Worry-Free Tubeless: Panaracer Race A EVO4

Worry-Free Tubeless: Panaracer Race A EVO4

Road tubeless, despite its many devotees, is an application of technology I haven’t been much of a fan of. I’ve mentioned previously my problems with tires blowing off rims at relatively low pressures or getting them to seal—at all. My frustration has been such that I’ve honestly avoided trying some stuff out there for the simple reason that I was tired of hearing a gun shot followed by a stinging sensation in my hand and a spray of sticky, white goo all over the nearest wall.

While I won’t take back all my previous complaints, I can at least say I’ve found a combination that merits a hard look from anyone considering making the switch. And if you’ve already made the switch, you ought to take a look at these tires.

I’ve been a fan of Panaracer’s EVO series of tires. I’ve ridden the Race A and the Race D in 25mm and 28mm widths and been really pleased with their ride quality and grip, and in the case of the Race D, its durability. Lately, I’ve been riding the Race A EVO4 tubeless edition in the 28mm width since late this spring and like them so much I wish all my road wheels were tubeless compatible.

I could probably written this review after my first ride on the tires. Subsequent miles have only served to reinforce that first-ride experience, which was a toothy grinned affair in which I shook my head in delight that a road tire could offer so much comfort while preserving rolling resistance. I’ve been riding these at 65 psi in part because I can and in part to see if I could suffer any ill effects as a result of the low-ish pressure.

The simple answer is no. There is no more complicated answer.

When I set them up, I put them on Zipp 30 wheels, which remain my go-to for every day training. I needed a tire lever to get the bead over the rim, even after being very careful to make sure the bead had been centered in the rim channel. However, I was able to push the other bead over with just my thumbs. This was true for both tires.

Panaracer has formulated their own sealant, and I used it to set up the tires. Their Seal Smart comes in three sizes. I used the smallest, 120ml, which is said to be good enough for two road tires. The sealant uses ground up walnut shells as a sealant combined with a hypoallergenic rubber compound so that if it gets on your hands it won’t cause skin irritation.

I must confess that I was so excited to mount these up that I forgot to weigh them first, and I’m not pulling them off until they are worn out. Panaracer claims a weight of 240g. Panaracer recommends a maximum pressure of 95 psi, but I swear I don’t think I’ve met anyone who would willingly be that masochistic. There’s no reason to run these higher than 75 psi, and if I were to do an especially long ride over our rougher roads here in Sonoma County, I’d probably only pump them up to 60 psi.

It seems vaguely pointless to mention Panaracer’s ZSG compound, but I will. ZSG stands for Zero Slip Grip. Compared to the compound used in the EVO3, rolling resistance was cut by 10 percent while grip increased by 20 percent. I don’t mind saying that in the 1990s, every tire engineer I talked to swore that you had to choose between grip and rolling resistance; more of one automatically meant less of the other. It was like the Heisenberg Principle, in which the more you know about the speed of an electron the less you knew about its position and vice versa.

This seems like a new kind of physics at work.

In the tubeless version of the Race A, I found the tire to be plenty grippy, but the combination of a good compound paired with the footprint of a 28mm-wide tire inflated to 65 psi and the result is an experience of traction that is a magnitudes greater than all those years I spent on 23s pumped to 105 psi.

I feel like I just got my first color TV.

Panaracer judges its tires by five qualities: rolling resistance, grip, comfort, puncture resistance and snake-bike resistance. According to them the Race A tubeless beats their tubular Race A in every dimension except comfort. And it beats the Race A tubed in every dimension except grip. By that standard, it is easily their best all-around tire.

During my most recent ride on these tires, I spent some time thinking about Panaracer’s assertion that their tubular has a better ride than the tubeless tire. And I did a crazy thing.

I wondered if that was really the most accurate assessment. Let’s be clear: I questioned a manufacturer’s own evaluation of their product line. I think folks call that ballsy. The thing is, while I’ve ridden plenty of 25mm tubulars, I’ve never ridden one that was 27 or 28mm wide. (Panaracer offers the Race A EVO4 tubular in both 25 and 27mm widths.)  I’m not absolutely convinced that I’d be willing to run a 27mm tubular at 65 psi because of how soft the casing is, that tire squirm would be a concern for me until I’d done some rides at more like 75 psi and gradually worked my way down.

Without actual ride experience to compare, I’m going to suggest that which tire offers better ride quality to be an open question, one worth exploring at an experiential level, if only for intellectual reasons. No matter how good the ride quality of the tubular is, it will always be offset by the inconvenicence of gluing a tire to its rim.

That a road tire can roll this well at 65 psi is a revelation. It hasn’t burped once and it is holding pressure exceedingly well. Exceedingly being a good five days without pumping up.

The Race A EVO4 Tubeless goes for $69.99 while the 120 ml Seal Smart sealant goes for $9.99.

Final thought: The only reason I’m not tossing all of my tubed tires in favor of these is that not all of my wheels are tubeless compatible.

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13 comments

  1. Lucien Walsh

    we really have moved from tubed 23’s at 105psi quickly, haven’t we? I’m ready to replace tires on my Allied; 2015 Lucien would be astonished that 2019 Lucien is preparing to go 700×36 tubeless on his primary ride, let alone that his primary ride would even take a tire like that OR have disc brakes.

    Thanks for the review; I think I know what’s going on my Seven Resolute (nee Axiom) when it next needs tires


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I get that a good clincher with a tube is a proven and worry-free technology. That said, the combination of the improvement in ride quality and grip combined with a decrease in rolling resistance is so tasty I can say you’re missing out. I hate that I feel that strongly about this.

  2. Aar

    I’ve been “trying out” tubeless this entire season – Schwalbe One Pro 25mm on HED C2+ rims. I pump them to 80PSI front and 90PSI rear once a week. About a week later the rear is at 75-80PSI and the front is at 40-45PSI. So, I’m not re-inflating them before every ride nor to the 90/100 pressures that I did with tubes. The ride and grip are better after a week but they’re faster when freshly re-inflated.

    I’d not go to the extent of declaring road tubeless the best thing to ever happen to road bike tires. The stories about instant and catastrophic failure are too haunting for that. Nonetheless, I’ve had no flats or burps, prefer the ride and grip and they strike me as being no slower than the very fast (and fragile) tires I’d been riding previously. So, I’ll be upgrading to tubeless rims on all of my wheels and probably running them tubelessly. If I do eventually lose faith in tubeless, there is no reason not to install tube in the same rim/tire combo.

    I’d really like for ETRTO and ?DIN/ISO? to release their road tubeless rim and tire standards before investing more in the technology and I’m really interested in the new Specialized Turbo tubeless tires. Nothing against the Panaracer, I’m certain that it’s great. I just tend to stick with brands I know when trying new bike technologies.

  3. MM

    In your evaluation, how many miles could you run rear tire before it needed replacement? I have been running road tubeless since 2012 and found that tubeless tires today only last around 1,500 miles. By comparison I could get 3000+ from Hutchinson Fusion 3. Same ride quality.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Boy, if you’re getting 3k miles from a tire and are pleased with the ride quality, I can’t imagine why you’d switch to anything else. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that many miles out of a tire, even when I was riding smooth pavement in SoCal. I certainly don’t expect to get that many miles out of the Panaracers, but with several hundred miles on them the wear I see is negligible.

    2. MM

      The Fusion3 is not produced anymore since around 2016/17. The tire was industry leader in 2012, one of the first to properly seat on Stans rims (I run Alpha 340) and great trainer/racer. So I have been searching since, semi happy with Schwable Pro1 mainly on price ($40-50 and not $60-70 like most others); on rear they last 900-1300. I believe higher milage is possible given that lower PSI puts wear across larger surface area of tire/asphalt contact, but then tire compound becomes the gate. Here in NorCal, tubeless is awesome for getting you home everytime in August-October after the Star thistles bloom (ie Goathead thorns).

  4. Scott

    Timely article, I just finished reading a thread debating whether a normal person would appreciate road tubeless. I may have to start looking for my valves and take the tubes out of my 32mm gravelking slicks.

  5. Jason

    Glad for another awesome product review. Keep ‘em coming! I value your product reviews more than any other when considering something I haven’t yet ridden. So, Thank you!
    I’m considering either these or Compass Tires in 30 or 32c for my Bontrager Pro3V wheels.

  6. Eric

    I’m genuinely surprised at how 25mm tubeless tires smoothed out my TCR. Transformative.

    They’re definitely more of a hassle and I dread they day I get a puncture that doesn’t seal, but I’m enjoying things so far.

  7. GT

    You are going down a similar path as myself. I’ve been a sales rep in the bike industry for 25+ years and cycling is my passion and hobby. Over the years we have all experienced many changes to our equipment including clipless pedals, index shifting, more cogs, smaller chainrings, carbon frames and wheels, disc brakes, etc. All of these were big but nothing moved the needle for me as much as tubeless road. I was on a disc brake road bike with carbon tubular wheels that was a good ride but I was not really impressed with this bike based on the pedigree that this particular brand carries. I switched over to a carbon tubeless wheel and within 10 minutes of the first ride I knew that this was a change of very high magnitude. Suddenly that bike was by far the best I’ve ever ridden and the speed, comfort and traction of the tubeless tires and wheels was mind blowing. These were 25’s at 70 PSI. I soon switched to 28’s at 60 psi and I’m now riding these at 55psi. It is unbelievable! I’m a big guy too at 190lbs. What really astonished me the most was going in and out of bike shops and talking with the experienced salespeople, avid cyclists and mechanics and realizing how little of the tubeless experience they collectively have as a group. And no idea about tire pressures that are real and work, everyone seems to be way high on psi guesses. If you give the thumb test and squeeze a 700×28 tubeless tire at 60psi and one with an inner tube at 90 psi, they feel about the same. Believe it people, the reason to switch is to improve the tactile feel that you have on your bike. It makes it way more enjoyable to ride!

  8. Chuck

    Timely piece, Padraig. Even though I have no real reason to go road tubeless (I’ve had all of four flats in the last six years since I got back on a bike after a 15 year hiatus), I can so why not? I have a pair of Pirelli Cinturatos 700×26 to use. I’m mulling over sealant but am leaning towards the Caffelatex sealant because I’m intrigued by the fact that it foams up when the wheel is spinning (theoretically providing greater, and more even sealant coverage) and then returns to liquid state after being at rest. https://www.effettomariposa.eu/en/products/caffelatex/ What’s the worst that can happen? I go back to riding tubes. So one of my off-season projects.

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