Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday News And Views

Where are the tubulars for gravel?
The shop where I work at was doing some tubulars for a customer the other day that is going to run them at RAGBRAI. (!!!) That's another story, but the wheels and tires got me to thinking about some conversations I had a couple years ago about tubulars for gravel road riding. Now........hold on there! I know you may be thinking that tubulars are a really stupid idea for gravel roads, but please humor me for a bit here......

There have been tubular tires for bicycle use for over a century, and much of that time the roads were gravel, dirt, or poorly paved. So, it isn't like the concept of a tubular wouldn't work, because clearly, history shows us that it can work and work well. Secondly, as with any other bicycle related thing, materials technology has advanced light years beyond where it was even ten years ago. This is important because the way in which we affix a tubular tire to a rim is changing drastically right now. That will make tubulars a much easier choice for cyclists going forward. Finally, the way in which tubulars work could actually make tubeless tires for gravel roads a poorer choice. For one thing, you'd never have to worry about burping a tire, blow offs, or rubber degradation which could lead to a blow off. Then there is weight, and that's a game a tubular tire and wheel will always win over a clincher.

The thing is, the hang up has always been the archaic way we've been affixing these tires to rims with glue. Folks don't want to mess with that, and it makes for a difficult situation in the field when it comes to a catastrophic flat, in which case you have to replace the tire. Well, now there are rim tapes out that solve this problem to a greater degree than before, and just on the horizon, there is the promise of a tape that will base it's tire holding prowess on air pressure. More pressure in the tubular pressing against the rim will equal a greater resistance to sheering forces. Less pressure in the tubular will create the opposite effect. That would mean that in case of a flat repair in the field, the new tubular could be exchanged easier, and when inflated, would theoretically have the same adhesion to the rim as the previous tire when it was inflated. Immediate adhesion, and ease of mounting/dismounting tubulars would revolutionize the idea of tubular tire usage for all sorts of cycling, and gravel road riders would benefit.

I think tubular tires like that in larger sizes, like 35-40mm, make a lot of sense for gravel roads. I say bring it on already!

Jeremy climbing a B Level road on the '10 GTDRI
Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational

It's time to start talking about this year's "score to settle" with a certain course I have used three times previously for the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. (Heretofore to be referred to as the GTDRI)  First, let me say this: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE "INVITED" TO DO THIS RIDE. This is essentially a pompous name for a no-drop group ride. Got it? Just show up, have fun, be prepared to suffer, and do a 100 plus miles in a day. That's all. Now with that out of the way.......

This year's edition will be on Saturday July 25th, 2015. The ride will start at 5:30am and will be approximately 120 miles long. (I have 115 down, but it could be longer than that. Gotta check my old cues.) This will be a super tough day in the saddle if the weather is typical for that time of year. (Read "hot, humid, and possibly windy") Out of the three attempted GTDRI's on this route, only the first try was successful. One year it was just too blamed hot, and last year.....well. There was that crash where I got hit by a truck. So, I'm going back to finish the job and check this one off the list.

There will be more on this ride coming soon, but first I have Odin's Revenge to get through, and my main focus will be on that for now. That said, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or to shoot me an e-mail.

That's it for today. Have a great weekend and ride your bicycle somewhere fun!


Exhausted_Auk said...

Wasn't one tire company (Challenge?) planning to release a 36mm tubular, similar to their 38mm gravel tire?

I think that the arrival of sealant is another game changer for tubulars. In most cases this removes the need to change a tire on the road.

What we need now is a nice wide, disc specific tubular rim!

Guitar Ted said...

@Exhausted_Auk- Yes, that is correct, but there have been no rumors of it ever having been put into production, or even prototyped.

On the rim side, I have been told by Velocity USA that they believe their Major Tom rim can adequately support such a tire. There are also Vittoria aluminum tubular rims for mtb out there as well, (perhaps branded as GEAX yet), but they are a bit heavy. (For a tubular rim, that is.)

fasteddy said...

Tubulars make spectacular gravel tires. All the reasons that make them great road and cross tires - low rolling resistance, no pinch flats, smooth ride, great 'sticktion' and handling - make them great for gravel. I've been riding FMB Paris Roubaix 27's (which measure closer to 30) on Iowa gravel and winter roads for years. They are amazing. Now that I have a bike that will accommodate wider tires, I'll be exploring some of the wider options. I understand Francois will glue Paris Roubaix treads on any of his casings, so a 30 or 33 might be in my future.

Gluing is just a matter of practice - there is nothing to be fearful of. I only seem to have flats when riding pavement (knock wood!) but doing a field change is a 5-10 minute task with the right prep.

Try it, you'll like it!

STW said...

I thought a tubular's tendency to stay on a rim was always partially due to higher pressure, ever since they've been around. Is that not the case?

fasteddy said...

Not really, or not necessarily. Look at 'cross tires. Tubulars run at 20-30 psi subjected to the off-camber and lateral forces of cyclocross derive no benefit from air pressure to stay on. Road tubulars are often, though not always, run at lower pressures than clinchers. Also, there is variance in rims and tubular manufacture that likely contribute more than air pressure to keeping a tire on. Some Continental tubulars will take your fingers off before you get it on some rims.

Bottom line, don't rely on air pressure to keep your tubulars on under any circumstances. You won't be happy with the outcome. But, simple gluing techniques are fool-proof. In any case, riding gravel with tubulars requires no exceptional steps. Same techniques as the road.

john said...

HEy Mark -
You still work for EUROPA?
There are some great tubulars out there just waiting for a gravel ride. I'm riding some Jets for a race in Cedar City, Utah next week.