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Clinchers vs. Tubulars – the common question

One of the most regularly asked questions of amateur cycling, you’re after new wheels but do you go for the clinchers your used to or the mythical beasts they call tubs.

Being relatively new to road cycling, I have to admit my knowledge probably isn’t that of a professional engineer or tire scientist, although with 4 road bikes and a tt bike on order, I’ve experienced a fair share of different tires & conditions.

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My 2 most used set ups are a pair of basic shimano R40 clinchers with gatorskins/specialized armadillos (I’ve tried both), and on my race bike I use a mavic cosmic ultimate tub rear wheel and a velo-smith hand made front wheel. And it has to be said, they’re fast, very fast. I’ve also ridden a set of giant’s SLR aero clinchers to get a feel for the differences.

Its pretty clear that with the current technology of both the wheels, there isn’t much difference in aero advantage. There’s no denying the carbon clinchers were fast, they had the same bite the tubs offered. The deep rims purring away every time my legs offered a kick of watts. But the pros must use tubs for a reason right? From the personal experience of riding both of the options I have to say I much prefer the tubs to ride, however clinchers offer much more security.

Advantages of tubular tires:

  • Grippy – fast feel
  • Higher tire pressure (in dry conditions)
  • Puncture resistance
  • Weight – usually a few hundred grams lighter

Disadvantages of tubular tires:

  • Hard to change in a hurry
  • Expensive to run
  • Terrifying for the average cyclist

 


When you don’t have the engineers following you in the team sky support car, it can be frustrating fixing a puncture. However with a clincher it’s the same common process, tube out, check over, tube in, inflate. Whereas a tub is much harder to change. It is possible to rip it off and put on a new tub however this is a hard process and the tub usually needs preparing before it gets fitted. The Vittoria pitt stop is fantastic and usually does the job however as I found in a race late September, if you have more than just a simple puncture, this can leave you pretty stranded!

Tubs are much more expensive to purchase and run that the average clincher. With the tires coming in at around £30 each, and pitt stop at £7-10, the inner tube seems like a much more reasonable option. Although the higher pressure in a tub makes a real difference. In dry conditions I found myself riding up to 120psi helping the heavier cyclists. Although in wet conditions I had to ride the standard 80psi nullifying this advantage. The hiss of tires on the start line isn’t a fun sound anyway, let alone when you’re riding tubs.

It has to be said that when riding my tubs the lack of rolling resistance, smooth grip on the surface and few less grams on the hills makes a big difference. The confidence into the corners and attack into the last stages of a climb was something I really used to my advantage through the 2015 season. Although troubles with changing and gluing new tires was something I won’t be jumping to do again in a hurry.

Having just purchased a time trial bike, I opted for clinchers. The few grams I’d save could be lost with one less doughnut at the buffet and the security of a couple of minutes puncture fix is a risk I’m willing to take knowing I can definitely fix it. A peace of mind that will certainly help in training and the long run.
Looking at both sides offering advantages and disadvantages for both I’ve not really offered any form of verdict. So my decision? Both. Well that’s not a decision really is it, so if, like myself, you’re not made of money and have to decide, I would advise it depends on the use for the wheel.
Tubs are comfortable and fast, very fast. Ideal for hot weather and racing. Fitting this on your bike will give you extra confidence and a real kick in races. However for every day use or lots of hours training, a carbon clincher offers a very similar standard to the tubular tire, with the ease of changing, so I’d recommend this option.

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