Reverence? Tubs

Reverence? Tubs

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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:

  1. You get to say you ride tubulars with a smug grin.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Subjective qualities:
    1.  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.
    2. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. Piling spare tubs in your jersey gives others a conversation piece when on tours with your local club.
  9. Merckx rode tubulars so it seems only fitting ;).
  10. 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.
Cheers, Gianni

Think I’m gonna sit on the fence on this one for a while longer, and leave my pro tyre-emulation to these or these for now…

// Reverence

  1. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Everyone should descend on a pair of sew-ups that they themselves glued. DESCEND AT LUDICROUS SPEED. Nothing quite gives you a sense of accomplishment like gluing on your sew-ups, descending on them, and not dying from a rolled tire.
    Everyone should learn how to patch a sew-up. Mind you, there’s sewing involved.

    So, so true. Getting into a two wheel drift as you hit an unexpected wash across Germantown road and then feeling the sewups bite as you move onto dry pavement – that’ll put your heart in your throat, it will… and make you damned grateful for FastTack and a bike with miraculous handling

  2. Friends don’t let friends ride tubs glued with Fasttack!

  3. @Oli

    In 2011 that’s true. In the early 90’s, though…

  4. I started riding tubs back in the 70’s and have had my fill of repaired wobbly tyres and with the cost I couldnt afford it so now I’ve gone with the Vittoria’s and then the Veloflex open tubs and have had great luck and performance to match !!

  5. Did we all hear the news? Tony Martin did last night’s TT on clinchers, somewhat successful result wouldn’t you say?

  6. @Mikael Liddy

    plus he absolutely annihilated everyone in the field which was awesome to behold. March on young Martin, March on!! Bloody hell Wiggins was lucky with that second place it took two mistakes from Fabby for that to happen.

  7. I’m not really up to speed on this sort of tech, tires have always had tubes in them and if they go wrong you pull the tube out patch it or throw it away and start again – doesn’t really matter where you are at the time, with a minimum amount of kit and effort you’re on your way again.

    Can you do that with tubs, affect a quick roadside repair/replacement or are you fucked if you’ve forgotten to bring the support car and get a puncture? Can you put latexy stuff in them so they self seal? I quite like the idea of the lightness, the ride and the fact that it’s much easier to get decent full carbon aero rims but the gluing and potential for a long walk home might not be such a positive.

  8. Hello everyone.

  9. @Chris
    Tubulars also have a inner tube,usually latex one however the tire is closed and sewn up.There’s always a possibility for a long walk home but I seriously doubt it’s gonna happen if you puncture tubular.Breaking a powerlink or a spoke or spokes seems more likely to make you walk home.Chances are that if you puncture tubie on the road you will be able to come back home without even making your hands dirty.You just have to know what to do before you ride.In my opinion you should give’em a try.The FEELING you’re getting while riding them will be well worth it without even getting into rolling resistance argument vs.clincher.Just test ride and see for yourself.

  10. As someone said earlier, this thread will be bumped for months! Great thread! Finally made my way all the way through it.

    I’m with JiPM, for what it is worth, in calling them sew-ups. Started racing in the mid-to-late 80’s and my buddy, who got me into racing (and would eventually turn pro) told me that I HAD to get sew-ups on my first racing bike. So, of course, I did. Fun and fast learning curve. I love sew-ups for the ride and used to strap it to my seat post. Nothing looks more pro to me than seeing someone on a training ride with a sew-up on the post (or seat) for the spare.

  11. Clement Criterium Tubs-It seems that the company that made the seventies best tubs are now making them under the name “Challenge”-Not sure how true this is but im just off to get 3- got to have naural coloured walls though. I also need to get hold of a christophe toe strap to keep my tub roll in place!!!!

  12. Tubs FTW… even for training. Don’t overlook the runflat ability either, add a bit of sealant and you can get a good 20 miles on most punctures before you’re walking. I’ve flatter my rear on training rides a couple times and always been able to ride home before I lost too much air.

  13. @Leroy
    Been on a couple of rides with a Pinarello rep on a Di2 Dogma. Heart. The shop guys have been test riding a Sky blue Dogma and lurve them. I’m swiftly getting an urge to gamble, lie and cheat till I get one.

  14. @minion

    @LeroyBeen on a couple of rides with a Pinarello rep on a Di2 Dogma. Heart. The shop guys have been test riding a Sky blue Dogma and lurve them. I’m swiftly getting an urge to gamble, lie and cheat till I get one.

    Oh man, I absolutely love the Dogma. Got a test ride in on one about six months after I bought this bike and was blown away by how much faster it felt. If I could find someone to buy it, I’d sell a kidney tomorrow for one of those badboys!

  15. The ritual per Continental…

  16. I felt uncertainty over racing “tubulars” for many years. Other riders had rolled their tires and locked horns with me (no serious crashing took place). I didn’t understand the science around it. It was an unknown ?? The only way to drop the Albatross from my neck was to buy a set of rims (GP4s) and build tubulars. And I insisted on gluing the base tape and rims myself. I now have reverence! Raced 3 climbing events last year and expect to ride them again this year — they (Conti Sprinters) will not budge.

  17. Tubulars feel like a familiar weapon to me now! What an experience to race on lo-profile Mavic GP4s and Continental Sprinters. I had never raced tubulars until last season and had never attempted to glue tyres until last season. The only way around this tubular wheelset impotence (I guess) was to build one up and race them. Tubular tyres don’t roll off, there are just crappy efforts to glue them properly — perfectly. I thrive on racing tubulars and 155psi makes it even more gratifying.

  18. Ok, maybe someone can clear this neophyte, probably quite dumb, question for me. I know that for cross we use hugely wide tubular tires on relatively skinny rims, although they are slowly changing the cross section for better mounting. When it comes to road tires at high pressures, are there compatibility issues (i.e. if I have these old skinny rims (mavic cosmics) that look normal w/ 21mm sprinters, will they be ok with something in the 25mm range? I hope this question is actually stupid as it feels, cause I really don’t want to buy yet another wheelset. rather buy nicer tubbies!

  19. @gaswepass

    Ok, maybe someone can clear this neophyte, probably quite dumb, question for me. I know that for cross we use hugely wide tubular tires on relatively skinny rims, although they are slowly changing the cross section for better mounting. When it comes to road tires at high pressures, are there compatibility issues (i.e. if I have these old skinny rims (mavic cosmics) that look normal w/ 21mm sprinters, will they be ok with something in the 25mm range? I hope this question is actually stupid as it feels, cause I really don’t want to buy yet another wheelset. rather buy nicer tubbies!

    Well now I feel stupid. Compare the width on the base tape and the answer should be “Yes” — mount them on your old skinny rims. And I like that idea and will steal it, mounting 25mm on GP4s and Campagnolo Victory Stradas. Thanx

  20. @minion

    Triathletes, Mid life crisis failures and tubular wheels all go together like bacon on chiken. It’s easy taking money off people like that.

    Amongst all the bluster I think that one may have hurt with its wisdom. still going to end up spending the fooken $ most likely, but it actually gave me pause. ouch.

  21. @Chris

    I’m not really up to speed on this sort of tech, tires have always had tubes in them and if they go wrong you pull the tube out patch it or throw it away and start again – doesn’t really matter where you are at the time, with a minimum amount of kit and effort you’re on your way again.

    Can you do that with tubs, affect a quick roadside repair/replacement or are you fucked if you’ve forgotten to bring the support car and get a puncture? Can you put latexy stuff in them so they self seal? I quite like the idea of the lightness, the ride and the fact that it’s much easier to get decent full carbon aero rims but the gluing and potential for a long walk home might not be such a positive.

    Odd that this article would pop up at the bottom of the page today. Had my first proper “in the field” tubular puncture today (I’d had one go on the rollers and one so close to home and so slow that a canister of CO2 got me home without any drama).

    Dragged myself out of bed to work off the frustration of my car dying, crap rugby and to put myself into a decent frame of mind for a family gathering. The plan was 65km then espresso and poached eggs with smoked salmon before heading into London for the do. The reality was that just as my legs were loosening and realising that how much they liked my new 12-23 cassette and it’s lack of gaps, there was a loud hissing from the rear.

    To cut a cold and windy story short, a decent tyre lever is invaluable for peeling a tubular off the rim when it’s too cold for your fingers to cooperate and threadlocked valve extenders are worth considering if you don’t want to go through the experience of successfully getting the spare on and inflated only for the extender to come off with the CO2 chuck. Mine didn’t but it was close.

    Having now gone through the experience, I would say that if punctures are the bit that is putting you off having a go with tubulars, go for it. Start to finish it took me 15 minutes to get going again with out overly hurrying – I’ve seen people take longer than that on a club run. It’s not enough hassle to outweigh the benefits of tubulars.

    Downside to it all is that I’ve now got to source a replacement and get it glued in time for KT13.

  22. While the glue may stain, the pure joy of the ride of tubs beats all.

  23. to those with the good fortune of flatting on sew-ups, did it sound like riding over a glass bottle?  i lost a rear today and could have sworn i smoked a stray beer bottle, but after my walk of shame back to the lbs, i didnt see any glass…and the vittoria pit stop goop can’t handle much more than a pinhole sized hole when it comes to sealing.  so if you can see what caused your puncture and it looks bigger than a needle, save the can for another day.  im reluctant to keep shelling out $150 per puncture, but the ride is so F’ing addictive. just look at the way that sidewall folds, like melted butter.

  24. @roger

    to those with the good fortune of flatting on sew-ups, did it sound like riding over a glass bottle? i lost a rear today and could have sworn i smoked a stray beer bottle, but after my walk of shame back to the lbs, i didnt see any glass…and the vittoria pit stop goop can’t handle much more than a pinhole sized hole when it comes to sealing. so if you can see what caused your puncture and it looks bigger than a needle, save the can for another day. im reluctant to keep shelling out $150 per puncture, but the ride is so F’ing addictive. just look at the way that sidewall folds, like melted butter.

    Sounds the same as puncturing on clincers to me, unless you overinflate them and leave them in the sun. Erm, the Tufo sealant is  very good, and Stans makes sealants for a couple of other companies but bang for buck their own latex sealant for mtb tires has been recommended to me as well. Tufo is very thick, and might change the way your tire rides but I’ve had the best results with it.

    Pretty wheels BTW.

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