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Tubular tires vs. clincher tires

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Tubular tires vs. clincher tires

Old 02-17-19, 08:47 PM
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TGlide
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Tubular tires vs. clincher tires

Can anyone tell me the benefits/ differences between tubular tires vs. my current clincher tires? I have been planning to get back into road cycling after a period reduces cycling on an 11 year old bike.
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Old 02-17-19, 09:55 PM
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Tubulars aren't for you, at least at this stage.

They're tires that are glued to the rim. I don't think anybody makes tubular tires that aren't excellent, which is nice but pricey. If you get a flat and can't fix it with sealant, the tire comes off and another one is glued on. You use different rims for this. Unless you're pretty handy and carry glue and whatnot, a flat ends your ride and means the call of shame. They're a very expensive pain in the ass.

They're also lighter (mostly the rims are lighter), they typically have less rolling resistance, cornering is a little better, and you can limp forward on a flat, plus they're glued to the rim, which means you're not going to crash if you flat coming down a hill at 30. Basically, they make sense in a race, maybe a climb too, but that's about it.

Tubeless is most of the convenience of clinchers and most of the benefits of tubulars. I'll catch some hell for that.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:56 PM
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I'm putting them on the tandem:
-More air between rim and road
-Higher pressure - 130-180 (I'll run 28mm @ about 140PSI)
-Less rim weight (Weightweenie I am)
-For the same weight, I have found they puncture less.
-Stans and Vittoria flat fix correct many slow leak issues.

I will carry a spare.

FWIW I have much experience with them. There is still more art factor involved, but depending on where you live, they can be a good option.

In SoCal - on the coast, too many Goat Head thorns. There is no defense for any tire that has air. I use clinchers on the single.
My kid can ride all year on them with no flats and he caries no spares (cell phones, 1st world problems and all) in CO where there are no road scraps, glass or nasty thorns. They handle the rocks better.
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Old 02-17-19, 11:26 PM
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I rode tubulars exclusively for 22 years and a lot of miles. (All non-goathead territory.) 3 seasons of racing, decades of commuting, All my touring, many day rides. I used glues that set up hard for open racing, Tubasti for everything else including club racing. Tubasti does not set up hard. You can peel off your flatted tire, mount your spare and in a couple of miles, it's on pretty good. A huge plus is that the tire change takes 5 minutes. 5 minutes in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, in parts of town where you worry for your bike (and maybe your health).

I've been riding clinchers the past 20-25 years. They've gotten a lot better. But I also have rolled a clincher off the rim after a blowout. Crash cost me a collarbone, several ribs and an acre of skin. And I was only going ~25 mph. We have plenty of hills here where close to 50 is possible for leafs like me. I never want to see that crash going fast but I have blown tubulars at 40+. Heart stoppers but except for that, no big deal, even in front.

Tubulars are a commitment; a way of life, but there are very real benefits that don't show up in in test results.

Ben
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Old 02-17-19, 11:56 PM
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Nice tubular wheels are available used pretty cheap.

Tires cost not much more than clinchers (there are crappy ones for sure)

The rims are lighter, more sturdy, & pinch flats are nil.

You generally carry a spare tire, so a bad sidewall cut does not end your ride.

Good ride quality, safety, etc. as mentioned above.
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Old 02-18-19, 12:04 AM
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Stick with clinchers.
Unless you like mucking around with glue and always carrying a spare tyre.
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Old 02-18-19, 10:38 AM
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I simply love the ride of tubulars, and the posters above have mentioned the benefits. For years I had clinchers on only my dedicated touring bike, but used tubulars on the others. It has only been in the last few years that good, supple, wide clinchers have been able to match either the ride or the cornering ability of tubulars, so I have been using them more often now. But dang, I still love riding on tubulars!
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Old 02-18-19, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Tubulars aren't for you, at least at this stage.

They're tires that are glued to the rim. I don't think anybody makes tubular tires that aren't excellent, which is nice but pricey. If you get a flat and can't fix it with sealant, the tire comes off and another one is glued on. You use different rims for this. Unless you're pretty handy and carry glue and whatnot, a flat ends your ride and means the call of shame. They're a very expensive pain in the ass.

They're also lighter (mostly the rims are lighter), they typically have less rolling resistance, cornering is a little better, and you can limp forward on a flat, plus they're glued to the rim, which means you're not going to crash if you flat coming down a hill at 30. Basically, they make sense in a race, maybe a climb too, but that's about it.

Tubeless is most of the convenience of clinchers and most of the benefits of tubulars. I'll catch some hell for that.
Meh...

Tubular market has changed pretty drastically in the last few years. The whole lot of riders have somehow become so afraid of tubulars that the market for wheels just DIED. Check any of the selling groups on Facebook or forums and you can get tubular carbon sets of wheels for $200 or so. I can sell you new ones for like $400. No one wants them.

That's sad because the tires, while already amazing, have gotten better. The compounds on treads now are stellar. The reason I quoted your post was to clarify about the tubeless thing. Many tubulars I work with at this point are in fact "tubeless" in construction. Meaning they don't have an innertube inside and the casing is sealed 100%. That allows us to use sealant. I have racers who can get 2-3 seasons of races out of a set of tires because of that.

In general the gap between the two systems narrowed a lot. Now tubulars are starting to inch forward again. In general the tire systems including the rims are lighter and allow more aggressive cornering, etc. I always tell the story of a guy who ended up going on to be a domestic pro but then left to be a model in Italy (don't ask). I glued up a new set of Vittoria EVO CX II and delivered them before a race we had downstate. It was a messed up crit with something like 15 turns in a single lap with no straight longer than a block. It went through parking lots, etc. He won the race in a dominant fashion. He cam over after the race and said,"Rob that was amazing. I was putting 10-20 feet on everyone in every corner just because I could carry the speed and they kept backing off. I felt so stable the whole race." I looked down and he had worn the hot patches off the sidewalls in that 1 race. He spent half the race riding on the sidewalls.

Will clinchers ever get to that level? No. Does it matter for 98% of the riding public? No.

Also to note: I have sponsored Laura Van Gilder for years. She is racing on Clinchers. She doesn't glue so she would have to rely on others at every race to glue if she needed it. Travelling with mastic is a no-no unless you hide it (flammable). While with a clincher she can swap a tube herself. Is it a disadvantage for her racing? Mildly. Has it made a difference in her outcomes as a racer? No.

So....

I know this gets over-used and has no real context for those here that aren't in touch with the actual racing world but "unless you are racing" I wouldn't both with tubular for road use. That being said you can get great tires and wheels for great prices and use sealant to help avoid tire costs at replacement.

Now for cyclocross...........
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Old 02-18-19, 06:07 PM
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Thanks to all this is very helpful.
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Old 02-18-19, 06:26 PM
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Yep, unless your a racer, have a mechanic or team car follow you, stay with clinchers. I have one set of tubulars left, on a set of rims. Mounted 2 years ago and rode 40-50 miles. I'm 72, and have arthritis in my fingers, and done with tubulars. Going to salvage the hubs and build a set of clincher rims on them as a future project. Will give away the tires. Done. KB
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Old 02-18-19, 11:04 PM
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I've been riding 95% on tubulars for the last four years,

including long, remote, dirt, etc.. I got a flat last fall, & one the previous year. One year I got a slow leak, put on the spare but slashed it riding

through a flooded area (in the winter) & had to make the call of shame.

I have several wheelsets with different tires/cassettes for different conditions.

It takes a little longer to mount a tire than clinchers, but probably no more than tubeless.

Really not that big of a deal.
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Old 02-18-19, 11:07 PM
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Raced on Tubulars for years. I think they saved my bacon couple of times in a crit when I got puncture and didn't realize it was going flat until mid corner. Funny enough on same course years a part.
That being said couple years ago switched to clinchers. Just got tired of gluing tires. Haven't impacted my racing yet, but then again I am mediocre CAT3.
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Old 02-19-19, 06:26 AM
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@Psimet2001: what tubulars are you recommending these days for your racers? I have been on veloflex for a while now.
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Old 02-19-19, 08:24 AM
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Borrow a set of tubular wheels. Those of us who use them need to make converts. You will either be completely sold or wonder what all the fuss is. Browsing around this forum you will find riders commenting about how light fast and crisp Schwalbe Marathons are. Those riders are not wrong, their perceptions are different. When I ride Marathons it feels like the wheels are stuck in soft tar. There is no point in telling this to those who love their Marathons.

Stories about glue are mostly stories. If gluing tires seems hopelessly foreign to you don't do it. Back in olden days when tubulars flatted a lot (they did once flat a whole lot) we all rode home unglued often. When 200-300 was a good distance between flats and one was riding 10,000 a year we rode home unglued weekly and nothing bad ever happened. Don't do criterium corners, or sprint, or do high-speed descents and air pressure alone will hold on your tires. Do carry good reliable inflation and a spare. Carry glue?

Cheapo tubulars are just that. Not much magic in $20 tires. Tufo tubulars are in a world of their own. Midrange Contis are not particularly preferable to high end Conti clinchers. Get good tires. Shop. If you shop the top tires can consistently be found for $50-$60.

If you've been gone 11 years clinchers have changed. There were some good clinchers back then, now there are a lot. Even the good ones carrying the same label as 11 years ago are better.
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Old 02-19-19, 01:46 PM
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I ride 300 days per year, about half of this on tubulars. Good clincher and tubular tires are about the same as far as quality of construction.

The overwhelming advantage of tubulars is the rims. Repeat: the rims.

Look at a cross section of a clincher rim... see those two projections/ hooks that are required to hold the tire bead on? That is the problem. They add weight at the worst possible place on a bike. The hooks are fragile, and subject to impact damage. The hooks are sharp and cause pinch flats.

Weight, safety and pinch flat resistance is why tubulars are ridden at the elite levels of the sport, past, present and forever.

I don't race, but I spend lots of miles on tubulars for two reasons: I have a large stash of tubular wheels and tires collected on the cheap - mostly from retired racers. Second, a lot of my riding involves soul-crushing climbs (advantage - tubulars) and warp-speed descents. The prospect of a sudden blowout on clinchers scares me.

Last edited by Dave Mayer; 02-19-19 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 02-19-19, 06:16 PM
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I personally don't find maintenance of tubulars any big deal. I wouldn't use that as a reason not to try tubs. I've been riding Veloflex Arenbergs, probably not as great a ride as a top race tire, but not temperamental at all for me.

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Old 02-19-19, 08:02 PM
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When I raced road bikes tubular tires really made a difference in rolling resistance and cornering. Not so much anymore as tire technology is light years ahead of where it was 35 years ago. Specifically the Conti Gran Prix tires. Back then cheap tubies were available and we used them for training rides, saving the good stuff for races. This meant, of course, two sets of wheels. In all those years I never had a flat. Unbelievable to think that was possible, but I suppose I was super lucky. If one does flat, it can be repaired, but have it done by someone that has been taught to do it with particular attention to detail.
No longer ride them as I see no need for it as a slow poke rider.
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Old 02-19-19, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
Stick with clinchers.
Unless you like mucking around with glue and always carrying a spare tyre.
Good point. But someone used that same logic as to why I should drive a car.

Not so sure caring a spare is as needed in every case. In goathead-free regions and a mobile phone and a friend, or the USAC roadside assistance a bottle of Stans and CO2 could last you a few years. My spoiled son carries no spares. As a junior I rescued him a few times in several years.
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Old 02-19-19, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
Not so much anymore as tire technology is light years ahead of where it was 35 years ago.
The closing of the gap is more down to demand for performance-oriented clinchers, than to technological advance. Vulcanized tires were mostly fairly poor 35 years ago, but there was nothing stopping tire manufacturers from sewing cold-glued cotton casings onto clincher beads and making quality "open tubulars."
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Old 02-20-19, 05:49 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Tubulars aren't for you, at least at this stage.

They're tires that are glued to the rim. I don't think anybody makes tubular tires that aren't excellent, which is nice but pricey. If you get a flat and can't fix it with sealant, the tire comes off and another one is glued on. You use different rims for this. Unless you're pretty handy and carry glue and whatnot, a flat ends your ride and means the call of shame. They're a very expensive pain in the ass.

They're also lighter (mostly the rims are lighter), they typically have less rolling resistance, cornering is a little better, and you can limp forward on a flat, plus they're glued to the rim, which means you're not going to crash if you flat coming down a hill at 30. Basically, they make sense in a race, maybe a climb too, but that's about it.

Tubeless is most of the convenience of clinchers and most of the benefits of tubulars. I'll catch some hell for that.
My experience is that road replacement tires do not need to be gjued on. If you keep some used o repaired tires as spares, the used but not hardened glue will have some adhesion to the rim, especially after continuing the ride a little - it warms up. If you have a very long ride you may want to carry glue and some disposable rubber gloves (a little vial of Goof-off or similar for little spills), and pre-stretch a new tire to make sure it can install in the field.

Excellent tubulars maybe $80 to >$200, but good ones can be very good indeed. Gommitalia Champion and Espresso are my favorites in the low to mid range. Poor low-end products in my opinion include Continental Giro and Vittoria Rallye. Worth mention in the low end is the house brand Servizio Corse, from Yellow Jersey of or near Madison Wisconsin. In Colorado I've gotten good deals at Schwab Cycles on the west side of Denver, at least they used to be there. Large selection on-line at World Class Cycles, in Long Island, New York. Vecchio's Cycletteria in Boulder is a great resource for you. I don't know the Denver stores any more, I used to live near a Performance on Colorado Blvd.

Getting tubular rims has a lot of points to consider: gearing, shift system, number of spokes, OLD, carbon/notcarbon, braking, and will you build/support the wheels yourself. I had my first road bike in 1968 and tubulars around 1970, so I have a lot of this stuff in my history. It's a learning experience, but nothing here is actually difficult if you can maintain your own bike.

A lot of people here will show anxiety over the idea of repairing (meaning patching) flat tubular tires at roadside, but nobody does that, it's just too fiddly without a table. You carry a spare or two in an under-seat bag and a good pump or CO2. Flat-fix for the innertube, but ... there are a lot of opinions about that, and I've had mixed results. I know carrying a spare works, and that patching it at home (opening the tire carcass, patching carefully, and sewing it back up) works. Servizio Corse tires sell 3 for $50 so you get a spare, and you can use a short lashing strap or old toe-strap (again dating myself) to tie it under your saddle.

"Zinn's Cycling Primer (2004)" discusses how to manage tubulars and contains a lot of additional vintage knowledge and chops. In addition there is the traditional "Anybody's Bike Book" by Tom Cuthbertson, dating back to 1973 or so. But tubulars and traditionally spoked wheels have not changed, though lacing spokes has, foot retention (toe clips) had straps, and carbon was a way of making cigarette smoke milder, but not less carcinogenic.
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Old 02-24-19, 02:46 AM
  #21  
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I love my tubulars and have only had to walk home once when my valve somehow broke and could not find it to get extension put on spare. Gluing tires is not hard and the ride is amazing.
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Old 02-24-19, 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
Meh...

Tubular market has changed pretty drastically in the last few years. The whole lot of riders have somehow become so afraid of tubulars that the market for wheels just DIED. Check any of the selling groups on Facebook or forums and you can get tubular carbon sets of wheels for $200 or so. I can sell you new ones for like $400. No one wants them.

That's sad because the tires, while already amazing, have gotten better.
Those instructions suggesting it takes about a week to glue one's tire to the rim probably don't help.

It certainly didn't take long for me to mount up the tires when I was riding tubulars. But, that was before the internet telling me that I was doing it all wrong.

Patching sewups is a pain. I suppose you don't have to worry about that with Tufos. Either the seal, or they don't.

I rode tubulars from about 1982 till the mid 90's, and loved them, but flats were a hassle. I moved to clinchers in the 90's, and am just getting back to the tubulars. The new sealants should help a lot with ease of use, as well as better flat protection.

There are, of course, "open tubulars" which are a glorified clincher, but perhaps optimized in design a bit.
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Old 02-24-19, 06:19 PM
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I had a pair of tubulars that I would ride on occasion back in the 80s/90s. I stopped cycling for about 10 years due to kids and when I got back into it the clinchers had become so much better that I never considered tubs again. One day though I pulled out the old wheels, found some old tires, one a Clement Criterium Seta, the greatest tire ever made, and gave them a try again on my old steel bike. The ride was nice, just as I remember it, but I was a little corner and speed shy because of the age of the tires. I never went back to them again. I ride GP4000 now and find the ride super comfortable. I guess they've been replaced with the GP5000 and I may need new again soon.
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Old 02-24-19, 06:50 PM
  #24  
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Many observations about the “ pitfalls “ of tubulars are made by those who have never ridden them. I particularly like the comments about how difficult it is to change tires on the road and the need to carry glue, an utterly uninformed observation! I suppose I could make comments about clinchers but they would be relating to my last extensive use of clinchers in the early 80’s. I recently got my first new bike since ‘92 ( Canondale Synapse Di2 ) and the only downside was the Mavic Aksium clincher wheels it came with. They were bombproof but needed upgrading. I picked up a pair of Campy carbon tubular wheels and could not be happier. I may even upgrade from my go to Vittoria Rally tires, which have served me well for many years. Although I rarely get flats on the road, I am keenly aware of what happens with a front clincher flat at speed, having seen a few front rims slide right out. It is great to see longtime tubular users shed light on their experience...
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Old 02-24-19, 09:43 PM
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Glue isn't required, You just have to go easy in the turns after an on-road tire placement.

Incidentally, tire replacements on the road are done without tools. You just use your hands.
Originally Posted by waters60 View Post
Many observations about the “ pitfalls “ of tubulars are made by those who have never ridden them. I particularly like the comments about how difficult it is to change tires on the road and the need to carry glue, an utterly uninformed observation! I suppose I could make comments about clinchers but they would be relating to my last extensive use of clinchers in the early 80’s. I recently got my first new bike since ‘92 ( Canondale Synapse Di2 ) and the only downside was the Mavic Aksium clincher wheels it came with. They were bombproof but needed upgrading. I picked up a pair of Campy carbon tubular wheels and could not be happier. I may even upgrade from my go to Vittoria Rally tires, which have served me well for many years. Although I rarely get flats on the road, I am keenly aware of what happens with a front clincher flat at speed, having seen a few front rims slide right out. It is great to see longtime tubular users shed light on their experience...
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