I was wondering if anybody changes tubes during a criterium? Or is there simply not enough time? Not sure I want to buy a spare set of wheels (I know I could get a cheap set, but that would feel like a waste of money. An expensive set is not in the budget right now).
No. Unless you can change it before getting lapped or if the ref doesn’t pull but, no.
I race on good tires and tubes (not well worn) and have had very few flats over the years. That’s probably my best and cheapest advise. Ride good rubber/latex!
Change tubes? Gd dmn, there’s barely any time to swap out wheels, even if you have them waiting in the pit lane.
Remember that the only time you can take care of an issue with your bike and not be basically out of contention (i.e. they let you jump back on) is when it’s a mechanical that is outside of your control. Flat tire? You’re out. Gum in your cleats? You’re out. Dropped seat post or handlebars? See ya.
I’m having trouble thinking of a case where you would be able to swap wheels. Maybe a total blowout?
EDIT: I’m dumb. Flats are a valid reason.
I’ve only flatted once and there was no way in hell I was getting any sort of swap/repair done in time to get back into the race. Just had to suck it up. As @Landis has already said, good tubes and good tires will drastically reduce the chances of a flat.
Don’t worry about an extra set. Not worth it if you are only buying them for spares in case of flats. 20 years of racing and I’ve never flatted in a crit. I’ve only flatted in a road race. By the time I got my spare set there was no hope for seeing the group again. Now I just carry a c02 and a tube or patch kit just to finish the race.
If a flat is within my control, why does anyone ever get a flat? I have ONLY seen wheel changes in crits when they had a normal flat.
That being said - go tubeless and pray that it seals if you do get a flat - plus it coats the guy behind you with sealant, which will make for a more interesting race.
It’s more than flats. Broken spokes can happen anytime, hubs fail.
Spare wheels may be a hassle, but considering all the prep just getting to the start line, not that much more work and can save the race you prepped for, or maybe help a friend.
I’m not sure where you race but in the US, this is absolutely grounds for a free lap, as long as it’s not within whatever threshold of the end of the race. Loose bolts, dropped chain, and even gum in the cleats are NOT grounds for a lap, unless they were caused by someone crashing into you.
Yup. I’m a big dummy. Flats are valid. Added to my original post.
Become friends with someone who has a spare set of wheels, or join a team and make sure someone on your team brings pit wheels
If it’s truly an important race bring the wheels that came with the bike as your pits wheels
There are tons of viable options beyond buying a fancy set of wheels that will sit and watch you race 99% of the time
Not in a crit although I have seen people carry a spare in a road race - not for racing but so they don’t have to risk an hour wait for the sag wagon if they get a flat and the wheel truck has already passed them by.
As for having a spare set of wheels, is a really nice thing to have aside from the rare flat during a crit. A second set gives you options every day. Want to have 2 different tire types or cassettes easily available? Done. 5 minutes before you have to leave for the group ride you realize a tire is flat? No problem. Break a spoke or trash a wheel, etc - no need to miss a training rides while getting things fixed.
I have my clincher training set and my tubulars for racing. I bring the clinchers with me just in case something happens during a warmup, but I usually just warm up on my rollers and then do a preview lap or two. I have never brought my clinchers to the pit.
I always have a set in the pit during a crit as well as in the wheel vehicle in a road race (exceptions are races that provide neutral support).
In a road race, you’ll be lucky to catch back onto the field but it’s worth a try and way better than walking.
In a crit, typically as long as you can reach the pit quickly and be back on the course with only missing one lap before the free lap period expires (typically the last 5 or 6 laps) you get pushed back into the field as they come past the pit. I typically do over 30 crits a season and will have required a wheel at least once or twice a season. One race, I flatted with 3 to go (no free lap in effect) while in a 3 man break. I was able to get into the pit, get a wheel, and get back out into the race before the field came past. I held off the field for a solo 3rd place.