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Clincher vs Tubular – Bike Tires Explained and Defined

There are two types of bicycle tires that you can choose from: you can either get a clincher or a tubular one. If you’re starting a new cycling hobby, this is one of the most important questions that you have to ask yourself. So, here’s an intensive comparison of clincher vs tubular bike tires to help you have a better understanding of each type.

Before getting into details, you must know that the clincher tire is the regular bike tire you can use for everyday biking. You can see this type of tire on kids’ bikes to BMX and mountain bikes. The clincher tire is the standard of all tires, as the professionals say.

What are Clincher Tires?

What is a clincher tire? To help you visualize, those tires on your childhood bicycle are what we call the clincher tires. It comes with an inner tube and a rubber for its anatomy. It also comes with an opening at the bottom, whereas the tire must be clinched to the rim to securely attach it.

Another thing to remember about clincher wheels is that they need an inner tube to operate properly. Inside the tube, air and pressure are held against your tires to give you a great biking experience. You are directly pumping air inside the tube when you use a clincher tire.

If you have a clincher tire, you have some choices for the valve stems that pump the air right into the tire. The most common valve is the Shrader valve which requires an inner pin to let the pressure inside the tire.

Another type of valve is the sleeker one called the Presta valve. You can usually see this type of valve on bikes for triathlons. The best thing about this type of valve is that you don’t need a check valve anymore, just make sure that your tire pump can accommodate the Presta valve.

What are Tubular Tires?

Now that you know what is a clincher wheel, let’s talk about tubular wheels. To start, the tubular bike tires might look like clincher tires once you compare them with their physical appearance.

But, if you look closer at tubular tires vs clinchers, tubular tires work differently from clincher rims. They are 100% round and enclosed, unlike the clincher tire which has an opening at the bottom. There are also no tubes used for this type of tire.

To make it simpler, a tubular tire comes in only one piece and the clincher tire comes with a tire and tube. A tubular tire is glued directly to the wheel rim to make sure that it won’t ever move around even when you ride your bike for hours.

These tires are far less common and popular than the clincher tires, but they are used by most triathlon cyclists. Before getting into a more detailed comparison, we would like to give you a heads up that tubular tires are more lightweight and durable than clincher tires. You might want to get used to the technicality that these tires offer.

bike tire close up

Comparison of Clincher and Tubular Tires

For a better understanding of clincher vs tubular tires, we have listed down the different advantages and disadvantages of both tires based on different experiences that cyclists have encountered:

Simplicity

Other people might say that once you have gotten used to working with a tubular tire, it is much easier to change than a clincher type tire. However, it might take a lot of time before a cyclist learns the ways of using tubular wheels.

A cyclist must also be informed that using tubular tires means you have to glue the tires to the wheel rim too. Glueing might take much of your time, but if you have previously worked with clincher tires, this might be an easy job for you already.

Durability

For durability, it all depends on the brand of the tire that you buy. There might be a lot of cheaper options that can be less durable than the expensive ones. But, the opposite may be true as well. For instance, this Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ clincher tire works just as great as their tubular model, the Vittoria Rubino Pro III.

On the other hand, when it comes to long rides, a tubular tire will offer a lot more mileage due to its tough construction. Meanwhile, the tubes on clincher tires offer more strength, not to mention it lessens the risks of getting flat tires or pinches.

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Safety

The most promising feature of tubular vs clincher is the tubular’s capability to be safe even under low pressures. So, even if you get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, you can definitely still ride your bike in a safe zone. On the other hand, if you have a clincher tire, your tire can get flat in just a matter of a few minutes. 

Flatness is something that no cyclist should ever neglect because it can be one major issue with safety. Once you use tubular bicycle tires, it is much safer to handle when you encounter flatness.

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Road Fixes

If you’re in the middle of a ride, it would be much easier to fix a clincher tire than a tubular one. If you’ve had a few tire changing sessions, changing a clincher will only be an easy fix. This is especially true if you have a spare tube with you, which will make things so much more convenient.

On the other hand, a tubular can take twice the time as you do with a clincher tire. So, ready your patience and care when fixing a tubular tire on the side of the road.

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Weight

Since a clincher tire comes in two parts, it is obviously heavier than a tubular one. To give you an idea, there is around 1 to 2 pounds of weight difference between the two tires, so a clincher tire can give a lot of convenience to cyclists while having a long ride as compared to its tubular counterpart.

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Cost

Budget is also a very important factor when choosing tires and we must say that clinchers are much cheaper than tubular ones. The difference between the costs is around 20 to 30%, so you will see how expensive a tubular tire is.

What makes a tubular tire more expensive is that you need to change the entire tire when it gets flat. For a clincher tire, you only need to change the tire tube, and it only costs about $5 to $7.

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Bonus: What are tubeless tires?

Tubeless tires have become very popular during these years. To make it simple, here’s a comparison of clincher vs tubular vs tubeless tires: tubeless tires are like tubular tires that don’t have any tubes, but they are also like clincher tires that clinch on the wheels without needing a 360° area.

Cyclists say that these tubeless clincher tires are one of the best innovations in the world of cycling. For starters, they don’t require much maintenance, and they are more lightweight too. If flat tires are your enemy, this won’t be so much of a problem for you anymore because it also has an interior sealant to deal with minor leaks and pinches.

If you’re interested in getting these tubeless tires, you won’t have to spend so much time looking for them anymore. Many manufacturers are now releasing bike rims that can accommodate tubeless tires. The catch is that with tubular vs tubeless, tubeless tires are typically more expensive than tubular tires, so brace yourselves for the expenses.

Final verdict: Which is better?

If you’re a starting cyclist, most professional and experienced cyclists will tell you to go get a clincher tire. The main reason for this is the price and the ease of use that this type of tire can give you. They are very easy to change, and they are also always available in bike stores. Just buy some extra tubes, and you’re all set to getting tubular tires for your spares.

It is also more cost-effective to change only one type of tire than changing your bike tires from clincher to tubular, or vice versa. If you would be using a clincher tire, it is better to stick to using it for years rather than changing into another type.

Another advantage of using clincher vs tubular tires is that they are more common, so you can ask for help from other cyclists in case you get an issue while you’re riding. You can easily ask your fellow cyclists if they have a spare tube with them, then you’re all good. Of course, if you have a bike that comes with tubular rims, then give it a chance before trying out a clincher one.