Clincher vs Tubular: Which Tires to Choose for Your Bike?

After reading this article, you should know enough about clinchers, tubular and tubeless tires to make an informed decision on your next bike.
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Last updatedLast updated: April 03, 2022
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We are guessing you assumed there was only one type of tire for bikes until some recently discovered piece of information triggered your search for some much-needed info on tires. If we are right about your situation, not to worry, most people were once in the same position. However, those people probably didn’t have our article to give them the information they were craving, and if they did, they were extremely lucky, just as you are about to be.

When it comes to tires, there are two major types, and the battle of the tires currently reads “Clincher vs. Tubular.” That isn’t as intense as it sounds, but the two types of tires have different characteristics and reasoning behind their existence. Though the clincher still holds the most popular position among people and riders, the tubular tire is still worth knowing about. Read on to learn what we have to share.

Clincher vs Tubular: Which Tires to Choose for Your Bike?Clincher bike tires

As we stated, earlier the clincher is the tire you’re probably most used to. It must have been the one on your childhood bike and, though the exterior might be different, the reasoning is the same. The tire is so-called because of its ability (or need) to clinch to the rim of the bike for grip.

For such a tire to function, as a tire should, it requires a tube (referred to as an innertube) inside it that would be inflated on-demand to provide pressure against the tire properly. As such, when you pump a clincher tire, you are pumping the inner tube, and for a clincher tire to be deflated as a result of a puncture, the innertube within must have been punctured as well.

The clincher tire can be designed to various specifications depending on the conditions in which it is to be used and its expected durability. For instance, the clincher tires on mountain bikes would need to be stronger than those on road bikes; otherwise, the knowledge of when to replace the tires on mountain bikes would come in handy. As a result, you would do well to note that regular road tires might not cut it for mountain biking, and the tires would have to be a big consideration if you’re going to be converting a road bike to a mountain bike.

Clincher vs Tubular: Which Tires to Choose for Your Bike?Tubular bike tires

On the other side of this tire against the tire, the comparison is the tubular bike tires. On the outside, they might look like clincher tires, but they are different. These are completely round and cannot clinch. In addition, they also do not possess an innertube because the tube is sewn into the tire to create a single-piece tire.

Because of this design, tubular tires are glued to the rims of bikes most of the time to prevent them from moving around and causing problems for the rider. The tubular tires are often lighter than the clinchers though this has more to do with the design of the manufacturer(s) than with any structural difference. You should also note that tubular tires would require a different type of rim to those used with clinchers.

Clincher vs Tubular: Which Tires to Choose for Your Bike?What’s the difference?

We have established the structural difference between both tires, but there are other differences you should take note of before buying any of them. Some of these differences are:

Price

You would expect that the cost might be the same since they are probably both made the same way with just a slight difference but that slight difference means a lot when the tires get punctured. In the case of the clinchers, a puncture would mean having to change the innertube alone, while in the tubular case, the entire tire would need to be changed.

Due to this difference, the clinchers are cheaper than the tubular, and their prices could be as much as 30%.

Design

It’s hard to imagine that the design of any clincher can be simpler than the one-piece tubular tire, and so in terms of structural simplicity, the tubular is top. However, in terms of application, the design of the tubular could be a source of more complications than that of the clincher.

Firstly, the design of the tubular tire means that the entire tire could be damaged due to a puncture. This is different with the clincher, where damage can be rectified, in many cases, by simply changing the innertube.


Furthermore, to prevent movement, the tubular tires are usually glued to their rims, and this could be a problem when changing tires during a race as care has to be taken during the tire change. However, the design of the tubular has advantages of its own. For one, it allows for the development of tires that are suppler than clinchers and roll more easily as well. Hence, tubular tires are, thus, assumed to be inherently faster to ride with; another reason to go along with the many reasons that make tubular tires popular with professional cyclists.

Durability

The durability, as we have stated, is a function of the manufacturer as it is of the type of tire. However, all things being equal, the construction of the tubular guarantees more durability than the clinchers. For starters, there would be no spaces between the tube and exterior for rocks or objects to lodge, thus, reducing the likelihood of punctures.

However, as we have said, the manufacturer’s quality and the type of tire itself would make a difference. It would be unreasonable to expect a tubular slick (designed for speed in dry conditions) to rival this highly recommended Ritchey Megabyte Cyclocross Bike Tire (designed for mountain biking).

Weight

The absence of the clincher bead (that is a necessity for the grip of the clinchers) in the design of the tubular means that the tire weighs less than a clincher. However, if we are sincere, this difference in weight is not large enough to matter all that much to a casual rider.

A professional cyclist, though, might take this difference in weight seriously, and this is probably the reason for the popularity of tubular tires among cyclists.

Road fixes

This refers to the ease with which a damaged tire can be replaced or fixed while on the road. As regards this, a clincher is easier to deal with than a tubular tire. For starters, repairing the damage to a clincher would probably require a rider to possess a spare tube (preferably inflated). This is different in the case of a tubular where an entire tubular tire would be needed. That spare tire would be heavier than a simple innertube.

When it comes down to fixing the tire, the second problem would then become obvious. A perfect fix of the tubular would require glue. Otherwise, a rider would be riding with significantly more risk. This glue work would have to be done carefully, which would slow down the fixing of the tire. On the other hand, all a rider with a clincher has to do is remove the damaged innertube, replace it with the inflated one and keep riding.

Experience in changing the tire could affect the relative amount of time that would be needed, though. In other scenarios, too, a clincher would allow for inflation of tires in gas stations (in dire situations), and you could learn how here.

Safety

While the movement of an unglued tubular could be risky or unsafe, especially at high speeds, the tubular in regular speed situations could be safer than the clincher. This is because the tubular could be ridden even at low pressures for a while, making maneuvering after a puncture easier.

A clincher, on the other hand, would deflate rapidly, and this could lead to handling problems for the rider in control of the bike.
Seeing as most of us bike riders are not professional cyclists riding as fast as our muscles can push us, a moving tubular would not be as unsafe as a flat clincher, and so the tubular gets the nod here. If you are in the racing business, a tubular favorite because of its safety and ease of control in any weather is the Vittoria Rubino Pro IV Graphene 2.0.

Which is better?

It would depend on your experience level in riding and fixing the tires. If you were a relative newbie to cycling, the clincher would be your best bet and safest option. However, if you are ready to take the time to get used to tubular tires, it would be worth the effort down the line. The preferable route to go, though, would be learning how to deal with both types.

The popularity of clinchers could also be a problem for riders on tubular tires. This is because of the relative difficulty of finding tubular tires for sale in certain areas. This comes into play when you might need to change tires while you’re on tour or you find yourself out of spares while riding in a remote location. In both cases, it would be more likely that a stranger could help you with a clincher than with a tubular tire. In summary, though the clinchers are more popular, the tubular tires have their advantages, and both would be good, maybe except in mountain or gravel bikes, where clinchers are generally preferred.

What about tubeless tires

Here is the distant younger brother of bike tires rapidly growing in reputation and popularity to challenge the other two. As the name implies, tubeless tires have no innertube, which is the source of its first advantage: relatively low vulnerability to punctures. However, they are not round but are designed to clinch to rims as well.

Other advantages of this tire would include the fact that they are lighter and require less maintenance than the clinchers and tubular tires. Furthermore, they are usually designed to possess a sealant Trusted Source Sealant - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics Sealants are materials which are used at a juncture of two or more substrates which adhere to the substrates and seal (prevent or control passage) against moisture, gases dust, etc. www.sciencedirect.com that ensures that minor leaks that could derail the function of clinchers and tubular tires have no effect here.

Clincher vs Tubular: Which Tires to Choose for Your Bike?Final thoughts

The battle of tires has largely been fought between tubular tires and clinchers, and because regular bike riders Trusted Source Cycling 'explosion': coronavirus fuels surge in US bike ridership | Cycling | The Guardian The National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) says they are seeing an “explosion in cycling” in many American cities. Eco-Counter, which collects bike data, reports that bicycle counts have “significantly increased” across most of North America compared to usual. In the two weeks to 4 May, it found the US region with the most growth was the south-west, which was up by over 100%. www.theguardian.com are more worried about comfort than speed or performance, the clincher has been the more popular of the two.

That is not the case in elite cycling, where people tend to opt for the performance of the tubular over the comfort of the clincher. However, the bike tire game has a new entrant, and those are the tubeless tires. They might not offer the performance of the tubular tires yet, but they are already rivaling the clincher for its position among casual riders. As such, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if, in the next few years, “Clincher vs Tubular” became “Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless.”

References

1.
Sealant - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Sealants are materials which are used at a juncture of two or more substrates which adhere to the substrates and seal (prevent or control passage) against moisture, gases dust, etc.
2.
Cycling 'explosion': coronavirus fuels surge in US bike ridership | Cycling | The Guardian
The National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) says they are seeing an “explosion in cycling” in many American cities. Eco-Counter, which collects bike data, reports that bicycle counts have “significantly increased” across most of North America compared to usual. In the two weeks to 4 May, it found the US region with the most growth was the south-west, which was up by over 100%.
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