Tubulars v Clinchers
Is it all a matter of spin?
It's easy to get sucked into the "tubulars ride better" vortex. After all, tubulars are the choice of the pros. But unfair conclusions may be drawn by matching midrange clinchers stuffed with cheap butyl tubes against supple, high-end tubulars that feel more comfortable and responsive.
Compare a tubular tyre and a similar-quality clincher setup with a latex tube and you'll find they weigh about the same, and they yield similar ride characteristics and performance.
While there's no difference in relative puncture resistance, anecdotal evidence suggests that tubulars resist pinch flats better than clinchers. Prevailing wisdom also favours tubulars for their run-flat characteristics, because they are less likely to come off the rim.
Of course, tubular wheels are lighter than clinchers. But while lighter wheels may make a bike feel more responsive, they might not actually be much faster. Just ask Cervélo race engineer Damon Rinard. His take? "Heavier wheels aren't the big performance disadvantage most riders think they are. Rotational inertia is real, but it's tiny."
It's easy for pros to choose tubulars when a support vehicle with pre-glued spares follows them around. The rest of us have to be think about walking 10 miles home because there wasn't a spare tubular among the whole pack.
If you have to have the lightest wheels and ride what the pros ride, choose tubulars. But if you don't have a staff of mechanics to handle the sticky ritual of tubular installation, clinchers are a more attractive option: they are generally less expensive, changing tyres is easy, and carrying a spare tube and C02 is a lot easier than a prepped tyre.
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