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The Skinny on Cycling Tires

By Sarah Bonner

The metal wire, or “bead,” runs the circumference of the tire on either side and hooks on to the rim. Photo credit: conti-online.com

The metal wire, or “bead,” runs the circumference of the tire on either side and hooks on to the rim.
Photo credit: conti-online.com

While roadies need slicks and mountain bikers need knobblies, there are only three main categories of cycling tires: clinchers, tubular, and tubeless. There are different options for both road and dirt. Understanding the basic construction of each type of tire will help you choose which one is right for your needs.

Clinchers: Clinchers are the most commonly used tire and consist of a tire and tube system. Clincher tires are U-shaped and use a metal wire, known as a tire “bead,” to hook onto the rim of the wheel. The separate tube that is inserted between the rim and the tire holds the air pressure and keeps the tire secured to the rim. Although flats are more frequent with clincher tires, a tube is easily replaced or repaired, making clincher tires the most common for their easy maintenance, use, and affordability.

The tire is completely enclosed around a tube. The tread sits on the outside of the rim to make contact with the road while the under-surface is glued onto the rim. Photo credit: conti-online.com:

The tire is completely enclosed around a tube. The tread sits on the outside of the rim to make contact with the road while the under-surface is glued onto the rim. Photo credit: conti-online.com:

Tubular: Tubular, or “tubbies” as they are often called, are tires with tubes sewn directly in them. The tire is glued to a special rim using special tubular glue. Although tubbies are more pinch-flat resistant than clinchers, they are more expensive to run, difficult to fit, and are not easily repaired if a puncture does occur. However, along with being puncture resistant, tubbies offer superior handling, making them the top choice for racing.

Tubeless: As the name implies, tubeless tires do not require a tube. The tire is fitted directly to the rim and once inflated provides an airtight seal. Unlike other tires, the valve system is attached to the rim and not the tire. Although tubeless technology is coming to the road, tubeless tires are mainly used in mountain biking and are favoured for their ability to hold low air pressures (for better traction) and still be puncture resistant. If a puncture does occur, the airtight casing in the tire can be patched, much like a standard tube.

tubeless bicycle tire

Like a clincher, tubeless tires set onto the rim with a tyre bead but, unlike a clincher, once adhered to the rim tubeless tires create an airtight seal. The airtight seal is created with the help of a liner.
Photo credit: conti-online.com


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sarah Bonner

 

Sarah Bonner the author of a new e-article, The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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