good points or fear mongering (re tubulars)?

Everything about building wheels, glueing tubs, etc.
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by are

I've ridden for 40+ years and started racing in the late 1980s. I don't do mass start race events now, but I do century rides and gran fondos that are often long, hilly and timed. I'm thinking about buying my first set of tubular wheels.

I'd like aero and light, which means carbon, and even though the modern generation of carbon clinchers seems much safer than in the past, I do ride some big, steep descents in places like Malibu, CA, which would make me uncomfortable.

A friend I ride with - who is a good cyclist and usually knows what he's talking about - is adamant that tubulars are a terrible idea. His points are:
- Expensive
- Need to carry alot (spare tubular, razor blade, sealant, valve screw, rim tape)
- If you flat you can't corner or descend fast
- If you flat twice you are screwed
- A single flat could cost 25 minutes

I ride tubeless Hutchinsons now and I pretty much never flat. It seems to me that with good tires (balance of ride-ability & durability) and with sealant (people use sealant in tubulars, right?), I don't see why flatting would be the big an issue. I would use the wheels for events and, on occasion, for some of biggest training rides I do.

Is it crazy to be thinking about tubulars these days?

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by FIJIGabe

No, it's not crazy. I'll admit, I've never used a tubular, but I think your friend is overreacting. Specifically, I mention this: you don't need to carry much more than you do with a clincher (spare tube). You will need a pre-glued tubular tire, and probably a can of Pit Stop, if you aren't running sealant in your tubes. The glue will be dry, and if you cannot repair the tire on the scene, you pull off the old tire, and put your pre-glued tire on the rim. Once on the rim, you can move along.

Beware that you will probably take longer to swap out the tire in case of a flat, but I think that has a lot to do with your proficiency in swapping tires.
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by Qman

I've been riding tubulars since the early 80's. Here are my responses to your friend's concerns.

"Expensive": Not necessarily. You're getting a tube included in the price, and it lasts a long time. Go for a Continental Sprinter and you get reasonable performance for not too much money. Spend a few more dollars to get something that rides better. If it lasts you for thousands of km's and you're enjoying the performance, then it's money well spent.

"Need to carry a lot": Wow, I've never brought that much stuff with me! I've use three different methods for dealing with flats.
First, bring a spare tire that has some glue on it. You're taking less tools with you since you don't need tire levers. It is very quick to change a flat since you just rip the old one off and put the new one on. Yes, the disadvantage is that you need to be careful on corners for the rest of the ride.
Second, bring nothing. I've done this when venturing not too far from home base. If you do flat then either you ride home on the flat or you phone for a ride.
Third, use Pitstop. This is now my preferred method. You only need to bring a small can with you, and if you flat you can fix it as long as the cut isn't too big.
All of these methods require you to carry less than if you are using clinchers.

"If you flat you can't corner or descend fast": Already covered above. This is not true if you use Pitstop. Keep in mind that one of the reasons pros use tubulars is that if you flat while riding quickly you are more likely to keep upright because the tire stays on the rim. So, If you're using clinchers you may not be able to ride fast on the descents after flatting because you're riding in the back of the ambulance.

"If you flat twice you are screwed": That's also true for people on clinchers who bring a spare tube. If you're really worried about this then bring two cans of Pitstop. The chance of flatting twice is very remote so I simply don't worry about it and enjoy my ride.

"A single flat could cost 25 minutes": Neither putting on a spare tubular, nor using Pitstop will cost you anywhere close to 25 minutes. You'll be back on the road in just a few minutes.

The thing to remember is that there are many tubulars that have excellent flat protection, so it is a very rare event.
I find that the advantages of tubulars easily outweigh any disadvantages regarding dealing with flats. You have less tools with you, have lighter wheels and lighter tires, can run lower tire pressures, and don't need to worry about melting your rims on the descents.

I would expect someone who doesn't ride tubulars to have negative opinions of them - that's why he isn't riding them. Now find someone who does use them and see what they think.

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by strobbekoen

If you want light carbon wheels, tubular is the way to go, for me anyway. I just would not feel confident on carbon clinchers in the mountains.
Clinchers are easier, absolutely. So if you want the easiest way to put on tires, stick with clinchers.
Tubulars flat less often than clinchers, just my experience.
Ripping the tires off a carbon tubular can be a bad idea, if you are not careful, you can rip off some carbon of the rim bed with it. For example, Campagnolo states in their instructions to use a tool to wiggle the tire off. Pull a small section of the tire loose using your hands, stick a flat object between rim and tire, then wiggle left/right to remove the bond of tire/rim going around the rim.

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by sungod

- Expensive

some cost more than clinchers, some less, if cost were an issue we'd all be riding cheap bikes

- Need to carry alot (spare tubular, razor blade, sealant, valve screw, rim tape)

eh? the mind boggles, razor blade? rim tape?

a spare tufo weighs 60g more than a conti inner tube
sealant, smal bottle of tufo extreme
core tool, a few miligrams

- If you flat you can't corner or descend fast

if you flat while moving, a tub is far safer than a clincher

- If you flat twice you are screwed

only if the sealant doesn't work

- A single flat could cost 25 minutes

or not, depends how adept you are
if it were a race even 5 mins is too much

everyone's entitled to their opinion, and tubs/clinchers all have their pros/cons

tubs general pros are lighter rims, safer, nicer, i can put up with a bit more effort to mount/repair

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by Geoff

Hmmm. There seems to be a lot of us '80s-vintage types hanging-about on this Board. I would have thought that we all 'grew-up' riding tubulars whist racing, but maybe not. when I was a kid, there was really no option to tubulars, so we learned fast.

Though I have not ridden too much in California in the last decade, my recollection of your roads is tht they are very good. I do not think that I ever had a flat on tubulars down there, nor did anyone I was racing with. I think that you will find tubulars quite durable, especially if you observe a few, simple riding techniques:

1. keep your head up and pay attention to the road surface, avoidance is key to good tire experiences;
2. if you spot trouble, it is important to avoid riding through innocent-looking debris on the road, if possible (obviously, safety first);
3. If you do happen to hit a pile of junk on the roadside, brush yout tires off as soon as is practicable (this will become automatic over time); and,
4. check your tires every ride for tread damage and debris imbedded in it.

Are tubulars more expensive? Absolutely. Is it more difficult than clinchers? Of course. The benefits may outweigh the costs, however. To use your example of descents, for example, whereas a clincher may instantly deflate and the clincher detach from the rim, a tubular will tend to deflate slowly and, because it is adhered to the rim mechanically, it will tend to stay mounted allowing you to stop safely. That is the opposite of what you are being told.

Tubulars are not the boogeyman. There is no need to fear riding them at all.

Good luck!

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by Kayrehn

Even though I live on an island that's pancake-flat, I still prefer to use tubulars because I hate to hear the mini-explosions that comes with a clincher inner tube puncture. Don't ever want that to happen when I'm going fast in a group. Tubulars can last a long time with luck, this is a hobby that most of us splurge on, and in the big scheme of things it's really not that expensive when you get safety and a great ride experience with them.

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by rmerka

- Expensive
A good point, but isn't that true of everything in cycling? Clinchers or tubulars can be as expensive as you want to make them.

- Need to carry alot (spare tubular, razor blade, sealant, valve screw, rim tape)
Fear-mongering -- I don't think you would need to carry that much stuff. With clinchers you could get away with just a very small stick on patch kit so I don't agree with the point above that you need to carry more with clinchers in any event. You certainly don't need to carry all that stuff with tubulars either

- If you flat you can't corner or descend fast
A good point

- If you flat twice you are screwed
Fear-mongering -- Maybe true in any event whatever your tire style. Depends on how much stuff you want to carry and how bad you bugger up the roadside repairs

- A single flat could cost 25 minutes

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by are

Thanks! Great info. I've started working my way through the stickies on tubs in this forum. Super helpful info for a beginner w/ tubulars.

I'm not sure when I'll pull the trigger, but I'm thinking something like a Zipp 303 or 404 (gets a little heavy), or maybe the new Easton EC90 aero 55, which has the depth of the 404 and the weight of the 303. Lots of info in the forum, so plenty of reading to do ...

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by bm0p700f

I ride with tubs sometimes and i love it. I have a saddle bag packed with two pre glued tubulars. I have never needed two spares. One yes sometimes. I find pitstop works sometimes but cannot be relied upon either. Changing a tub is very simple. I use alot of glue when gluing so when i have to pull a punctured tub of and mount the glued spare i find the bond is very strong, strong enough so i have never worried about entering corners. The bond has been so good that i have not had to do more gluing at home.

I have changed tubs at the side of the road in five minutes and been on my way. With pitstop i have been on my way in under a minute.

Done very long 200+ mile rides on tubs and have more confidence in them than any clincher tyre. Tubless tyres are fine but to get a good ride i find i have to use wide ones and those are very heavy. So i is very sensible to think about tubular wheels and very sensible to use them all the time. l have tried preading with latex sealant and it has worked but sometimes it has not.

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by Zoro

My son is 100% tubulars wears them to the cord. I find Paris-Roubaix tyres for somewhere around 50EUR/USD and so far no flats in a couple years (and lots of flats racing with different tyres). The problem seems to be the rubber is generally softer and they wear more quickly. Still, no pinch flats and heavy tubulars are about as light as light clinchers all-in.

All-in means - clincher rim is heavier than the tubular rim - same brand. Add rim tape, tube and a 26mm 350g tubular (heavy) is still a lighter setup than the clincher setup - and better in every aspect except the mounting hassle.

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by sawyer

We can rehearse the arguments, but you really need to give it a go

I was in Majorca for a few days last month on tubs and it reminded me of the joy of going through the mountains on tubs

Carbon clinchers have closed the gap a bit - in aesthetics and in new aerodynamic but reasonably light rims, but the delta in handling feel and confidence in the mountains remains unchanged

After work in the office car park before commuting home last night I discovered a punctured front tub ... put 80psi in it and cycled 11km home on a slow flat and then fixed with a squirt of Pitstop Try doing that on a clincher ;-)
Stiff, Light, Aero - Pick Three!! :thumbup:

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by RichTheRoadie

Every time I descend on clinchers I wish I was on tubs. The confidence alone is worth all the 'hassle' (which doesn't really exist).

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by eric

I started racing in the late 80s but used tubulars only in the last couple years. I find them difficult to work with. I removed and re-glued the tires on a wheel set recently and it took me two evenings and some blisters to get them off. There is no way I would be able to remove them without tools. Though I did succeed in not damaging the tires or rims.

I save the tubulars for uphill only races. In part that's because the wheels are very light low profile wheels and I'd rather have aero rims if there are descents or flats involved. But to a large extent it's because of the hassle of flatting a tubular on the road. If I'd been using them for years maybe I'd have a different opinion, but I haven't.

Carbon clinchers are getting pretty good. I recently did the Mullholland Challenge (in the Malibu mountains) on carbon clinchers including the descent down Deer Creek. My chinese rims did fine; my team mate melted one of his. His were the previous generation from the same company but I think the problem was that he was worried about them and went slow, while I was worried and went fast, knowing that going fast down a descent puts less heat into the rims. I expect that expensive name brand rims are less succeptible to heat problems than less expensive generic chinese rims. There were a fair number of people on carbon rims on that ride.

I live and ride in an area with even steeper and more technical descents than Deer Creek. I ride on aluminium clinchers for most of my training, saving the carbon rims for races and special rides. The difference in performance is small and not an issue for training.

I find the difference in ride and handling between clinchers and tubulars to be very small.

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by Oswald

I wouldn't bother with tubulars. I trained on them for a couple of years and it's just too much hassle for too little benefit.

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