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Clinchers Vs Tubulars Vs Tubeless – Which Tyres Should You Choose For Your Road Bike & Why?

Clinchers Vs Tubulars Vs Tubeless – Which Tyres Should You Choose For Your Road Bike & Why?


– [Matt] For high performance riding,
there’s always been a debate between tubulars and clinchers.
Now, almost all pros use tubulars. Why?
Is there some sort of performance benefit? – [Si] Yeah. Now, before we go anywhere
else, let’s just clarify the situation. What actually is a tubular tire? Well,
it’s one where the tire gets sewn up, enclosing an inner tube, then the whole
lot gets glued onto a tubular specific rim. Now, it’s a very traditional method
and, dare I say it, slightly archaic. – Perhaps. Now, clinchers we’re far more
familiar with. It’s basically a tire that’s held in place on the rim by pushing
the hooked bead on the inside of the rim. – Yeah. Now, just to throw another
little twist into our equation, we’re also going to compare tubeless
tires. Now, a tubeless tire is very similar to a clincher except that it
doesn’t have a tube in. What it relies on instead is a slightly different tire with
a slightly thicker bead and a little bit of liquid sealant inside which
keeps the whole thing air tight. – When we were pros, we pretty
much exclusively ran tubular tires. But since we’ve retired, we’ve happily
run clinchers all the time, leading us to think why do we really need tubs?
So, let’s try and answer that question. – Yeah. So, our little experiment. We’ve
got three pairs of identical Reynolds Assault SLG wheels. Now, I say identical,
obviously one pair are tubular. So, they don’t have any hooks
on the rim to hold on to the tire. – Well, looking at this, quite clearly,
Si, this is a disk. So, they’re not the same at all. Why on
earth do we have a disk? – I wanted a shiny pair of wheels
to race Cyclocross on this winter. – So, you’re happily going to compromise
our experiment just because you want a shiny pair of wheels for the winter. And
of course, Dan’s the only one with a disk brake bike, so I’ve got
to sit on Dan’s bike. – I’m sorry, Matt. I feel
like I’ve let you down. – Well, you have, but have a little thing.
But we better move on with the experiment, hadn’t we? – Yeah. ♪ [music] ♪ – So, what are the parameters then that
affect tire choice? Let’s deal with weight first. So, in this instance, my
tubular wheel is 1,365 grams compared to a clincher, which is 1,515 grams. No less
impressive but significantly heavier. But remember that this is a disk specific
wheel and so this is 50 grams heavier just for the hub. So, if we compared identical
clincher tubular wheels in this instance, then the tubular would be 200 grams
lighter. But then what happens when we add tires in the mix? Well, a tubular tire
is about 50 grams normally heavier than a clincher. But remember again, it’s
already got the inner tube inside. So, it comes out lighter again. And
when you add tubeless in the mix, well, tubeless and clinchers tend to be
broadly similar at the moment. So, in that case, there’s no weight
penalty for running tubeless. – So, we can see that the tub or
tubular as a whole is far lighter. And a bit of a feather in my cap for
that really. And that’s the way that the pros use them. Now, tubeless give away
just a few grams over clinchers. – But arguably, what it feels like on the
road is probably the most important thing of all. So, let’s get on our bikes,
Matt, and see if we can test it out. Do you want to go for a tubeless first? – I’m in Dan’s bike, aren’t I? – Yeah, like a monkey on a
spoke. I’ll go for clinchers. ♪ [music] ♪ – I absolutely love a good tubular tire.
Although I expect you don’t actually need them to race, I think if you’re serious
about performance, then tubs really are the way to go. Yeah, first off, they
are a lot lighter, but to me it’s just the way they feel on the road
that makes the difference. I mean, on smooth tarmac, they almost sing
to you. And they’re so, so responsive. Although I must accept that the
advantage of pumping them up to 180 PSI is now actually thought of as a
disadvantage because tires roll better at a slightly low pressure. But
even with these pumped up to 100 PSI, they feel absolutely tremendous.
I feel like I’m flying. – Now, it’s all very well having a posh
set of tubular wheels for racing only. And don’t get me wrong, I think saving
200 grams in weight is important. But the reality is that gluing tires is
incredibly laborious. And if you do get a puncture, it’s also very expensive to
replace your tire. If you do try and fix it, then it’s even more laborious
than gluing it in the first place. There’s no wonder that pros love them
really. I mean they never have to glue tubular tires, so they probably
think of them very fondly indeed. The reality is that clinchers are
just so easy. But more than that, I think a really, really high performance
clincher tire with a latex tube on a really nice set of carbon wheels is every
bit as good. Honestly, I think I could tell the difference. – I guess I just… – I’m not entirely sure
this is a good idea, Matt. – Can you see? – No. – Good. That’s what matter here. – No. I’m completely sure. I don’t think I
could tell the difference except possibly if I’m accelerating really hard. No, even then I don’t
think I could tell the difference. ♪ [music] ♪ Now, there’s no denying, that when I made
a video for GCN before about tubeless tires, I was a little bit underwhelmed by
their performance. They felt a little bit unresponsive out on the road, a little bit
dead. But it’s got to be said, since putting a different pair of tires on
a posh pair of carbon wheels, I’m starting to feel a little bit
differently. There’s still no denying the amazing puncture resistance both from get
rid of an inner tube and therefore eliminating pinch flats, and also the
sealant filling small holes as well, but it’s the fact of the ride
quality is significantly better. I’m not entirely sure they’re on a par
with tubulars, still the gold standard, but I think these are great. Also, these
are a heck of a lot easier to put on than before. I could do without the tire
levers, no stress, no mess. – Does this mean the time for
tubulars is nigh? I don’t think so. They still feel fantastic despite the
rolling resistance result and they’re the only tire to choose if you’re doing
Cyclocross, without a shadow of a doubt. And, of course, if you’re racing on the
road, you’ve got the ability to ride on them before your team car get up to you.
And also, they’ll get you to that key final 3 kilometers. – Yeah. And what about tubeless then?
Well, if you suffering punctures a lot, then they’re an absolute no brainer, just
a brilliant idea. My personal stance on them is actually softening as well,
particularly with the new trend of wider tires. If you run something like a 27 mil
or bigger, then tubeless are brilliant. A bigger tire at less pressure rolls
really well and is also incredibly comfortable. But more than that, they also
open up new riding opportunities. So, whether you’ve got a gravel epic
all-road sportive endurance bike, or just a normal road bike, having a
bigger tubeless tire allows you to take the road less travelled,
whatever that might be for you. – Well, there you go. But tubs, I think
they’re here to stay, there’s no doubt about that. And tubeless are going to get
even more popular as people gravitate to wider tires and wider rims. But I think
still the tire of choice is going to be a solid clincher wheel and
a tube in a decent tire. – I think it is. So go on, Matt,
out of this selection of wheels, which are you going to take? – Well, let’s assume I was going to go
back into racing, and without a shadow of a doubt, I’d use tubs. I’ve used them
before, they feel fast, and for practical reasons that we’ve just described, they
help you in some difficult situations regarding mechanicals. – I think even if I was racing, I’d use a
clincher. I don’t think anyone’s going to glue my tires on for me anymore. And a
high performance clincher we’ve seen has the measure of a tub. Tubeless? I really,
really want to go there, but for me at the minute there just isn’t the quantity of
manufactures getting on board the tubeless bandwagon. I don’t have the choice that I
would want to have in order to select the tires I’d want to ride. But
eventually I will ride tubeless tires. Yeah. Now, if you want to know how to
fit tubeless tires, because it is slightly fiddly, or it can be, then we’ve got a
video showing you exactly how to do that up there. Or, if you want to know how to
glue tubular tires on like a pro, that one was like me I’m afraid, like a
pro, you can click and get through to it just down there. – And to subscribe to GCN how about
clicking on Dan’s disk brake bike? – With a saddle. – It’s bit low. – Are you going to leave that down. – And the wheels that you ordered
basically for yourself for the Cyclocross season. – Yeah. You know how much that’s going
to annoy him now that you’ve moved his seat and didn’t mark it. – I know, I didn’t mark it either, did I?
Don’t tell him, just leave it like that. – Oh, yeah. – It’ll be fine. – That’s quite brilliant. – Will he watch this? – Yeah, he will. – He probably will, won’t he? – But we’ll film his reaction
when he gets back on it. – Yeah, definitely. – That’s going to be genius. Gold.
It’ll be a whole video in itself. – I know. – Dan Lloyd throws his toys
out the pram, like a pro. – Now here we are on the tubeless
tires. Now, I’m going to let you in to a little bit of a secret, I’ve actually been
riding these for the last couple of months and the other little secret I’m going to
let you in on is the fact that, initially, I didn’t even realize I was riding on
them. I thought I was riding on traditional clinchers. It wasn’t until
I undid the locking ring because I thought it looked a bit useless and not very pro
and all the milk started to leak out that I realized something was amiss and the
fact that I was actually riding these and not clinchers.

35 comments on “Clinchers Vs Tubulars Vs Tubeless – Which Tyres Should You Choose For Your Road Bike & Why?

  1. I used tubular tires for about 3 years many years ago. I had no end of trouble with them. At first I thought it was defective output dumped on the US. In the past year with the comments about using high tire pressures, I've reconsidered. Maybe the problem was the perforated base tape and seam failures I had came from pumping these tires (Clement Criterium and Campionato del Mondo, both silk) up too much. Consequently, I'm more than a bit skeptical about the tire pressures mentioned in this video unless the durability of tubulars has substantially improved. For me, open tubulars like those sold by Compass offer excellent performance without the hassles of tubulars so that I rely on these for my most important rides.

  2. Well, as far as the topic goes let's look at it from another perspective — because, as you know, cycling's all over the place.
    I've been riding tubulars now ever since 1986, after I started reading cycling mags and got my first look at how the Italians did it.
    Then the more I looked at my Fuji s-12-s I knew it was time to grow up. I ordered my hand-built Lotus from Milan and it came with tubulars, since then I never looked back.
    Tubulars are certainly not for the meek and mild individual, nor the lazy I might add. The mindset you MUST have is one of high-end quality, a true need to feel the road and more so the need for superb nimble control over your acceleration and ability to climb the hill at a moment's notice. Sure you can buy the less expensive clincher, they're easier to put on, you can repair them on the road with a simple tube change, and away you go — except you're riding not only a heavier tire, you're not feeling the road with the same "zest" as you do with a tubular, and lastly and most important thing to note is the angular weight (or rotational weight) — you're needlessly peddling around a tire(s) that have extra weight, why? I know the guys said in this video that tubs are for race day, but honestly why deprive yourself on group rides?
    In the end, most of the lazy out there will opt for clinchers at the prime excuse for not wanting to ride tubulars, and that's ok. In fact, clincher have their place on my tour bike — on this bike I could care less about speed, nor feeling the road, I just want to ride and have fun, and if I get a flat I want the ability to change a tube out, keep my tire, and ride on! So there is definitely a moral to this story; if you feel energetic ride a tubular, spend the money and don't forget to carry a can of fix-a-flat with you, you'll eventually need it. Or, ride clinchers and say the hell with it and enjoy yourself, spend less and consider yourself humble. Cheers.

  3. The world of road biking never ceases to amaze me. Because I am a mountain biker and the most common opinion for a mountain biker is "get a cheap roadie for road rides". A lot of mountain bikers are under the impression that the only difference in price for road bikes is weight after about 600 dollars..

  4. I’m a lot faster when I’m not changing a tire on the side of the road. If I could run tubeless, I would…

  5. So it's been four years since this review – any reconsiderations to your review with the new tubeless tech that's on the road in 2019?

  6. I was surprised by fact that the bontrager tlr wheelset from trek domane 2.3 (2015) weights around 2050gr !!? Ffs..

  7. can these wired tyres fit on older 1970 raleigh bike tyre size 27 x 1 1/4 (32-630) because my old tyres are panasonic panaracer pasela tyres without wires?

  8. i know this is old but my comment still applies; the British potty humor of show like " Are you being served ? " are abundant ! Love it !

    click on Simon's….

    cheeky buggers!

  9. Matt's confession at the end made the video for me 😀 Where's the video that shows Dan doing his Princess and the Pea impression with the seat adjustment?

  10. Tubeless Clinchers. I have had tubulars and they are a PITA…. and EXPENSIVE…. I don't race so I have no urgent requirement for Tubulars.

  11. Back when I was racing much more actively (amateur level, Cat3) I used to run tubular Zipp 404s for racing, along with a Fir carbon rear disc wheel for TTs, (and I would mount the tires using the Tufo tape method, which worked like a charm and was miles easier to mount with so much less muss and fuss. However, I did read that in some rolling resistance tests, the Tufo tape did add a small amount of additional rolling resistance ( due to increased hysteresis) vs the traditional glue-brushed-on-rim method.

    In the front, however, I did run a Hed3 tri-spoke clincher with a latex tube (which has been shown to add materially less rolling resistance with latex tubes over butyl tubes, but the pressure does need to be topped up daily or even more frequently for rides lasting >6hrs.

    I never got involved with tubeless, as it was relatively new technology back when I was racing avidly (2003-2010), so perhaps that might offer even less rolling resistance given that there's no frictional losses between the inner tube and outer tire carcass.

    Maybe this is something the boys here on GCN might want to look at in a more scientific fashion, perhaps some sort of controlled roll-down test.

    Well that's my $0.02. Hope some might find it helpful.

  12. Tubular advantages are disappearing. They'll probably be gone within 10 years. Training on tubulars if you don't have a team car behind you is silly unless you're stuck without clinchers for some reason. Even for a professional.

  13. Why can't they make a tubular tire with a simple zipper? hahahaha…always wondered why we couldn't get a sew up that can be zipped up 🙂 I know I'm dreaming.

  14. Great information on tire comparison, Would have been over the top if they added Tubular Clinchers to the test.

  15. I recently purchased a 2008 Cervelo SLC-SL carbon road bike with Reynolds Aero Carbon wheels and tubular tires, which are an upgrade from the original clincher tire Dura Ace wheelset.

  16. To me, tubulars remain the gold standard for light weight and speed. How is tubeless technology doing now in 2019?

  17. Clinchers caught up with Tubulars and passed them quite a while back, but tubular tradition dies hard in the pro cycling World.
    ..I mean i was using a Flite saddle year before I saw the tour adopt them and their likenesses, they were all using Rolls and 350-450 gr monsters!
    So the Pro's/Teams aren't always on the cutting edge of things….amazingly light wheels CAN BE HAD for amazingly little cost compared to these strange looking Wheels in the video.
    My front 32spk wheel: Dura-Ace hub, Mavic open pro Clincher rim, Vitoria Diamente tires, and Titan. wheel cinches, the complete wheel weighs 1057 grams…a latex tube can lessen that further.
    ps… I'm not selling any particular products…I'm just shocked at 1300+ grams for a front wheel!!)

  18. I won't change from my clincher shimano c24 lab tested to same aero as shimano c50 so as good as any aero wheel. But far lighter.

    I use 50gram butyl inner tubes and 195 gram michelin competition sport tyres which have better rolling resistance ( even with 100gram inner tubes) than 90 percent of tubular and tubeless tyres.

    So I'm giving away nothing in aero to any wheels giving up no rolling resistance to any tubular or tubeless tyres and have all up weight of 1800hrams for both wheels saving loads of weight over aero wheels with tubular/ tubeless set up and my ride out isn't stopped by a simple flat tyre.

    My clincher set up all the way

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