Tubular wheels - aspects and experiences

Hi all,

With my road bike (Ridley Helium) I still ride the standard aluminium wheels. That’s why an offer for really neat carbon wheels has caught my eye. The weight difference is a mouth watering 480 gramms. The only catch though is - they are tubular wheels.
I have never ridden tubulars and don’t know anybody that has. I know the basics with tubulars, but reading on the internet can never match real life experience.

Are there any riders here that use/have used tubular wheels with a road bike? Would you recommend me switching from clinchers to tubulars? I’d be especially interested in how difficult you found the very first installation of the tyres. And secondly, how you handle(d) flats while out riding.
Any other aspects and/or recommendations are very welcome!

Thanks all and have a nice weekend!

If it’s a question of an either/or scenario, don’t do it. A lot depends on what you want to use it for, how you ride (competitive, casual, etc.) and other variables. I have one set of tubular wheels, and find them not worth the effort–they’re generally harder to mount than almost anything else, harder to maintain (cleaning the rims of old glue), harder to deal with major flats (minor ones are usually covered by sealants), they cost more, etc. Great if you have a team mechanic, and an unlimited budget, but I wouldn’t go that route myself (I’m in the process of getting rid of the ones I do own). I’d go tubeless before tubular, but for my general non-competitive riding (15,000 km per year) I’m fine with the basic clinchers myself.

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From what I’ve heard the tubular aficionados say, it’s not that hard to pick up each of the individual skills involved in mounting tubulars and patching flats. The thing is the logistics are pretty different from clinchers. You need a spare, pre-glued tire instead of a spare tube (or you carry sealant with you, I guess). The gluing process is more time intensive and requires more pre planning.

The way I think of it is that it’s a bit like waxing chains, except that it’s not as clear that the overall performance of tubulars exceeds clinchers, and that the user base for tubulars is small and shrinking. The user base for wax is small but expanding.

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With the rise of tubeless, tubular wheels are going the way of the dodo. That’s why you can find more and more tubular wheels on the second hand market.

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I rode tubulars almost exclusively for 20+ years…still love the feel of them to this day. Supple casings, latex tubes…a magical ride.

IME, they flat far less than clinchers….I also added some sealant to them and never had a flat on the road with them, outside outside of one gash that would have ruined any tire.

They aren’t as hard to mount as people would have you believe. My process was pretty straightforward and simple….apply one generous coat of glue to both rim and tire. Let dry for 20-30 min. Apply second coat to the tire and mount immediately. Pump up to 120+psi and let dry 24 hours. Good to go.

Ignore those who have a convoluted gluing / mounting process. It is myth and folklore. Using the above, I never once rolled a tire in the entire time I rode tubulars.

Would I personally buy a set today? No…clinchers now are so good and tubeless is great. But if you can get a great set at a great price, and you don’t mind learning the mounting process ( or paying someone to do it), go for it.

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I think this really says it all.

I’ve ridden tubulars for the last 7 years or so. This is a function of the bike I inherited having a tubular wheelset and never wanting to change it. While the tubulars ride nice and get a lot of positive comments, the downsides aren’t worth it for daily riding.

Yes, sealant can help fix small punctures, but I typically don’t carry it out on rides, so small leaks have ended rides for me. Larger punctures require replacing the tire at the roadside with a spare I carry under my saddle. I’ve done this twice. Then once home, you have a 24 to 48 process of glueing up another tire, which I hope you have extras at home because your average shop won’t have it. I am always particularly concerned about flats if traveling somewhere away from home.

I have a new bicycle on order and I will be moving to clinchers.

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Just to clarify…the sealant I used is already in the tire, just like today’s tubeless sealant.

TUFO sealant was what I usually used and it was worked great. Any punctures were never noticed on the road….maybe once a year, I would come out to a flat tire, but pumping it up again usually shoved the issue.

I never used the compressed air sealants.

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My 2pence: if they don’t break the bank or budget is no concern, your frame is rim brake and has only limited tire clearance and you generally don’t suffer post decisional regret, go for it.

On the other hand:
If it’s a disc brake frame, delamination of clincher carbon wheels is not an issue (that would not exist with tubular rim brake rims).
If tire clearance allows for more beefier tires, tubeless makes more sense to achieve lower pressures without pinch flatting.
If you suffer from post decisional regret, or if your budget allows for just one set of wheels as a replacement for your stock wheels, you won’t be happy with tubs - because time will very probably prove that decision unpopular.

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I take a slightly different approach where I don’t add any until i have a small leak. How much do you add preemptively?

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Not a whole lot…less than what you would use for tubeless wheels. Maybe an ounce, total?

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It’s 2022… there are exactly zero reasons to ride tubulars at this point.

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  1. Weight - a tubular rim/tyre combo are
    lighter than the equivalent clincher
  2. Safety - in the event of a high speed puncture your tyre is staying on the rim and in the event of an impact (pothole/rock) the rim is much less likely to fail shedding the tyre as result
  3. Tyre pressure- ability to run very low pressures without risk of ripping the tyre from the rim or ‘burping’ tubeless

There’s three off the top of my head.

I don’t disagree that for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations tubular tyres/rims are not the answer but to say there are zero reasons to ride them is myopic.

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  1. Weight: Zipp 303 Disc Tubeless - 1352g / Zipp 303 Disc Tubs - 1372g
    -Advantage= Tubeless

  2. Safety: Setting aside that high speed run flat protection isn’t a “safety” issue, it’s a “pros don’t want to stop riding and wait for a car” issue… .In a high speed puncture, inserts in tubeless provide the same effective level of retention to tubs currently and retention improves with better compatibility between tire/rim interface. If run flat tire retention is a key buying choice, these are equal at this point with the advantage trending away from tubs.

  3. Tire Pressure: You’re not running tubs lower than tubeless and doing so just increases the risk of ripping a tire off regardless. Tell Joseba Beloki how there’s no risk of ripping a tire from the rim with tubs. Similarly to above, this is effectively equal now and the advantage continues to trend away from tubs.

Feel free to try again and come up with three more… but I’ll say it again, there is exactly zero reason to ride tubulars in 2022.

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I’ve got a few tubular wheels still. I still have some Vittoria Corsa Setas (silk) and some Gommitalia’s, Veloflex and Continental Sprinters for some daily rides.

I find that they ride nice, especially with good higher end tubular tires and really aren’t all that hard to mount despite the complaining. For everyday work horse wheels probably not.

Nice clinchers (Veloflex) with latex tubes ride great also but I still like tubulars, I grew up using tubulars for my race wheels and clincher for training so there’s some nostalgia too.

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Weight - for example
Campagnolo Bora 50s

  • tubular: 1215 g
  • clincher: 1435 g

Safety- had a high speed blowout hitting a rock on an alpine descent at 50mph? Stopping from that speed on flat clinchers is butt puckering at best. Catastrophic at worst if the rim wall holding the tyres on fails.

Pressure - how many cyclo crossers run tubs for the lower pressures

How about you try again? Your confrontational, know it all attitude on these forums really does mark you out as the resident bell end.

To repeat

I don’t disagree that for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations tubular tyres/rims are not the answer but to say there are zero reasons to ride them is myopic.

I won’t be replying again as I have better things to do with my time than this :+1:

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Thank you all for your input and sharing your experiences.

The wheels I’m talking about are Fulcrum Speed 40T (1213 g) used (buying from a dealer) for EUR 600.
The clincher alternative I could fit into my budget (EUR 1000 max.) would be new Prime BlackEdition 38 (1350 g) at roughly EUR 900.

I mostly ride for fun and only do a handful of granfondos and sportives a year. Since I didn’t get any upgrades or other stuff last year, I figured I can spend a bit for the upcoming season. So it certainly isn’t neccessary, but I think I’d enjoy the carbon wheels.
And it definitely isn’t too bad either if I can put a few more seconds on my friends :smiley:

May I ask a couple more questions please?
To the tubular users - have you ever tried tape instead of glue? I saw a video of an installation with tape and it looked very easy and was done in like 3 minutes.

Are there any brands that I missed that would fit my budget? Any ideas on Yoeleo? They would have 38mm clinchers for about EUR 750.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

@tbro21 I’d appreciate it if you could keep this discussion in a friendly and helpful tone. I very much appreciate your opinion, but please present it less confrontational. Thank you!

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Nice try… using a wheel that hasn’t been updated in half a decade that’s carbon rim brake and therefore necessarily heavier. If you’re still running rim brakes in 2022, you’ve bigger problems than tubs vs clinchers. Go ahead and review their disc wheels, pretty sure they no longer even bother to make tubs with discs because Campy knows what everyone else, apparently aside from you, knows… they’re antiquated wheels for luddites.

Pressure… cyclocross with inserts would be just as effective as tubs in low pressures without burps. But, regardless, if we’re going to base what makes sense off what racers do then I suppose we should all be riding frames a size too small with 140mm stems right? :roll_eyes:

To repeat:
There is exactly zero reason to ride tubulars in 2022.

You will absolutely enjoy carbon wheels… they’re probably the single best upgrade you can do to any bike and make a bigger difference in ride feel and performance than anything else you can swap with the exception of possibly the frameset.

That said, given that you’re purely a recreational rider, tubulars are far more hassle than they’re worth. How much would you enjoy being mid Fondo and getting a puncture that doesn’t seal with sealant and having no option to just fix your flat and ride on? Unless you’ll have a team car following you with a spare wheel setup and ready to swap, that absolutely will happen… just a matter of when and how often.

Tubular tape is really easy but not quite as secure as a proper glue job… in my time on tubs, apart from a couple rushed changes where I didn’t let the glue cure as long as I should have, the only times I’ve had a tub start to come off the wheel was using tape instead of glue.

The bottom line today is tubs are a cool nostalgic part of cycling, they ride nice but you can get an equally good ride from a high quality clincher with latex tubes or high quality tubeless tire, and nothing that tubs offer isn’t accessible from modern clincher wheels . If you just really want to try them, there’s no harm in it and you won’t hate the ride… but you’ll almost certainly be looking to sell them off and move back to clinchers in short order, they simply aren’t worth the hassle. You do you though.

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I have been using tape in a very distant past and had a tub roll off the rim at the end of a long descent. Didn’t happen with glue (yet) but that’s anecdotal. I read somewhere that getting a used tape of the rim (in case you want to re-glue) can be worse than scraping layers of glue off. Second hand anecdotal :roll_eyes:

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Yeah, just to add to Ulrich, above, tape is easier, cleaner putting on for the FIRST time, but is every bit, if not more, challenging taking off–but honestly, both are a real pain.

I think you are wearing your rose tinted grass is greener on the other side of the fence glasses, selectively choosing the good points mentioned above, while ignoring the drawbacks. Maybe get your bike shop buddy to show you a used tubular wheel, ask him to show you how he cleans it, then have him mount a tubular–then possibly you’ll understand.

If you want new wheels, and don’t want clinchers, try tubeless–don’t let a one-off sale price rule your decision by itself. You’ve been warned (repeatedly, above).

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