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Tubular Tires and Punctures

Last updated 2011-09-10 - Send Feedback
Related: gear, Maintenance, Road Bikes, tubular
Veloflex Record 22mm tubular tire

I ride tubular (“sew up”) tires exclusively.

Most flats in tubular tires are pinholes from fine wires or glass cuts.

However, even with sudden tire failure (e.g., a nail through the tire), the resilient carcass and tube of a tubular tends to give you at least a few revolutions of the wheel before going completely flat, whereas a clincher and butyl tube dump you onto the pavement.

Always carry a spare tubular tire, see How to Carry a Spare Tubular/Sew-Up Tire.

Service life in general

Most flats I’ve had with tubular tires have been slow ones— enough in some cases to ride home without risking rim damage.

As well, most flats I’ve had with tubular tires were after significant wear, with the tire visibly worn, being squared-off from wear.

Front tires last 4-5X as long as rear tires for me, because climbing puts massive torque on the rubber on the rear tire, and next to none on the front tire. So I use the race-weight Veloflex Record on the front, and (usually), the more durable Veloflex Sprinter on the rear.

Tire sealant works!

Several year of experience has taught me that Stan’s No Tubestire sealant not only works for on-the-road tire repair, it often rescues tires that would otherwise have to be tossed, making them rideable for months more. Forget the other gimmicky crap on the market—seriously.

Tire like the 25C Veloflex Roubaix uses somewhat lower pressure (100 - 110 PSI) versus 115-120 PSI for slimmer tires. The Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant is highly effective with the Veloflex Roubaix (the sealant tends to blow out over about 105 PSI if the hole exceeds a certain size).

Tire sealant is often not enough for fixing a significant size puncture in a racing weight tubular tire (e.g. Veloflex Sprinter or Veloflex Record), but it often works well enough to ride home on, or finish an even. Stan’s sealant will seal up fairly large cuts, though it might take a little more sealant and the pressures kept low. For pinhole leaks—no problem—total fix good as new in most cases.

For a minor leak, I add 1/2 bottle of Stan’s No Tubes sealant, which is about 20 grams of fluid. Be sure to use tires with a removable valve core, and carry the tiny valve-removal tool in a little plastic baggie.

After adding the Stans No Tubes, reinflate and go. If the sealant spews out, shake-shake-shake, inflate some more repeat. If necessary, add more sealant. For bad cuts, be persistent— the stuff almost always forms its glob, but that does require pressure to make it “set”.

Stans NoTubes works great for pinhole leaks— and the tubular tire then retains air better than ever, because it seals up any and all small holes (tubular generally lose 20-30 psi overnight as shipped).

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Side-cut example

This sideswipe cust as shown below gave me enough wheel revolutions (about 3-4 seconds) to slow down from the ~30 mph I was doing at the time. That is a precious give that might save you from a nasty fall.

This type of side cut shows why modestly heavier tires are unlikely to yield better safety: the sidewalls are not really any stronger than on the lighter race tires; penetration is achieved no matter what. Only quite heavy tires could be expected to better resist this type of damage, and would likely still need replacement for safety reasons.

Veloflex Sprinter tire side-slashed by rock or sharp object

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