Q: Do clinchers or tubulars work better for long-distance riding? — Rob J.
COACH FRED: I don’t think there’s any question that clinchers are the superior tire.
A quarter century ago, clinchers were inferior. If you wanted lightness and quality, you had to ride tubulars. But clincher technology has improved so much that even the pros race on them in the Tour de France.
Clinchers have many advantages over tubulars. They tend to be less expensive, and less time and skill are required to mount them. Tubulars (for all of you newcomers) have the tube stitched into the tire, which is then glued to the rim. This construction technique is why tubulars are also called “sew ups.”
The biggest disadvantage of clinchers is that when they blow out, they go flat immediately. The air leaves the tire quickly because it escapes out the compromised bead as soon as the tube fails. If this happens to a front tire on a twisting descent, it’s nearly impossible to keep the bike upright.
In tubular blowouts, the air often escapes more slowly because the tube is encased by the tire, creating a second barrier against air loss. You usually have time to brake to a safe stop.
I think the biggest advantage of clinchers is their reliability after you’ve changed a flat. If you puncture with a tubular, you have to mount your spare on used glue. It won’t stick tight enough to stay on the rim during fast or sharp turns. But when you change the tube in a clincher and pump it to full pressure, the tire is as secure as ever.