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A friend is building a CX bike for me. I'm debating between getting a wheelset for clinchers or tubulars. (I assume that you can't put clinchers on a wheelset and then use the same wheels for tubulars.) As a rookie should I step up and start out with tubulars? As a rookie would I be able to take advantage of tubulars, or will I be such a noob that I could be using wooden wheels with iron tires and wouldn't notice the difference?

Thanks, Charlie

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The main benefit of tubulars is the ability to run low air pressue. Any racer, and particularly a new racer, would benefit from running a low air pressure without fear or problem of pinch flatting. If you pick up the last issue of the magazine you'll see the test they ran using different tire pressures, thus demonstrating the low pressure benefits. So, if you can handle the cost and hassle of tubulars you'll be better off as a racer. I see way too many people, especially new racers with way to high psi, they're usually people with a road racing background and are afraid to go below 60 psi. Be aware that if you live in an area with a lot of thorns, like I do, the cost of fixing (or buying new) tubulars could outweigh the performance benefits.
I had forgotten about thorns. Thanks for the reminder.

I live near San Jose, CA where some trees litter the streets with what I think of as "Thorn Mines" during the winter. Someone told me they come from sycamore trees. The Thorn Mines are about an inch in diameter, and covered with short thorns that have evolved to puncture bicycle tires.

My guess is that tubulars might give me the most bang for the buck. I'm thinking a lot about trade-offs. Right now I'm thinking that a custom frame and good wheelset are more important than the rest of the bits & pieces.

PS: It's raining so hard, I wonder if they'll cancel the San Jose stage of the Tour de California.
If thorns are a concern you might want to consider a tubless setup. That's what I'll be running this year. Not as good as tubulars but much better than clinchers and you get puncture resistance. Of course if you have the dough you could use tubeless or clinchers for training rides and throw on the tubulars for races.
I wondered about thorns...

Are they fixable once punctured? Can you run something like tuffo sealant in them to seal any punctures on the fly?
If you are just going to be riding around, and racing occasionally, go with the clinchers (or tubeless, even). If you are going to race a full season, tubulars really are the way to go.

I race on tubulars, but for training (probably 85% of my 'cross riding) I ride a set of Mavic Open Pro (clinchers) laced to Ultegra hubs. Then I use them for pit wheels, too. You can get that setup for about $225 pretty much anywhere. Either way, use some sealant to help with punctures. You can get cheap tubulars on ebay, if you are patient and know what you want. I picked up a used set of Mavic Reflexes w/ DuraAce hubs on ebay, and I love them.

My goal is to race the full Bay Area Super Prestige series (five races) in Masters 55+. I will probably do a couple of early-season races for practice (Livermore?), and then a couple late-season races (Watsonville?) for fun.

I like the idea of 'cheap' clincher training wheels and a set of race wheels. I'm a bike commuter, so the clinchers may be more practical for commuting in the spring & summer. I think I'd also use the race wheels for technique practice sessions.

Thanks, Charlie
Maybe somebody has already said this but tubulars are for racing or training on a closed cx-styles courses where you have less chance of hitting something that will wreck at tire. Road riding, or training on rough ground should be handled with easier and cheaper to fix clinchers.

While tubulars are the way to go, if you haven't raced much, or at all before, then may you should try a season on clinchers before you go tubular. This year a few guys that tried tubs for the first time were turned off by flats and ruined tires in their first race. They found themselves out of the race and big $$$ too quickly. A year on clinchers will also help you appreciate tubulars more next year. There's nothing wrong with Michelen Mud 2s by the way. While I race almost exclusively on tubs I still go back to the Muds once in a while.


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