I haven’t been in the racing game for all that long but I do remember when the only carbon wheels you could trust were tubulars; carbon clinchers were looked at pretty warily and road tubeless was but a glimmer in the bike industry’s eye. I’m usually pretty skeptical of cutting-edge, marketing-driven developments in road tech, but Token is winning me over on carbon tubeless wheels for daily riding and racing. The C38 Zenith wheels are irrefutable evidence that we truly are living in the greatest period of human history, in which we have the privilege to ride cool carbon wheels every day. They are Token’s first carbon wheels that come as ‘tubeless ready’, which means the rims have a raised center channel and bead hooks that support a tubeless tire. Conveniently, these features don’t get in the way of using tubed clinchers. The rims have a modern mid-section aero profile, with a 19mm internal width and 26.3mm external width. Token uses Sapim’s CX-Ray spokes to lace these rims to their Arsenal hubs, which brings the wheelset’s weight to an advertised 1380g. We used Stans rim tape, tubeless valves, and sealant with our IRC Formula Pro 25c tubeless tires. The tires were not difficult to mount using IRC’s tubeless tire levers and we were able to get the tires inflated and seated with a floor pump, which is pretty neat.
Now onto impressions of real world use. The rim’s generous width coupled with a wide tubeless tire gives me the best ride quality I’ve ever experienced. In the past I rode wide alloy clinchers at 75-80psi, but in races I erred on higher pressure to prevent pinch flats. Now that we’re racing on tubeless we don’t have to worry about pinching at all, and the ability to run risk-free lower tire pressure will be a boon at Copperopolis this coming weekend and for every other rough pavement or mixed terrain ride. Daily maintenance is super easy; I pump the tires up to about 80psi once a week and then forget about it until next week. The braking quality with Token’s provided carbon pads is responsive and predictable; they squealed under hard braking in the first week of use but after that break-in period that they’ve been solid. I did flat once on a ride with Torey; I sliced the tire’s contact patch on something that likely would have destroyed anything but a solid rubber tire. The Stans sealant managed to keep the tire from immediately losing all pressure, though I ended up putting a tube in to continue the ride. Torey was already mad at me for showing up late to the ride (I know I know) and we didn’t have time to futz around, so luckily putting a tube into the C38 was no different than any other clincher. The rim’s 38mm depth means you don’t need to carry an extra long valve tube or valve extenders, and I used a normal tire lever to get the tire off and back on again without any stress. I rode the wheel with a clincher tire and tube for a few days until I put on a new tubeless tire, which I did need an air compressor to inflate and seat. This experience taught me that a flat too severe to seal on tubeless is really not much more hassle than with a regular clincher, and certainly less hassle than a flat on a tubular tire.
Sometimes road cycling gets me down, be it from knee aches or stupid crashes or whatever other insults this sport throws at us. But having the C38s to roll on everyday without a care helps me fight back against the negative and enjoy the ride.