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  1. #1
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    Tubulars Safer for Crits?

    I've got an unexpected opportunity to pick up some used Zipp 303 tubulars for cheap, and I've been looking for some race wheels, and perhaps I've just found them.

    I'm fairly neutral regarding most of the arguments in the clincher/tubular debate (crr, cost, ride feel, gluing hassle, weight), and sort of end up - barely - on the side of just stay with clinchers.

    But I do care about safety. I'm mostly a crit racer...how many of you crit racers run tubulars because you think they're safer than clinchers?

    Is the risk of eating pavement because of a flat really greater for a clincher than for a tubular? Is the risk of rolling a tubular, with a respectable glue job, really minimal?

    (I have blown out one clincher in a corner before...while I did keep it upright it was a memorably scary moment...who knows the cause, maybe the bead wasn't perfectly seated? I really have no idea, and n=1.)

    Opinions appreciated...

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by rapwithtom View Post
    I've got an unexpected opportunity to pick up some used Zipp 303 tubulars for cheap, and I've been looking for some race wheels, and perhaps I've just found them.

    I'm fairly neutral regarding most of the arguments in the clincher/tubular debate (crr, cost, ride feel, gluing hassle, weight), and sort of end up - barely - on the side of just stay with clinchers.

    But I do care about safety. I'm mostly a crit racer...how many of you crit racers run tubulars because you think they're safer than clinchers?

    Is the risk of eating pavement because of a flat really greater for a clincher than for a tubular? Is the risk of rolling a tubular, with a respectable glue job, really minimal?

    (I have blown out one clincher in a corner before...while I did keep it upright it was a memorably scary moment...who knows the cause, maybe the bead wasn't perfectly seated? I really have no idea, and n=1.)

    Opinions appreciated...
    Have you ever glued a tubular? If I had tried it before buying I would have stayed with clinchers. I did 3 sets myself (without issues) before getting fed up and now I pay someone to huff solvent for me.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpic View Post
    Have you ever glued a tubular? If I had tried it before buying I would have stayed with clinchers. I did 3 sets myself (without issues) before getting fed up and now I pay someone to huff solvent for me.
    yeah I've done it for CX so I know the drill...given the hassle I would stay with clinchers, unless tubies are safer for crits...

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    My thought is tubular for track, clincher for road. Current clinchers have come a long long way from the old ones and you should be good with either - provided you know how to glue a tubular. It is nice to drop the pressure in a tubular down to 80 to 90 pounds and watch your ability to handle a corner at speed increase, especially in the rain, but you can also go to a 25mm clincher and get the same out of it as a 23 tubular. I would have never raced on a clincher 15 to 20 years ago, but today ... not so much. Tubulars still win in my book, but the difference is not enough to mess with the cost/time of a tubular.

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    Senior Member agoodale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rapwithtom View Post
    yeah I've done it for CX so I know the drill...given the hassle I would stay with clinchers, unless tubies are safer for crits...
    Your tubulars are fine. It's the other guy's tubulars you have to worry about.

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    I love tubulars, so that's what I would go with. Nice, light race wheels on the cheap? Go for it!

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    Tubulars on average deflate slower than clinchers. Not always but mostly. A well glued tubular doesn't roll. So yeah, overall tubulars are safer than clinchers.

    Tubulars are a hassle to glue and repair though.

    I'd consider tubeless. I've done a dozen wheelsets at this point for myself and teammates. Zero negative feedback.

    With the new tires that are out there they blow away any clincher, and the only advantage tubulars have is weight in some cases. I've swapped over to tubeless on everything but my track wheels and my blingy rear TT disc.

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    I've seen a few tubulars roll in races, causing crashes - never seen a crash caused by a flat clincher.

    Plus tubulars are a huge pain, obviously, and an expensive/time-consuming flat to fix.

    gp4000s clinchers ftw!
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    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    I've seen a few tubulars roll in races, causing crashes
    I've seen one caused by a tire rolling. I've seen a fair number of tubulars roll from crashes, which is a different thing.

    Tubulars will roll from one of three things; side loading (see crashing or skidding the rear wheel out of line from too much rear brake), bad/old glue, or bad base tape glue.

    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    never seen a crash caused by a flat clincher.
    So you've never heard the bang/crash since you've been racing? Pretty lucky.

    I've seen a bunch a bunch of crashes from blown clinchers, in a variety of venues and races. My friend ended up in the hospital and has one leg shorter than the other from a blown clincher. I've nearly gone down twice from blown clinchers. Flatted out a bunch of tubulars over the years and never had the same loss of control.

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    Could be.

    Lots of ways to skin a bike racer, tire issues only one of many..
    cat 1.

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    I'm a tubular fan for the emergencies. You have pretty good control over the bike even on a flat tire, you have reasonable control even if you have a catastrophic tire failure, and even if you break your rim (say you break off a section of it due to a massive pothole) the tire doesn't rely on bead pressure to hold air or hold onto the rim, so you can have a severely damaged rim that can still roll or at least not blow air out or let go of the tire.

    Blown clincher caused a crash, including massive concussion for one rider and a broken shoulder area for another, both competent Cat 3s. I was on the clincher guy's wheel the lap prior as he went off on an attack.


    To be fair to the tubular/clincher debate an idiot rolled a tire later in the same race, no serious injuries. Ironically he's a teammate of the guy that had the massive concussion (who told me about 9 months later, like just recently, that he's still feeling effects of the concussion):


    I've watched a teammate and friend of mine, on my front wheel, with my front tubular, that I glued, save it when his/my tire blew as he bridged up to a break in a corner. He didn't even think about it, it just happened (and he's one that's really not into doing handling drills, no matter what I suggest/say). The tire slides a bit as the sidewall moves across the rim, catches when the sidewall is at full extension, and you have some semblance of control. He was going about 28-30 mph when his tire went. I might have a still of it but it just looks like he's cornering with two other riders.

    I've caught up to two riders doing a fast rotating pace line while I was on a flat FRONT tire. I'd flatted a few miles earlier and headed toward our sponsor shop, hoping to borrow a front wheel; in the end I ended up riding to the (closed) shop then several miles home on a pretty busy road. The two riders were on a slight rolling downhill bit of road (Route 124 in Darien) and doing maybe 25-28 mph steadily. I made a massive effort to catch them. In only got a bit sketchy at 30-35 mph on some curves in the road, otherwise the front end was fine. I declined to pull since I was okay taking myself out due to the flat tire but not anyone else. They thought I was being a dick until I pointed at my tire. Then they sat up (and I had to slow) so they could see for themselves. I turned off shortly after.

    I've also flatted hard on clinchers. Flat a front tire and it's a challenge to ride faster than 15 mph, and you feel like at any time the tire's going to slide out from under you. Even a rear is tough.

    Finally my favorite flat tubular tire clip. I love this one.
    "...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    I'd consider tubeless. I've done a dozen wheelsets at this point for myself and teammates. Zero negative feedback.
    Out of curiosity, how many road tubeless flats have you had to deal with so far?

    I gave up on cyclocross tubeless after a couple of flats. My personal calculus was that changing one tubeless flat was the hassle equivalent of changing several tube/clincher flats. Cross is obviously harder on tires than road, though, I imagine road tubeless saves you more than "several" flats compared to tubes/clinchers.

    Of course it's far nastier changing tubeless tires in the dirt. I felt like an extra in a porn movie.

  13. #13
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    I use tubulars for my race wheels and do mostly crits. I've never rolled one or seen one roll. If you have a proper glue job than this shouldn't be a worry. They can be more expensive to replace, but compared to a top of the line clincher it's not that much more. I've seen multiple clinchers blow out that have caused crashes. Although last year I was 2 rider behind a guy whos rear clincher tire blew coming out of a turn in a crit. It caused his rear wheel to jump almost a foot in the air. The guy had great handling skills as he stayed calm and simply hopped the curb and stayed upright.
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    are they safer? I think you'll only get observational or personal experience opinions on that. I would argue no, they are not safer, only because I've seen more tubulars roll off wheels, regardless of causation, and cause a crash than I've seen clinchers explode and roll off a wheel.

    the pros and cons of tubulars vs. clinchers can be argued forever, but to me, the pros of tubulars have much more to do with the wheel than the tire because it can be so much lighter. for instance, I have 303 tub and 303 clinchers. the weight difference is nearly a pound when fully dressed with tires and cassette. that being said, in my opinion, the braking surface on an al rim is far superior to that of a carbon rim in consistency and predictability for hard braking and modulation.

    the pain in the ass factor of a tubular is huge vs. a clincher. my personal quiver is clinchers for training and I have 2 sets of tubulars for racing, which one I use depends on the nature of the race.

    oh yeah, and sometimes, I just race in my clinchers because I don't feel like changing brake pads or whatever.
    Last edited by MDcatV; 04-24-14 at 09:15 AM. Reason: add an oh yeah

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    severity of the injury of the victim of a crash which may or may not have been due to a tire failure vs. an installation failure vs. a freak slice (you can't know for certain) is certainly pertinent info.

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    Quote Originally Posted by globecanvas View Post
    Out of curiosity, how many road tubeless flats have you had to deal with so far?
    On the road, one in the last year. Big nail. Noticed a shimmy going down SGC road at 40. Did a little bunny hop and realized the tire was deflating. Rode another couple miles to a turnout, stuffed a tube in and rode home.

    Had one other flat from a piece of wire at some point in a three hour ride year prior, tire leaked out overnight. Removed wire. Patched the inside. Eventually wore the tire out.

    That's been it.

    My evaluation on the relative safety of the different wheels is presuming proper installation, going beyond that is kinda silly, like asking which car is safer for a blind drunk behind the wheel who isn't wearing his seat belt. People pinch tubes putting on clinchers (bang/crash) or don't get the tire mounted right (bang/crash) and some people do a lousy job gluing tubulars (roll crash). Hard to put a tubeless tire on wrong. I suppose you give a bad mechanic a chance though and they will find a way.

    Presuming proper installation you are talking about the results of a puncture.

    For a non catastrophic puncture a tubed clincher will deflate much faster because there's no mechanical seal to prevent air escaping. Air comes out around the valve stem, through the rim tape, through the puncture, and through the tire itself, and the sidewall when the tire deflates to a minimum PSI. A tubed clincher will come off the rim once it's deflated to a certain point, there's no mechanical design to help hold it on other than the pressure of the tube itself. So you end up on the rim and in some cases with the tire wrapping into the frame and locking up the wheel.

    Tubulars the air escapes out the puncture only and sometimes nominally around the valve stem (glue creates a seal at the base tape both on the rim side and the tire side). You get some warning as the tire goes soft. Glue helps hold the tire on which provides more control and it can be ridden flat.

    Tubeless the air escapes out the puncture only. You get some warning as the tire goes soft. The tire bead is designed to hold the tire on and it can be ridden flat (I've done it, though only once as a test; I've ridden multiple tubulars flat so there may be situations where the tubeless might detach). If you use a latex sealant this will actually add a glue effect.

    Catastrophic failure (big cut) and the tubeless and tubular stay on the rim to a much greater degree.

    In the cases above it's clear that you have have a greater margin of safety with tubular or tubeless from a simple design standpoint.

    If someone wants to send me $500, I'll do a Youtube video where I'll ice pick the three designs, time the deflation, then go ride them around.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 04-24-14 at 11:20 AM.

  17. #17
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    severity of the injury of the victim of a crash which may or may not have been due to a tire failure vs. an installation failure vs. a freak slice (you can't know for certain) is certainly pertinent info.
    How is this pertinent?

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    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ygduf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    How is this pertinent?
    Dissuasion of unclear anecdotal evidence weighted by injury severity keeps signal-to-noise ratio higher. Keeps people maybe a tiny bit on topic in order to actually give OP a reasonable answer before this devolves entirely into the inevitable "I saw a guy die and his tire might have been involved."

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    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    Dissuasion of unclear anecdotal evidence weighted by injury severity keeps signal-to-noise ratio higher. Keeps people maybe a tiny bit on topic in order to actually give OP a reasonable answer before this devolves entirely into the inevitable "I saw a guy die and his tire might have been involved."
    Signal to noise ratio is pertinent to a signal to noise ratio discussion, and has zero to do with evaluating the relative safety of different tire designs.

    Avertissement Fudgy.


    By turning this into a signal to noise discussion you are increase the signal to noise ratio. I believe this is called ironic.

    Attaque au Fer!

    I could also argue that noting severe injuries that have resulted from various failures might bring home the point that the thread question is worth considering.

    Appel!
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 04-24-14 at 11:42 AM.

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    ^^ any further engagement just waters it down more. So instead I'll tell my story of a tubular coming off my rim.

    Tumbling ended and I immediately knew my clavicle was broken. As I laid there in the road, someone cleared my bike off, carrying past me. I saw the front tubular dangling off.

    Coincidence, that it came off just then, or maybe it was the guy who fell on my wheel as we rode in a straight line. We'll never know.

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    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    As I laid there in the road, someone...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    If someone wants to send me $500, I'll do a Youtube video where I'll ice pick the three designs, time the deflation, then go ride them around.
    Reminds me of when slick tires first came out, like the Avocet tires, and a magazine did a cornering test on them. Everyone was all concerned that a slick tire wouldn't work in the wet. They had the rider all decked out in moto gear railing the corner. I wanna say it was Cyclist magazine but I could be wrong. Anyway, I digress.

    I'm sure you still have all your gear - I'll contribute a fiver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rapwithtom View Post
    I've got an unexpected opportunity to pick up some used Zipp 303 tubulars for cheap, Opinions appreciated...
    Tubulars clearly offer higher performance. No contest. The rims are 100 grams lighter per, because they do not need the 2 hooks for the tire bead. Seriously, do any elite or pro level riders compete on clinchers? Training - maybe.

    Tubulars are very much safer. In the last 40 years on the road, I have had multiple sudden deflation events. On tubulars the rubber flattens out and stays stuck on the rim. You have to straighten out your line, but you can ride a flat tubular for a good distance. My record is about a mile riding on a flat tubie. I would have ordinarily replaced the tire, but I was at the end of a ride; I could have gone much longer. The rim was completely fine after this. Try this on clinchers...

    On a flat clincher, you are faced with a wriggling strip of rubber that threatens to jam into the brakes or stays. And you are faced with trying to slow down on the 2 metal rails of death.

    Rolling a tubular tire... I've never done this, except when testing an unglued tire at a walking pace. My fault. I have never seen anyone else roll a tire, except when they were already going sideways and were doomed anyways. For example Beloki's big crash in the Tour a few years back. His fate was sealed well before the tire rolled.

    Finally, pinch flats. Don't get these on tubulars, unless you hit something so big that it will knock your fillings out and kill the tire and the rim.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    On the road, one in the last year. Big nail. Noticed a shimmy going down SGC road at 40. Did a little bunny hop and realized the tire was deflating. Rode another couple miles to a turnout, stuffed a tube in and rode home.

    Had one other flat from a piece of wire at some point in a three hour ride year prior, tire leaked out overnight. Removed wire. Patched the inside. Eventually wore the tire out.

    That's been it.

    My evaluation on the relative safety of the different wheels is presuming proper installation, going beyond that is kinda silly, like asking which car is safer for a blind drunk behind the wheel who isn't wearing his seat belt. People pinch tubes putting on clinchers (bang/crash) or don't get the tire mounted right (bang/crash) and some people do a lousy job gluing tubulars (roll crash). Hard to put a tubeless tire on wrong. I suppose you give a bad mechanic a chance though and they will find a way.

    Presuming proper installation you are talking about the results of a puncture.

    For a non catastrophic puncture a tubed clincher will deflate much faster because there's no mechanical seal to prevent air escaping. Air comes out around the valve stem, through the rim tape, through the puncture, and through the tire itself, and the sidewall when the tire deflates to a minimum PSI. A tubed clincher will come off the rim once it's deflated to a certain point, there's no mechanical design to help hold it on other than the pressure of the tube itself. So you end up on the rim and in some cases with the tire wrapping into the frame and locking up the wheel.

    Tubulars the air escapes out the puncture only and sometimes nominally around the valve stem (glue creates a seal at the base tape both on the rim side and the tire side). You get some warning as the tire goes soft. Glue helps hold the tire on which provides more control and it can be ridden flat.

    Tubeless the air escapes out the puncture only. You get some warning as the tire goes soft. The tire bead is designed to hold the tire on and it can be ridden flat (I've done it, though only once as a test; I've ridden multiple tubulars flat so there may be situations where the tubeless might detach). If you use a latex sealant this will actually add a glue effect.

    Catastrophic failure (big cut) and the tubeless and tubular stay on the rim to a much greater degree.

    In the cases above it's clear that you have have a greater margin of safety with tubular or tubeless from a simple design standpoint.

    If someone wants to send me $500, I'll do a Youtube video where I'll ice pick the three designs, time the deflation, then go ride them around.
    Thank you for this. I have been trying to wrap my head around the assertion that tubeless is better regarding punctures and this is the clearest explanation I've seen.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  25. #25
    Ninny globecanvas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    If someone wants to send me $500, I'll do a Youtube video where I'll ice pick the three designs, time the deflation, then go ride them around.

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