Tubular vs Clincher

This coming year I am committing to racing competitively. Currently I am running Hunt Race Aero Wheelset, Conti Inner Tubes and Conti Grand Prix 4000S II tires. I was wondering what advantages there are for running tubular vs clincher tires. I like the idea of tubular, but is it worth investing in a new wheel set? I don’t mind the investment, but wondering what others thoughts are on the different tire types.

Thanks all!

Unless you have a team car following you around to swap wheels whenever you flat, it seems like tubeless is pretty much a no-brainer these days for us average joes.


I went through this same debate this year. I ended up going tubeless.

Up until very recently I have found tubular tires to offer a superior ride quality. And, to that end, I’ve used them exclusively for the past 5 or 6 years (this includes commuting in/around Los Angeles). It seems like I’ve flatted less often and have been able to run much lower pressure (65/70psi on 25mm tires) without the fear of pinch flatting and with the added benefit of a larger contact patch. There’s no way I would’ve been able to do that with 25mm clinchers.

If you’re running rim brakes and descend a decent amount I would only use tubulars especially if you’re heavier or there are more technical descents in your area. I’ve seen (seen, not heard stories of . . .) warped brake tracks and blown out rims because the rim carried too much heat and the resin softened. Yeah, you can still warp a brake track with a tubular CF rim but the likelihood of that brake track blowing out is FAR less. Additionally, the entire rim acts more like a “heat sink” so the glue/tape used to fix the tire to the rim is less likely to melt (yes, it can happen and you can see scary videos of it if you do a search for it).

If, you’re running disc brakes none of that really applies and clinchers have really come a long way in the past decade or so – it really seems hard to find a truly horrible tire in the $45+ price range. Tubeless makes things even way more better though there are still issues with a true standard and compatibility.

For the folks that say tubulars are too much of a PITA. I’m pretty convinced that they’ve never actually dealt with changing one mid-ride. I can remove a tubular and install a spare one (tucked in the same place as a saddle bag) faster than a lot of people can replace an inner tube. When I raced, I’d hand a spare set of wheels to the follow car + ride with Vittoria Pit Stop in my jersey.

Finally, it seems like when I have flatted with tubulars the tire looses air more slowly than with a clincher. This is a really awesome advantage when you’re descending … an extra 15 - 30 seconds is really beneficial when you’re trying to control your stop through a turn. … and if you’re really scared of a flat you can always put some Stans or OrangeSeal in the tire as insurance.

FWIW, whenever I get a disc brake road bike, I’ll go with some tubeless clincher wiz-bang awesomeness but until then . . .

My race wheels are tubular. Got them cheap from a friend. Bontrage Aelous 5s. Ride feel and quality is great and I do run them lower than clinchers. Have only flatted once and that was during my warmup at my A race back in 2017. I was gutted. I limit my warmup on my tubulars and I don’t just go ride around with them on. Strictly for racing. I even toss some orange seal in them for super small incidents. Swapping tubulars isn’t too bad either.

Having said that, would I love a set of tubeless race wheels? Hell yeah.

If you are on a budget I imagine you can find a set of aero tubular wheels on craigslist or something like that for pretty damn cheap.

This is a good point about budget. Used tubular wheels are definitely a lot cheaper. Tons and tons of cheap Zipp 303 tubs on ebay, for example.

Tubulars are really nice rolling and cornering due to the shape of the tire. It’s not restricted or bound by the tire needing to hook into the rim like a clincher so it’s rounder. Plus most fo the nicer tires have a latex tube sewn in.

Clinchers have caught up so much in the last couple years with wider internal width rims however. Combined with latex tubes they roll as good but, still don’t corner quite as nice (IMO).

The major down side to tubulars is the glueing (not hard but it’s a bit time consuming) and the problems associated with getting a flat/cut out on a ride/race. You can carry a pre-glue spar but, honestly the times I had to rip one off and put the spare on it would have been easy to roll it in a corner. So I always made my home gingerly.

All in all, clinchers are the way to go for me. Much more convenient, cheaper to maintain and perform effectively just as well.