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  1. #1
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    Clinchers vs Tubulars

    I'm putting together a racing wheelset and need to make the "tubular versus clincher" decision. Thus far, I've been a clincher (pro race/ light tubes) kind of guy for both racing and training, but I've never experienced tubulars. Is the small weight savings worth the few extra bucks and the hassel of flatting without a wheel-van around? Is there a noticable performance difference between the two? If tubulars are the way to go, what type of tire do you recommend for road racing?

  2. #2
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    If you want the best quality riding experience and can afford it tubulars are great. If you just want to go out and ride or race and the tire equivalent of audiophile equipment would be wasted on your sensibilities forget about it and leave it to the aesthetes like me (I have audiophile ears too).

    For most people tubulars are not worth it. Do the best ones have a better road feel and better comfort than the best clinchers? Absolutely. Is the actual performance better? Probably not. Unless you are riding Paris-Roubaix or other poor road surface, or a slick descent where being able to run a tubular at 85 psi will be a big advantage performance is pretty equal and with only a couple exceptions the best clinchers have lower rolling resistance than the best tubulars.

    Weight is quite a bit less for tubulars, cost quite a bit more (unless you repair the flats, but few of mine have ever been fixable due to large casing cuts). The glue hassle is frequently mentioned but I have never found tubulars any more troublesome than trying to get a Conti clincher on a rim, and usually less.

  3. #3
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    An old question

    You might do a search on this, because it has been hashed out many times. The fact that there is serious disagreement about whether tubulars are substantially better than clinchers should be a clue that the advantages are minor, if any. See the current thread on Zip wheels. To quote Erik Zabel on the difference between clinchers and tubulars: "I can't tell the difference."

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by terzo rene
    If you want the best quality riding experience and can afford it tubulars are great. If you just want to go out and ride or race and the tire equivalent of audiophile equipment would be wasted on your sensibilities forget about it and leave it to the aesthetes like me (I have audiophile ears too).

    For most people tubulars are not worth it. Do the best ones have a better road feel and better comfort than the best clinchers? Absolutely. Is the actual performance better? Probably not. Unless you are riding Paris-Roubaix or other poor road surface, or a slick descent where being able to run a tubular at 85 psi will be a big advantage performance is pretty equal and with only a couple exceptions the best clinchers have lower rolling resistance than the best tubulars.
    Oh, Please.....

  5. #5
    djg
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    Or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    You might do a search on this, because it has been hashed out many times. The fact that there is serious disagreement about whether tubulars are substantially better than clinchers should be a clue that the advantages are minor, if any. See the current thread on Zip wheels. To quote Erik Zabel on the difference between clinchers and tubulars: "I can't tell the difference."
    There are wildly different opinions on this from both informed and uninformed camps. That may mean that differences are, in fact minor, or it may mean that the differences mean more to some than to others. Or both. We can find pros who will only ride tubbies as well.

    It's a little hard to predict what a stranger will make of the differences or the relative trouble of dealing with one or another. I think a veloflex crit is a darn nice tire and hard to match in a clincher--light, supple, and grippy--but it doesn't make me twice as fast (or even 1 mph faster) than a top clincher and if you say that you're not impressed (or not impressed with the value) then that's fine by me.

    Certainly some carbon race wheels are only available in a tubular version and some come in both, but at different weights and prices (compare the really cheaper and really lighter Reynolds tubbies to their clincher versions). That doesnt' mean that anybody should necessarily want or need one or the other, and it's not as if anybody will move up a category by dropping half a pound or a pound from his or her wheelset, but they really might feel pretty different and the only way to know for sure is to try some. Heck, the poster could probably borrow a set for a couple of hours.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    The fact that there is serious disagreement about whether tubulars are substantially better than clinchers should be a clue that the advantages are minor, if any.
    I'm convinced that as a whole, tubulars are substantially INFERIOR to clinchers...and there's scientific data to back that up.

    But, Shhhhh, don't tell my competition

  7. #7
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    Do it. Enjoy it.

    Try the tubulars. It's not as earthshaking a decision as many posters would have you believe. Think of tubulars as the equivalent of a manual transmission on a car -- a little better performance & gas mileage offset by a little more bother. If you find the experience too expensive, or if you find you just don't cotton (or silk) to 'em, put 'em on ebay.
    Mapie is a conventional looking former Hollywood bon viveur, now leading a quiet life in a house made of wood by an isolated beach. He has cultivated a taste for culture, and is a celebrated raconteur amongst his local associates, who are artists, actors, and other leftfield/eccentric types. I imagine he has a telescope, and an unusual sculpture outside his front door. He is also a beach comber. The Rydster.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mapei Roida
    Try the tubulars. It's not as earthshaking a decision as many posters would have you believe. Think of tubulars as the equivalent of a manual transmission on a car -- a little better performance & gas mileage offset by a little more bother. If you find the experience too expensive, or if you find you just don't cotton (or silk) to 'em, put 'em on ebay.
    I'm sad to inform you that your analogy is highly flawed. The truth of the matter is that for substantially more "bother" (and expense) you get possibly similar "performance" AND substantially worse "gas mileage".

    Don't waste your time and money. Just go with the clinchers. Just remember, Michelin and Vittoria "good" - Conti "bad".

  9. #9
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    [QUOTE=tanhalt]I'm sad to inform you that your analogy is highly flawed. The truth of the matter is that for substantially more "bother" (and expense) you get possibly similar "performance" AND substantially worse "gas mileage"

    As Socrates said, all analogies are limited. Every rider is different and beware of sweeping generalities about anything having to do with personal preferences. I rode Criterium Setas back in the late 70's as a junior in the Milwaukee area and I hated them, flatting all of the time, pain in the ass to fix, never did get them round again after sewing them together. 25 years of gradually better clinchers go by and two years ago I decide to try them again. At that point I was riding GP3000s and they were fine, but guys in my club were riding Veloflexes and damn, they weren't flatting every othe ride. I got a set of Conti Sprinters for 30.00 each (less than the GP's) and wore them out. I found a good deal on Competition 22's and... wore them out. No flats. Mileage was about the same, handling was better in turns (tubulars are actually round; look at the profile of a clincher when it's inflated) and the faster spinup, ie., lighter wheel, was noticeable in crits where we had 150 accelerations in a race.

    So, I like them just fine. With one tire lever, I can change a tire. I have a spare loaded with Stan's sealant in case of a flat. I'm set.

    But I'm just one data point.

    chris

  10. #10
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    I have used tubulars for going on 20 years now. Always used them because I live where the roads are clean & they lasted 2000+ miles each.
    As for the hassle of flatting I could change one in less than 4 minutes total & be on my way. Where as my riding partners when they flatted took much longer to wrestle their tires on & off find the offending glass shard or not if pinched & patch or install a tube.
    Recently I sold my Look 386i with the Nucleons & Veloflex crits & bought a Cervello 2.5
    It came with the Easton Vistas & the Vittoria Diamante Pro Lights.
    They are not even close to as nice a ride as the tubbies.
    The tires seem well made so I am attributing the harshness to the rims.
    I actually would like to be ok with the clinchers. The prices of tires has gone up over the years although I still got Veloflex crits tubs for 45-50 each & as I said they did last 2k miles. So 200 a year for tires pretty much did it for me no problems.

    Aside from the harsher ride they do not corner like tubulars. The fall into a turn & even that would be ok I guess. I am trying to like these & maybe I will but the thought of spening the dough for new wheels in clincher style then have this same ride...........hmmmm
    I am undecided. For me the one benefit of a clincher is I do long rides at times & although it never happened I wondered about having more than one flat as I only carry one spare tubular.
    But the ride is head & shoulders above the clinchers I am riding now.

  11. #11
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    I love this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    To quote Erik Zabel on the difference between clinchers and tubulars: "I can't tell the difference."
    nmnmnm

  12. #12
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    That quote could mean anything. You still always see him racing on tubulars as far as I can tell. He may not be able to tell the difference in tires, but he sure has wheel preferences.

  13. #13
    Arrogant roadie.....
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    Oh, great, another "newbie savant"...

    Quote Originally Posted by tanhalt
    I'm convinced that as a whole, tubulars are substantially INFERIOR to clinchers...and there's scientific data to back that up.

    But, Shhhhh, don't tell my competition
    6 posts and he's already an expert.......
    We are the 801
    We are the central shaft

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave_Stohler
    6 posts and he's already an expert.......
    Only 8 posts so far....HERE. But hey, if number of posts is your definition of "expert"...that says a lot.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by flying
    It came with the Easton Vistas & the Vittoria Diamante Pro Lights.
    They are not even close to as nice a ride as the tubbies.
    The tires seem well made so I am attributing the harshness to the rims.
    I actually would like to be ok with the clinchers. The prices of tires has gone up over the years although I still got Veloflex crits tubs for 45-50 each & as I said they did last 2k miles. So 200 a year for tires pretty much did it for me no problems.

    Aside from the harsher ride they do not corner like tubulars. The fall into a turn & even that would be ok I guess. I am trying to like these & maybe I will but the thought of spening the dough for new wheels in clincher style then have this same ride...........hmmmm
    I am undecided. For me the one benefit of a clincher is I do long rides at times & although it never happened I wondered about having more than one flat as I only carry one spare tubular.
    But the ride is head & shoulders above the clinchers I am riding now.
    Try some higher quality clinchers. Go with either a Michelin ProRace2 or Vittoria Open Corso Evo CX. To get a true "apples to apples" comparison, use Michelin latex tubes in them since the tubulars you're comparing to use latex tubes. They're more flexible and elastic than butyl and therefore give lower rolling resistance and are less likely to pinch flat. Don't use Vittoria latex tubes...they have "issues" and have a high probability of defects.

    Then...if you don't have a powermeter, see if you can borrow one. Do a simple constant power hillclimb. See which set gets you to the top faster (assuming equal weight, of course). I have a feeling you'll be surprised ;)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tanhalt
    Try some higher quality clinchers. Go with either a Michelin ProRace2 or Vittoria Open Corso Evo CX. To get a true "apples to apples" comparison, use Michelin latex tubes in them since the tubulars you're comparing to use latex tubes. They're more flexible and elastic than butyl and therefore give lower rolling resistance and are less likely to pinch flat. Don't use Vittoria latex tubes...they have "issues" and have a high probability of defects.

    Then...if you don't have a powermeter, see if you can borrow one. Do a simple constant power hillclimb. See which set gets you to the top faster (assuming equal weight, of course). I have a feeling you'll be surprised ;)
    So your thinking its the shoes more than the wheels? Since all my rides are climbs I thought maybe these semi areo wheels were causing the harsh ride. It is not terrible but they are more rigid than wheels I have used in the past.
    As for a power meter.....none available but all my riding is climbing & decending. On a average year I get more than 300,000' of climbing so I have good logs with times going back years. I guess I could use that for comparision. But even with new tires I doubt these will approach the weights I am use to for wheels with tubulars eh?
    Thanks

  17. #17
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    I have 2 pairs of tubular wheels and after reading some of the ignorant statements posted here the next one is going to be tubulars too.............
    Last edited by djg714; 11-23-2005 at 02:45 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by djg714
    I have 2 pairs of tubular wheels and after reading some of the ignorant statements posted here the next one is going to be tubulars too.............
    Actually I just realized I have a set in bags I forgot about.
    Mavic rims Campy Chorus 10 hubs.
    Not as light as the Nucleons at 1712 grs. the nucleons were 1550grs.
    But it migth be an easy test to grab some tub tires & try ;)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by flying
    So your thinking its the shoes more than the wheels? Since all my rides are climbs I thought maybe these semi areo wheels were causing the harsh ride. It is not terrible but they are more rigid than wheels I have used in the past.
    As for a power meter.....none available but all my riding is climbing & decending. On a average year I get more than 300,000' of climbing so I have good logs with times going back years. I guess I could use that for comparision. But even with new tires I doubt these will approach the weights I am use to for wheels with tubulars eh?
    Thanks
    Yep...which do you think is the more flexible part of the wheel and tire structure? The wheel or the tire? Which do you think you'd notice more of a difference in?

    The point of using the powermeter is to have a known constant power output. I've done this test comparing a set of clincher Ritchey DS wheels with Michelin ProRace tires vs. Zipp 404 tubulars shod with Tufos (which, BTW, have been tested to be one of the worst rolling tires, tubular or clincher). Despite the Zipp wheelset being a full 1 lb lighter and more aero, they were slower up the hill.

    The funny thing is, my impression during the test was that the Zipp/Tufo wheelset "felt" faster...but, the stopwatch doesn't lie.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by djg714
    I have 2 pairs of tubular wheels and after reading some of the ignorant statements posted here the next one is going to be tubulars too.............

    My Corsa 01 with GL330's and Tufos....
    Excellent! Not only are they tubulars, but they're shod with Tufos to boot. I'm hoping you used the Tufo tape to install them, right?

    Hope to see you out on the race course ;)

  21. #21
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    No tape

    Quote Originally Posted by tanhalt
    Excellent! Not only are they tubulars, but they're shod with Tufos to boot. I'm hoping you used the Tufo tape to install them, right?

    Hope to see you out on the race course ;)
    NO tape bud, good old fashion glue.......nice............

    Anyways I wouldn't use tape with the 330's....

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by flying

    Aside from the harsher ride they do not corner like tubulars. The fall into a turn & even that would be ok I guess.
    I just realized...how do you know the cornering differences you're feeling aren't a function of different steering geometries on the 2 bikes?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by djg714
    NO tape bud, good old fashion glue....
    Almost as "good"...unless you're talking about track glue, then that's "bad" (for me) ;)

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by tanhalt
    I just realized...how do you know the cornering differences you're feeling aren't a function of different steering geometries on the 2 bikes?
    Actually over the years I have tried briefly on different bikes. Some on my bikes with borrowed wheels & some bikes belonged to riding partners. It is not a big deal but different.
    I guess the tubulars just have a rounder profile as compared to a more U shape on the clinchers.

    Ultimately though if the ride was supple like tubulars I would be happy enough with that. Weight wise I see some impressive everyday clincher wheels now. Even those Zipp CSC Team clinchers look pretty nice. Also the American Classic Sprint 350's although I dont really dig the high flange hub.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by flying
    I guess the tubulars just have a rounder profile as compared to a more U shape on the clinchers.
    You might want to take a closer look at an inflated clincher. The tire is forced into a circular cross-section by the uniform air pressure of the tube. The only way it could not be circular is if the sidewall stiffness was greater than the air pressure and/or it has some kind of funky "peaked" tread glued or vulcanized on.

    For example, a Vittoria Corso tubular and an Open Corso will have an identical circular profile in the part of the tire you actually ride on and flex.

    Here's another way of looking at it, let's assume the glue holding your tubular in place is perfectly rigid (which it actually isn't, but close enough). In that case, the shape of the tire in the portion that's glued is determined by the rim to which it's glued. The tire in that section isnt' allowed to flex, and at the edge of the rim, this rigid attachment ends and the tire casing is allowed to take the shape determined by the air pressure inside and the flexibility of the casing. Naturally, the uniform air pressure, along with the bias directions of the casing, force the tire into a basically circular cross-section. Now, instead of gluing the tire onto the rim, let's imagine we can cut out the glued portion of the tire and merely hold onto the edges of the casing at the point the emerge from the edge of the rim. The shape of the inflated tire would be exactly the same, wouldn't it? Of course, what we're now describing is a clincher, or "open tubular".

    Just because clinchers have a "useless" portion of the tire removed doesn't mean that they inflate into a "U" shape (Instead of the "O" shape of a tubular). They actual better letter description would be a "C" shape.

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