Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Bike Tires

Choosing the right type of bike tires can be a tricky task, especially if you don’t have much experience with cycling. However, this is a pretty important thing to focus on because it can impact the quality of your ride and many other aspects of cycling.

With that in mind, we have decided to take a closer look at the main bike tires and do a detailed comparison of clincher vs. tubular vs. tubeless bike tires.

Types of Bike Tires

types of bike tires
There are three main types of bike tires:

  • Clinchers
  • Tubular
  • Tubeless

Each of these main types of tires has unique characteristics and we will check out in detail some of the comparative qualities of clincher vs. tubular bike tires, clincher vs. tubeless bike tires, and tubular vs. tubeless bike tires.

Clincher Bike Tires

Clincher bike tires have become the standard model over time, so almost 90% of all bike tires used today are clinchers. This is probably the type of tires that you rode as a kid and they are so popular because they are the best type for beginners and commuting.

This type of tire is called clinchers because these tires were “clinching” to the wheel rim with a bead of hard rubber in the past. They would be pumped up to pressure to make them clinch onto the edge of the wheel.

However, modern bikes use steel and Kevlar beads and they interlock with a flange on the wheel rim. So, when you inflate your clincher tires, the bead locks the tire in place instead of clinching it. Still, the name persists.

Clincher tires must have an inner tube to work since the tube holds the air and creates pressure against the tire. That means that you are actually pumping the air into the tube when you pump air into your clincher tire, while the tire simply sits on top of this tube.

Advantages of Clincher Bike Tires

  • Easy to Install and Maintain – Clinchers are the best choice for amateur cyclists and commuters because they can easily be installed and maintained with standard tools. Even if you decide to take it to your local bike shop, you will not have to wait a lot for them to be fixed.
  • Affordable – Comparing to other types of bike tires, clinchers are the most affordable and the most available option since they are widely popular. There are even high-end options available, which can compete with tubeless and tubular tires in performance, but they are more expensive.
  • Reliable and Consistent – Clincher bike tires can be very reliable and used consistently, as long as you use them properly and take care of them.

Disadvantages of Clincher Bike Tires

  • Durability – While this depends on each tire individually, clinchers are generally less durable than other options. One reason lies in the fact that clinchers often get a small piece of wood or rock stuck between the tire and tube, which usually causes a flat.
  • Safety – When clincher bike tires go flat, they go flat quickly. Other bike tires will allow you to maneuver for a while even with a flat, but clinchers won’t, and it can be a safety concern in some situations.
  • Rolling Resistance – Clincher bike tires have a higher rolling resistance because they have thicker sidewalls. Another factor that impacts rolling resistance is the bead found on clincher wheels.

Tubular Bike Tires

Tubular bike tires are similar to clinchers in structure since they also come with inner tubes. However, these are stitched into a fully enclosed casing that is later glued to the rims. Gluing the inner tubes to the rims has to be done carefully or it may be dangerous and pose a safety risk to ride with these tires.

Tubular tires are also called sew-ups in the US, while they are known as tubs in the UK and singles in Australia.

Advantages of Tubular Bike Tires

  • Weight – Since tubular bike tires don’t have a hook on the wheel necessary for fitting clincher bike tires, they are usually much lighter in comparison.
  • Performance – Compared to clinchers, tubular bike tires offer a suppler and gentler ride. Once again, the main reason is the lack of bead and hook that clinchers have for fitting.
  • Durability – Tubular tires are more resistant to punctures and you are less likely to get pinch flats when you use tubular bike tires.
  • Safety – Since tubular tires can keep on going even when punctured because they lose air slowly, they are much safer than clincher tires.

Disadvantages of Tubular Bike Tires

  • Installing – Installing tubular tires can be a difficult and tiresome job, especially for beginners and people who are used to dealing with clincher bike tires.
  • Maintenance – Although tubular tires are more durable than clinchers, they are more difficult to fix and maintain. You may even need to leave the tire at the shop to get it stitched up again in some cases.
  • Price – While tubular tires are not than expensive, they still cost some 20-30% more than clincher bike tires.

Tubeless Bike Tires

Unlike clinchers and tubular tires, tubeless bike tires don’t have a tube inside. Instead, they depend on the tires and rims to produce a powerful airtight chamber able to sustain the bike’s weight when pumped.

Tubeless bike tires are relatively new and they have only become popular in recent years. Some people think of them as a unique type of clincher tires because they also “clinch” to the wheel. In any case, many professional cyclists think of them as the future of the sport and more and more manufacturers are focusing on making bikes able to fit tubeless tires.

Advantages of Tubeless Bike Tires

  • Weight – Since there is no tube to add weight to the tire, tubeless tires are the lightest option of the three main types of bike tires. They are also more aerodynamic, which is important if you are a professional cyclist, but this is also true for clinchers.
  • Easy to Install and Maintain – Tubeless tires are similar to clinchers in structure and they are fitted in the same way. They don’t have to be glued or taped to a rim, so you’ll be able to install them easily, but they are not as easy to mount as clinchers, especially for first-timers.
  • Performance – Tubeless bike tires will provide you with a smooth and comfortable ride because they have lower rolling resistance and create less friction. They also operate on a lower pressure, which provides better traction and more control over the ride.
  • Durability – These tires are more resistant to punctures, so they are less likely to go flat. In addition to this, they also come with the ability to self-repair. All you need to do is put some sealant into the tire and it will fill up tiny punctures and minor leaks.

Disadvantages of Tubeless Bike Tires

  • Price – Tubeless bike tires are the most expensive option, plus you need to make sure that your bike has a tubeless-ready rim, or you may have a hard time installing these tires.
  • Fitting Can Be Messy – While we mentioned that these are easy to install, this process may not be as simple as you expect. For example, applying the sealant can be messy and difficult for beginners. Plus, the smell is bad and it is very sticky. The sealant also requires regular maintenance, every few months.
  • You May Still Need a Tube for Emergencies – Although tubeless bike tires are sturdy and durable, they can still suffer a puncture. If the tear is too big to be fixed by the sealant, you may need to use a tube to repair it on the road.

Uses of Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Bike Tires

Since each of these three main types of bike tires comes with unique qualities, some of them are more suitable for certain uses and terrain types or surfaces. So, let’s check this out.

Road

biking on the road

The vast majority of tires for road bikes are clinchers. They are the standard when it comes to road biking because they are affordable, easy to install and maintain, and available in various forms. They are also consistent and reliable, as well as the best choice for novice bikers or commuters.

So, if you are looking for the best road bikes, you should expect them equipped with clincher bike tires. However, some of them may also use tubular bike tires since they are more durable and may provide a smoother ride.

Racing

bike racing

The best choice for racing are tubular bike tires since they are light, aerodynamic, and provide a comfortable ride on long distances. Additionally, tubular tires can perform well even with low tire pressure. For example, most of the best triathlon bikes use tubular bike tires.

Tubular bike tires are also quite durable and rarely experience puncturing or pinch flats, which allow cyclists to focus on the race without having to worry about sudden punctures. This also makes tubular tires safer in racing conditions.

That being said, some cyclists still use clinchers for racing, while tubeless are also becoming more popular among professional bikers with each passing day.

Mountain

biking in the mountains

Mountain biking relies on choosing the right type of tires due to the specific conditions on the mountain trails. The best choice for this type of biking are tubeless tires since they can run on very low pressure, which can increase the quality of your ride and your comfort. They also have the ability to fix the small punctures on their own, thanks to their sealant properties.

If you are just starting out with mountain biking, putting tubeless tires on mountain bikes for beginners is the best choice since you are less likely to deal with sudden flats or to have to fix the tire yourself. After all, tubeless bike tires have strong casings that make them less susceptible to punctures and pinch flats.

These tires are also aerodynamic enough to help you ride against the wind and still keep your speed up.

How to Choose the Right Type of Bike Tires?

Choosing the right type of tires can be difficult, so focus on these features to make the selection faster and easier:

  • Purpose – As we said, you should choose the type of bike tires according to where you plan to use them. Road bikes work best with clinchers, racing bikes with tubular tires, while mountain bikes should be equipped with tubeless bike tires.
  • Technical Features – Consider features that are most important for you. Are you interested in bike tires that are easy to install and repair? Or do you put emphasis on performance and a smooth ride? Consider the weight of the tires, their durability and availability.
  • Maintenance – Being able to maintain and fix the tires yourself can save you a lot of money in the long run, so take this into account as well.
  • Price – The price shouldn’t be the most important factor in your decision, but it can nevertheless impact it significantly. If you are buying on a budget, your choices may be limited. The most affordable option is getting clinchers, while tubeless bike tires are the most expensive choice.

Conclusion

When you choose between clincher vs. tubular vs. tubeless bike tires, there are many factors to consider. We hope that our advice was helpful and that we made finding the right type of bike tire a little bit easier for you.

About The Author

Vladimir Kovacevic

Vladimir is a former journalism student and an active freelance writer. He has a lifelong passion for sports, especially soccer, basketball and tennis. His basketball playing days ended after high school but he still likes to play hoops with his friends. Vladimir also likes to ride his bike at some of the most popular green areas in Belgrade, Serbia.

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