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Clincher and Tubular wheelsets what the difference(4 posts)

Clincher and Tubular wheelsets what the differencescottfromcali
Nov 27, 2002 6:27 PM
What are advantages and disagvantages of both systems?Thank you
re: Clincher and Tubular wheelsets what the differenceroadcyclist
Nov 28, 2002 1:36 AM
Clincher = tire and tube. 99% of bikes come with clinchers. The biggest advantage being ease of repair (just remove the old tube and patch or replace it). Tubular = tube sewn into tire, tire glued to the rim. Advantage is the ride. There's nothing quite like it. That being said, please note that today's quality clinchers probably ride better than cheap tubulars. Another thing - tubular rims may be lighter than clinchers (important if you're racing). Again, inexpensive tubular rims will not be as light as quality clincher rims. For more info go to rim and tire websites. For addresses go to
More than just ride!!!Alexx
Nov 28, 2002 7:03 AM
Tubulars are lighter, the wheels are ALWAYS lighter (no need for rims to handle any of the hoop stresses of the tire), tubulars flat much less, they are quicker to change on the road, and they are capable of handling much higher pressures than clinchers. EVERY TdF has been won on a bike using tubulars. Every one.
There's no magicKerry
Nov 28, 2002 3:59 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 were 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.

Despite all the glowing testimonials on sewups, I never really noticed much of a difference when switching to clinchers (Michelin's top tire at the time) after nearly 30 years on sewups. IMO, people are more likely feeling the wheels rather than the tires when they compare them. My comparison was Vittoria tubulars mounted on Fiamme Ergal (280 gm) front rims and Fiamme Iride (350 gm) rear rims built with Campy C-Record hubs going to Campy Electron wheels with the Michelins. I really didn't feel much difference - certainly no revelations and nothing I would attribute to the tires alone.

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.