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My 4 month experience with tubulars(26 posts)

My 4 month experience with tubularspurplepaul
Oct 29, 2003 9:54 AM
Despite warnings from several personalities on these boards, and bucking the conventional wisdom, I spec'd my Spectrum to be built with tubular Campagnolo Neutrons. Contintental Comps were the rubber I chose as I wanted something that would stand up to the roads of New York City.

Some kind soul warned me that, contrary to Continental's claim that the Comps were their best tire, I would flat every other day. So, with 4 months and 3500 miles accumulated, I'm offering my experience.

First, gluing up tubulars is not hard. I watched Tom Kellogg prepare the rims and, once you realize that you need a nice bead at the edges of the rim, nothing could be easier. Just put some glue all around the center of the rim, spin it and run your finger down the middle to push the glue up the sides. Let dry. Repeat. Let dry. Repeat. Finished. You'll never have to do that rigmarole again.

Stretching tires can be tough. The Comps are very tight, but after pulling enough, I got it on the stretching rim (no glue). Inflate to 10 bars. Let sit.

After a week or two of stretching, pull the tire off that wheel, coat the glued-up rim with some fresh glue, smear some glue on the cloth bit of the tire and manhandle it onto the rim. Tom uses Fasttack, so he has to get the tire on the rim and in place within one minute (he claims to be able to change a flat faster than any of his clincher-using buddies). I use Continental glue, so I can take my time.

Once the tire is on the rim, give it a spin and check to see if it is fairly straight (look at the tread, not the sidewall). It's good to put some air into it because that tends to straighten it automatically. Little tweaks might be necessary, but it's really no big deal.

Inflate to 9 bars, let sit overnight and voila, you're done.

While that may sound like a lot, I haven't had to do it in over 3000 miles. After 125 miles, I hit a piece of glass that trashed the front tire right in front of my apartment building. Bummer. I even tried the Tufo sealant but, alas, the hole was too big. $40 down the drain (while the local bike shop sells them for $110, you'd really have to be insane to pay that. Ital-techno.com sells Comps for $52, and if the dollar would just get stronger, UK shops sell them for about $40). Anyway, I ripped the tire off the rim, which wasn't so hard once I got it going, put a fresh layer of glue on, glued up the tire and installed it. No problem. Took a few minutes.

I ride in Central Park, in the streets, take trips across the George Washington Bridge, and go where ever I want. I'm amazed at how puncture resistant the tires are. But even if they weren't, the ride is so blessedly comfortable I just couldn't go back to clinchers. And, after living with tubies, I see no reason to. Sometimes I swear the bike has suspension, it's that comfy. Yet, the tires are rock hard.

Perhaps my greatest concern was getting two flats on one ride. What to do? Well, you could carry two tires, but I vetoed that idea. There's something so elegant about having a nicely folded tire under the saddle (see picture) compared to those ugly saddle packs. As I said, I haven't had one, much less two flats away from home, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be prepared, just in case. So, I carry one tube of Tufo sealant and keep the tiny valve opener in my wallet. I know there are those who wouldn't think of putting sealant in a "racing" tire, but I figure it's trashed anyway. So, instead of ripping the tire off the rim and using the spare, I would just seal the tire. If that works, then I have a fully glued, almost good as new tire to ride on and still have my spare in case of another puncture that can't be fixed by the sealant.

If it doesn't work, then I install the spare and hope I don't get another flat that can't be fixed by the sealant (holes over 2 mm are claimed by Tufo to be too large). But, again, it's been a non-issue for 3500 miles.
Why not just put the spare in your jersey pocket?Live Steam
Oct 29, 2003 10:08 AM
I ride with a few guys who keep it there. I gues to each his own. I have been considering investing in a pair of Zipps or Lews. Nice report!
great reportgtx
Oct 29, 2003 10:11 AM
When I have more money and time I'll go back to tubulars. They really do ride better.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularshudsonite
Oct 29, 2003 10:17 AM
Thanks for the great write up. I completly agree with you. Tubulars are great tires. I used them for years. Like you said, they are not that hard to mount if you have the time to set them up.

I was connviced a few years ago by a local bike shop to switch to clinchers. They have been fine, no problems. But I do miss the ride of a good tub.

Just ordered a bunch of new Conti comp tubulars for next year. They will be going on my new bike that is my winter project. I have no doubt that I will be smiling again. There is just something about a good tubular tire when you are rolling down the road. It is hard to fully quantify. Maybe like you said, it feels like the bike has suspension.

Yes, clinchers are fine. Yes there is more work to a tubular tire. But for some of us, cycling is our hobby. And as a hobby, the rituals of gluing a tubular tire is well worth it.

BTW, did you fix the other tire or was the tire itself too damaged? Fixing them is not to difficult, once you get used to it.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularspurplepaul
Oct 29, 2003 11:03 AM
I have not fixed the tire. I think the size of the hole in the tire itself renders it unusable. But, if nothing else, it'll be a good learning experience to open the tire and sew it back up.

Since I bought 3 extra tires, there hasn't been a need to repair it. Perhaps after the next one flats I'll be more motivated.
re: It is something to do on a rainy day.hudsonite
Oct 29, 2003 11:14 AM
Fixing a tubular is not hard. It just takes a little practice. Something to do on a rainy/snowy day.

There are some folks that will actually carry a patch kit and do it on the side of the road. I doubt that you would every need to do that with a spare. But I may carry a patching kit, 'just in case' my spare is not enough. Some times when sh*t happens, it happens a lot!

It is good to hear that you got over 3000 miles on a pair of tires. I don't do 1/2 of that on my clinchers. But I like to climb and being a heavier guy, this does wear out a tire pretty fast.

Have fun on your tubs
folded rubber is elegant? nm.Steve_0
Oct 29, 2003 10:41 AM
Just stick with clinchers. nm.purplepaul
Oct 29, 2003 11:07 AM
wilco; i'll satisfy my need for urbanity elsewhere. nm.Steve_0
Oct 29, 2003 12:01 PM
I thought Tufo sealant was only for Tufo tiresjw25
Oct 29, 2003 10:56 AM
but if it works for you, great.
Personally, I just recently got a set of Zipp 440's, so I've done a few tubular rides, on Sprinters and Tufo S3 Pros.
Definitely a different feel on the road, even with 150 psi in the Tufos. At 120 psi, they were too soft for me, though the Sprinters were happy there. I think the difference in sidewall thickness caused that, though.
I'm thinking about building up a set of cheaper tubular wheels for training and maybe racing, as the Zipps are for TT's only right now. Once I relace the rear to a more current hub, they may be raced as well, but for some reason, I don't want to train on them.
voila???Frith
Oct 29, 2003 11:35 AM
There's something wrong when your prefacing the statement "voila, your done" with six paragraphs of explanation.
I've never ridden tubes and after that not-so-brief briefing I probably never will.
voila???purplepaul
Oct 29, 2003 12:00 PM
Frith, here is my description of changing a clincher by the side of the road:

Take the wheel off the bike. Using a tire iron, pry an edge of the tire over the rim. Lock the iron to a spoke. Using another tire iron, pry some more of the tire over the rim until one side of the tire is off the wheel. Pull the inner tube out of the tire, being careful to not damage the valve. Either patch the tube or get a new one and stuff it into the tire around the wheel. Put a little air in and then pry the tire over the rim. Be careful so as not to pinch the tube, or you'll be doing this all over again. Inflate to required pressure. Put wheel back on bike. Voila, you're done.

Here's the tubular version:

Take the wheel off the bike. Pry the tire off the rim using your fingers. Pry a new tire onto the rim. Inflate a little. Spin the wheel and check for straightness. Inflate to desired pressure. Put back on bike. Voila, you're done. Keep in mind that if you're doing this by the side of the road, you don't put glue on the rim or the new tire. So you will have to glue it up when back at home.

I'd venture to say that it's quicker and easier to change a tubular than a clincher. Having done both, neither is anything to dread. It sounds, though, that tubulars are not for you. No biggie.
voila???JimP
Oct 29, 2003 12:11 PM
Good writeup on mounting and remounting a tubular tire. Congratulations on being willing to learn to mount the tire. I agree that I haven't found any clincher that matches the feel of a tubular. I also have had fewer flats with the tubulars than with clinchers. I did have a flat on a ride with a couple of friends where they were amazed that I could change the tire in less time than they could a clincher. Also, many people only carry a tube with them and when they do cut a tire, they can't just replace the tube so try a dollar bill as a boot in the tire. This usually works but I have been on rides where they did have to borrow a tire to get home. This doesn't happen with tubulars.

I carry a used tire as a spare that still has some life but has glue on the base tape. This seems to bond well enough with the glue left on the wheel so I am not worried about rolling the tire off in a corner. I have had to pry the tire off of the rim to put a new tire on when I got home.

Keep enjoying the ride!
Jim
your post reminded me of why I should keep using clinchers (nm)ColnagoFE
Oct 29, 2003 12:34 PM
how to glue a tub-more ways than one???king of Norway
Oct 29, 2003 12:37 PM
Unitl two years ago I was riding on tubulars for the prior 16 years and during that time I slowly grew envious of clinchers as their quality increased.

Maybe I'm a just a savage from the heath but I don't find the quality of ride on a good clincher all that different and I never was that meticulous about applying glue to the rim. I also never lost a tire off a rim. I don't find todays tubulars as stiff and in need of so much stretching these days either.

When gluing, I applied glue to the center of the rim, wiggling back and forth and a little to the cloth underside of the tire. By inflating the tire, I know the glue dispersed b/c I could see it. I never had any problems and I didn't wait nearly as long b/w steps.

I did have however sticky and black fingers and most of my tools and junk in my tool box are permantly affixed to a half used tube of glue. I think tubulars last longer but I flatted out plenty and if you race, unless you have a spare, any untimely flat (24hrs pre race) and your finished. I don't think clinchers are so bad but I guess i'm coming from old technology and their disposal nature has its advantages. Nonetheless I'm inclined to get the GP4's out and do a side by side comparison.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularsmapei boy
Oct 29, 2003 12:38 PM
It's good to hear someone so articulately advocate the tubular cause. After 28 years of riding tubulars, I gave them up for clinchers in 2000, but I still recognize and appreciate the reasons why people ride them. My wife rides them, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

I must say, though, that there's a lot I don't miss concerning tubulars. Repairing a tubular is a task I was never able to successfully master. I was never able to resew the tire carcass with enough precision to keep the tire round and true. Getting the sewing needle through the carcass as you sewed it back up took both incredible finger strength, and also the skill of a surgeon to prevent the needle from puncturing the tube nestled inside.

It should be said also, that it was the rare tubular indeed that was actually round and true out of the factory. With maybe one or two exceptions, every tubular I ever put on had some sort of lump or eccentricity. Getting the tubular properly centered on the rim was always difficult, too. Even after you'd get it centered, portions of the tire would always work themselves back toward the edges.

The cement that you use to glue the tire on, especially the red stuff marketed by Clement, was as messy and balky a cocoction as ever t'were invented. I never had the privilege to ride a tire that didn't have a sizable stretch of sidewall festooned with the evil stuff.

As for the stretching of the tire, expensive Vittorias didn't need any stretching at all, while Contis and UFOs (remember them from the '80's? They were Czech) demanded you be the strong man in the circus.

Anyway, I salute your choice of rolling gear.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularspurplepaul
Oct 29, 2003 1:00 PM
Pehaps it is my three decades of dealing with clinchers that makes me tolerate tubulars' peculiarities. Not that fixing clinchers are so bad. But, after all those years, I appreciate a change. I really hate patching a tube, reinstalling the wheel and finding out the next day that there's still a slow leak. But it's not like it's so onerous that I wouldn't do it.

As for tubular glue, my experience is that it's surprisingly not messy. I didn't use gloves, but I just peeled the glue off my fingers when I was done. I think I was expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised that changing a tubular is just a task, nothing more.
how to glue a tub-more ways than one???king of Norway
Oct 29, 2003 12:52 PM
Unitl two years ago I was riding on tubulars for the prior 16 years and during that time I slowly grew envious of clinchers as their quality increased.

Maybe I'm a just a savage from the heath but I don't find the quality of ride on a good clincher all that different and I never was that meticulous about applying glue to the rim. I also never lost a tire off a rim. I don't find todays tubulars as stiff and in need of so much stretching these days either.

When gluing, I applied glue to the center of the rim, wiggling back and forth and a little to the cloth underside of the tire. By inflating the tire, I know the glue dispersed b/c I could see it. I never had any problems and I didn't wait nearly as long b/w steps.

I did have however sticky and black fingers and most of my tools and junk in my tool box are permantly affixed to a half used tube of glue. I think tubulars last longer but I flatted out plenty and if you race, unless you have a spare, any untimely flat (24hrs pre race) and your finished. I don't think clinchers are so bad but I guess i'm coming from old technology and their disposal nature has its advantages. Nonetheless I'm inclined to get the GP4's out and do a side by side comparison.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularsmoschika
Oct 29, 2003 12:57 PM
nice write up. inspires a bit of confidence in me to change my tires.

as a newbie, tubie rider, i really enjoyed this. i put on my first pair of tubes this summer on an '81 restoration project. but i've only got a couple hundred miles on it and i got my first flat last weekend. I was only a couple miles from home, fortunately, and it was a slow leak that i pumped back up and limped home on. but i haven't grappled with changing it either.

I really didn't feel like changing it on the side of the road. it seemed like one of those things that probably gets easier with experience but i'm not looking forward to gaining that experience.

but since riding them a bit, i can better understand the tubular 'feel'. there is some unquantifiable difference. but i wouldn't say it's better or worse, just different.
I went through this three years ago...biknben
Oct 29, 2003 1:15 PM
I few years ago I built up a new bike from scratch and went with tubular wheels. I had no experience with tubies. I was attempting to do the lightweight thing and going with tubies made a difference. With all the lore of tubies I thought I should give them a try.

I got a pair of Zipp 303s and used Conti Sprinters, Vittoria Corsas, and a pair of Sufo Specials. After 2 plus years on them I sold the wheels and the tires on them. I had issues with the wheels and tubies. I didn't think the benefit in ride quality was worth the expense and labor involved.

I'm glad I gave them a try. I'd recommend others to try them. I noticed a huge difference when I switched wheelsets for raceday. They have their place but it just wasn't for me. I miss the wheels and tubies but I'm happy, almost relieved, to be back on clinchers full time.

Since you were talking about tires I'll chime in with my opinion. The Vittoria Corsas have an incredible feel. They were paper thin but oh so plush on the road.
Thanks for the reminder.........Len J
Oct 29, 2003 2:12 PM
I too rode tubies for many years. I hated Dealing with them, I loved the ride. Every few years in the 90's I would try clinchers, finally around 1997, I switched for good. The ride difference in 1997 was negligible, the PIA factor was reduced dramatically going to clinchers. The ride of clinchers has only gotten better.

I dare say that in a blind test of high end clinchers and tubies differences would be indeterminate.

Len
Thanks for the reminder.........Chainstay
Oct 29, 2003 5:20 PM
I enjoyed remembering all the routines as well. I'm glad I switched to clinchers. I still have a collection of tubulars waiting to be repaired
Glad you like them.KG 361
Oct 29, 2003 6:16 PM
Reminds me why I'll stick with clinchers. Really, to change a clincher is way easier than you said-that's a worse-case scenario. I don't need no stinkin' tire irons-K's are easy to put a new tube in. No thanks, tubies aren't for me. BTW-very nicely done post.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularsmackgoo
Oct 30, 2003 7:30 AM
Having been on tub's for the last 5 years I second your impressions. I've been using rim tape for tha last year with no problems.
re: My 4 month experience with tubularsMShaw
Oct 30, 2003 10:20 AM
Congrats.

Looks like someone taught you the "correct" way to fold a tubular. That's something you just don't see any more.

One of the things I've done over the years is to buy a few non-glued rims to use stretching new tires. The new tubular rims don't have to be anything special. I'm using a GP4 and an extra Velocity Escape right now. (I ordered 2 pair of Velocity rims for my 'cross bike but only used one.)

I have a pair of climbing wheels that are morphing into Campy Omega XL tubies. Right now, the front's Campy, the rear's GL330. Mmmmm, tubulars...

All of my track wheels are tubular. From the way fast 404/Superbe Pro wheelset that I built to my Escape/Campy training wheels, to my 340/Am. Classic rear wheel.

Having said that. The wheels that I'm talking about spend most of their days hanging in the garage. One reason is that I'm allergic to hills, the other is multiple flats. (not that I've ever had too many on tubulars, but hey, perception is reality, right?)

Again, congrats. Don't let the clincher guys get you down since they (usually) don't know what they're missing!

Mike
I was on a ride with a guy riding tubular who flatted...Bonked
Oct 30, 2003 11:12 AM
three times! Used his own spare, a team mate's, and then used a flat to gingerly ride the last few kms home. Not a happy camper at the end of that day!