Advantages and disadvantages of tubular tires

Posted at: May. 16, 2022

Tubular tires are the choice of users who are concerned about performance. In this issue, we summarize the advantages and disadvantages of tubular tires and what kind of users they match.

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Advantages of tubular tires

Hard to puncture

Since the tube is completely encased in the tire, rimming punctures are unlikely to occur, and punctures caused by tube wear, which are more likely to occur when the tube is displaced in the tire, are also virtually impossible.

The most common cause of a puncture in a tubular tire is when a nail or other relic from the road surface gets stuck in the tire, and even if a puncture does occur, it is a slow puncture (gradual loss of air) because the only path for air to escape is through a hole in the tire. Therefore, even if you get a puncture, you can ride for a certain distance.

Since punctures are one of the most common problems in bicycling, there are advantages to choosing tubular tires even if they reduce the number of punctures.

Increased driving performance

Since tubular tires adhere to the wheel rim, they are said to lose less energy when traveling compared to clincher tires, where energy loss occurs due to friction between the tire and tube.

It is also said that tubular tires deform less during riding and provide a more stable ride because the shape is supported by the tire itself, as opposed to clinchers, which have their shape supported by a tube made of a soft material such as latex.

It gives the rim more strength.

This is an advantage of the wheel rather than the tire, but since tubular tires are mounted on the rim, the grooves on the wheel rim can be made shallower.

Shallow grooves on the wheel rim mean that the rim can be thicker and stronger, so even lightweight materials such as carbon can be made stronger. Since the rim can be thicker, it can also prevent deformation due to high heat, which is a drawback of carbon rims to some extent.

In fact, many carbon wheels for rim brake use are exclusive models for tubular tires due to strength problems, and even in Shimano’s latest DURA-ACE R9200 series wheels, tubular tire models are the only remaining rim brake models.

Surprisingly easy to change tires

Tubular tires give the impression of being difficult to replace, but the actual replacement process is as follows.

  1. apply tubular tape to the rim Fit the tire
  2. put sealant
  3. inflate

In fact, tubular tires are easier to install than clinchers.

On the other hand, it is more time-consuming than a clincher because the tape needs to be removed firmly when removing it.

Disadvantages of tubular tires

Tire options are limited.

Tubular tires used to be the mainstream road bike tire of choice for serious riders, but now they have become a minor tire, with clinchers becoming the mainstream, and then gradually shifting to tubeless.

It would be fine if they were only minor, but the new tires released by tire manufacturers are “mainly tubeless and tubeless ready, with clinchers somehow remaining,” and some manufacturers are not releasing any new tubular tires, so the choices are becoming narrower and narrower every year.

Pricey

Even though tubular tires have a tube inside the tire, they are more expensive than clincher tires, costing about 8,000 yen per tire. For a clincher tire, the price is such that a middle grade tire can be bought front and rear.

Although tubular tires are more durable than clincher tires and can be better in terms of cost performance, tubular tires are very time-consuming to replace the tube (the thread that is sewn on the tire needs to be undone and sewn back on after the tube is replaced), and if maintenance is not possible, the entire tire must be replaced, which makes the cost performance worse. If maintenance is not possible, the entire tire must be replaced, which is not cost-effective.

Maintenance is time-consuming

Unlike clinchers and tubeless tires, which fit into the grooves of the wheel rim, tubular tires are placed on top of the rim and must be cemented/sealed to the rim and tire.

This has the disadvantage that it is somewhat time-consuming to replace the tire, and “the tape and cement must be removed thoroughly once it is removed.

Scenes in which you want to choose tubular tires

If you want to use carbon wheels on a rim-brake car

Until recently, aluminum wheels were the main type of wheel used on rim-brake vehicles, where braking is done by friction on the rim. Carbon rim wheels were also introduced to reduce weight, but since the industry shift to disc brakes has occurred over the past few years, tubular wheel models are becoming the main choice for “rim brakes and carbon wheels for safe use.

The only remaining rim brake model in the new DURA-ACE R9200 series wheels is the tubular tire model, which is also a big boost.

Since new road bike wheels have shifted to “almost exclusively disc brake models,” they are quite valuable as lightweight, high-performance rim brake models.

If you want to reduce energy loss due to tires

If you are stoically seeking power efficiency from your equipment, tubular tires with low energy loss are a good choice. In fact, there is still much support from users who want performance over convenience.

Although it is not a tire type that you can easily afford considering the maintenance time and price, if you want to ride with good equipment, tubulars are a good choice.

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