(Note that I am following the Rev's suit and playing off a religious theme.)
Over the course of my short CX career I've battled with wheel and tire choice. In 2006, when I first started racing CX, I showed up at the RMR with some Ritchey cross tires inflated to 75 PSI. The roadie mentality is fill 'em up, and I did, all the way. While warming up, I blew one of the tires right of the rim, breaking the kevlar bead at the same time. Not knowing that lower pressure is better, I promptly put on my spare wheel with a Kenda tire, also inflated to 70ish PSI. That race was a bit of a blur, but I do remember slip sliding all over getting jarred by the hard ride, and crashing several times -- not that the tires had anything to do with it.
Over the course of the 2006 season, I also experimented running Stans system with Ksyriums, standard box rims, and a variety of tires. I eventually gave it up, but not after I had tried packing tape, Stan's strips, split BMX tires, voo doo, and after I had blown a couple Kenda tires off the rim, ripped out the kevlar beads, and burped some Muds (while winning a race -- twice). Oh yeah, since Bart seemed to have luck with his Stan's setup I asked him to lick my wheels; unfortunately it didn't help.
Not completely learining my lesson in 2006, I made a run at using Stan's in 2007. The benefit of Stan's (in theory) is that you can run low pressure without pinch flatting and have protection against goatheads, of which there are many on all Utah courses. Needless to say, my attempts at using Stan's failed, and I raced on Muds, tubes, and Ksyriums.
Not completely learning my lesson in 2006 and 2007, I made yet another run at using Stan's. And guess what? It worked . . . or seems to be working.
Reynolds DV UL with Challenge Grifos on the left (4.4 lbs), Reynolds Mid-V Clincher with Hutchinson Bulldogs on the right (5.3 lbs) -- (and a trick Edge KOM on the far right, but that's another story)
Two key factors have changed. I'm not using Ksyriums and I'm not using Michelin, Kenda, Ritchey, or Maxxis tires. Instead I'm using some Reynolds mid-V clinchers and Hutchinson Bulldog CX tubeless tires. Using the Reynolds over the Ksyriums means that I have a tight tire fit. Tires are really hard -- bloody knuckle hard -- to get on the Reynolds rims. They are so tight that I was able to air up the tires without an air compressor. Because there is a tight tire fit on the rim, it's hard(er) to burp the sealant and air out. Using the Hutchinsons over other tires means that I have a better, beefier, and more flexible bead, which also prevents against burping and ensures a good seal. My hope is that the bead is also stronger and will not spontaneously self destruct.
So, today, running below 30 PSI (I could push the tire to the rim quite easily), as I was rallying (to the extent I can do so) through soft dirt, bark, and off cambered grass WITHOUT BURPING or air loss, I wondered whether I had discovered the holy grail wheel setup -- especially after I picked out several goatheads from my front tire and the holes immediately sealed up. Those thorns can make tubulars really frustrating and expensive (Grifos have latex tubes in them that don't work well with sealant).
But, having given it further thought, there are two things that stop me from actually declaring that this setup is the holy grail wheel setup: weight and suppleness. Compared to a DV UL with Challenge Grifo setup (without sealant), the Reynolds Clincher Hutchinson setup (with sealant) weighs nearly a full pound more. That's a lot of rotating mass. While it probably wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to a fast guy, it might (at least in my mind) mean the difference between a mid pack to a back-of-the-pack finish. Like that should matter anyway. Though somewhat of a secondary point, the tires are less supple than tubies. The sidewalls fold at low pressure and hard cornering is a bit squirrly. That's at really low pressure -- I shouldn't complain because it's amazing that the tires can be run at tubular pressures.
The huge advantage of the clincher setup is that they self-seal, you can get 6 clinchers for the price of 2 tubies, they are easy to mount, and they won't roll off the rim. And like tubies, you can run them at low pressure without pinch flats.
Holy grail? Close, but as is the case with most things in life, there are trade-offs. I'm just happy that after 3 years, the Stans isn't blowing out all over the place.