We can mimic the pros in many ways; kit, bikes, shaving our legs. Even if we’ll never ride like them, we can try (mostly in vain) to look like them. We’ll buy a piece of equipment because our favourite pro endorses it, or even adopt trends that the peloton have, such as alloy classic bend bars, slamming a 140mm stem, or putting those plastic sticky things across the bridge of our noses (yep, I actually did this in the mid 90’s when Tinker Juarez was rocking them on the mtb World Cup circuit. It didnt help a bit, and I looked like a twat). There are many pro traits that are certainly frowned upon and should never be attempted, like wearing the rainbow bands or maillot jaune. Then there are things we would love to be able to do, like snort cocaine with 18 yo models, but there’s as much chance of that as Cav finishing the Vuelta. And finally, there’s things that we can do, but are probably too cautious or conservative to do.
Like running tubs.
We know that every pro bike has the tyres glued to the rims, but how many of us actually own a set of tubs? How many would like to own a set? How many get the fear of Merckx put up them at the mere thought of getting caught miles from home with a flat? Ok, I hear you say, they’re only for racing, but how many of us are good enough to benefit from the reduced chance of a pinch flat on the cobbles, or the decreased rolling resistance from a 100 gram weight saving? I’m not seeing many hands… anyone, anyone? But still, I want some!
I’ve been on a mission to find a light set of wheels for Il Profetta, and scouring eBay and TradeMe has coughed up quite a few sets of tubs. Some going pretty cheap too. Several times I’ve been poised to push the ‘buy now’ button, but like a kid too scared to jump into the river from the highest bridge in town, I keep pulling back from the edge. It’s like, I might hit the water wrong and break my neck, but probably won’t. At worst, my shorts might fall down while scrabbling back up the bank to dry land, with the other kids pointing and laughing. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take. Clinchers are like having extra-strong elastic in the trunks, plus a drawstring for back up. Tubs on a punter’s bike are like a pair of Speedos on a fat bastard.
Just as I was ready to give up the idea of tubs altogether, we received an impassioned email out of the blue from an enthusiastic sew-up fan going by the moniker of “Tubolari”. He suggested in no uncertain terms that it was less than hardcore to ride clinchers or even to use tyre levers to remove them. The most surprising thing was, he wasn’t a grizzled old Italian mechanic or former Belgian domestique, but has only been riding for a year. Is it merely a case of wet-behind-the-ears zeal, or is he onto something? Should we all be digging out under the house and storing a stash of tubulars in there to age them? Let’s see…
Tubolari’s reasons for riding tubulars:
- You get to say you ride tubulars with a smug grin.
- It is an appropriate procedure to simply ask for tubulars in determining whether or not a bike shop is a REAL bike shop even if you don’t plan on buying tubulars.
- Tubulars are generally relegated to the lightly used sections of a store thus making you more hardcore because you need to blow dust off of the packaging just to read the specs that you’ve already read online.
- Personally, I use tape (Velox Jantex 76 Competition tubular tape) and that pretty much takes the hassle out of it. I think though, it makes me less hardcore than those who use glue.
- I love it when a machine breaks (tubbie flats), it shows that a machine is just as vulnerable as a human. I love to bring my machine back to working order like a doctor. It also gives me a reason to don my Campy cap and sing Italian tunes like in Breaking Away.
- Subjective qualities:
- I take a corner at speed with tubs (Gommitalia Challenge $30 a pop) and feel the bump (I begin to panic) but the tubbies have already deflected around the rock and I’m safe, I grin and press on.
- I take a corner at speed with clinchers (Continental Grand Prix 3000, $75 a pop) and feel the the bump (I begin to panic) and jump about what feels like half a foot sideways (I check my shorts, they are dry), I press on.
- I joined a charity ride as a volunteer (ride guide), I am the official tubular tire repair/changer mechanic and get my own car, walky talky and office. The office I use will be for participants to drop off their tires and wheels for spares so I can SAG them on the ride. Not bad for starting road biking last year right?
- Piling spare tubs in your jersey gives others a conversation piece when on tours with your local club.
- Merckx rode tubulars so it seems only fitting ;).
- Tubulars are like wine, you like some, you don’t like others. Some go well with Steel and some go well with Carbon Fiber.
Some compelling points for sure, and it’s hard to argue with his passion. Or is it? Keeper Gianni loves an argument, and can refute the strongest of opinions with a sneer, or just by hitting the reply button;
Yeah, yeah, senor Tubolari, talk to me in a year when you have peeled off, opened up, patched, re-sewn, re-glued, and re-glued more a bunch of tubolaris. Sure you may get laid more often riding tubulars, but trying to get a girl’s bra off with all that tubasti glue on your mitts is tough.
I’ve done my time with them and moved on, tubless road clinchers is where I’m heading, the great beyond. Come with me.