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Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?(19 posts)

Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?bikenj
Nov 25, 2003 6:36 PM
What do you ride, or would you ride given the choice of tubulars or clinchers?

What about for those long 50 - 80 mile rides? If you're riding tubbies, do you bring another tire with you in the event you catch a flat?

Has anyone had a good experience with the Tufo sealant, i.e. the alternative to carrying another tire and glue strip?
A quick summaryKerry Irons
Nov 25, 2003 7:10 PM
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 2003 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 (70 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 may have a slight performance advantage at the top end, but plenty of pro races are being won on clinchers (25-30% 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. Note: Erik Zabel says he can't tell the difference either!

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.
A GREATsummary - agree w/ all (nm)OffTheBack
Nov 26, 2003 4:35 AM
A pretty good summaryhudsonite
Nov 26, 2003 4:44 AM
Your summary is pretty balanced and I agree with everything you said.

Personally I still ride both tubulars and clinchers. Both are reliable, both have 'issues'.

Cycling is a hobby of mine. It is not a true form of transportation in the sense that I use it to go from place A to B. When I go out for a ride it is for pleasure. As such, I still find I get more pleasure from a set of tubs than from a set of clinchers.

I personally like the ride quality of a good tubular. They roll a little differently, corner differently and feel a bit different. These are all subjective 'feelings'. They are not based upon technical facts or scientific findings. But I like the way they ride better. They resonate with me in way that puts a smile on my face.

I started riding tubs in the early seventies. And there can be little doubt that the ride of a tubular tire does trigger some great memories of road trips of my youth. They just complete the cycling experience for me.

Less subjective and more objective, are the pros and cons of a good tubular tire. On the plus side is the ease of changing a flat on the road. I find that changing a tubular is much easier than repairing a clincher. Tear the old one off, put the new one on and you are on your way. When you fix a flat, you are changing everything. So there is little chance of have getting another flat because something was missed during the repair process. And yes, the tire is not going to be glued on as well as it should be, but this has never been an issue with a preglued tire, once mounted and pumped up it will be fine to get you home.

Other pros' for a quality tubular is the consequence of a blowout. The tire typically stays on the rim, allowing you to come to a complete and safe stop. This contrasts to some accidents I have seen where a clincher pops off the rim and the bike becomes uncontrollable.

Now there are downsides of tubulars. The biggest is the amount of time it takes to mount a new tire. The pre-stretching and gluing process all take more time than mounting a clincher. Preping new rims and tires is going to take a couple of days. A good clincher is going to take less than 15 minutes. With tubs, you have to plan ahead for your tire needs, keeping pre-glued and pre stretched tires ready for when you need them.

Some people claim that repairing a tub with a flat is harder to fix. In my experience, I never found patching a tub to take more than 20 or 30 minutes. You can even do it on the side of the road if you had to. Not as easy as fixing a hole in a tube of a clincher, but no big deal.

Modern day clinchers are very good. They offer everything you need in a bicycle tire. They come in many styles, qualities, price points and colors. They are the mainstream tire because they are easy to use, fast to repair and are common in style across all bicycle types.

There are no major negatives. They are almost like car tires in that you put them on quickly and they work until you need to replace them. They are the choice of most bikers for very good and compelling reasons.

So I use both and will continue to use both types. But my first choice will be the tubs when I am out by myself on a pleasrue ride. These rides are typically 3 to 4 hours in length out on the country roads. The tubs are used because this is a pure pleasure. What matters is the wind, the bike, the fresh air, the sky and how it all feels. The practical reason for the tubs is the ease of reapir if something were to go wrong.

On a long distance ride with friends, I will go with either the clinchers or the tubs. The clinchers can be better because that is what everyone else is using. If something were to happen, there are lots of spare tubes in the group. In a supported century type ride, I will always go with the clinchers, because that is what is 'supported' by the organizers.

In summary
* 99.99% of cyclists are better off on clinchers
* Tubulars are
A pretty good summary..continuedhudsonite
Nov 26, 2003 4:50 AM
In summary

99.99% of cyclists are better off on clinchers
Tubulars are an oldstyle tire format that feels different than clinchers. If you like the feel, they are worth it. If you don't like the feel or cannot feel a difference, why bother.
Quality tubulars are very reliable.
If you have a flat on the road, a tubular is easier to fix.
In the end, people that choose a tubular tire do so for a combination of subjective and objective reasons. But probably more for subjective reasons.

It is kind of like a person that loves wine. A wine lover will age a bottle for years and then appreciate every nuance of the flavor. The regular wine drinker will probably see little meaningful difference in the taste and consider the aging, decanting and tasting ritual to be nothing more than a waste of time and money. Both the wine lover and the 'normal' wine drinker are right. The wine lover will still drink regular wine. The normal wine drinker will probably never age a bottle more than a week or two.

A tub rider will ride clinchers, but most clincher riders will never ride tubs. But at least we have the choice
Justification: Carbon rim construction problems for clinchers..Spunout
Nov 26, 2003 4:44 AM
Looking at Corima Aero(the only all carbon clincher) this has pressure limits. Mavic Carbone is an OP with a fairing, also all Zipp clinchers. All of these choices have left rotating weight on the outside of the wheel.

Fast forward to carbon tubular rims: Closer to a box section, no need for beads: Stronger construction without the requirements to manufacture sidewalls to hold beads which must double as the braking surface. On tubular rims, the box is the braking surface.

I am only saying, if I want a noticeable performance increase, tubular carbon wheels are nirvana. I trained on, raced, and repaired tubulars when I was 15 years old, no problems.
Nov 26, 2003 9:02 AM
now we wish every triathlete could read that.
Gee, kerry, thanksAlexx
Nov 26, 2003 4:00 PM
I mean, you haven't pasted that same exact post in your response for, what, 6 months? Nice to see you still have it, and completely unchanged, too.
If the questions don't change, why should the answers change?nmStraightblock
Nov 26, 2003 4:28 PM
Gee, Alexx, thankscydswipe
Nov 27, 2003 6:17 AM
I wondered when you would post. Don't you ride tubies exclusively? What took you so long!? I figure most of these posts are correct in respect to beginner riders using clinchers 'till they get the hang of things. But, if you don't start learning, you never learn. I don't use tubulars. I'm considering them as to lessen my ignorance towards cycling.
re: Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?lyleseven
Nov 25, 2003 7:59 PM
IMHO, this is a no brainer. Clinchers, clinchers, clinchers, unless you have some justification for racing on tubulars.
The one place where tubulars are still...Dwayne Barry
Nov 26, 2003 5:40 AM
a distinct advantage over clinchers is cyclocross, on the road i'd only get them for carbon race-only wheels (if I had money to throw way, and I don't!).
re: Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?Bob1010
Nov 26, 2003 5:46 AM
I myself enjoy training on a light carbon wheel. That being said,,,love tubs. I've had great luck with the Tufo Lite Series and Elite ( Tufo's finest )..The kevlar belt does protect from puntures and the only flats were from the sidewall taken out by a bolt on the road. I do not see a need for the sealant. There has been several times after a ride I will find a piece of glass inbedded in the tire..carefully remove it and no leak....Good luck..I did find Tufo's gluing strip oose the sticky stuff when heat would build up in the braking surface and quit using them. Fasttack is great to work with..Hopes this helps..
Surprised that nobody really mentioned safety...AJS
Nov 26, 2003 6:47 AM
...which was my main reason for sew-up's back when I had only a road bike. The fact that the tire didn't come off the rim after flatting at speed saved my butt more than once. But now that I have a CX bike for both road and trail riding, I use clinchers because it's easier to switch to different kinds of tires on the same wheels.

Also, I've noticed that the handling with tubs is generally better, in the sense that tubs have a "round" profile, where most clinchers are sort of "egg-shaped"; thus when you lean into a turn a clincher feels like you're "falling off" into a dip or something. A tubular feels consistent and even going from side to side.

I suppose it's just a matter of getting used to that sort of handling on a clincher, but it is noticable.
There are two sides to the safety coin...OffTheBack
Nov 26, 2003 7:01 AM
the other one is that tubulars have the potential to roll off the rim in a hard corner. Tubie fans will say "not if you glue it properly", but it does happen, even to pro racers, and it's impossible with a clincher.
and how safe is a tubie that has been changed on the road? nmDougSloan
Nov 26, 2003 7:12 AM
Oh...pick me..I can answer this onewspokes
Nov 26, 2003 8:14 AM
My only roll off the rim with a tubbie happened shortly after a road side change on a long downhill. I figure the glue heated a bit in the corners and ....the rest is history! no injuries...gentle slide.
re: Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?MR_GRUMPY
Nov 26, 2003 7:28 AM
The only time that I use tubulars is for Crits and Road Races. Everything else, including time trials, are done on clinchers. Most of my training is done on heavy, cheap clinchers.
re: Everyday riding, Tubulars or Clinchers?MShaw
Nov 26, 2003 9:55 AM
I've read all the posts in this thread so I won't go into any more of the obvious, but the one thing that keeps me on clinchers for long rides is the fact that there MAY be ONE other person riding them in the group. Flat more than the number of spares you have and you're walking or waiting for a ride.

I like the Tufo goop. I have a flat in my front cross tubular that I'm going to go out and seal up with the stuff. If you get the right (wrong?) kind of hole, the goop's useless.

I really like the ride of tubulars. I just have a hard time riding them out in the boonies any more.