Even up to this day, we can still find ourselves answering timeless questions on tires and new wheels. The points of debate whether to run on a clincher or tubular has never ceased among bikers, cyclists, and triathletes. Interestingly, both types of the tire have seen significant improvements over the past decade making the size of the competition narrower than ever.
Before we break the argument down into facts, the clincher is the most common style of the tire and generally regarded as the standard. These tires are the ones you are probably used to, ranging from your childhood bike to a typical mountain bike or a BMX racer.
Tubulars are less common, but not for many road and triathlon cyclists as they regard them to be lighter and oftentimes more durable. Why? Let’s now break down the argument into facts.
Reminisce your childhood and think of the bike tires you rode as a kid. These are the clinchers. They are affordable, easy to work on, and you can install them at home without paying a visit to your local bike shop.
A clincher has an inner tube that holds the air creating a solid pressure against the tire. The tube is sewn up inside the tire while the tires are secured to the rim of the wheel with a bead of hard rubber.
Though tubular tire looks the same as clinchers, they work in different ways. Keep in mind that the wheels and tires for clinchers and tubular are never interchangeable. Tubulars are completely round and there is no tube needed because the tube is basically sewn into the tire making it a one-piece system.
It is important to recognize the difference between clincher and tubular tires and where each style excels. This will allow you to easily choose the style that suits your needs best. For example, tubular is best for many race events while clinchers may serve best for daily training and riding.
The design of each individual tire model plays a bigger role in numerous variables discussed below more than whether the tire is a clincher or a tubular.
Tubular tires could run with higher tire pressure compared to clincher tires, which makes them less prone to punctures or pinch flat- usually caused by a small piece of rock getting in between the tire and tube. But making all things equal, tubular would give you a little more extra mileage. Having the tube basically sewn to the tire gives you more confidence and a bit more strength. Thanks to its construction!
With a clincher, repairing a road flat is quick and easy, especially if you have few spares under your belt. You just have to simply swap out the tube. On the other hand, fixing a tubular may take some time and it requires extra patience and mastery.
Riding with a spare tubular means that you are carrying an entire tire as compared to when you have a tube, which only takes up less space and weight. While a tubular might be faster and easier to mount on a rim, the tough part of changing a tubular is removing it off from the rim.
Tubular doesn’t have the heavy hook bead rim as compared to clinchers, which makes them couple hundred grams lighter than the later. Adding to the weight of the clincher is the tube that forms part of the tire.
According to icebike.org, tubular tires are the lightest type of wheel-and-tire integrated equipment setting them apart for fast races like cyclocross races.
Being the most popular type of bike tires, without doubt, clinchers get an advantage. Unlike tubular, there are more clincher manufacturers out in the market. In fact, bikers have an access to a wide variety of clinchers with some high-performance options to rival the strengths of tubular tires.
You will typically find clinchers available with every possible bike tire model. Mountain biking and other types always find clinchers as the norm though when it comes to normal road and tri bike use, both are generally available.
Aerodynamics (Cda) is generally dependent on the tire’s width and how smooth the tire transitions to the rim. Today, clinchers with wider rim profiles offer the smoothest transitions due to the absence of tubular base tape, which others find as an added restriction.
Look at the new Firecrest rim shape introduced by Zipp. They achieved tubular-like aerodynamic performance with the convenience of clinchers.
Even tubular may not be the most aero, some would justify their weight advantage and that they can ride on a flat tire for few miles.
For several years, pros opt to raise their cards for high quality tubular, which brings smoother, compliant and responsive rides. This advantage of tubular had pushed clincher manufacturers to step up their game making them combine latex tubes with softer rubber compounds and casings. Manufacturers like Vittoria, Zipp, and Veloflex are leading brands that offer the same ride quality in both their clincher and tubular tires.
Though this one goes for the tubular, a Velo News article cited Tony Martin’s win at the TT world championship in Doha as worth noting for he shunned tubular tires in favor of clinchers.
Considering the construction and design of the two tires, you may have an idea, which costs less. While there are fairly solid tubular available at the same cost to a top of the line clincher tire and tube, the best quality tubular tires cost around $50 more than the best clinchers.
The reason why clinchers cost less is the fact that when clincher goes flat, you just have to change the tube. When a tubular gets flat, you literally change the whole tubular.
The technology incorporated on every clincher and tubular tires are getting closer than ever. If you desire for a maximum performance with the lowest weight that will give you the smoothest ride for racing and events, choose among the wide versions of tubular wheels.
On the other hand, if you prefer a more comfortable ride, puncture resistant, one wheel to race and train, clincher wheels are closer than ever to their tubular counterparts.
Keep in mind to always select the most appropriate tire type based on your bike riding for two important reasons: First, choosing the most appropriate tire will increase your ride quality and comfort. Second, the wrong set of tires may damage you financially.
The race is on!