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clinchers vs. tubulars?(4 posts)

clinchers vs. tubulars?rrjc5488
Dec 30, 2002 9:25 AM
whats the difference, and whats the advantages? thanks
Oh, for the love of god, not again!!!!!!(nm)Alexx
Dec 30, 2002 1:20 PM
At least its the last c vs. t post of the year! (nm)PODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Dec 30, 2002 2:10 PM
Dec 30, 2002 5:36 PM
Tubulars (AKA sew-ups) have the "bead" of the tire sewn around the tube. The sewing is covered by a glued on chafing strip, and the tire is glued to the rim. The rim is not the same as a "standard" clincher rim, and so is incompatible. Riding tubulars is a different infrastructure than riding clinchers. 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 or never used tubulars in the first place. 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