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I'm in a market for new 700c road wheels and noticed that, in addition to usual clincher and tubular, some companies sell rims in hookless variant. They don't seem to be significantly lighter compared to clinchers (both listed as 400g by manufacturer of my choice).

What are benefits and drawbacks of hookless rims over clinchers?

Update: I've decided to leave the answer open until wheelset in question is built and tested, as my own experience might be enough for another answer.

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    I suspect that they're easier to make in carbon. If you're a manufacturer and you want to introduce something to make your life easier, sell it as a "feature". Works especially well in the bike market where everyone wants the latest and greatest. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 10 '14 at 12:26
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    Hooks are a hard shape to do in carbon fiber, so its cheaper and easier to do. Presumably this could make it a bit lighter, but you lose the protection of the hook (I'd think this is more of a problem in MTB due to lower pressures). That being said, the wheels on your car are hookless and I think I've seen old bicycle wheels which were hookless too. – Batman Sep 10 '14 at 18:17
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You can make a slightly lighter, slightly stronger wheel, and depending on your priorities, it's a cheaper manufacturing process as well (hopefully to be passed on to the consumer), especially when we're talking about carbon fiber.

Bead hooks serve virtually no purpose for lower pressure tires. They're designed to bind clincher tires into the rim only when used with a tube. Without a tube, once you get above ~65-75PSI, a kevlar or wire bead will stretch over the rim and blow off because there's no tube binding the tire bead into the rim hook. That was the biggest hurdle in creating a tubeless road tire, and why the ultimate solution was a carbon bead with virtually no elasticity.

Since road tubeless hasn't really taken off and you wouldn't be able to use a standard clincher tire with a hookless road rim(1), you're unlikely to see a big push towards hookless road rims anytime soon. However, anyone interested in running a mountain bike tubeless setup isn't interested in running that sort of pressure so the stretching off the rim simply from being inflated becomes a non-issue. That combined with the reasons listed above are why you're seeing more and more mtb rims going with a hookless design.


(1)I've read that Alex has a prototype road rim in testing that's for tubeless and standard clinchers, but I just don't see how the latter would work.

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Finally, I've built a bike using rims in question and rode humble 50 km. Here's my experience:

  1. Putting Schwalbe One Tubeless was tough as hell, I had to lube everything with dishwashing liquid to drop enough traction, tires sit very tight.
  2. Tire doesn't blow off at 100 psi. I didn't pump more that that.
  3. It takes two weeks for non-sealed tire to lose all air. With a scoop of Stan's it takes about three days to drop from 80 psi to 60 psi. I don't know how hooked clincher would affect this, duration probably depends on other factors as well (tape, tires condition, sealant).
  4. Riding bad quality asphalt didn't seem to affect wheels at all.

This seems to be pretty similar to my UST ready Sunringle Black Flag wheelset combined with non-UST tires running tubeless. Unfortunately, I can't compare same model rims in same conditions.

Update: in the following two months I didn't experience any trouble with wheels whatsoever. Tires seem to lose air less quicky than before, but this is very subjective.

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