Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sticky, Squishy Love, Part I: Some Notes on Tubular Tyres



I had no preconceived notions of tubular tyres, until I tried them, for the first time, 6 years ago. A friend in Vienna lent me his track bike thus equipped. I had it for about two weeks and rode it for hours on end around the nearby park and countryside. I do not recall the brand or model of the 23mm tubulars. But the memory of their soft, squishy, very particular ride feel stayed with me for some time and I knew that some day, when the opportunity presented itself, I would have a set of tubular wheels for one of my own bikes.

The opportunity presented itself this summer, when a friend agreed to build me a set of lightweight "vintagey" wheels (this was the prequel to my learning to do it myself). He suggested using tubular rims for the build, and I readily agreed. On riding my bike with the new wheels, I was so ecstatic that my husband grew curious and wanted in on the action. So we built him some tubulars too. And he liked them so much, that he then built another set for his second bike. Long story short... 6 months later and with 3 sets of tubular wheels between us, we feel sufficiently committed to this setup to have now sold off most of our clincher wheels.

Why? Well, I can only speak for myself. And here are some notes on my experience.



So firstly, what are tubular tyres exactly? Put simply, they are just what the name suggests: tyres in the shape of tubes (I'm great at explaining stuff, aren't I!).

While clincher tyres are essentially strips of rubber with curled edges, designed to tuck under the lip of a rim, tubulars are sewn and sealed closed, designed to be glued onto a rim bed.

Because of this inherent difference, tubular tyres do require tubular-specific rims, just as clincher tyres require clincher-specific rims. So once you choose to go with one rim type vs another, you are committed to a system.



Because they are essentially a tube and a tyre in one, tubular tyres do not require inner tubes. The valve is part of the tyre, and air is pumped into the tyre directly.

For many, this is what makes a tubular setup preferable to a clincher setup: The integrated inner tube and lack of bead reduces weight, and the closed design delivers superior suppleness. But I will come back to this later.



Attaching tubular tyres to the rim requires a specially formulated adhesive, and a multi-step process that takes at least 24 hours from start to finish.

Perhaps understandably, this tends to intimidate those accustomed to clinchers. Gluing a tyre to a rim seems quaint, and questionable in its security. I had qualms about this too at first (OMG glue?!). However, I now feel confident that, if done correctly, the bond is rock-solid.



For those who downright hate the gluing idea, there is now tubular tape available instead. But personally, I agree with the argument that traditional liquid glue is best, as it doesn't detract from the tyre's natural flex.

The glue is available from a number of brands, and is sold in small tubes and larger jars. It is easiest to apply using a small tube, as you can just squeeze from the tube directly and do not need a brush. However, buying the larger jar makes sense if you plan to do more than 1 set of tyres in the near future.



There are many variations on tubular gluing methods. But the basic principle is a 3 step process:

1. Coat rim and tyre's underbelly with tubular glue.

2. Fit tyre onto rim. Inflate to a high PSI.

3. Let "cure" for 24 hours before riding.



In fairness, each step is a bit more elaborate than that. Ideally, you would stretch the tyre by mounting it onto the rim "dry" and inflating first. You would also inflate it and let it dry a bit after the first gluing, then deflate and add a bit more glue before finally fitting it onto the rim for realz. But you get the general idea: glue on both surfaces, then inflate and let sit. If the surfaces are coated well, the pressure and the drying time will result in a solid bond, so that the tyre will feel impossible to budge. And then, off you go cycling.



As far as the cost of tubular tyres, there is a pretty wide range. You can buy expensive high end ones for as much as $100 a tyre (Dugast and FMB are considered the crème de la crème) , or budget ones for 1/10th of that price. And a tip if you want to get a good deal on a higher-end tubular tyre: I have noticed there tend to be quite a few pre-owned but unused ones sold on the secondhand market; so if you can tolerate eBay that can be a good option.

On our bikes we use the fairly high-end and puncture-resistant Schwalbe Pro1 and Vittoria Corsa tubulars, and keep some budget Vittoria Rallys as spares.

We have not had any punctures on any of our tubulars yet. But the idea is, to carry a lightly pre-glued spare, and then simply change out the tyre, inflate the spare and ride. The punctured tyre can be repaired at a later time.



With all that being said, I am aware that on paper the whole thing really does sound kind of complicated. Nevertheless, I prefer tubular tyres by a fairly wide margin. So here is a summary of why:

1. They are comfortable. So ridiculously comfortable. Contemporary clincher-advocates will say this is a myth, that modern clinchers have caught up and surpassed, and so on. In my experience this simply isn't so, and I say that having ridden some of the nicest modern clinchers. There is no comparison. The best way I can describe how a tubular tyre rides... It feels as if it has at least 30psi less pressure in it than it actually does. Or else as if your bike has suddenly become more flexible. The effect is simply amazing, and like nothing else I have felt before.

2. They are easy (for me) to mount. As I've mentioned before many times, I have trouble mounting, removing, and changing out tubes with clincher tyres. This is a hand strength/ nerve damage issue, and it brings me to tears, because basically I cannot change my own (clincher) tyre in a way that is even remotely efficient. In comparison, mounting or changing a tubular is a walk in the park. Glue may be messy, but wielding a paintbrush is much easier for me, physically, that tucking in a stiff bead core. Likewise, cracking the glue seal and pushing a tubular off the rim with my hands is easier than wrangling off a tight clincher using tyre levers.

3. Having had a pretty frightening experience with a rapid puncture on a clincher tyre on a 45mph descent, I am more comfortable with the potential outcomes of getting a flat on a tubular setup. I genuinely feel safer on tubulars.

4. While the need to "buy a new tyre" in the event of a flat is often cited as a deterrent, I am confident that I can repair a tubular myself if need be (I have seen it done, and for anyone with even basic sewing and crafting skills - it is not that big of a deal), so this is really not an issue.

5. I enjoy the tactile aspects of handling and working with the tubular tyres: from applying the glue, to tapping on its crème brûlée-like crust with my fingernails, to the satisfactory crunch of cracking that crust when removing the tyre. Maybe that's a little weird, but all these things make me feel more viscerally "connected" to the tyres, which is nice.

6. Finally, compared to clincher setups tubulars do save weight. It's not my top reason for preferring them, but it does make a difference.

Despite my rather awkward explanations, I hope that this has been interesting or at least a little helpful for those who've always wondered about tubular tyres. They have a reputation for being mysterious and complicated, and granted they are not for everyone. But after the last 6 months, I feel pretty certain they are right for me and am happy to have finally taken the plunge!

{Also: stay tuned for Part II... when I relate our trials and tribulations with tubeless setups.}



87 comments:

  1. That all sounds great but tubs have one big issue that completely disqualifies them in my eyes - there are no wide tubular tires (at least as far as I know). The widest ones end at lousy 33mm - the UCI-enforced limit for cyclocross.

    So for strictly road riding, tubs are cool. For much more than that, no so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you there, but that just means someone needs to make them. As well as compatible 650B (non-disc) rims.

      Sadly I asked Jan Heine if Compass has any plans for this, and the answer (despite this) is No.

      Delete
    2. @bostonbybike: the lack of wide tubular tires is a deal-breaker for me (not that I was think of switching to tubulars). The narrowest tire that I've run is a 38-559, and nowadays, I use 50-559 slicks in the summer and 49-559 studded winters in the cold.

      @Velouria: as you say, the rim dictates the type of tire, and I've invested a fair amount in good clincher wheels, so I'm "locked in" to that type. The other considerations (tire width, weight savings, ease/difficulty in mounting, etc.) aren't nearly enough to make me considering investing in new wheels. I think I'd rather invest in wide, semi-slick, supple clinchers.

      Delete
    3. There are lots of wide tubulars in both 700 and 650B. Those who use or sell them are more likely to call them 29" or 27.5. The problem is any rim I am aware of is disc brake only. Attempting to glue even a modest 40mm tubular to a normal sewup rim would, IMO, be risky. The wide tire has leverage on the glue bed. A wider rim is called for. The only wide tubular rims with a brake track I am aware of are antiques and most are wood rims.

      Delete
    4. There are MTB Tubs, I wonder how tough it would be to find some fine tread 50mm tubular MTB tires and buff the knobs off. I've done it to lightweight clincher racing clinchers to make nice supple slicks for 26" bikes in the past and now they make them for 27.5ers and 29ers... AKA 650b and 700c so no problem getting the rim and tire in your gravelbike.

      I love Tubulars with an unquenchable fire and cannot be objective in this conversation...

      Spindizzy

      Delete
    5. Yes. The real problem is, there are no 650B rims (that I know of) which are tubular and non-disc.

      Petition to Pacenti, anyone?

      Delete
    6. @Spindizzy: sure, I could do that: buy a wide tubular tire and file it down, but I'd also have to buy tubular-compatible rims or complete tubular wheels, which adds to the cost. What I'd rather do is buy some wide and supple clinchers. My warm-weather tires are currently Schwalbe Marathon Supremes 50-559. I've considered the Rat Trap Pass tires from Compass, but I've already invested a lot of money in the current tires.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for clearing up some of the tubular mystery for me. I would like to know how the tires hold up and perform over a period of time on rough roads. And, how the glue holds the tires over time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Given that we only have rough roads here, so far I've been pleasantly surprised by the durability of the Schwalbe Pro1s (which I used first, then traded to my husband for the Vittoria Corsas a month ago). Having read they were on the delicate side, I was a little worried, but I think they must have changed the formula for 2016/2017 (the tread pattern has changed, so this is possible), because they are holding up excellently so far. They also do not lose air overnight as do some other higher-end tubulars.

      The Vittoria Corsas I have only been using for a month, so cannot comment on durability yet. They do lose air quicker than the Pro1s, and I am trying to decide whether I'm okay with this. It would be a problem on multi-day rides for sure, as I don't exactly plan to carry a track pump with me. But I suppose for now it's okay.

      Delete
    2. I talked to Schwalbe directly a few weeks ago. The Pro tires are subject to change and do change a lot. What will remain constant is the inner tubes. They are butyl and will hold air. They put a lot of work into their extra thin butyl tubes and will use them. The rolling resistance penalty is negligible.

      Standard latex tubes for sewups do lose air. That can be a problem even in the course of a long ride. In the course of a long race it is a real issue. This is why tubular users prefer full length pumps. Zefal hpx pumps are super reliable and easily put out 100 psi. If you must you can paint them to match. For the aesthetes prehistoric Silca pumps are still around but only work well if paired with Campagnolo metal pump heads. Those are scarce. I have two, one purchased in 1964, in use continuously with no maintenance ever.

      Delete
    3. You can try some non-ammonia based sealer, I use Orange seal which is the GO-TO Cyclo Cross Tubular sealer in these parts.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
    4. Spin - are you saying the sealant will slow the air loss? I've got half a bottle of Stan's but read that it's not to be used on latex. Luckily, Orange seal is available here, so I could give that a try.

      I do know it's a butyl vs latex tube issue. And the difference is dramatic, for anyone interested. The Pro1s I could pump once a week; the Vittoria Corsas need air daily. Within the scope of my cycling, I do not notice a difference in performance or ride feel between the two tyres.

      Delete
    5. That's been my experience. I don't have to pump up the tires as often especially when I ride the bike regularly. If the bike hangs on the wall unridden for long periods of time the tires still leak down but not as quickly.

      Spin

      Delete
  3. Heh! There is no way I would put myself through the "process" described here, but thank you for the cool writeup. I am looking forward to the tubeless post, which sounds like it might be more realistic for me.
    Ken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well that depends. Do you own an industrial strength air compressor?

      Delete
    2. There are a few floor pump brands that work well with tubeless by having a separate chamber that is pre-charged by pumping and can be released all at once. Both tubular and tubeless sound a bit finicky for my taste but I do admit to liking the feel of "open tubulars" like the Vittoria Open Corsas so I suspect I could be seduced :-)

      Delete
    3. I've mounted tubeless tires, both a conversion Kenda cross tire and a true tubeless Hutchinson, with nothing more than a 30 year old floor pump. Both wheelsets were Stan's, one a 29er and the other a 700 road wheel. I might have cussed a bit but they did work. I've also used tubulars on a set of 50mm carbon wheels using tape to secure the tires. No problems with the tires but I couldn't see any difference in riding quality compared to clinchers.

      Delete
  4. Well, unless they've changed them completely since I used them, there's a tube in there. You have to undo the cloth strip around the inside and cut the stitching to get to it. It's the only way to repair them. Then you sew up the stitching again and glue the cloth strip. I used to like doing this.
    But the tube is lighter than any tube used with clinchers. And tubular tires are much more prone to flats than clinchers; they are a lot lighter, after all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's technically kinda sorta what I wrote : )

      "Because they are essentially a tube and a tyre in one, tubular tyres do not require inner tubes."

      I am glad to know you did not find the repairs difficult and look forward to trying it myself. Still looking for a discarded tubular to practice on, if anyone has one to donate or trade.

      Delete
    2. OK, I misread. As I said on Twitter, though, you'll have plenty of tires to practice on, soon.

      Delete
    3. BTW, one time my brother gave me a crochet hook, which he told me was the tool experienced tubular repairers used to resew the tire. I never learned the technique, since I was near the end of my tubular use. But you will probably want to investigate this along with every other possible way of maintaining tubulars, in order to prepare a complete report.

      Delete
    4. Ooh man, it just gets better!

      Delete
    5. Tubular tires have inner tubes that are EXACTLY the same as a clincher tubes, only stitched inside the tire instead of sandwiched between rim tape, rim walls and tire as in a clincher. A spendy lightweight tube saves weight in either case. Tubulars are HEAVIER than clinchers, but the RIM is enough lighter to make up the difference because it's a simple D shape, while the clincher is a D that has additional sides that go up and hook onto the tire's bead. IMO the difference in feel probably has more to do with the rim's simplicity.

      First time mounting of a new tubular can be a pure bitch, depending on the size/casing stiffness, etc. but once the fabric stretches, they take less strength for sure.

      The big downside to the tubular is the difficulty of patching/replacing a tube and the possibility of rolling a tubular off the rim under hard cornering (usually happens when you forget that you're on the replacement tire you put on after a mid-ride flat that you didn't reglue). On the plus side, it's almost impossible to get a sidewall pinch flat on a tubular and that's the most common type of flat.

      Delete
    6. "usually happens when you forget that you're on the replacement tire you put on after a mid-ride flat that you didn't reglue)." I did just that and it cost me a new hip and ten days in the hospital.

      Delete
    7. ". . . my brother gave me a crochet hook, . . . ." There's also the "Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl". About $15 or less.

      Delete
  5. All of my road biking experience (roughly 13k miles) has been on tubulars. It was simply an accident of fate that the bicycle I received as a gift (my dad's 1968 Peugeot PX-10) had tubular wheels. And during all of that riding, I've used Tufo brand tubular tires and Tufo glue tape. The idea of spending up to several days with messy glue really didn't appeal to me. Mounting a tire with the tape is literally a 15 minute affair. I feel very confident in the bond it makes because they can be a beast to remove once they're done. (Pro tip: if the tire is unsalvageable trash anyway, just cut through it. You can then stick your finger inside and yank it off, easy peasy.)
    I can't speak to the suppleness of the tubular tires because I have no frame of reference. I can say that when I switched from 21mm to 25mm, they did feel noticeably more comfortable.
    But I think what really appeals to be about tubulars is that I have only had two flats in 4+ years of riding. I add sealant to the tire when I mount it, and I just never really have to worry about it again. Anything short of a gash magically seals itself, and more often than not, I don't even know about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the "tubulars do not flat" stories and hope this proves true for me this time around. And I say "this time around," because in Vienna on that borrowed track bike I did manage to get a flat (which is how it came to be that I watched the tyre being mended).

      The sealant idea is interesting. Silly question: where do you put it?.. Is it like with tubeless tyres, where you pump it into the valve?

      Delete
    2. Yes. I remove the valve core (easily done with needle nose pliers or special little tool; FYI, not all valves have removable cores, but Tufo does) and squirt in about 2 ounces of sealant. I've been using Stan's sealant, but plan to give Orange seal a try next.

      Delete
    3. Excellent, thanks. I have a valve core remover, but never tried to see if the Vittoria & Schwalbe cores are removable. Will give it a go.

      Delete
    4. If you have a tub with a non removable valve core(I've seen a few), you can either unstitch the seam a bit, poke a small hole, inject the sealer, then patch and re-sew, or just jab a syringe with a bigass needle through the sidewall and inject it. The sealer, uh, seals the hole.

      Really.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
    5. I have never repaired a flat tube, changed a tube or tyre in my life, absolutely nothing of the process appeals to me but these tubular tyres seem like something I could enjoy working with (after substantial tutorials). In my environment it would be essential to use sealant, on an average ride, on pathways and road, during summer, tyres could be pierced by several thorns; as you ride the 'slime' spurts out and magically seals the puncture :)

      Delete
  6. When i first rode tubulars, i fell in love with the ride quality, however there was a huge issue with punctures. i was a poor bike mech and a struggling C (later cat.4)class would-be racer who simply could not afford the upkeep. (This was in the days when a Clement 50 tyre could be had for under $10, to give you an idea of my meagre cashflow at the time.) In three short months of 60+ miles of daily riding i experienced no fewer than 30 punctures. Needless to say that i grew very proficient at resewing tubular casings. i could have reassembled a six pack of beer bottles with the shards pulled from the treads.
    i welcomed the eventual development of good quality 700c clinchers and rims, retired my tubular road tyres whilst relegating the remainder of the collection strictly to the track.
    Do i miss the ride quality? Yes, but not enough to go back full-time to tubs. i live and ride in an urban area where the streets are often paved with all manner of debris. Although the ride quality of tubulars is often superior for general road riding, i have come to appreciate good quality 28 to 35mm wide clinchers, mainly due to their durability and ease of maintenance and repair. (i also do not miss getting my fingers sticky with excess Tubasti!) Of course, YMMV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too remember Clement 50s and used a lot of them. I remember when they went up to $10. They flatted very easily. Current sewups are not so fragile. Riding city streets with lots of glass it's a judgment call if sewups are practical. For most other riding sewups have fewer flats.

      Delete
    2. Has anybody tried the modern Clement tubulars? They are not easily available here, but I'm curious how they compare.

      Delete
    3. Just about everything within my limited budget at that time were less-than-durable. i had okay luck with the old 50's, but terrible luck with Hutchinson's- which tended to blow out through the stitching if they didn't develop irreparable multiple punctures first. The Clement Campione del mondo and Criterium Setas were the gold standard -but i lacked the funds. i often suspected that the tyre manufacturers didn't send their best products to the US. Modern Clements (and Vittoria) are currently made in Singapore or Thailand, IIRC. i cannot speak to their quality.

      Delete
  7. Good to hear your experience and perspective on these. Interesting too that your hands-on approach to the world includes finding satisfaction, success and fun in even the messier end of making bicycles go! Have the Vittoria Corsa G+ on one of my vintage bikes for a couple of months now and really enjoying how fast and cushy they are; kind of gliding up hills. Of course I applied my usual bike skills and had the LBS mount them. For now until I get a spare prepped, just carrying a can of Vittoria Pit Stop (loosen valve core and inflate) against flats (none so far fingers crossed). Thanks. Jim Duncan

    ReplyDelete
  8. Where does one get tubulars for vintage 27" rims. I retired my wheels after spending $90 on eBay for Old stock that was
    pretty rotten rubber. Then thee flats in six weeks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmmm... I know that Continental makes a 27" tubular, but cannot find any listed for sale. Hoping someone else will chime in.

      Delete
    2. Standard tubulars have been the same size since July 1892. You can call them 700c or you can call them 28" Palmer, they are all the same. Perhaps the most constant spec out there. Tubulars were standardized before ball bearings were standardized. (The bearings were not standard until they were needed for bicycles.)

      Delete
    3. Edmund, Practically, all tubulars are the same size. (There are smaller 650c and 24" tubulars, but they're uncommon.). Modern 700c tires are essentially the same size as tubulars. Old 27" clinchers are indeed larger than either. Depending on the era, and country of manufacture, tubulars may be called 28", or 27" or 700c. Either way, they're interchangable, as long as they're tubulars or sewups or sprints. (All equivalent terms). I'm running modern Schwalbe tubulars on 70's Ukai and Fiamme rims, no problem.

      Delete
    4. >"Where does one get tubulars for vintage 27" rims."

      According to Sheldon Brown there's no such thing, and all tubulars are the same size (basically equivalent to a 700c clincher).

      Schwinn made some rims that they called "tubular", but that was in reference to how the rims were made (bending a steel tube), and they're actually hookless clincher.

      Delete
    5. Fascinating and useful info, thanks everyone.

      Delete
    6. I've never seen a true 27" tubular but I know that some people in Britain used to refer to 700c as 27" in the 50's. Perhaps they were too used to using inches and fractions of inches to identify wheels and tires(tyres) when most performance bikes were 26"x1 1/8". Maybe that 27" bike really is 700c.

      But don't let anyone tell you tubulars only come in 700c. There are a bunch of less common sizes that have been around for ages and are still in use. Even down to 20" sew-ups for BMX.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
  9. Long time lurker, just poking my head out to say that I am really enjoying the wheels series. However long it took you to get here, it was worth the wait!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I built up a set of clincher wheels for a friend's 1971 Raleigh Competition, which he rode with tubulars for many years but he just didn't want to mess with them anymore. The original Nisi tubular rims are still kicking around my basement. They appear to be in reasonably good shape. But unlike your nice looking rims in the photos, the brake track on the Nisis appears almost too narrow to accommodate a brake pad without rubbing on the tire. I've ridden tubular-quipped bikes only briefly, and that was many years ago. But I recall really enjoying the ride. Hmmm. This post may prompt me to reassess the whole clincher/tubular dynamic.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's funny. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding this discussion surprising. It could be a generational thing. I don't think I'm a whole generation older than you, but my introduction to cycling was a generation earlier. Back then, tubulars were for racing and were found only on racing bikes, and even on racing bikes would for many people be reserved for actual races. Clinchers were often used for training. For other forms of sport riding (which tended to be subsumed under the heading of touring), using tubulars would be pretty eccentric (and this is to say nothing of utility riding, for which it would have been considered insane). There were several reasons why, but the most compelling was what happened to you on the road when you had a flat. Your options were to (1) shoulder your bike and walk home; (2) shoulder your bike, walk to a pay phone, and call for a ride; or (3) pull off your tire, mount your spare on the dry remnnants of the glue, and turn back and ride home very gingerly.

    As far as I can tell, these are still the options, except for the pay phone. (I thought you said something in a previous post about riding home on a flat tubular, but I think I must have misunderstood. Wouldn't the rim and one's backside or arms be ruined?) So what's going on? Maybe it's that sport riding has changed; the most popular forms are now neither racing nor touring. Maybe this somehow means the risk of flatting and not being able to continue a ride seems less worrying.

    But maybe the main factor really is the issue you described about your hands? For me the difficulty of mounting clinchers varies greatly with the tires. Foldable tires are usually easy. But tight wire beads can be miserable to work with and I recall times when I was on the brink of tears, too. I carry gardening gloves with little rubber studs on the palms, which helps immensely. If all my flats involved the brink-of-tears experience, I'd be looking for alternatives too, and I'd be more ready to risk mid-ride stranding.

    Walter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Riding on a flat tubular is sort of stable, whereas riding on a flat clincher is nearly impossible. It does shred the tire and eventually will chew up the rim. Unglued tubulars mounted mid-ride must be treated with caution but it is not suicidal. Air pressure and friction does a good job of keeping tire on rim. No high speed cornering. No high speed descents. Check periodically to see if valve stem is still straight. Ordinary riding is not a problem. Gingerly is not required.

      Delete
    2. Do a little research anD reading on the Classic Rendezvous list and you will finD tubular info to your heart's content!
      Vsk

      Delete
    3. It could be a regional thing, or cultural thing. I've met people with Walter's point of view. And I've also met people (of the same generation and older) who have never raced yet ride exclusively on tubulars, including touring. Yes, they're eccentric. But aren't we all!

      Regarding the problems of puncturing, I think this has to be viewed in context. For me personally, puncturing on a bike with clincher tyres (an extreme example would be Grand Bois Hetres) in the winter, alone, on a mountain with no mobile reception, could very well mean death from exposure in the process of trying to change the tube. On a tubular, a puncture in the same situation would mean cycling back home carefully. I prefer the latter scenario!

      Delete
  12. When you say: "The lack of an inner tube reduces weight..." I don't think this is exactly correct. The tubulars I've seen have inner tubes inside. But it is true they are lighter. The tubular tires are generally lighter than clinchers because they don't have a bead. The rims are generally lighter because they don't have hooks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could have phrased it better. But, as you say, the integrated inner tube is lighter. And yes, the lack of bead.

      Delete
  13. I think I'm two generations back.
    When I started riding, in America in the 60s, tubulars were what you used if you wanted to ride a racing bike. There was no comparable clincher tire. And I used them all the time; I was a teenage wannabe. I used to have a 'nailpuller' that would ride on the tire, attached to the brake. which theoretically would pull stuff out before it got in too far and punctured the tire. Worked pretty well. But I also got pretty good at fixing tires.
    Later, high pressure clinchers were introduced. I rejected them for years, preferring the purity of tubulars, but eventually gave in when they got harder and harder to find at something near a reasonable price.
    And, BTW, tubulars are great when you have a flat. You just take off the old tire and put on the new one. Much faster than changing a clincher; that's why they're like that. The glue is sticky enough in my experience that you won't have a problem. Just remember to reglue later.
    I like clinchers, but I'm a lot less sensitive to ride quality than V and her beau. Which is fine with me.
    BTW, there are also tubeless tires that are migrating to road use from mountain bikes; I imagine they would offer many of the advantages of both types.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting, there does seem to be a slight resurgence of interest in tubs. But I expect that many of the their previous advantages will be achieved with modern tubeless tyres (which I've never used myself, though I now have tubeless-ready rims so maybe... ). The comment about using sealant provides another link.

    What intrigues me though is the idea of riding round with a lightly glued spare tub in case of punctures. How do you fit it? Presumably the glue doesn't dry out, or there'd be no point carrying a ready-glued tyre? But in that case how does it adhere to the rim?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to describe unless you've seen and touched it yourself. The glue is more like rubber cement than glue. It dries on the tyre, but becomes sticky again when in contact with the rim glue, and under pressure of the inflated tyre. The bond is not as strong as when using fresh glue, but should be good enough to hold out. I am sure someone else can explain it better than me!

      Delete
    2. What holds the spare is mostly air pressure. The old glue is only enhancing friction between rim and tire. This sounds sketchy, it works. As long as hard cornering and high speed descents and sprints are avoided you can ride at normal speeds and not worry. Remember sewups used to flat constantly? All who used them did a lot of riding with dry old glue. Pump your spare hard.

      Delete
  15. I don't know about a reputation for being mysterious and complicated….To me their reputation has been they are light and fast. So I made the switch. Indeed, they were light and there was cool factor which was, well, cool ;) Maybe they were faster, too, but I never paid that much attention to speed as compared to the lightweight and cool thing. Ninety nine percent of my bike riding is other than racing and I found them eventually to be not my thing. So, I think the mysterious and complicated thing is the 'why' we choose what we do…But that's also the fun thing about living on this planet. Enjoy your new ride!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Are you saying the ride experience on my '70's Schwinn Superior would be greatly enhanced if switched to tubulars? I'm mostly senile anyway so I'll believe anything you say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is only one way to find out.

      Delete
    2. Not going to happen….I've come to my senses ;)

      Delete
  17. I can relate to your haptic description of the tubular experience. In the clincher world, putting a patch on an inner tube probably comes closest in spirit.

    I gave up tubulars after my racing ended in the early 90s. These days you can hardly give away a vintage tubular wheelset (which is what I did with mine).

    Over the years I acquired several bikes that came with tubular wheels. I switched them out for clinchers, but the tubies lurked around. Two or three years ago I went as far as cleaning the old glue off one set and buying some cheapie tubulars from Yellow Jersey. And there the tubular dream died. Partly because I realized there was no point in using the super cheap tires. But I just pulled the set with Nisi rims out of the closet, complete with 5-speed 14-27 freewheel and Campy high flange hubs. I do have a winter project coming up that these could easily work with..., an old Louison Bobet with 531 and Nervex lugs. Nah. Maybe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nisi and Campy high flange sounds as good as that band. Louison's star still shines

      Delete
  18. Tubulars are like country clubs…I may appreciate the sport but can't keep up with the lifestyle. I gave up both for a happier place, which means I bike more and search less.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Are you a raw data type or more on the intuitive side?

    ReplyDelete
  20. As a young teenager, I raced on tubulars, had plenty of flats, and more than once repaired a flat by the side of the road, complete with resewing when I either also flatted my spare, or forgot to bring one. I'm happy to use clinchers now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My sentiments exactly!
      Road use: Loved racing on them - and was happy to throw the whole lot away, rims & all, years ago. Great for tires below 26mm wide, but who in their right mind would still use tires that narrow anywhere outside of a velodrome?
      "We have not had any punctures on any of our tubulars yet. . . . The punctured tyre can be repaired at a later time." - Can't wait for the 'repairing tubular tires post' :-) Have fun with that! Or marry money . . .

      Delete
  21. There was a time when I not only raced on tubulars; I did all most all of my "fun" riding on them.

    They are indeed more comfortable, resilient and just plain faster than clinchers--the high-quality tubulars, that is. The cheap ones (at least, the ones I rode) were not more comfortable or responsive than high-quality clinchers. And, as others have noted, fixing them isn't fun.

    One other issue with cheap tubulars is the same as with low-quality rims: They're never as round, and don't run as straight, as better tubulars--or clinchers of almost any quality. Even after I became skilled at mounting tubulars, they (at least, my cheaper training tubulars) would wobble like an out-of-true wheel or "thump" as if it had a big bubble in it.

    When I was riding tubulars, there were good mid-priced ones that could be ridden in all sorts of conditions. Now, it seems, there are a few high-quality (and pricey) models, while the rest are of low quality. Moreover, tire companies and dealers don't seem to age their tubulars anymore. It used to be that when you bought a tubular, it had been treated with latex (to keep the sidewalls from drying out) and stored for a few months, sometimes an entire year, in a warehouse. I would advise anyone who rides tubulars today to buy them six months before he or she intends to ride them.

    I'll end this by telling you about an old trick that will make it easier to mount your tubulars: Stretch them. Loop one end on your shoulder and the other on your knee. Pull gently. Then mount the tire on a rim or wheel without gluing it and store it for agin. (Shops used to give away discarded rims for the purpose.) Do what I've described and you'll end up with a tire that's more durable and easier to mount oh your wheel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you ever go on multi-day rides on tubulars, Justine, and if so how did it go?

      Delete
    2. Wolber tubulars used to be invariably tagged as Wobblers. Even better tires required artistry by the gluer to run straight. This is all ancient history. Modern tires run straight. Since the tread strips are hand glued they are sometimes slightly off. Slightly. If that type of imperfection is intolerable you shouldn't use tubulars.

      There were two reasons shops aged tubulars. First, they couldn't sell them. Second, when they were really very fresh they stank of solvent. Whatever that solvent was it was penetrating and needed a few weeks to air out. No one ever retained inventory a year by choice, no one could afford that. Mysterious catacombs of tires being aged is a persistent urban legend.

      Latex is still good for gluing base tape after patching and for refreshing scuffed or dry sidewalls. Stretching and inflating a new tire then letting it sit overnight makes gluing much easier.

      Extended tours on tubulars happened in the old days. It meant sitting by roadside patching. It was done anyway because clinchers of that era were also bad in many ways. One of the common errors was to tour on cheap or midrange tires that could not survive high pressures. Tubulars were for skinny people. Two hundred pound Americans carrying eighty pounds of baggage were not a good match for old school tubulars.

      Delete
    3. I remember reading a long time ago that the first guy to ride across the American West (on an "ordinary", BTW) was using tubulars. He spent every evening fixing the flats he'd accumulated, from cactus thorns and the like.

      Delete
    4. Justine, truer words were never spoken. It bears repeating to tubular newcomers.

      Delete
  22. Now I know a little bit more about the process of mounting tubular tires. Thank you for that. But more so, I understand why you are going down this road, so to speak. As you explore the tubeless realm, it's more about being in control of your bicycle and the ability to fix a flat or swap a tire as much as riding on supple tires. That's empowering.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ace bike restorer Nola Wilken has a good writeup on tubulars. https://restoringvintagebicycles.com/2015/05/17/how-to-glue-tubular-tires/

    ReplyDelete
  24. Time for a his and hers post! Let's see your gems together and talk about the dynamic of bike to bike, person to person, ride to ride, and what you enjoy the most about this shared lifestyle around bikes. The bikes seem to parallel each other in interesting ways, but I dunno, maybe your take is different.

    ReplyDelete
  25. V@5:53

    The Clement LGG tubulars are same casing as the clinchers except with stitches and without a bead. The other models are a lot like your Vittorias as it is now the same manufacturer.

    ReplyDelete
  26. My experience is exactly the same as yours! Wrestling tight kevlar beaded clinchers onto rims even with levers is a painful experience - only my old 22mm Veloflex slipped onto vintage rims without a fight, and are terrifying with a puncture. I started with hand-me down 24mm Vittoria Paves, then 25mm FMBs, some more Vittorias, etc...and then building my own wheels. Comparing equivalent rim designs and tire models, the ride difference is not subtle to me. Other than my partner's bike and my commuter with Grand Bois 32s that just won't die, clinchers are basically gone from my cycling life. I have a few vintage race frames with trouble clearing much more than 25mm, and switching to tubulars made these frames make sense - in terms of how they felt, cornered, handled, flexed under my weight, descended, and on and on. I ride in Philadelphia, on some miserable road surfaces strewn with glass and debris, and I flat once or twice a year. Orange Seal handles all but the worst punctures. I also enjoy the ritual and tactile experience of gluing tires, as well as access to very high quality wheels and rims for low cost on the used market.

    ReplyDelete
  27. If you really want to throw fuel on this fire start talking about why Tubular RIMS and WHEELS are stronger than clinchers while still being lighter. I could start gassing about it but if anyone wants to check out Wheel Fanatyks site and read "HP Clinchers are Dead, Long Live Clinchers" or the really informative "KGF vs PSI" parts 1 through 3 you will understand why the High Pressure Clincher creates as many problems as it solves.

    Big Fat Supple tires like Jan Heine advocates are starting to make inroads partly because of efficiency and ride quality(about like nice tubulars in my experience)and partly because the lower pressures don't do dumb things to the wheel, things like reduce spoke tension. Check the spoke tension on your nice modern profile Clincher wheel, inflate to 120psi and check your spoke tension again. I've seen spoke tension reduced by as much as 40% and some combinations can lose even more. It seems incredible but some of us have been aware of this for years, Wheel Fanatyks articles do a better job of illustrating why in layman's terms than anyone else has so far.

    I like bikes. I like Tubulars, I also have bikes with clinchers and ride the heck out of them too.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pressure on the rim and resulting decrease in spoke tension is the same, whether it's a tubular or a clincher (assuming the tires are the same size, of course). The holding force is proportional to pressure in both cases (for tubulars: pressure-sensitive cement + expansion of tire, for clinchers: the bead clinch action). So, the only issue at hand is the availability of large cross-section (fat) tires in either variety that allow one to run a reasonably low pressure without bottoming out on a pothole. (Tubulars get snake-bite flats, too, albeit to a lesser extent than clinchers – primarily because more tubulars are made with stretchier latex tubes than clinchers that are deployed with latex tubes.)

      Delete
  28. I´ve found a czech brand Tufo that makes tubulars with a lip for clincher wheels. I have not tried them.

    ReplyDelete
  29. My first high-end road bike was a '79 Raleigh Professional (that I got at a thrift store for $10!) With tubulars. I put on some cheap tubulars that cost me an astronomical $40 a piece or so, and took off the next day. They were fast, comfortable, and wonderful in every way. I was a bit leery of rolling off the rim in corners, but got over it.

    I hit a rock at 40 mph on a downhill, bent my front wheel all to heck, blew both tires, and had to walk home. That was my last trip on tubs. If I had a nice enough bike to warrant a set of tubular wheels (I don't...my highest end is a mid-range Nishiki), I'd probably get another set, as they are so flat out comfy, but to me, the cons don't outweigh the pros - you are stuck riding carefully so you don't roll your spare, and then, knowing my luck, when you go to patch the old one, you'd stab the tube while sewing it up. Someday maybe, but until then, I'll pass.

    I am glad though that you discovered them - they are flat out the most comfy tires I've ever put on any bike. It's kinda like the biking version of running your hand across velvet.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I found this helpful….http://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/tires/its-time-tubulars

    ReplyDelete
  31. All my mates seem to be making the switch to tubs for their roadies ... go figure.
    I find the costs of the better brands a bit prohibitive though at over $100 a pop

    ReplyDelete
  32. Someone above mentioned "nailpullers", called tire savers or flint catchers. Mark me, a year from now V will have a post with pictures of the fanciful stamped aluminum ones she's found.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Sewups are wonderful to ride on, but I went over to clinchers the day I had two flats and was carrying two spares. One more flat and I would have been walking (in cleats). In my experience a roadside repair of a sewup would be impractical, maybe not even possible, especially considering you need to use a much larger repair kit.

    Do not use latex to reattach the base tape. Use instead Weldwood contact cement or an equivalent, NOT the toluene-free type. Use only the type that has toluene.

    It is not difficult to repair sewups at your kitchen table, but it is time consuming. In middle age I no longer have time to spend on this, but neither do I have enough money to throw them away (talk about wasteful!)

    Good quality clinchers properly sized to their rims should not even require a tire iron to remove them. I do carry two tire "irons" (actually plastic) just in case, but never use them. It can really be a chore to get a well-glued sewup off the rim. But - total time spent to rip the punctured sewup off and replace it, vs. even a tube swap for clinchers, is much less.

    You have to pay attention to tread design. Clement used to make a model of tire that had little raised lines in a cross hatch pattern, and in wet conditions the spaces would fill with water and all traction was lost. I took a spill riding in a straight line on a rain slick road, just because of the crown on the road.

    Sewup cement cannot be removed by any solvent known to mankind, in my experience.

    Just a few comments from the dark ages of riding on sewups.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That tire would have been a Clement #1. Such stuff as dreams are made on. Tire of the Grand Prix des Nations. A dedicated time trial tire in the days when TT was not flat straight out and back but rather diminishing radius off camber turns on bricks with trolley car tracks to jump if you wanted the fast line. No idea why you slipped but it was not the tires.

      Delete
  34. Steve from WestchesterJanuary 19, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    Back in my youth, I did several long 8 week tours across Europe with tubular tires riding 60-100 miles per day with a heavy pack. I did get an occasional flat tire, but I'm sure it didn't help that I was probably beyond the suggested weight limit, (being about 160lbs, and carrying about another 60lbs of gear). I have certainly cut open and repaired flatted tubulars many times, using the Orange Velox Tubular Tire patch kit, (that comes with a heavy needle, and silk thread.) Replacing the kit's plastic thimble with a steel one can help, but using a thimble is essential. Getting the cloth strip stuck back in place smoothly is the toughest part, it often gets stretched out of shape when removing. Also, use a water bath to find a leak, and confirm the location once you open the tire; just be very carful to not pump the tube up much when the tire is opened up, it will explode. A tubular will often be deceiving in terms of a leak location. And if the hole is right near the valve, if it were me, I would not want to try fixing it.

    I always found that tubulars with an "imperforable" strip under the tread to be the best, and those rarely ever got flats. While Clement Criterium Seta's were the best back in the day, my budget caused me to use the cotton version, which curiously came with bright orange tread. I really wish I could find some of those orange Clement Criterium Cotton tubulars today, what wonderful tires; extremely light, rarely got flats, and lasted a long time.

    Also, if you follow the mounting instructions that come in the package with Continental Tubular Tire Cement, it will take you a lot longer than 24hours to get a set of tires mounted, and at least a full tube of cement for each tire, (they recommend several coats of glue...perhaps overkill; and after all, they do sell glue.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can get Clement Criteriums again and they are still made in Italy. So far as I know only Seta and only black tread. Also so far as I know you only get these if you pay full price, no discount. The price is so high if you ask for orange tread they should give it to you.

      The touring on sewups issue was straightforward. Skinny tires would require lots of pressure. Criterium Setas would take lots but very few rode on those. The touring tires- Elvezia, Enwell, 50- were vulcanized and did not much last if pumped over 80 psi. Maybe 90 for the Clement 50. Since these were 28-32mm wide those pressures were plenty for ordinary rides and enough for light riders touring with light loads. But people thought sewups were racing and racing meant high pressure. They would blow out Elvezias by the dozen before even considering lowering the pressure.
      If you were able to carry a 60 pound load you must have had wondrous smooth pedaling style. Not impossible but not something to recommend to others. For reliability with a heavy pack 40 spokes, 800 gram rims, 40mm tires or more. And some will report parts failure even with that wheel.

      Delete
  35. Business idea: Someone should take $30 (bulk bought?), 35 mm wide CX tubulars and shave off the knobs (maybe with a belt sander)... Sell for $60 direct, comparable to a Compass Clincher. Some Vittoria and Tufo (e.g. Dry Plus) seem to be well-suited for this, with just the side knobs and a relatively thin file tread that will, thankfully, wear down to smooth after a thousand miles or so :-)

    ReplyDelete