IRC might not be the most familiar tyre brand in the road bike market at the moment, but its Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard road tyres offer exceptionally good performance, with easy tubeless installation and great durability. The price does put them at the top end of the tyre market, though.
The Formula Pro is the Japanese company's high-performance road bike tyre and this version gets added puncture protection. Underneath the tread is the X-Guard belt of cross-woven mesh fibres that boosts puncture protection by 47%, IRC's claim not ours, without compromising rolling resistance and performance.
To put that to the test I've been comparing these tyres against the regular Formula Pro tyre without the X-Guard; in terms of ride feel there is next to no difference, nor any discernible difference in rolling resistance when tested on several familiar roads.
When it comes to puncture resistance, the tyres have impressed. I've been riding them for several months and purposely ridden them in places where you really shouldn't and they've, so far (touch wood), shrugged it all off. A little more scientific test involving pushing a pin through the tyre in various locations showed the tubeless sealant to do its work and rapidly plug the hole.
Tubeless installation was an easy process. I fitted them to some DT Swiss wheels I'm currently testing and, although a little tight getting the tyre bead over the rim and requiring the help of a single tyre lever, they inflated first time using just a track pump. While there's a growing number of dedicated tubeless inflators I'm personally a fan of a tyre and rim combination that requires nothing more than a track pump to inflate.
With sealant added, air retention has been very good, with the smallest loss of air over a couple of weeks.
I've been testing the 25mm tyres (28mm is available) and running them at about 75-80psi depending on riding conditions, and the performance has been eye-opening.
They feel fast and compare well to other tubeless tyres I've tested, such as the current benchmark Schwalbe Pro One when tested against the stopwatch. They have a similar road feel to those tyres as well, being nicely supple when taking in rough road surfaces and helping to damp the unwanted vibrations and feedback through the contact points.
Traction is impressive, too, whether in the dry or wet, but it's the latter where they IRC tyres pull ahead of the latest generation Schwalbes. The IRCs feel more predictable and planted in the wet, and handle fast corners superbly.
Durability has been similarly impressive, with no punctures during the many miles of testing, and the tyre tread is showing no signs of distress from rough roads they've been tested over.
All things considered, these are very good tubeless tyres. They offer reassuring puncture prevention, good speed in the dry, and traction in the wet, and compare favourably to more well-known rivals. They are expensive, though, and while the list price is the same as the Schwalbe Pro Ones, those can be had for heavily discounted prices if you shop around.
A fast, comfortable and grippy tubeless tyre that is easy to fit, but it's expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: IRC Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard tyres
Size tested: 25mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
IRC says: "Our new tread provides the ultimate rider confidence while making any turn, no matter the weather condition.
"Since we first started making tubeless road tires 10 years ago, there has never been such a revolutionary tire as the formula pro.
"The Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard is the strongest tire in the Formula Pro series with wider tread and extra puncture-proof performance. The all new X-Guard Belt ++ covers the tire sidewall from bead to bead with a 40x40tpi anti-puncture protection barrier."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The X-Guard belt with high penetration resistance makes a tire enable to increase its puncture resistance without compromising comfortable ride or low rolling resistance. In addition to a normal puncture-resistant ply, these tires are layered an extra 40x40 tpi mesh puncture guard, boosting puncture resistance by 47%. The tires prove themselves - in terms of durability, trouble avoidance, and safety - under harsh conditions that demand extreme performance. A tread underlayer with 40x40 tpi (threads per inch) cross-woven mesh fibers boosts puncture resistance by 47% (compared to other IRC products).
They're expensive but no more than other leading tubeless road tyres, but it's possible to shop around and get other well-known tubeless tyres for heavily discounted prices.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Deliver impressive everyday reliability, durability, speed and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy tubeless installation and ride fast with good puncture resistance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Tubeless tyres are still coming of age and it's great to see more choice; this new offering from IRC goes right near the top of the list, but its price is also on the steep side.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.