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Posted by James Ferrer

Tubular vs Clincher vs Tubeless Road Bike Wheels, Which Should You Choose? [VIDEO]

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Video Transcript:

Today we're going to talk about a very important topic, that is tubular versus clincher versus tubeless, what does that mean and which one should you choose?

When we're talking about this, we're talking about a wheel type of a bicycle wheel and the type of tire that it's compatible with. 

Let's start with tubular. 

This is the original, oldest style of bike wheel and bike tire, I've got one right here. 

The difference is, if you can see right here, the way that the tire mounts and the type of tire that is compatible, only a tubular style tire is compatible here and what that type of tire is, is, it is, the tire and the tube are actually made together. It almost looks like an inner tube, where it's kind of this donut shape, but on the outside it's got tire tread on it.It's not like a standard bike wheel that you might really be familiar with. You need to glue it on to the tubular rim here, okay? And that's the difference there. 

The benefit of a tubular style wheel and tire are a couple. 

One, it's generally lighter because we don't have on this rim here the structure necessary for hooking a normal tire, it's just this sort of flat surface here, it doesn't have the hook for the tire bead. The rim can actually be lighter and a little bit stiffer up by the breaking surface. That's a benefit. 

The tires themselves are actually lighter because the tube and tire is combined in one. You can get a lower rolling resistance with tubular tires because the tire and the tube are not separate, and when you have a tire and tube that are separate sometimes that tube needs to move inside of the tire, that creates rolling resistance. You don't get that with the tubular tire. 

The downsides, the cons of tubulars is one, you've gotta glue em on. That's a big pain. Two, if you get a flat way out on your ride, you're going to need to one carry another tubular tire, and it's this big old thing, and you're going to have to re-glue, you're going to have to pull your tire off, you're going to have to re-glue it on out there on the road. Generally that's not something that you want to be doing. 

Who should use tubular wheels, like this Tokyowheel Elite here? 

We recommend it not for recreational use. We recommend this for people who have specific racing goals, they're going to have multiple sets of wheels already with the tubulars glued on, if they have an issue they're not changing tires, they're having their support crew give them another wheel, right there with a new tire on it. If you are a racing and you know specifically that you want to ride tubulars, go for it. 

Let's talk about the next type of wheel here.  

What we've got here is a clincher wheel. 

A clincher is really sort of the normal style of bike wheel, the standard bike wheel that you would be familiar with. 

You're going to put an inner tube here and then you're going to have a tire on the outside. You're going to have those two parts, and the tire's going to hook here on this, and your inner tube's going to be on the inside, and you're going to inflate your inner tube, and that's this part here is the clincher. 

What are the benefits of the clincher? 

One is that you're going to have a lot of options for your tires. This is the most popular and normal type of tire, all the makers are going to have a wide variety for you. 

Secondly, the mounting and the maintenance is really easy. 

I mean it's changing a tire, just as you normally know, nothing extreme or different about that. 

The other benefit is that if you get a flat when you're out riding, you can just swap the tube out no big deal. The convenience is there, definitely. 

What are the cons of the clincher?

Well the con of the clincher is weight, because generally when you have a tire and a tube, you're going to have additional weight there. 

You also have a little bit of additional weight here up on this bead hook, because this needs to be a super strong piece of carbon in this case. It's a little bit heavier. 

The other con is rolling resistance, which occurs when your wheel is rolling and the part of the tire that is touching the ground basically gets kind of compressed as it rolls along. 

Well, the difference in the way that the outside tire gets compressed and the inside tube gets compressed, that makes the tube kind of move a little bit inside the tire, kind of squish, and get pulled inside the tire a very tiny amount, that creates what we call rolling resistance, it makes it more difficult for your bike to roll forwards, less efficiency. 

It ultimately means that it requires more power in watts to move yourself forward and you cannot maintain as high of a top speed. There are ways to combat rolling resistance with clinchers, one is having a high tire pressure, or a really thin and flexible tube. You can do that, but generally high rolling resistance is potentially one of the drawbacks of clinchers. But use yourself a good tube and that won't as much of a big deal. 

Let's talk about the third type of wheel and tire, that is tubeless. 

This wheel here is also a tubeless compatible wheel. What does that mean, how is that even possible? Well a tubeless wheel and tire setup is very similar to a clincher, you've got this tire that you mount right here on the top, but instead of having a tube on the inside, what you're going to use is you're going to use tubeless liquid sealant, which is kind of like a glue almost. You're going to pour that on the inside. It's going to seal with an airtight seal the edge of the tire on the rim here, then you're going to be able to inflate your tire with out a tube. Why would anyone wanna do that? And how is this also a clincher and tubeless? Basically the difference is the hook here, you won't necessarily be able to see it on the video because it's a very, very small difference, but the shape of the hook here where the tire hooks on can be tubeless compatible and that means that it will form an airtight seal with tubeless specific tires. You can't do this with just any old clincher tire. 

But you get yourself a tubeless tire, it will fit right on, you use a tubeless conversion kit, where you have a sealant tape around the spoke holes, you have a liquid sealant and a special valve, you set that up, you make that conversion, and it allows you to run your tires without an inner tube. 

There are some specific benefits to that. 

One is puncture resistance for snake bite, a pinch flat, punctures because the tubeless sealant liquid, will reseal small punctures like you get for a snake bite, or a pinch flat, these happen less frequently, potentially less frequently. You can run your tires at a lower tire pressure without the risk of those pinch flats, that's one reason. You can also run your tires at a lower pressure and have less rolling resistance. 

Normally with a clincher if you do a low tire pressure, you've got a clincher in your tube, you'll get a dramatic increase in rolling resistance, you'll feel it if your tires aren't pumped up all the way you're bike will feel sluggish. 

That is reduced because of not having a tube on the tubeless tires, you can experience a lower rolling resistance than a clincher, really similar to a tubular tire's rolling resistance, or a super, super high-end clincher with a really thin lite tube, you can get that with tubeless, yep, just right with it. 

A lot of people will use tubeless if they wanna run low tire pressure for gravel, off-road, cycle-cross, that's one big reason. 

A lot of people now are experimenting with road tubeless because of the decreased rolling resistance for triathlon or for normal road riding. That can be a big, big benefit. 

As far as ease of use, you're going to have the tubeless mounting and conversion process that you're going to do at home before you ride, that's a little bit more difficult. 

But if you're out riding and for whatever reason your tubeless system fails, what you can do is you can always carry a normal inner tube, and you just pop your normal inner tube, and just ride it as a clincher. That's really convenient. 

All of our wheels, at Tokyowheel, that are clincher are also tubeless compatible, you're basically getting the best of those both worlds. 

If you buy the clincher, then you can use it as a normal clincher with an inner tube, and whenever you want you can test out riding tubeless, experiment with that and see if you like the benefits. 

Those are the big differences. 

Tubular, ride it if you're a racer and you know that you really, really want that, if you're just recreational don't do it. 

Clincher, that's the normal one pretty much everybody's going to be happy with that. 

Tubeless, well you get it as a benefit also on the clincher wheel, some day you might wanna convert to that, in general, what you're going to want to do, is go with the two-way, tubeless clincher wheel, if you're a normal rider that's going to give you a lot of options, really give you the best experience, that's what I would recommend. 

I would recommend our Tokyowheel Epic series tubeless clinchers, those will be great for you. 

Thanks very much. 

I'm glad I could give you this information today. 

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or what you want to learn about next. 

Thanks again, I'm here to help.


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