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Tubular vs. clincher(4 posts)

Tubular vs. clincheramlpeterson
Jul 19, 2002 11:10 PM
I am looking to my myself a new wheelset, and was wondering the pros and cons of both tubulars and clinchers. I know you glue tubulars, so if someone could in detail explain that, if would be grateful. PLus other stuff like the ride of tubular tires. And sizes available. By the way, i ride rolf vectors with cont. prix 3000 right now which are clinchers. Thanks
there was a thread a few days ago...OffTheBack
Jul 20, 2002 4:35 AM
titled "are tubulars just for racing?" There were several posts that covered all of the issues pretty well. I'm sure there will be more posts here, since it is kind of a religious issue not unlike the Shimano vs Campy debate.

IMHO, if we were having this conversation in 1987 (when I started racing) I would have said definitely use tubulars for racing, and maybe for training as well if you can put up with the hassle. But this is 2002, and clincher rims and tires have gotten so much better that I can't see any reason to ride tubulars unless you need a fraction of a second in an elite-level race. Clinchers are perfectly adequate for training, club-level racing, and even most pro-level racing, and they are much easier to live with.

Peace and good riding.
re: Tubular vs. clincherJimP
Jul 20, 2002 1:36 PM
I switched from clinchers to tubulars several years ago for my regular wheels. Prior to that, I trained on clinchers and raced on tubulars. I found I was having more flats with the clinchers than the tubulars and I had more confidence in cornering with the tubulars. I found I had to pump up the clinchers to about 140 psi for the front and 160 on the rear to avoid pinch-flats on poor roads since I weigh about 190lbs. I now ride with about 135 psi for both tubular tires which gives a much better ride on grainy surfaces.
I have used Vittoria, Tufo, Continental, and other tubulars but have settled on Continentals - CompGP19 for the front and Sprinter 250 for the rear. This setup works well for good roads.
I usually carry 2 spare tires that have been used and have glue on them but are still good enough to be a spare. Recently I had a flat while riding with a couple of friends who had never seen a tubular changed. They thought I was able to pull off the old tire and replace it with the spare in less time than they could replace the tube in a clincher, let alone trying to patch a hole. I took the old tire home and later determined that the tire wasn't worth repairing.
Now, some would say that they don't carry spare tires, only a tube or patch kit. That's fine until you cut the tire with a piece of glass and need to repair the tire. One of the friends mentioned above had a cut tire during a charity ride that sliced the sidewall of the tire from the rim to the middle of the tread and blew out the tube so neither could be repaired. He got a ride back in the sag wagon.
Good luck with your decision!
A few pointsKerry
Jul 20, 2002 5:45 PM
As a tubular user for nearly 30 years (even toured on them and had them on tandems) who switched to clinchers at the beginning of 1998, my comments follow (many of you have seen this before).

When I started riding "good" bikes, there was no comparison. You could easily do a tubular tire/rim combination for 600 gm, and a clincher rim alone was 600 gm (nobody ever talked about clincher tire weight back then because nobody considered them a high quality option at all). Even when the first light weight clinchers came out in the early '80s, you were still about 200 gm per wheel ahead to go with sew-ups. I converted many a clincher rider over to the nirvana of tubulars: fast tire changes, better ride, lighter weight, stronger wheels. Each winter I would patch tires - three per hour while watching TV. I always kept a year ahead on my tires, too. 20 years ago, tubulars were significantly lighter, tubular rims were significantly lighter, tubulars were widely available across the price range, and almost all tubulars rode significantly better than the best clinchers. The hassles of gluing them on and repairing them were about the same as they are now. For the same total weight of tire/tube/rim/rim strip, tubulars were probably also more durable, since a lighter rim allows a heavier tire.

Fast forward to 2002 and the weight difference has gone from 200+ gm per wheel to about 50 unless you go to something really exotic, the ride differences are much less. Some would argue that only a top of the line tubular rides better than a top of the line clincher, and realistically (US mail order catalogs or pro shops) the selection of tubulars is small. Also, you have to carry a spare TIRE (250 gm) compared to a spare TUBE (90 gm), so the weigh savings is canceled, though the weight is in different places. The savings in rotating weight are only possible if you use the very lightest tubular rims, and that weight savings only has meaning if you are racing crits where you are braking and accelerating at every corner. If you're that close to winning those crits and looking for just a little bit more to push you over the top, tubulars offer an advantage. Even then, it may be more productive to work on your sprint, but that's another story.

Some still swear by tubulars. Most have switched to clinchers. You won't go "wrong" with either, but IMHO you will not get much of a performance improvement with sew ups at significant hassle (if you repair your own) or cost increases. In 1997 (my last on sew ups), I had probably 10 flats in 7K miles, and completely wore through at least 7 tires. In 1998, my first on clinchers, I had 5 flats and wore out two tires (8K miles). The time spent at the side of the road with flats was about the same - half as many flats with clinchers and they take twice as long to change. Tubulars still have a slight performance advantage at the top end, but plenty of pro races are being won on clinchers (25% of TdF riders are on clinchers), so they must be good enough. Call me insensitive, but I can't tell the difference in ride, and I have NEVER given my decision to switch to clinchers a second thought.

As a final point, I would never recommend tubulars to new riders, who have lots to learn about riding, training, racing, and bikes without adding the burden of tubulars to the learning curve.