (World Cup) also has a little bit of a head start on Challenge in the high-end tubeless market. 

Launch timeline and availability

Unfortunately Challenge didn't quite make the start of of the 2021/22 'cross season for the introduction of the new HTLR models, but I'm expecting them shortly. Sign up for my email or SMS list and I'll notify you the moment they arrive.

Who should use the new HTLR cyclocross tires?

A primary benefit of tubeless tires is liquid sealant, offering puncture prevention. This is especially appealing to riders where thorns are predominant. A secondary benefit of tubeless tires is the ability to change treads to suit conditions. With tubulars, serious riders need to have multiple wheelsets with the tires already glued/taped in order to be prepared for various conditions. With a tubeless tire, one wheelset can be used with multiple tires, and tire changes the night before a race (or even at the venue!) are now possible. If you decide to go with tubeless, having a home air compressor setup is a must.

Don't confuse tubeless tires with tubular tires

* Athletes new to cycling, or cyclocross, may find the terminology confusing. A tubular tire (also called a "sew-up") must be glued or taped onto a matching, tubular-specific rim. Because this type of tire is less common, it's pretty typical to encounter riders who have never ridden, or even seen them in person.

Tubular tires are still the standard for elite cyclocross and are used by essentially every pro/elite athlete, as well as many amateurs who are taking 'cross seriously. Tubeless tires and rims are a more economical and simple option that provide some of the performance benefits of tubulars, for riders who want a little less complexity.

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