When it comes to bike tires, the basic choice may seem as simple as it gets: a clincher or a tubular one. However, there are many factors to take into account here. This topic has been at the center of the heated debate for years now. After all, the two products differ in many ways, including price, sturdiness, performance, weight, build, ease of use, etc. All these elements could make an impact on your bilking experience. In fact, they make or break it. So, which tire should you go with? Well, we do not have the short and simple answer for you, but this comprehensive guide should make things a lot clearer.
In two minds
Note that the clincher vs. tubular dilemma occurs among the ranks of professional cyclists, recreational bikers, and triathletes. There is much hearsay floating around, but we want to focus on cold facts. We should also tell you right away that the takeaways are not really cut and dried here. The two basic forms of tires evolved with different uses in mind, following their own unique set of applications. This implies that what works for one cyclist may not satisfy others. Hence, it is necessary to grasp the main distinctions and varying instances that could influence your choice one way or the other.
Clinchers in a nutshell
Let us start with clincher tires— they are considered “normal” tires most people are used to. In other words, they are far more common, a standard in the world of cycling. We see them being used for regular bikes, BMX racers, kid bikes, and mountain bikes. In terms of build, clincher tires feature an outer “carcass”, which is designed to fit any type of bike the wheel is attached to. The name is derived from the fact that these tires “clinch” to the rim of the wheel via hard rubber surface. The bottom of the tire is open, so there is no other way for it to stay attached.
Bells and whistles
Furthermore, a clincher requires an inner tube in order to operate properly. It contains all the air and creates pressure against the tire. The tire just sits on top of the tube and only the latter is pumped. Speaking of which, there are usually multiple pumping choices in valve stems. Shrader valve, for instance, is a basic, wide option that most kid bikes have. On the other hand, Presta valve is thinner and sleeker, common with triathlon and road bikes. Beyond these two, there are some other popular types of clinchers you might want to check out. When pondering them, it is best to prioritize durability and performance.
Tubular tires basics
Next, we examine tubular bike tires. At the first glance, one cannot distinguish them from clinchers. However, they do operate in a quite a different way. First of all, they are perfectly round, which means they do not have an open part that has to clinch. Another main distinction is that they do not hold a separate tube inside. To be more precise, the tube is sewn into the tire and represents its integral part. Sometimes, it is also glued in order to prevent it from moving around. That is to say that while clincher tires are two pieces, tubular tires are just one piece.
Superior quality and longevity
We previously mentioned that tubular tires are less common. That does not mean they do not have a loyal following. They are particularly popular with road and triathlon cyclists. The main reason behind this is their lightweight and often more durable build. Increased sturdiness is due to the fact that tubular tires tend to have better construction and that tube is sewn into it. This is something that gives it more strength also makes it much less likely that pinch flats will occur. Also, tubular construction prevents pesky pieces of rock from getting stuck between the tube and the tire.
There are a couple more details to keep in mind. In general, clinchers are less expensive that tubular tires. Sometimes, this disparity in price is around 30%. Note also that when a tubular goes flat, you have to replace it whole. With clinchers, you just need to buy a new tube or plug the existing one. Of course, those who possess technical know-how can replace a tubular almost as easy as a clincher. Beginner and intermediate cyclists that are not familiar with them would have a much harder time doing that. Another key difference is that tubular tires require suitable tubular wheels and cannot be utilized for every type of bike.
What is the verdict then?
All in all, clinchers are much easier to fix and replace on the road. On average, this process takes half as much time than fixing a tubular tire. This is an important aspect for people who go on long cycling escapades. We should also not forget that clinchers are available pretty much everywhere, as they are the norm for most bikers. This cannot be said about their counterpart. But, if you have a knack for technical details or engage in cycling professionally, you should know that tubular tires have a performance edge. They are lighter, do not have a clincher bead, and the tube and the tire are molded together.
Cover all the bases
In the end, we can conclude that clinchers are a sound option for the average user. In 80% of cases, you basically cannot go wrong with them. They are more common, available for various bike models, and also less pricey. On top of it all, they are easy to use, fix, and replace. Then again, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. You know how the saying goes: different strokes for different folks. Tubular tires certainly come with their own set of advantages. Therefore, weigh all the different factors before making your choice. Everything depends on what your needs and preferences are. Feel free to try out both and make a final decision then.