Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Tires: Which Are the Best?

Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless tires on my arm.

This article compares clincher, tubular, and (clincher) tubeless-ready tires.

You learn their advantages, disadvantages, and things you should consider before buying them.

I’ve been using clincher and tubeless tires, so I also share my experiences. Regarding tubular tires, I asked my friends for their take on them.

Let’s dive in.

Road bike wheels use one of the following three types of tires:

  1. Clincher
  2. Tubular
  3. or Clincher (tubeless-ready)
Illustration of different types of wheel profiles (clincher vs. tubular vs. tubeless)
Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Tires

The following table summarizes the most important pros & cons of these tire/rim types.

Wheel/TireProsCons
Clincher• Easy to replace
• Easy to repair
• More prone to puncture
• Heavier than tubular or tubeless
Tubular• Allows very low and high tire pressure
• Less prone to puncture
• Lightweight
• Difficult to replace
• Difficult to repair
• More expensive than clincher
Tubeless• Allows lower tire pressure
• Self-repairing capability (sealant
fills out small holes, quality sealant required)
• Tricky installation without an air compressor
• Difficult to replace
• Difficult to repair
• More expensive than clincher
Pros & cons of clincher, tubular, and tubeless wheels/tires
Sources: cyclistshub.com, theproscloset.com, cyclingtips.com

I recommend clincher or (clincher) tubeless for beginners and advanced riders. Tubular wheels are suitable for pros or experienced riders.

Learn why below.

Clincher

Clincher tires are the most widespread type of tires. Their name is derived from their shape. They have a ‘clinch’ that hooks into the rim bed.

Clincher tires require the use of inner tubes, which provide the support of the tire. The inner tubes are mostly made of rubber or latex.

Tufo Calibra 25mm clincher tire with a tube inside
An example of a clincher tire (Tufo Calibra 25mm)

The inner tube holds the pressurized air, unlike tubeless-ready clincher or tubular tires.

You have to patch or replace the inner tube if you get a puncture. You may also have to replace the tire depending on the puncture severity.

Replacing the inner tube or the tire is the easiest of all tires. Together with their affordability, these are the reasons for their popularity.

However, the more durable (puncture-resistant), the more difficult it is to get them onto the rims.

The main disadvantages of clincher tires are that they require relatively high pressures, so they are not as comfortable as tubeless-ready tires or tubular. High pressures also make them more prone to puncture.

Tubeless Tires

Tubeless tires (also called clincher tubeless-ready) are an improved version of clincher tires.

The main difference between clincher and tubeless-ready (TR) tires is that TR-ready tires don’t require inner tubes.

Instead, they use liquid sealant that fills out gaps and possible leaks.

Tufo Comtura 4TR 28mm tire.
An example of a tubeless tire (Tufo Comtura 4TR 28mm)

Thanks to this sealant, tubeless tires have a self-repairing ability. In theory, if you get a puncture, the sealant fills it and allows you to continue riding.

Of course, this depends on how severe the puncture is. If you ride over a nail and take it out, the sealant won’t help you.

My experience is that you have to invest in quality sealant that will only be able to fill out small holes.

The most significant advantage of tubeless tires is their high comfort and puncture resistance.

This is because of lower tire pressure. This difference is around 20 PSI on road bike tires.

How big is this difference in comfort? Well, not bigger than switching from 25mm to 28mm tires on a road bike.

On the other hand, seating tubeless tires can be tricky. You may need additional accessories like the tire sealant, tubeless rim tape, an air compressor, or a specialized pump for tubeless tires.

PRO TIP: I have the best experience with an air compressor. Just make sure to remove the Presta valve core. You will allow more airflow, which makes seating TL tires easier.

The biggest downside of tubeless wheels is their higher price and weight than tubular wheels.

A WORD ABOUT HOOKLESS TIRES
If you use hookless rims (popular on ZIPP wheels), double-check their tire compatibility with the tires you want to use. Otherwise, you risk blowing them off your rims!

Tubular

Tubular tires are glued directly on rims. Therefore, they don’t require inner tubes or tire sealant.

You can think of them as a garden hose in the shape of a circle. Remember, they require special – tubular rims.

They share the low-pressure benefit with tubeless-ready tires, which are more comfortable than clincher tires.

But you can also inflate them to high pressures (above 120 PSI) suitable for smooth surfaces on a velodrome, new smooth tarmac, etc.

Continental Competition 25mm tubular tire
An example of a tubular tire (Continental Competition 25mm)

Tubular tires are relatively puncture-resistant. But because of their complicated installation and maintenance, replacing them after a puncture is more time-consuming and difficult. This is, assuming you are willing to carry a spare tubular tire.

One way to fix them on the side of the road is using a sealant that will fill the gap and allow you to inflate the tire.

This is why they are not too widespread among hobby cyclists but pros.


Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Tires FAQ


Conclusion

I recommend clincher tubeless tires for road, gravel, and mountain bike riders. They allow you to inflate lower pressures contributing to a more comfortable ride.

They also have a self-repairing capability, so if you get a puncture, the sealant will fill it out, and you can continue riding. However, it depends on the puncture severity.

Their only disadvantages are more difficult installation and higher prices than standard clincher tires.

Clincher tires are the most user-friendly, though.

What tires do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “Clincher vs. Tubular vs. Tubeless Tires: Which Are the Best?”

  1. This comprehensive article will answer everything I need to know about each tire type. Thanks a lot. This a perfect article.

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