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Conidering tubulars...(14 posts)

Conidering tubulars...gmc
Mar 24, 2001 9:57 AM me out of it?

I realize that for most folks out there, as good as clinchers are today, it just doesn't make sense to ride tubulars any more. But I've never had a set of tubular wheels, and the purist in me (always struggling to get out) says I need to have a set or I'm missing something.

Some of the questions I'm considering:
- What are the best reasons for riding tubulars? For not?
- Anyone done the weight savings calculations?
- Flats? Are they really less prone? Seems most of my flats are pinch flats, even though I's a stickler for tire pressure.
- How bad is it to patch tubulars?

Very interested in opinions by those who have ridden them extensively - if there are any of those guys left! And of course, Doug's thoughts.

FYI: recreational rider, no racing; 100-150 miles/week of fast (but not fast enough) riding; I weigh 190; wheels would go on a De Rosa San Remo (Columbus Brain, kinda heavy but beautiful - Hey, I said I was a purist).
Mar 24, 2001 10:14 AM
you might want to do a search on this one. If you've always wanted 'em, try 'em. They do ride great - it's just a different feel. I'd go with nice ones - my favs are Corsa CXs (I think I'd ride those exclusively if I could afford it). You don't have to worry about pinch flats but otherwise they are more of a hassle. I don't weigh much and when I get flats it usually means the tire is getting thin and worn so I just replace 'em. But I mostly ride heavy Conti clinchers - the tubulars only come out for the occaissional ride or hill climb.
re: Conidering tubulars...Kerry Irons
Mar 24, 2001 3:04 PM
For someone who rides as much as you do, the best reason is prestige. Tubular fans point to lack of pinch flats (I've never had one since switching to clinchers 3yrs ago, after 30 years on tubulars), more safety if your front tire goes flat on a downhill (never had this experience, but a blowout on the front wheel at speed is going to be serious regardless of tire type), less rim damage if you flat (haven't had any rim damage from flats on clinchers), and a superior ride (top tubulars MAY give a better ride than top clinchers, but they cost 40% more and some would say you have to have "Princess and the Pea" sensitivity to feel it - others claim a significantly better ride. I guess I'm not very sensitive as I saw no drop in ride quality when switching to clinchers)
cost, hassle, weight (you have to carry the extra tire, and this cancels the wheel weight savings, even after considering rotational kinetic energy issues), and cost.
- Anyone done the weight savings calculations? All depends on what you are comparing (Zipps/ADAs or Open Pro/Reflex). IMO an apples and apples comparison says you'll save 200 grams or less, and the extra weight of the carried spare cancles that.
I don't understand why you're having pinch flats - I weigh 180 and never get them. In my experience, I have fewer flats with clinchers (Conti GP, Vred Fortezza, Conti GP 3000 - 23mm and all inflated to 8 bar) than I ever did with tubulars. Plus, if worse comes to worse, I can get home even after multiple flats during a ride using instant patches. If you are the only one in the group riding tubulars and you have two flats (not likely but it does happen) then you need to call for a ride. A well-glued tubular makes flat changing a challenging process.
In my prime I could repair almost 3 per hour, when I got a "production line" going. Most people report taking twice as long as that. Many people don't get good results with their repairs (lumps, wiggles, rapid failure, poor chafing tape adhesion) and many never even repair their tubulars. The latter approach is OK if you're lucky enough to wear them out before they flat, but pretty expensive if you get unlucky and flat in the first few hundred miles.

Bottom line, the primary advantage to tubulars is in criterium racing, where you are constantly braking for the corners and accelerating back to speed. This is where rotating weight is meaningful. Weight savings alone is important in climbing IF (!) you don't carry a spare tire AND you are racing so the few seconds saved is meaningful. Since you're not racing, my advice is to spend money on good clinchers, and maybe switch to wider tires to solve your pinch flat problem. You say that you want to try tubulars because you are a purist. Can we assume that you also downhill ski in leather boots and play tennis with a wood racket? I'm not saying tubulars are as archaic as these things, but riding tubulars is not a reflection of your "purism" on the bike. The (cost + hassle)/(performance improvement) ratio is not the greatest, and the performance improvement is only going to be noticeable in a racing situation where you are already at the top level.
Damn Kerry, I was all set to buy a pair of 303s...biknben
Mar 24, 2001 4:23 PM
I'm gonna get them anyway, but you are casting doubt in my mind. I do race some Crits but I am planning to train on them too. It's something I need to try. I want to make sure I'm not missing something.

I ride with a guy who has tubulars and doesn't carry a spare. He's never gotten a flat.
Urban mythsKerry Irons
Mar 24, 2001 5:18 PM
"I ride with a guy who has tubulars and doesn't carry a spare. He's never gotten a flat."

I think the proper words are "He claims he's never gotten a flat." When I think of the number of flats I've had and witnessed over the years, on everything from track tubulars to MTB tires, I simply cannot believe such a claim. People who say that either are victims of convenient selective memory, change tires every couple of hundred miles, or they never leave their garage. Even changing tires frequently is no guarantee. Statistics are simply not on the side of such a statement.
go with the 303sDuane Gran
Mar 26, 2001 4:02 AM
I have some Zipp 303s on order and although Kerry offers some really good input, I have found the weight savings for the tubular to be worth it. The original poster isn't talking about racing them, but if you plan your zipps for a race day wheel (where you don't carry a spare) you will save about 500g in weight. Note that about 450g is a US pound.

To the original poster, I can't think of any single reason compelling enough to ride tubulars for fitness/training. They are race equipment. This isn't a snobbish way of saying that you aren't worthy to use them, it is an observation that the maintenance issues for tubulars makes them impractical for non-race riding.
re: Conidering tubulars...gmc
Mar 25, 2001 12:37 AM
OK, you did what I asked you to do - you talked me out of it.

I was trying to evaluate all the arguments one routinely hears for riding tubulars, but I think you're right - it comes down to the (cost plus hassle) / performance ratio. Aand you're saying it's not as favorable a ratio as I'm led to believe, or at least had in my mind. Fair enough. "Prestige" - that's not good enough. And anyway, we all know prestige doesn't come from snazzy equipment.
are you really saving weight?cyclopathic
Mar 25, 2001 6:25 AM
Conti GP supersonic is 155g + 65g tube = 220g (well need to add 25-35g for rim too)

how about rolling resistance? THe main argument (besides rim damage) I have heard was that tubular have much less rolling resistance then clinchers, is it another urban myth?
Roll right through the nightKerry Irons
Mar 25, 2001 11:24 AM
Actually, most rolling resistance tests suggest that clinchers are better than tubulars. The argument is that you get some "squirm" at the glue (which never really hardens) and tire interface and that it's hard to get a tubular perfectly straight. In practice, most of these tests are questionable because they inflate all the tires to the same pressure. Seems fair enough, but in fact a sewup can be inflated to a higher pressure and give the same "ride" as a clincher at a lower pressure. Bottom line: the tire you choose (not the choice of clincher or tubular) will determine your rolling resistance. There is a lot more variation between models and brands than there is between clinchers and tubulars.
re: Conidering tubulars...Ken
Mar 25, 2001 1:16 AM
On the Lew Wheels web site in their FAQ page there is an interesting arguement in favor of tubulars. You'll have to scroll down the FAQ page until you find it.

re: Conidering tubulars...Chris Jones
Mar 25, 2001 10:33 AM
Lew claims 90% of flats are caused by pinch flats.

If 90% of flats are caused by pinch flats I'm due for about a couple hundred of 'em. I've had plenty of flats, mostly glass or gravel, but I have NEVER had a pinch flat. I think I'll stick to clinchers.

Chris Jones
re: Conidering tubulars...Ian
Mar 25, 2001 11:51 AM
I think the only good reason for riding tubulars is if you race and have an extra pair of wheels for training. It is as simple as that. As Kerry said, it becomes a cost / benefit vs. hassle issue. I just built a new bike and while I drooled over the Lew wheels and the Velomax Ascent Pros, I knew the smart thing was to buy clinchers. By the way, I weigh 210 and have never had a pinch flat in 6 years mountain biking and 5 years road riding. It has always been debris or a bad tube. What tires, tubes and psi are you running?
Racing onlyDog
Mar 25, 2001 1:08 PM
I've been back and forth on the tubular thing for over 21 years. My advice, based upon my experience, is never use tubulars unless these criteria are all met: 1. You are racing with them; 2. You are racing on wheels that are light and aero, and not available in clinchers (most likely all carbon rims); 3. You have support.

Changing a tubular in a race, if they were glued on properly, is a huge pain in the butt. And they sure as heck do flat! I got a flat 10 miles into my first race this year on a tubular. I spent at least 5 minutes frantically yanking on the tire to get it off - great glue job. Violated my own rule, no support. If I'd had support, the wheel would have been changed in 30 seconds. Crits, you always have support, assuming you leave spare wheels in the pits, which you are always pretty close to.

I can carry 2 or 3 tubes and tire levers for the weight and space of one tubular spare. I don't know about you, but after I get two flats, I'd prefer to believe that I can get home without walking or patching a sew up on the side of the road, both of which I've done. It ain't fun either way.

Just get some really light clincher wheels, tires, and tubes. You'll get darn close to the tubular performance. But, speaking of performance, what the heck does it matter if you are not racing? Tubulars, in any form, will not transform you from the guy who gets dropped to the club king of the mountains. There is just not that much difference.

Differences in ride are extremely subtle. I doubt most people can tell the difference, other than noticing the much higher pressures available with tubulars.

They are a relative pain the the butt to change. Glue is messey. The tires are expensive (the best ones, at least).

You get several flats 50 miles from home, and run out of patches or tubes. I'd bet there is a 90% chance that someone will come along, maybe even a total stranger, and will give you a tube. I've seen it many times. There is one in a million chance of that happening with a tubular.

Just say no. Sure, they seem cool, but not worth the trouble for most people.

A different viewzelig
Mar 26, 2001 2:20 AM
With all due respect to Doug's view of for racing only which definitely has its merits, I will argue the other side. I have 25+ years of riding and racing on tubs, and only in the last two seasons ridden on clinchers due to the following circumstances: I rode for years in Boston and New York without any significant problems flatting tubs. However, upon moving to London, suddenly I was flatting with annoying frequency due to glass cuts and consequently switched to clinchers with a protective belt, kevlar or the prb system in Vredestein's. No question about it, clinchers have their pluses and minuses just like tubs.

There are two things you don't mention in your post. Road conditions where you ride and any concern about the economics. The former and latter tie together as tub repair is a bit more onerous than tube patching with the alternative being just trashing the flatted tub and mounting another. If you ride where there is lots of debris, such as glass or thorns which can cut or puncture the tire, you might be better served by clinchers. Note that I rode in Boston and NYC without problems.

Best reasons for tubs- Primarily ride comfort and secondarily the ability to build a lighter wheel/tire set up versus a clincher wheel/tire setup of equivalent strength. (That being said, variety in tub rims and weights is decreasing and 'boutique wheels', as well as those by specialty builders such as Dave's Speed Dreams or AC, are light on an absolute scale.) Excellent performance. Cost of tubs, once an issue has become less important which is more of a function of US distribution profit schemes, i.e. you're getting ripped off.

Best reasons for clinchers- Convenience of mounting tires and repairing tubes. Larger variety of rims and tires versus tubs. Excellent performance.

Puncture resistance- As for one being less flat prone than the other, the differences are not between tub versus clincher but the construction of the tire carcass and tread itself. I haven't noted any significant differences although I've only ridden about 10,000 miles on clinchers.

Mounting- Clinchers are easier and more convenient. Its really a question of how frequently do you flat?

Pinch flats- Not an issue in tubs unless improperly inflated.

Question about weights, mounting technique and tub repair are easily addressed by Edward Zimmerman's neat site which advocates the use of tubulars and also has a wheel weight calculator. It can be found at the following link.

Up until 10 years ago, there really was no debate about what you would ride on a proper bike, racing or fast recreational. Tubs were the only way to go. You trained on them, raced on them, did the recreational thing on them, 'crossed on them and even toured on them. Given your mileage, why not give tubs a try or better yet, borrow a set from a friend and see if you like them. If you really like them, you can find lots of wheelsets for sale on EBay and the like as people head for clinchers.

Background- Cat. II racer in the 70's and now just enjoy fast rides. I still remember (and own) wool jersies and shorts, toe clip and straps, handlebar mount bottles, non-indexed shifters, cloth tape, 5-spd clusters, hairnet helmets and Pirelli tubs. Its only the latter I miss.

Current clincher wheels: Mavic Open CD, Ultegra hubs, db rear and revo front with various tires. Mavic Ksyriums.

Current tub wheels: Mavic GP-4 (new style), 14 straight rear and db front with various tires. Spinergy Rev-X extralites.

Me, upon my return to the States, I'll go back to tubs. There's nothing like riding on a nicely aged set of Clements or Vittorias on a sunny day. In storage I have another 4 sets of tub wheels and 9 pairs of tub rims so there's lots of choice.