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Training on Tubular Tyres

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Most of the times when you think tubular tyres you imagine fine hand craftsmanship, supple ride quality and of course time consuming gluing. The first two attributes is something you want, and let’s face anything that spells inconvenience, you run as far away from as possible.

Therefore gluing tubulars is usually reserved for your precious racing wheels. However, training kilometers can be handled by tubular tyres as well. After more than a year of daily training I describe my experiences.

For me the biggest advantage of the tubular tyre/rim combination is strength; a 450g tubular rim is much stronger than a 450g clincher. Wheels that are going to see a lot  (my 90kgs included) should just shrug off rough terrain, mud, and rain. Also since changing tyres is a touch more involved than with clinchers, I run tyres until the threads show up, rather than looking what is the latest and greatest product out there.

The first time gluing tubulars is an awkward experience, however, like all experiences of such character it gets infinitely better the more you do it. It is not much different that fitting regular tyres. So after the first flat, you would be surprised how easy it is to do. I just add glue to any bare spots on the rim and a thin layer on the tyre. Install, pump to 10bar (~150psi) and let it sit overnight. The next day you just adjust the pressure and the tyre is ready to ride. Rolling a road tubular is pretty difficult since the pressure itself holds the tyre firmly on the rim.

Since most tubulars are racing tyres they are very fast rolling, very thin, and very grippy, so they get torn up from daily use very quickly. There are 3 options that are good for everyday training. I personally have had good experience with the Continental Sprinter Gatorskin, it is a very tough tyre. Schwalbe has the Durano Tubular, however, the tyre is vulcanized, not sewn together so it is not repairable, although according to Schwalbe it should last 10000kms (~600miles) under regular use. Vittoria has the Pavé Evo CG, which is a tougher tyre, however, it is still mostly a race day choice (Paris-Roubaix nonetheless). The Vittoria has a latex inner tube so it is not repairable with a regular patch kit.

Price wise, the Sprinter Gatorskin is about half the price (EU35) of the Schwalbe (EU55) or the Vittoria Pavé (EU70).

Punctures do happen, however,  once you learn how to repair it is no problem. Although you can ride a flat tubular, you risk denting the rim. You have to carry a (pre-glued) spare tyre with you, I have found the Jandd tyre bag to be perfect, in addition you can fold and tie the tyre in a Ziploc bag and carry it in a bottle cage on shorter rides when you don’t need more than one bottle. I am partial to CO2 cartridges rather than a pump. I have not yet used any sealants, however, I hear Stan’s is pretty good.

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