Rolling The Dice.

The main reason I have used tubulars in the past is simple.

It has very little to do with ride quality, although that is a benefit. It has nothing to do with being able to run sealant, although that is pretty cool as well. In fact., most of the common reasons for staying in the arcane world of tubular tires didn't fully apply.

The main reason was braking.

I wanted to run carbon wheels.

I didn't want to run carbon wheels with aluminum brake tracks or aluminum rims with a carbon fairing as my race wheels. This is mainly because they are heavy as hell and I do well enough on my own in that regard.

I wanted to run full-carbon wheels.

I wanted to run them because first and foremost, they're sexy and I'm shallow. Even people who don't ride bikes comment on how they make the bike look faster. When my bike looks faster, I feel faster, and hopefully that translates into actual reality.

While there are carbon clinchers out there that remove all of the negative characteristics of tubulars (glue), I've never trusted them. Early carbon clinchers had a tendency to delaminate at the brake track because of heat. The brake track was the weakest part of the rim, which also served as the attachment point for the tire. Uneven carbon layup could make catastrophic failure a very real possibility. Eventually the premium brands improved their manufacturing methods and for the low-low price of $2500 you could have somewhat reasonable assurances that your next purchase wouldn't be a new set of teeth.

However, I've never been a premium kind of guy, unless it was on the used market. My carbon wheel purchases have been more of the open-mold variety, where the Toray T700 carbon fiber advertised may turn out to be old dish rags held together with super glue. You pick vendors that people have had good (non-fatal) results with, and hope for the best.

For this reason, I run tubulars. The brake track is stronger structurally than on clinchers, so the tire is more likely to stay attached in the event things do go south. My braking technique has never been described as feathered, so there are times I generate some heat on the brake track. So far, everything has held together and I still have my teeth.

Recently a local rider made an offer I chose not to refuse. A pretty-new set of 50mm carbon clinchers from a relatively reputable vendor for a reasonable price. Lacking the restraint of a normal human, I agreed to his terms.

I probably won't race them. I'll use them as training tires so I can take my race bikes out for a ride without swapping out brake pads. That will be nice, since I don't train on my tubulars because flat tires are a very real possibility and swapping out a tubular isn't something I'd want to do on the road. I know they did it for years before clinchers were widely accepted, but the also used to ride the Tour de France without derailleurs. Time marches on.

I'll take a shot. I might even like them. I might break my collar bone.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


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