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Tubular Race Wheels - Worth it?

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Tubular Race Wheels - Worth it?

Old 09-30-11, 03:30 PM
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Tubular Race Wheels - Worth it?

I've been considering getting a pair of race-only carbon tubulars but I've been having trouble weighing the pros and cons, so I thought I might ask for opinions from those who race on them.

Are they as big of a pain in the ass as they appear to be? IE, if I get a flat, is unstitching, patching, and re-gluing the only reliable way to fix the flat?

How's the ride quality and cornerning characteristics? On par with clinchers or noticably better?

Overall, would you recommend them to a fellow racer?

Thanks in advance
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Old 09-30-11, 03:49 PM
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What are you training / racing on today?

I train and weekday race on aluminum clinchers; saving my 404 tubies for the weekend races. I feel a significant difference in handling and top end speed. Haven't flatted lately but yeah, if you do, a re-glue will be necessary. There are mail-order people who replace / repair tubes as a service, saves you from sewing.
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Old 09-30-11, 03:55 PM
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I have a powertap comp on an openpro for the rear, and a RS10 front. I used to train and race on a nice pair of Kinlin's (Psimet's) but I trashed the front in the crash and the powertap has been my only rear since I got it in May. I'll continue to race with the PT for some races just for the data, but for the most part I'll be using it as a training tool from now on, not a racing tool.

Some 50mm carbon tubulars would be nice. On the other hand, I could just get a lightweight neuvation alloy clincher for the front and pair it with the Psimet rear and call it a race set. Unless someone this thread convinces me otherwise.
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Old 09-30-11, 05:18 PM
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Yes.
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Old 09-30-11, 05:48 PM
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Ive been debating the same thing. I think the handling and weight is going to be well worth it though. When I decide to upgrade to a quarq, I will be grabbing a pair of tubie race wheels and some beater training clinchers.
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Old 09-30-11, 05:49 PM
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Heck - I've been considering getting a set of 50cm carbon tubbies, laced with CXray's to Alchemy hubs for my everyday wheel. Not sure If I'd hate my life though.
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Old 09-30-11, 06:28 PM
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I never get flats, so I think now and then that I could just get tubulars and not use them only for races. This of course means that the moment I buy tubulars I'd suffer a flat every other race. I also can't imagine having my only set of fancy carbon wheels be race-only. The poser side of me would have to use them for group rides and nice weather training. So, I'll probably end up with some 65ish clinchers, which will still be lighter than my PowerTap set and much more aero. If I get a super deal through the team or whatever, maybe I'll get a second set of shallower tubulars.
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Old 09-30-11, 06:52 PM
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When I got my tubulars I didn't expect to feel any difference in ride, but they are way smoother over rough surfaces and feel completely different cornering. I feel so much better going hard into corners than with clinchers. In my opinion they are completely worth it.

I bought mine with the intention of using them race day only, but ended up riding them pretty much full time.
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Old 09-30-11, 07:46 PM
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I recently switched to tubulars. A marked improvement in ride quality, and not as much of a hassle to mount or change as I anticipated. I only downside I see, is the cost or time in replacing or repairing flats.
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Old 09-30-11, 07:49 PM
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If I had it to do over again I would get tubies hands down for road racing wheels. Right now I run Cosmic Carbone SL's and they are fine for FL but once you start going uphill, they feel like bricks. I picked up a tubie disk and just recently a tubie trispoke and there is nothing scary or hard about them. The only thing that sucks is how expensive the tires are (if you want to run quality stuff).
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Old 10-01-11, 11:30 AM
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Is it a hassle to carry a spare tubular tire if you're using tubulars for training?
Originally Posted by brian416
When I got my tubulars I didn't expect to feel any difference in ride, but they are way smoother over rough surfaces and feel completely different cornering. I feel so much better going hard into corners than with clinchers. In my opinion they are completely worth it.

I bought mine with the intention of using them race day only, but ended up riding them pretty much full time.
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Old 10-01-11, 11:35 AM
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They sound nice - but expensive too. And a hassle when you flat.

I don't have any problems with the "smoothness" of the ride so far on clinchers, I dunno what kind of roads you guys are riding on though.

And don't clinchers generally have better rolling resistance figures?

Obviously I've never tried tubulars, but I haven't felt a need yet either.
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Old 10-01-11, 11:46 AM
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obviously this has been discussed at great length. I ride/race tubulars on a regular basis, certain times of year. (when Im not 'training' with my PT clinchers). Ive been using Conti sew-ups, which IME seem to be a fair balance of cost/performance/flat resist. They seem to be very resist. to flatting so far (a few k mi). As far as "hassle", I personally dont think so. I carry an old spare, and in case of a puncture I can put it on with no gluing, inflate, and roll back home, or to the car...

So far, with the wheelsets Ive ridden, the tubulars (mine are Mavic Carbone Pros) have superior ride quality. Ive been on the fence for a while about going tubular full time. The only hesitation for me is that my PT setup is on my clinchers. But this could change.
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Old 10-01-11, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by mattm
And don't clinchers generally have better rolling resistance figures?
Frequently, yes. Especially if you use latex tubes.

From what I've been able to determine, with fairly deep searching and reading, other than ride (pretty subjective), the most critical performance factors go like this:

1. Wind resistance
2. Weight
3. Rolling resistance

Thanks to wheels like the Zipp 404, you can get great aero clinchers, however you pay a priice in weight. How you weigh <pi> weight v. convenience is an individual thing. I know that, when I take the trainers off and put my Zipps on, I'm amazed at the weight difference. A friend here likens using tubulars to "putting your sunday go to meeting clothes on". Putting the tubulars on puts you in a race mindset, and we all know how important the mental aspects are. The tubulars say "I've done everything I know how to do to win this race".

As far as handling goes, I love the feel of the tubulars. I ride Vittoria Corsa Evo's, and they are great. Is the difference because the tire is tubular, or is it just a better tire that happens to be a tubular? I don't know the answer to that.

The braking took some getting used to. The high tire pressure, light weight, and carbon rims make it really easy to lock up the rear wheel, which can be really expensive. One of my first times on them in a group situation, someone (needlessly) braked ahead, causing a major compression, with people going off the side to avoid collision. I created a lot of smoke avoiding a crash... I suspect I would have been more 'graceful' on the trainers.

For me, the biggest PITA doesn't have to do with flats. The biggest factor (at least for me) in avoiding flats is keeping fresh tires on the bike. When they get thin, flats happen. But swapping, between non-aero alloy trainers and the Zipp 404s, requires some tweaking of the brake pads. I'm using the yellow SwissStop pads, and no longer swapping them out when I swap the wheels, but they need to be adjusted to precisely match the brake band of the Zipps, or the braking gets really noisy and herky jerky. It usually takes a little tweaking to get it right when I switch wheels. The alignment is critical, and the width of the wheels is different. So I always swap the wheels a ride or two in advance of a race, to get that (and the RD indexing) sorted out. I had the bike serviced awhile back (training wheel true-up), and of course the shop adjusted everything, tightening the brake cables. I had to redo that, so I could open them up enough for the Zipps. This brake adjustment hassle is likely true whether your racing wheels are tubular or clinchers, but, if I was riding 404 clinchers, I'd only swap them out if I was riding in a hurricane. :-)
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Old 10-01-11, 12:24 PM
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Posting to threads asking this question is like practice. I get better at putting a shorter response each time.

Tubulars, for a given aero rim profile, are typically much lighter overall (tire/rim combo). Also you can't get the best aero profile in clinchers (I think).

Tubulars, for a given rim weight, are stronger (no bead wall like a clincher has). A 350g alum box clincher rim is pushing the light weight limit - all the ones I bought I bent. A 350g alum box tubular rim is super heavy duty - I still have a few from 15+ years ago, and I used to train on tubulars all the time.

Tubulars, when flat, are quite rideable, so they're more safe when you have a flat, especially if you have a mid-turn flat.

My 60mm tall, 28mm wide (at widest) rimmed tubular wheels are about 1450 grams for the pair.

I've ridden in a paceline (following others - I declined to pull because I didn't want some freak thing to cause me to take them out) at 30+ mph on a front flat tire, around gradual turns etc. Only hard turns forced me to slow. It's possible to ride a clincher, yes (I've ridden a double clincher flat a few miles), but it's no fun. A flat tubular isn't very hard to ride and you can ride them pretty fast.

When I train on tubulars I don't carry a spare. I'll ride the flat home.
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Old 10-01-11, 01:41 PM
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yes - IMO, they are worth it.

It isn't as much of a hassle as you might think.
The ride quality really does feel better
The rolling resistance is pretty much even, unless you are using low Crr tyres & latex tubes on your clinchers. Given that almost no one does this, a good tubular tends to have a lower Crr.
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Old 10-01-11, 01:44 PM
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The great thing about tubulars during a race, is you can wait until the right time to stop and change the wheel.
I've ridden on the back of the peloton for minutes at a time, waiting for the following car to be positioned correctly, or waiting for the peloton to slow it's pace.
Can't play that game with clinchers.

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Old 10-01-11, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by wacomme
Is it a hassle to carry a spare tubular tire if you're using tubulars for training?
Nope, I carry a 160g Tufo tire under my saddle. It folds up very small and my thighs don't hit it so I don't even notice it's there.
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Old 10-01-11, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by brian416
Nope, I carry a 160g Tufo tire under my saddle. It folds up very small and my thighs don't hit it so I don't even notice it's there.
But how does that work when you mount it? You just ride it without glue?
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Old 10-01-11, 03:40 PM
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^ you can, without issue...as long as youre not bombing corners...

*edit*- theres obviously glue on the rim, and some people have already pre-glued the spare theyre carrying so this is sufficient to get home.
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Old 10-01-11, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by HMF
But how does that work when you mount it? You just ride it without glue?
I already have a layer of glue on my spare tire. I haven't had a flat in 5 years though.
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Old 10-01-11, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by AzTallRider
Frequently, yes. Especially if you use latex tubes.
Actually, no.

Most of the data that showed this came from inadequately glued tubulars. Properly glued, of the top 6 tires tested, 5 were tubulars, tested against clinchers with latex tubes. If you run a butyl tube, which most folks do, clinchers start heading backwards.

One advantage that hasn't been touched on (unless I missed it) is that tubulars are almost impossible to pinch flat, and seldom if ever go flat with a "bang" that leaves you skittering across a corner while some newb yells at you to hold your line.

That one still makes me shake my head.
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Old 10-01-11, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by brian416
I already have a layer of glue on my spare tire. I haven't had a flat in 5 years though.
uh oh...
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Old 10-01-11, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Actually, no.

Most of the data that showed this came from inadequately glued tubulars. Properly glued, of the top 6 tires tested, 5 were tubulars, tested against clinchers with latex tubes. If you run a butyl tube, which most folks do, clinchers start heading backwards.

One advantage that hasn't been touched on (unless I missed it) is that tubulars are almost impossible to pinch flat, and seldom if ever go flat with a "bang" that leaves you skittering across a corner while some newb yells at you to hold your line.

That one still makes me shake my head.
Still bitter? I train on clinchers, and race on tubulars. Personally, I have always enjoyed racing on carbon tubulars (currently 404's), and will continue to. And like Ex mentioned, proper gluing technique is critical to get all of the performance out of them, crr wise.
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Old 10-01-11, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by brian416
I haven't had a flat in 5 years though.
WTF?
Has your bike ever been outside?
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