Tubeless or Tubular? Cyclocross Problems

Montage from NEOCX Gran Prix 2012

Cyclocross season is approaching. In approaching, I mean I’ve been training; with a regular schedule and purpose. I did fairly well my first time out in 2012, so I think if I actually trained, I might actually do better. What I did notice during those races, was the disadvantage I had of not being able to go lower than 45 PSI in my tires. Well, actually, I ran them closer to 50 PSI to avoid pinch flatting on the course. I’m not a Cat 4 racer with a pit bike. Which brings me to the question:

Tubeless or Tubular?

Stream of consciousness after the break.


I’m going to write about the newer of the two first. Pros with the tubeless setup are:
  • I have a pretty wide choice of tires, tubeless specific and ones that are good candidates to convert to tubeless.
  • No gluing. I am adept at gluing tires, but it’s still a labor intensive process.
  • I can run a tube if I lose all air. Not in a race obviously.
  • I have wheels that can convert, so no outlay of cash for a new wheelset.
There are all sorts of posts and anecdotes online about converting existing wheelsets to tubeless, so I am confident I can do it. But do I? It still isn’t 100% with conversions, though with my weight, that is most likely a non-issue. What I am referring to is “burping,” which is fine for babies and social interactions between fraternity brothers, but not so much for tubeless tires. It’s when the bead pulls away from the rim under load, typically in a hard turn, and air “burps” out. Some riders report it happens often with certain tire/rim combinations, and less so with others.


English: En: Cutaway diagrams created in illus...
Tubular rim work (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The grandaddy of tire rim interfaces. Look at old pictures of the Tour de France and you’ll see riders with tubular tires looped around their shoulders. Tubular tires are tires with tubes sewn into them. You’ll hear th
em referred to as “sew ups” as well. The nice thing about totally encasing a tube inside a tire is that you get a more rounder profile, for asphalt nerds, and you have the ability to run really low pressure with a reduced chance of pinch flatting, for cyclocross geeks. Pros fot tubulars:
  • Tires are well-designed as nearly all tubulars are run by pros.
  • Reeeeeaaaaalllllly low pressure ability.
  • Lighter overall, less rotational weight to get moving.
Drawbacks to this plan? I have to buy a new wheelset. I am also planning on upgrading the race steed by bringing in a disc-equipped bike (purists, unknot your panties, geez) so chances are, that bike will have a nicer wheelset.
Decisions, decisions. From a financial perspective, I am leaning towards tubeless this year. Though a set of tubulars would be mighty nice.

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