What Is a Tubular Tyre? Benefits & When to Use for Cycling

By Venice Motor Bikes

Imagine gliding on the road, your bike responding to every subtle movement with grace and agility. This dream ride is often powered by a secret under the wheels: the tubular tyre. Often hailed as the choice of professionals and serious cycling enthusiasts, tubular tyres are a bit of a mystery to the casual rider. But what exactly makes them stand out in the world of cycling?

At first glance, a tubular tyre might not look much different from your standard clincher. However, the magic lies in its construction and how it’s fitted onto the wheel. Designed for performance, these tyres promise a smoother ride and better grip on the road. But before you consider switching, it’s essential to understand what sets them apart. Let’s dive into the world of tubular tyres and uncover what makes them a preferred choice for those in the know.

Understanding Tubular Tyres

In the realm of cycling, tubular tyres represent a pinnacle of performance, offering a ride quality that enthusiasts and professionals highly value. Understanding what sets these tyres apart requires a look into their construction and comparison with their counterparts, clincher tyres.

The Basics of Tubular Tyre Construction

Tubular tyres, often referred to as “tubulars”, are crafted with a unique design. Unlike standard tyres, tubulars feature a completely enclosed tube sewn into the tyre itself. This design means the tyre and tube are one integral piece. The entire assembly is then glued or taped directly onto the rim, which is specifically made for tubular tyres. This approach not only enhances the tyre-to-rim bond but significantly reduces the risk of pinch flats, common in clincher tyres. Tubular tyres boast a remarkable ability for high-pressure inflation, and their round profile delivers unparalleled suppleness, translating to smoother rides and exceptional grip during turns.

How Tubular Tyres Differ From Clincher Tyres

The main differences between tubular and clincher tyres lie in their construction, mounting method, and performance characteristics. Clincher tyres, the more conventional type, use a separate inner tube within a tyre hooked onto the rim with beads. These are easier to install and repair compared to tubular tyres, making them a popular choice for casual riders.

However, tubular tyres offer distinct advantages for those prioritizing performance. Their secure attachment to the rim drastically reduces rolling resistance and the chance of flats, while providing superior comfort and handling—particularly on rough terrain. The absence of a bead in tubular tyres also means they are lighter, an essential factor for racers seeking every possible efficiency.

Overall, while clinchers may be more convenient for everyday use, tubular tyres stand out in competitive settings, where every advantage counts towards achieving peak cycling performance.

The Benefits of Using Tubular Tyres

Cycling enthusiasts and professionals often ponder over the choice between tubular and clincher tires, each offering distinct advantages. However, when performance and ride quality top your list of priorities, tubular tires stand out for their unique benefits. Below, delve into the core advantages of choosing tubular tires for your cycling adventures.

Performance Advantages

Tubular tires, revered for their high performance, owe their superiority to several key factors. Most notably, the reduced rolling resistance they offer can make a significant difference in your cycling speed and efficiency. Since the tire and tube are one unit, with the tube sewn inside the tire, this design minimizes friction, resulting in a smoother ride.

Moreover, tubular tires are lighter in weight compared to clincher tires. This weight saving is crucial in races or climbs where every gram counts. Lighter tires mean quicker acceleration and easier climbs, letting you save energy for critical moments of your ride.

Additionally, tubular tires boast an impressive capacity for higher pressure inflation, which further reduces rolling resistance and can lead to faster speeds. However, it’s their ability to maintain performance even at lower pressures that’s especially beneficial during races on rough terrain, providing a balance between speed and grip.

Comfort and Ride Quality

Besides performance, the comfort and quality of your ride are significantly enhanced with tubular tires. The construction of tubular tires allows for more flexibility and a larger air volume, which translates into a more cushioned ride over bumps and uneven road surfaces. This can reduce fatigue, enabling longer, more enjoyable rides without discomfort.

The built-in tube also adds to the ride quality by offering better grip on the road, especially around curves and during wet conditions, which not only improves safety but also boosts confidence, allowing for more aggressive riding strategies.

Furthermore, tubular tires greatly reduce the risk of pinch flats—a common inconvenience with clincher tires. Thanks to their seamless design, the chances of pinch flats are minimized, allowing you to enjoy uninterrupted rides and reducing the need for mid-ride repairs.

While clincher tires may offer convenience for everyday use, the benefits of tubular tires—in terms of both performance and comfort—make them the preferred choice for cyclists focused on achieving their best on race day or seeking the most enjoyable and efficient riding experience.

Installing Tubular Tyres

After exploring the advantages of tubular tyres, like their unmatched performance, smoother ride, and superior grip, you might be considering making the switch. Installing tubular tyres is a unique process compared to clincher tyres, but don’t worry, it’s manageable with the right guidance. Here’s how you can do it yourself.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mounting

  1. Prepare the Rim: Clean the rim thoroughly to ensure it’s free of debris and old adhesive. A clean rim improves adhesion and the overall safety of the tyre installation.
  2. Apply Tubular Glue: Spread a thin, even layer of tubular glue over the rim. Allow it to dry slightly—this usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Some cyclists apply a second layer for extra security, allowing each layer to dry before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Prepare the Tyre: While the glue on the rim is drying, slightly inflate the tubular tyre. This makes it easier to handle and align on the rim.
  4. Mount the Tyre: Starting at the valve, carefully place the tyre onto the rim. Ensure the valve is straight and that the tyre is evenly seated around the rim. This step may require some strength and patience to get the tyre positioned correctly.
  5. Secure the Tyre: Once the tyre is in place, inflate it to a lower pressure (around 60 psi) to allow for adjustments. Check the alignment, making sure the tyre is centered and that there are no twists. Once satisfied, inflate the tyre to its recommended pressure.
  6. Let It Set: Leave the wheel with the newly mounted tyre to set overnight. This ensures the glue dries fully and the tyre adheres well to the rim.
  • Regular Inspection: Check your tubular tyres for cuts, punctures, and wear regularly. Catching issues early can prevent flats during your rides.
  • Proper Inflation: Keep your tyres inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Over or under-inflation can lead to poor performance, increased wear, and susceptibility to damage.
  • Glue Integrity: Periodically check the bond between the tyre and rim. If you notice any sections lifting, it may be time to reapply glue to that area.
  • Cleaning: After rides, especially in wet conditions, clean your tyres and rims. Removing grit and grime prolongs their life and maintains optimal performance.
  • Spare Tyre: Carry a spare tubular tyre and the essentials for changing it on longer rides. Unlike clinchers, tubulars can be more challenging to replace on the go, but being prepared means you won’t be stranded.

By following these steps and tips, you’ll ensure a successful transition to tubular tyres, maintaining them in top condition to fully enjoy their performance benefits.

When to Choose Tubular Tyres

Understanding when to opt for tubular tyres over clinchers can significantly impact your cycling experience, especially if you’re interested in competitive riding or seeking an enhanced ride quality. This section explores the ideal situations to choose tubular tyres and delves into a cost comparison with clinchers to help you make an informed decision.

Ideal Conditions for Tubular Tyres

Choosing tubular tyres is beneficial under certain conditions, largely thanks to their design and performance advantages discussed earlier. Here are some scenarios where tubular tyres outshine their clincher counterparts:

  • Competitive Racing: If you’re into racing, tubular tyres offer the performance edge you need. Their lower rolling resistance and lighter weight contribute to faster speeds and better handling, crucial in competitive settings.
  • Rough Terrains: For rides on cobblestones or uneven roads, tubular tyres provide superior comfort and grip. Their ability to be ridden at lower pressures without the risk of pinch flats makes them ideal for challenging terrains.
  • Long-Distance Rides: Thanks to their construction, tubular tyres can offer a smoother ride over long distances, reducing rider fatigue. Their enhanced grip and stability also contribute to a safer and more enjoyable experience.
  • High-Pressure Situations: Tubular tyres can handle higher pressures than clinchers, making them suitable for riders preferring a firmer ride feel or for tracks requiring such specifications.

By understanding these scenarios, you can better decide if tubular tyres align with your cycling needs and preferences.

Comparing Costs: Tubular vs. Clincher

When deciding between tubular and clincher tyres, cost is an important factor to consider. Initially, tubular tyres might seem more expensive due to:

  • Higher Initial Purchase Price: Tubular tyres and wheels generally cost more upfront than their clincher counterparts. High-performance tubular tyres, in particular, can significantly impact your budget.
  • Installation and Maintenance: The need for glue or tape for installation adds an extra step and cost. Additionally, replacing a tubular tyre, especially in the middle of a ride, is more complex and requires carrying a spare tyre, which can be bulky and inconvenient.

However, for dedicated cyclists and racers, the investment in tubular tyres can be justifiable by their performance benefits, such as improved speed, better handling, and reduced risk of flats. These factors contribute to potentially lower long-term costs in terms of fewer replacements and maintenance needs compared to clinchers, especially when used under ideal conditions.

By weighing these factors, you can make a decision that best suits your cycling habits, performance goals, and budget.


Now that you’ve got a good grasp on the ins and outs of tubular tires you’re better equipped to decide if they’re the right choice for your cycling adventures. Remember they’re a top pick for those high-stakes races and bumpy terrains where performance and durability can make all the difference. Sure they might be a bit pricier upfront and require a bit more elbow grease in terms of maintenance but the payoff in ride quality and overall performance is undeniable. Whether you’re eyeing a podium finish or simply crave that buttery-smooth ride on your next long-distance journey tubular tires might just be your ticket to cycling bliss. So weigh your options consider your goals and maybe give tubular tires a spin. Who knows? They might just revolutionize the way you ride.

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