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Clincher vs Tubular: an informed choice

Clincher vs Tubular: an informed choice

It is highly likely that you have always used bicycles with clinchers up to now. Children’s bicycles, BMX, most traditional mountain bikes, and commuters mount clinchers. In fact, they are considered the standard bicycle tires.

If you have come to read this article, however, it is because you have discovered the existence of tubular. You heard about them during the commentary of the last Giro d’Italia, or some of your friends told you about them during the usual Sunday group ride; it doesn’t matter, now you are curious and want to know more! Well, you are in the right place. In the following paragraphs, we will try to better understand the differences between the various alternatives, and define which is the most suitable for you.


Clinchers are, as mentioned, the most common bicycle tires. They are made of an external “carcass” created specifically for the type of bike on which they are to be mounted. The final part of the clincher, made of hard rubber, “hooks” onto the edge of the rim and thus remains anchored to it. Bicycle tires, like car tires, have an open bottom. For obvious reasons, the clincher needs an inner tube in order to work. The inner tube, as the name implies, contains the air that creates the desired pressure against the tire. When you pump air into it, you are actually pumping air into the tube that will make pressure on the tire.

There are a couple of alternatives for the inner tube. Usually, you find the so-called “Shrader” valve on children’s and commuting bikes. This is the basic alternative and is brighter. The thinner and narrower option is the “Presta” valve. It is mostly to be found on road bikes and you need to be sure you have the correct pump for it.

There are loads of clincher types on the market: compound, tread, tire width, strength, and performance are just some of the most important. In order to choose, you need to know how you want to use your bike.


Tubulars look the same as clinchers on the outside, but they actually work differently. They are completely circular and are, therefore, not open at the bottom or “hooked” to the rim. You don’t even need the external tube you have with clinchers. In fact, this is sewn to the tire and is part of it. In short, the tubular is a single piece, while the clincher is made of the tire and inner tube. Tubulars are glued to the wheel rim because without glue they would tend to move a bit too much.

Tubulars are less common but have a large following among many professional cyclists and experienced amateurs. They tend to be lighter and sometimes more durable over time. If you’re not used to tubular, however, be aware that it takes a tiny bit of time to get the hang of them.

Clincher vs Tubular

Let’s briefly take a look at the main pros and cons of the two types of tires.

Price: clinchers are better.

Clincher tires are not as pricey as tubular tires and can cost up to 20-30% less. What really makes the difference, however, is that every time you get a puncture, the whole tubular has to be swapped, whereas you usually only need a new inner tube when you have a flat clincher tire. Obviously, clinchers also need to be replaced when they are worn out.

Note: wheels are only made specifically for tubular or clincher tires, but not for both.

Simplicity: clinchers are better.

Changing tubular requires certain skills and could create some problems, especially at the beginning. Clinchers are a bit different: learning to replace one requires some practice but it is a relatively simple job that anyone can learn quite easily. Tubulars, as mentioned, are glued to the rim and this makes them undoubtedly less practical.

Endurance: tubular is better.

This clearly depends on the quality of the tire. A “Gatorskin” clincher is certainly more durable than a “Slick” tubular. Between a tubular and a clincher of the same quality, the tubular will typically last a little longer. The glued tube makes the tubular a little stronger and eliminates the possibility of “pinching” the tube, often a reason for a puncture.

Weight: tubular is better.

Since the tubular has no borders or outer tube, it usually weighs less. The difference, however, could be irrelevant for many riders (about 300 gr at most).

Repair on the road: clinchers are better.

If the tubular is down, it has to be replaced. With clinchers, on the other hand, you only need to exchange the inner tube, which is a much simpler and more practical operation. This also implies that you have a new tubular with you, if you use tubular, or a new inner tube if you use clinchers. Clearly, a tube is more practical. There are self-repairing foam canisters that fit both types of tires and allow you to ride back home. Afterward, however, it is good practice to replace the tube or tubular as soon as possible.

Safety: tubular is better.

The best feature of the tubular is probably being able to use it at a rather low pressure, which means that, if you get a flat tire, you will be able to stop safely. With the clinchers, on the other hand, this is not always the case because they can deflate in a few seconds.

Availability: clinchers are (slightly) better.

You can find clinchers for virtually any type of bicycle on the market. They are the standard for mountain bikes and commuters. For road bikes, on the other hand, clinchers are common in training wheels, while racing wheels have. Professionals adopt this strategy, too.

So, which one is better?

For probably 80% of cyclists, and especially for beginners, it’s best to fit clinchers. They are easy to use, easy to change, and cheaper, and it’s definitely more convenient to have an extra supply of inner tubes rather than spare tubular.

Clinchers, after all, is the most common solution, so should you get a flat in the middle of nowhere, you’re more likely to find another cyclist who is able to help you out with a clincher tire than with a tubular. Don’t underestimate this aspect: it seems irrelevant, but you might need a hand and, since cyclists are part of a big family, someone will definitely stop and help a fellow in trouble.

That being said, if you buy a bike with tubular rims, give the tubular a chance before you change them. You may find them more interesting, and it doesn’t take much practice to use them. There are, in fact, many cyclists who have totally converted almost by accident and now only use tubular.

What about tubeless tires?

You also have the chance to try the so-called “tubeless” rims. They are like clincher tires, open underneath and “hooked” to the rim, but without the inner tube. Inside them, you can find a sealing liquid, which repairs small punctures. Many consider them to be the future of cycling, and, in fact, they have already conquered the world of mountain biking some time ago. We are talking about lightweight tires which require little maintenance and don’t suffer small punctures. More and more bicycles can be found with tubeless-ready tires, which can also be used with clinchers. This is a great alternative to regular clinchers and tubular, and it is definitely worth a try.

Now that you know more about the main features of the tires, you can choose the best one for you!

On Bike-room we offer a large selection of Bikes equipped with the best tires, make your choice.

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