Choosing the right tires (part 1)
Choosing the right tires can be a big challenge. Clincher, tubeless or tubular? The options are many and for most people it is also a compromise between comfort, rolling resistance, weight, aerodynamics, puncture protection, durability, price and feeling. Your tire choice will most like be the single one thing changing the feel of your ride the most.
So what’s the difference and where to start?
Tubular tires are only for racing. How many of you haven’t heard this claim. The traditional tire are lightweight (duo to no inner tube), puncture less (in general) and are widely considered to be the most comfortable tire. As with any tire there a both pros and cons. Tubulars are glued to the rim meaning that you will have to bring another tubular in case of large cuts and your wheels have to be specifically made for tubular tires. Mounting tubular is often a huge time consumer and takes a lot of practice for the rookie with more layers of glue having to dry. Another downside is that tubulars are often more expensive and less acceable at your local bike shop. The feeling of a perfectly mounted tubular is difficult to beat though.
Clincher tires have become more and more popular over the years. They are easy to fix on the road should a flat occur. Unlike tubular tires clincher use beads/rails to hold the tire on the rim. The down side of this is more total weight (with tire and inner tube) compared to the traditional tubular tires. The bad rolling resistance compared to tubular can be improved by replacing the standard butyl inner tube with a latex inner tube making the difference less significant. Another setback of using clinchers are the likelihood of pinch flats and less overall comfort compared to other types of tires.
Tubeless is a relatively new option for road bikes although widely used among mountain bikers. The wheels must be tubeless ready and you will also need 30ml of tire sealant (as recommended by Schwalbe). Most clincher wheels come tubeless ready nowadays and some even with a fitting valve. The tubeless tires are mounted without inner tube and is in that sense the perfect marriage between tubular and clincher. The advantage of riding tubeless is low rolling resistance compared to clincher, comfortable ride like tubulars (some will ague this) and easy to fix while out riding. Should the sealant not close the hole after a puncture tubeless tires can be used a clincher. On the downside tubeless technology is still more expensive than clincher and the tires are generally a little heavier than clinchers.