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Thinking about trying Tubulars

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Thinking about trying Tubulars

Old 09-30-10, 09:51 AM
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Thinking about trying Tubulars

I've heard plenty about their ride, I'm already a convert to high-end clincher tires...Is there much difference between a high-end clincher and a tubular?

Any recommendations on what rims to look for? Tire choices?
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Old 09-30-10, 10:01 AM
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This doesn't really answer your question, but read Eugene Sloan's Complete Book of Bicycling, published in 1968 or so, for some entertaining prose about tubulars. At every opportunity, Sloan praises them for vague things like being responsive, lively, and resilient. Whatever that might mean. My view is that tubulars are great if you like them. They have a high coolness factor (not trying to be dismissive, we all like some stuff for reasons it would be hard to put a finger on), but relatively few practical advantages that I can think of.
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Old 09-30-10, 10:11 AM
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My understanding is that High end clinchers now rival the ride of good tubulars, but that wasn't always the case hence the former popularity of tubulars for racing. I don't buy "high end" tires, but I can say my inexpensive tubies have much better ride characteristics than my inexpensive clinchers. They'd better, inexpensive tubies cost twice as much as inexpensive clinchers. Meanwhile the clinchers are much more durable and way easier and less expensive to repair. I've spent way more money and time keeping my tubular wheels on the road, but I like them both for their ride and for their "period appropriateness" on the bike I have them on. They are in no way practical, and for the same money I probably could afford to buy expensive clinchers.
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Old 09-30-10, 10:48 AM
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I'm watching this thread with interest. I've also been itching to see for myself. Seems like you can find quality tubular wheelsets for cheap as so many people don't want to mess with them.

As an aside, I received the Challenge Paris-Roubaix clinchers yesterday. I'll mount them this weekend and report back ASAP.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:19 AM
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I love my tubulars, but I wouldn't go out of my way to switch. I just happened to by a bike that had 'em on there.

They're not drastically less practical than running racing clinchers. Just bring one or two spare pre-glued tires with you in case you flat. They also have flat foam in a can, but I haven't tried that stuff yet. The main impracticality is patching tubes, it takes a little work on a tubular.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:24 AM
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+1 to LesterOfPuppets comments. Feel exactly the same way.
I happend to get a set of good tubulars that were just amazing. Unfortunatly one was destroyed with a screw. Only 1/4 of it is showing!
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Old 09-30-10, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by mattface
My understanding is that High end clinchers now rival the ride of good tubulars, but that wasn't always the case hence the former popularity of tubulars for racing. I don't buy "high end" tires, but I can say my inexpensive tubies have much better ride characteristics than my inexpensive clinchers. They'd better, inexpensive tubies cost twice as much as inexpensive clinchers. Meanwhile the clinchers are much more durable and way easier and less expensive to repair. I've spent way more money and time keeping my tubular wheels on the road, but I like them both for their ride and for their "period appropriateness" on the bike I have them on. They are in no way practical, and for the same money I probably could afford to buy expensive clinchers.


I am one of those riders that resisted tubulars for a long, long time. "I don't need those", "they're too expensive", "I don't want to deal with the glue", and on and on. I went tubular this year and have to say I'm really glad I did. Sure, it's can be more expensive to buy a tubular vs. a replacement tube for a clincher. Most people just don't want to bother with repairing a tube on a sew up tire. I haven't done that yet and look forward to doing so. The Tufo sealant is a great product also. I have one tubular that sprung a slow leak and I put this sealant in there as the tire is still in really good shape. The tube is holding air with no problem and I have no hesitations taking it out for a ride. I've had two flats on old tubulars while riding this year and changing it out is so much faster - peel the old tire off and put the spare on. Heck, I spent more time putting the flat one back under the saddle.

I don't buy high end tires - at least I don't think so. I ran Hutchinson clinchers for quite a few years but always bought on clearance at Nashbar for $20 (normal retail $45-55). The Conti Sprinters are the most expensive ones I have now but I only bought one at retail and the others were either given to me or I found them at a swap meet.

I will second the comment that inexpensive tubulars definitely ride nicer than inexpensive clinchers. I have one bike with Bontrager clinchers on it and the ride is definitely harsher than the tubulars that are running 20 psi higher. I got a flat with an old tubular last week and replaced it with a Conti Giro and it is running fine, albeit I've had a little more trouble getting it centered exactly where I want it on the rim. I bought the tubulars from Yellow Jersey - 6 for $112 (includes shipping). That's $18.67 a tire - that's tough to ignore when the ride quality is so much better.

Durability has a lot to do with the road surface you ride on. I have a lot of chip seal pavement around here. My last Hutchinson rear tire got about 2000 miles on it before I had to replace. The sew ups are holding up easily as well as the clinchers so I don't suspect much of a difference.

Being practical also has to do with perspective. I used to be "scared" of tubulars. Not any more - I find them more practical for me.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:33 AM
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Rode 'em 40 years ago, still riding them now. And I'm also riding reasonably high-end ($30-50.00/tyre) clinchers.

I still like the tubulars better. Yes, they're more responsive (not to different from comparing the handling between two sports cars), ride better, and are a faster fix if you've got a puncture twenty miles from home. I don't ride them urban (I don't think anyone makes a tubular anymore that can put up with hard duty city streets) as they're sport tyres, not commuter.

The big put-off for a lot of people is a fast and hard learning curve. To start, you'll need three rims - two for the bike, of course, and a third (tweaked is just fine) to store and stretch your spare. When you get your new tyres and wheels, first you want to put them on the wheels, unglued, pump to full pressure and let them sit for about a week. Expect a fight to get a new tubular on a rim, and you always stretch them first. Unless you like glue over everything, including hands and hair.

Gluing: Thin layer on the rim, thin layer on the covering strip of the tyre, then put them together. With the tyre pre-stretched, it should go on by hand, without too much trouble. You are going to get glue on your hands the first time. Pump to full pressure and let them sit for a day. The last point isn't absolute (I certainly don't sit by the side of the road for any period of time waiting for the glue to set), but I've got the time so I prefer to let the tyres sit a day before riding.

Pressure? I run my Vittoria Rallye's at 100lbs. And have had very good success. Average one puncture a year in over 5200 miles a year.

Above all, don't believe the horror stories you're going to hear from people who won't ride them. I'm amused that the warnings I'm hearing about the impracticality of tubulars are the same stories I was hearing back in 1971. If tubulars have any kind of negative at all, its that you're going to have to learn some different skills and the first time or two you do an installation you're going to do a lot of fumbling. Which is too much for most riders. Give it a fair chance and you're going to find out that modern clinchers are still only 98-99% as good as a tubular. While that sure beats the 75% as good for the old 27x1-1/4" clinchers, it's still less.

And considering I have a easier and faster time changing a 700c-23 tubular than any 700cc-23 clincher I've ever ridden (don't get me started on plastic 'tyre irons'), I'll be damned if I'm going to ride a lesser tyre that's more trouble in a bad situation.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:38 AM
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The Tubulars I've tried in the past are more prone to flat than any clincher I've yet used. I have patched a flat, but the stitching gave out a few weeks later. I've got proper thread and needle now so I'm ready for next time. I do always keep a spare on the bike, but given the expense of tubulars the spare is usually a used tire, and while it will get me home I've wound up in the position of having to order a new tire almost every time I flatted, either because my patch failed, or in one instance the valve stem on the tire failed. I won't but the Panaracer Practices any more. I'm trying Vittoria Rallys now. Hopefully I'll have better luck, because when I flat I can throw on the spare, but because of the price I can't just pull a fresh spare out of my closet or get one at the bike coop, and the LBS is way too pricey. So yeah a large part of the convenience of clinchers is their easy availability.

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Old 09-30-10, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by mattface
My understanding is that High end clinchers now rival the ride of good tubulars, but that wasn't always the case hence the former popularity of tubulars for racing.
...
They are in no way practical, and for the same money I probably could afford to buy expensive clinchers.
Thats kind of what I suspected, but as with many C&V things I just sort of want to try it.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod Beeblebrox
Thats kind of what I suspected, but as with many C&V things I just sort of want to try it.
In spite of what it may have sounded like I wouldn't discourage you from trying them. I like mine, but I also wouldn't go recommending them.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:50 AM
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Just do it. Live is to short to speculate on what you decide not to expereince. I have had 6 flats in the last year and will not give them up. I do find NOS or used ones that I use in stead of buying new ones. Once I get a job (curently unemployed) I will start trying the YJ and the Conti Sprinters. If I could find another Clement to match the one left. I would buy in a hear beat.
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Old 09-30-10, 11:53 AM
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If you are already asking the question, then you won't be satisfied until you try them - you owe it to yourself.

BTW a way to shortcut the learning curve is to borrow a pair of wheels from a tubular person - chances are they got plenty.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:02 PM
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If you have to try them, buy a used wheelset on Ebay. They are not expensive, and sometimes can be had for less than $100. I only buy cheap tubulars like Ralleys and Giros, and while fun cuz they're different, I do not think they are in any way better riding than a nice clincher set up. Maybe even not as good, and certainly not as durable.

Some folks say that you need to buy expensive tires, like $80-$100 each to get the full story, but I personally don't want to blow that kind of money on a chance screw or glass shard, which can appear as soon you turn out your driveway.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:19 PM
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I think it's a bit of a toss up on whether it is "justified" to go tubular.
Most neotubriders are like me, A C&V person that always wanted to do so in the past but never was able to afford or take the time to do so back in the 80's and 90's, and now that tubular wheels and tires are much more affordable lately because of various reasons, we found it a good time to finally try them out. My personal impression of tubular tire ride compared to clinchers is similar to most, as even with the cheapest of tubular tires like the Vittoria Rallies on my "everyday" tubular wheels, they give a much plusher but responsive ride compared to the latest mid level HP clinchers like the Vittoria Diamante Pros and Hutchiunson Atoms on my clincher wheelsets. Even though the latest HP clinchers have indeed improve in the past couple of decades, I still feel quite a bit of harshness in their ride that is fast but can get uncomfortable and tiresome after some miles.
I've gone to really like riding tubular tires that I've built up another two tubular wheelsets already this year with a third just waiting for spokes and some free time to get them together.
No, I'm not throwing in the towel on clinchers, I still consider them as my true regular riders, but if my clinchers were my "Coca-Cola" my tubulars are my "Champagne"...............or Courvoirsier??

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Old 09-30-10, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ldmataya
If you are already asking the question, then you won't be satisfied until you try them - you owe it to yourself.

BTW a way to shortcut the learning curve is to borrow a pair of wheels from a tubular person - chances are they got plenty.
You're right. Its a foregone conclusion its mostly a matter of "What should I look For". I'm going to a bike swap on Saturday...i've seen tubular rims and used wheelsets there in the past, whats something good to look for?

Unfortunately I don't know anyone who rides tubulars.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:22 PM
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Zaphod,
I think Skye pretty much nailed it. I rode tubulars for years, on a set of Mavic GP-4's. Wolber Invulnerables with a metal mesh, and "tire savers" made flats a rarity (can't get either anymore). When I finally sold the Alan Super Record they were on, I figured I was done.

Then I was tempted by a pair of Campy Omega wheels for a hundred bucks (at T-town!), so it was back to sew-ups. There are several advantages- if you're going for low weight on a vintage bike, for one. The ride is smoother, lower resistance, and more responsive. It's subtle but noticeable, even with the Vittoria Rallyes. However, they are delicate, I have had 3 flats in about 1250 miles. If you don't care about the sports car feel and don't want to worry about gravel and potholes, stick with clinchers.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:27 PM
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I've defintely seen the light as far as good tires go. This spring I bought a set of Vittoria Open Corsa clinchers (320tpi) and they are simply amazing tires. Responsive, comfortable, lightweight...awesome. A few weeks ago I picked up some Grand Bois Cypress tires and also...very very nice tire.

I figure the only thing thats left to try thats better would be some tubulars or handmade clinchers.

I've actually got a few sets of tire savers my LBS found in a back drawer and gave to me
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Old 09-30-10, 12:31 PM
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Tubulars are different......

Ask 100 riders about the difference between tubulars and clinchers and you'll get 100 different answers. Back in my shop dyas we had a guy who rode tubulars exclusively. i asked him why and he said because it easier to change flats on the road.

As a disclaimer I'll mention that i own 4 bikes with tubulars and 10 or so without. Here's my take:

Cost. Cheap tubular are simply that. Cheap. I've noticed that cheap ones tend to be more out of round or more lumpy that higher price ones. In general you dont see this with cheap clinchers. By cheap clinchers I mean $15 clinchers not $8.

Weight: My lightest wheels are tubular wheels. I've weighed them all and tubular win alost every time. I have 1 set of clinchers that weighs what my light tubulars weight but they're a modern low spoke count wheelset. Comparing apples ot apples tubulars win out almost every time.

Ride: Subjective. Im my opinion cheap tubulars ride beeter than cheap clinchers. Expensive clinchers ride better than cheap tubulars. I've never ridden overly expensive ($100) tubulars so I can comment on how they compare to expensive clinchers.

Glue: Never agian. I use Tufo rim tape exclusivley.

There are a few quick ways to mess up the ride of any tire compination regardless of it being a clincher or tubular. A few of them are:

Tire liners: #1 way to deaden a ride. They have their purpose and suit that purpose well but if you want to liven up the ride of your clinchers dump the tire liners.

Tire sealants: Maybe the #1 way to deaden a ride. Having all the liquid goop slopping around inside rotating wheelas isnt good.

Weight: Heavy tubes and tires and heavy. Swap them out for lightweight tires and tubes and the ride quality will greatly improve.

Folding: Folding tirea are lighter and allow better flexing of the case which in turn allows for better ride quality.

TPI: threads per inch. In general higher tpi tire ride better because the casing are more supple and can better deform to road irregularites.

Sometimes I think cyclists who hop on tubulars and love them are coming clinchers with wire beads, tire liners and goop in the inner tubes. Of course tubulars will ride nice, its like going from Hummer tires to Corvette tires.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod Beeblebrox
You're right. Its a foregone conclusion its mostly a matter of "What should I look For". I'm going to a bike swap on Saturday...i've seen tubular rims and used wheelsets there in the past, whats something good to look for?

Unfortunately I don't know anyone who rides tubulars.
Kind of depends on what's there. Personally, I like the Mavics - the Wolber Aspins ride nicely also.

Bigger question - what are they going to go on.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:45 PM
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miamijim, thanks for that post. Very informative and good advice.

Originally Posted by scozim
Bigger question - what are they going to go on.
'84 Team Miyata.



Its got a pretty nice wheelset right now. Dura Ace 7400 hubs, Mavic Open 4CD rims, DT Swiss Double Butted Spokes, Vittoria Open Corsa 320tpi clinchers.
Basically this would be my 'other' wheelset for the bike.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:54 PM
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In the late 60's I purchased what I think was a UO-8 plus a set of sew up wheels. Wish I had good pictures of both. There was a world of difference. I used the clinchers for every day use and the sew ups for special rides. Of course clinchers were a lot different back then. When I puchased my Motobecane in 73, it came with rigida 1320 which I mounted Specialized turbo's on a few years later to emulate the sew up expereince. Most of my riding back then was without others as I didn't meet anyone with the same passion for biking as I did, typically they couldn't keep up.

Today I ride alone most of the time because I am too slow! The replacement for my Moto is a 1983 Colnago Speicalissimo that I found on CL which came with the tubulars, which are my riding preference. So no matter what you put them on they are an improvement in my book.
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Old 09-30-10, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by miamijim
Tire liners: #1 way to deaden a ride. They have their purpose and suit that purpose well but if you want to liven up the ride of your clinchers dump the tire liners.
I don't know what tire liners are. . . . I'm assuming they're a protective strip between the tire and tube on a clincher. Yes? No?
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Old 09-30-10, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ColonelJLloyd
I don't know what tire liners are. . . . I'm assuming they're a protective strip between the tire and tube on a clincher. Yes? No?
Yessss.....
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Old 09-30-10, 12:57 PM
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What kind roads do ride on? Bumpy? Smooth as glass?
How much do you weight? Featjher weight? Heavy weight?

Hardend rims are more prone stiffer than regular aluminum ones but more prone to cracking.
Regular aluminum ones can lighter but also less stiff than hardeded rims but aren't as prone to cracking.

A heavy rider ridding on glass smooth roads might like hardned rims.
A heavy rider ridding on bumpy roads make crack hrdened rims therefore may prefer a heavy regular aluminum rim.

A lightweight rider can ride either but may prefer a regular aluminum rim versus a stiff hardened rim.
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