Clincher vs Tubular

Clincher vs Tubular? The question always comes to mind as soon as you begin to start looking at race wheelsets. However, it seems like no one ever has a simple answer to the question leaving you stuck scratching your head. Therefore, we have taken the debate of clincher vs tubular to explain the difference, benefits, downfalls, and over reasons why to buy each one in this article.

For many cyclists, they never really knew there were two options for wheelsets until they begin looking. As the majority of wheelsets are Clincher, so from the time you first hopped on a bike the wheels were clinchers. However, if you are bound to gain some speed on your bike splits, a new carbon wheelset will be your first investment. This is typically when most athletes are asked which wheels do you want clincher or Tubular. For myself, I had never looked into tubular tires and wheels to know what I should buy. As a result, I have broken down the leading information to help explain and offer you the best buying advice to help the clincher vs tubular question.

Top Related Article – Best Road Bike Tires

Clincher Road Bike Tires –

Pros – 

  • Easy To Change
  • Low Cost
  • Widely Used

Cons – 

  • Pinch Flats
  • Less Durable
  • Heavier In Weight

Tubular Road Bike Tires –

Pros – 

  • One-Piece Design
  • Sewn-in Tube
  • Light Weight

Cons – 

  • Harder To Change
  • Requires Glue
  • More Expensive

Clincher Road & Tri Bike Tires –

clincher vs tubularThe most common tire found on bicycles is the clincher tire. This is what most cyclists are using today made up of a tire and tube that are fixed or “clinched” to a wheel. Clinchers are quite inexpensive and easy to replace or repair. When you get a flat with a clincher tire, typically you are seeing a puncture in your tube. Therefore with a simple replacement of the tube, you are back up and riding again.

A clincher road or tri bike tire always needs to be paired with an inner tube for it to work. As a result, the tire, tube, and wheel all have to be set up as a clincher set. If any of them are designed for a Tubular set up they won’t work. To make sure you have the correct tire you’ll need to check for tire that has a bead that will hug and clinch to the inside of your bike wheel. Although before you put them together you have to have an innertube in the inside to inflate the tire. As you inflate the tire the tube pushes on the bead of the tire and helps it clinch to the wheel without any tape or glue.

Common Valves –

For Clincher tires there are two most common valve stems to inflate them. Contrary to belief though the stem is actually attached to the tube, not the tire or wheel. A whole in the wheel will allow for one of two valve stems to stick through and inflate the tires. The first and most common stem found in BMX bikes, or low-end bikes, is the Shrader Valve. This style of valve was patented in the late 1800’s. These stems are much wider and heavier the newer thinner version called the Presta Valve. The slimmer and more narrow valve allows for it to be used in more narrow wheels. Hence, why you see Presta Valves used in road and tri bike tires.

Tubular Road & Tri Bike Tires –

clincher vs tubularCommonly mistaken for the most widely used tire is the Tubular. Many think because it has “tube” in the name it’s the tire that requires an inner tube. However, what it really means is that the tube is sewn/built into the tire. Where a clincher tire has a bead that clinches to the wheel. A tubular tire is a one-piece design of tire and tube. Therefore, they are often glued or taped to the wheel and are constructed in a circular design versus a bead and channel design like the clincher.

Tubular tires are less common for the majority of bikes on the market today. However, due to some added benefits to weight, and speed Tubular tires have become a leading choice for cyclists and triathletes looking to shed some time.

Clincher Vs Tubular –

clincher vs tubularThe question still remains what’s the best choice for your road or tri bike? Therefore, we have put together a few of the most common attributes cyclists are interested in when it comes to bike tires.

Weight –

Since Tubular tires are designed with sewn-in tubes they are lighter than clinchers. Plus the overall weight of the tire is much less for a tubular compared to the clincher tires. Clinchers have a solid rubber bead that tends to add a lot of weight. For some, this may not seem like a ton of weight, however, when speed and aerodynamics are the leading conversations for top athletes these days. Weight becomes everything for triathletes and speed.

Changeability –

When it comes to finding the best road bike tire that is easy to change in the event of a flat. The answer still remains on how well you can change a tire. As most cyclists have probably changed a flat for a clincher most would assume they are the easiest. However, even some clincher wheelsets if not properly trained on can be a nightmare. For example, when I got my first wheelset, I didn’t know that the manufacturer had a unique process for how to properly seed a clincher tire. The first few times I encountered a flat, they took me nearly an hour to properly change. Therefore, I took my time to reach out to the manufacturer to understand how to change their tires and it sped the process up.

I will have to say since most cyclists haven’t changed a tubular tire, they seem to stand as more difficult. However, with some proper training and trial and errors, a tubular tire can be just as easy as a clincher. The one thing they will require that Clinchers don’t is they will have to be glued or taped to the wheelset.

Value –

If you’re looking for the least expensive option a clincher tire is going to be the answer. However, where the value really remains is when you need to change a flat. Clincher tires don’t require an entire tire replacement, instead, just a new tube. Whereas, a tubular requires a complete replacement. Tubular tires, however, do offer a long road life because they are constructed as one piece.

For example, if you have ever gone to replace a flat on a clincher and gone to pump up the new one and realized you have a pinch flat. You have to scrap the new tube and you’re out another $7 bucks. If you continue they can cost quite a bit. This is why a one-piece tubular tire can be a better value in the event you aren’t well skilled in changing clincher tires.

Durability –

Since a tubular tire has the tube sewn into the tire the construction offers more durability and a little more road miles to it. This construction idea also prevents or eliminates the frustration of pinch flats. If you are looking for the toughest clincher tires check out the best here. In today’s leading road bike market there have been a few clincher tires that can offer the strength and longevity of a tubular.

What Should I Buy?

When it comes to purchasing a wheelset and you have to pick between clincher or tubular. You have to ask yourself what matters the most to you speed or usability. Since clinchers are much easier to use and cheaper to replace. They tend to be the overwhelming choice for most triathletes and cyclists. However, if you are in the top 5-10% of your age group and weight and speed outweigh ease of use. Then Tubulars have to be your number one choice.

No matter what choice you pick the main thing you have to understand and perform well is changing a tire. Most overlook this and assume someone will help them on a race. However, the chances or likeliness of this is low. Instead, check with your local bike shop or experienced cycling friends for a quick run through on how to change a flat.

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