If there’s one cycling debate that refuses to defuse, it’s the old “tubulars vs. clinchers” argument. Of less concern to MTB riders, it still manages to invade dirt discussions. Thomas Frischknecht, the great Swiss XC legend, terrorized his peers using 26” tubular tires late in his celebrated career.
For any newcomers, tubulars are the original pneumatic tires, the style that prevailed until well into the 20th century. With tubulars (also known as sewups) the inner tube is stitched into the casing and the combination glued onto the rim. A simpler concept than demountable tires, known as clinchers, they persist even today.
As a student of the wheel, my perspective begins with systems, not with one isolated element. Tubular tires shouldn’t be examined without considering the matching rims. Rim-tire, that’s the system. Lots of valuable time has been wasted arguing the advantages and disadvantages of tubulars vs. clinchers, without mention of the rims required to support each. Read more →