To Tub or not to Tub.


Of late I find myself riding my track bike less and less in favour of a freewheel and 12 gears. Maybe it’s my age and me suddenly worrying about the future of my knees or maybe it’s simply the ease of a freewheel and it’s allure, I don’t know.

So, there sits my track bike, with it’s deep section rims, sealed bearing hubs and clincher tyres – the perfect set up for a commuter and a summer slammer. But as I said I hardly ride it these days so just recently I made the decision ( anal as it is ) to take this 1976 hot rod back to it’s former glory and hook it up with what it has no doubt been yearning for since it’s purchase over a year ago. Low profile tubular rims and tyres laced to cup and cone and easily servicable campagnolo pista hubs.

Such a beautiful sight to behold is a track bike in period correct attire. There is one problem, however. In my haste I did not fully appreciate the rigmorole involved in applying tubular tyres to their rims.

Last night, I spent well over an hour trawling websites and blogs trying to find a definitve answer as to the best method of attaching tyre to rim and, well, by far the funniest explanation and in some ways the most truthful came from the Bike Snob… Totally lulled into thinking he was actually being serious I read on until he began talking about the best method of tyre stretching “The best method is to slip the tire over a street sign and then fasten it to the bumper or ball hitch of your car. Then put the car in gear and slowly accelerate. Once the street sign begins to bend the tire should be sufficiently stretched”. Duped. So I headed over to Jim Langley’s webspot and had a read, until he points out the tools I will need: good tubular tires (this is crucial because crummy tires can be very difficult to install properly, often wear prematurely and develop glitches such as the basetape separating from the tire) ,glue (clear or white glues are easier to use and less messy than red ones; my favorite is Wolber, if you can find it) , plastic baggies ,used sew-up rims or wheels, cone wrench, medium emery cloth, acetone, spoke or piece of wire, flux brushes (available at hardware stores for next to nothing) . Far too complicated for me and in one of his opening paragraphs he speaks of rolling tyres off rims – scary.

The best website I found with a no bullsh*t approach was Park Tools. Straight to the point with factual info on how this task is to be done, for new rims and used, I found this article very helpful, although now I am looking to read more about tub tape… maybe that is an easier, less messy and less fiddly solution?

Tubular tyres on the road it seems is most certainly an acquired taste, but it is a fact that they have their benefits, of which we will not speak of at this point because I think overall, clinchers will always win, simply because of their versatility. That said, my track bike does not need versatility right now, what it does need, though, above all is to look pretty, standing in the corner of my dining room with the wheels that were meant for it.

I am not a ‘fixie’ skidder and I do not plan on riding it that much in the near future so once I have attached these tyres to their rims using either glue or tape I think I’ma be alright, plus overall, the Raleigh will thank me for it.

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4 Responses to “To Tub or not to Tub.”

  1. Edward Scoble Says:

    Went through the same phrase as you.

    first it was all about the fixie skidding uncomfortably high saddle height, untaped drop bar, and brakelessness.

    now it’s all about the 10 speeds (well on mine) transmission, perfect brake set-up, shiny velo orange mudguard and fat comfortable tyres but still fast enough.

    I think it happen to everyone in the world, I somewhat find that riding my fixed wheel bicycle helped me developed my riding style on the geared bicycle better (choosing the right cadence, keeping a rhythm, thinking about what could happen in front of you before you make a move etc.).

    anyhow, straight to tubular tyres, I’ll tell you this, I fucking love them, you know when you corner very hard, you can feel the tyres ‘move’ very slightly, however on a tubular tyres, it feel very precise, when you roll round a corner, the tyres still feel perfectly round regularless of how tight the corner is.

    beauty of having a second bicycle is that you can able to run your track bike in component you wouldn’t wish riding on everyday, like campag hubs and tubular tyres.

  2. Gavin Campbell Says:

    You are absolutely right Edward,

    I think for those ( just like me ) who discovered road/racing bikes through riding a fixed gear, you end up either wanting to go one of two ways ( probably dependent on age and your sports history ): You will either turn to the new and growing tricks scene or you will get into road bikes simply because you want to ride for longer periods of time and over longer distances. Because sometimes a fixed gear just won’t do, that said, it will totally ‘do’ but maybe just with less finesse.

    Don’t get me wrong however, the fixed gear and more specifically the track bike still remains firmly planted in my heart. They are so much fun to ride and, well as far as aesthetics go track bikes look fu**ing awesome.

    There is also an element of history, too. Those getting into fixed gear bikes will inevitably ( whilst searching for parts for a build ) come across a huge pool of history surrounding various pieces of hardware and this then leads onto, perhaps a yearning for a deeper knowledge of ‘the sport’. I would hazard a guess that 99% of fixed gear riders, was it not for their chosen method of transport, would not care one iota of the track championships or Britain’s involvement in the 2012 olympics. Just like, was it not for me discovering the road bike through riding a fixed gear I would not know or care about someone like Il Campionissimo, nor would I yearn to go out riding on a sunday morning for x km while my legs burn and scream for me to halt.

    I guess all I am saying and you Ed, is that a fixed gear is great but they have their place and their use, as does a road bike.

    Thanks for your reply too Ed.

  3. Raleigh Snaps. « * SPINWELL CYCLING CLUB * Says:

    […] remember last week I mentioned that I planned to fit some tubular tyres onto my newly purchased wheels? Well, I have only gone and […]

  4. Exenger of Doom Says:

    Opposite way for me. I rode a road bike first. Then the gears fucked up. I got sick of the regular maintenance then went fixed, then singlespeed.

    SS is my main bike for commuting and whatever other fairly local transport I need, road bike is for leisurely sunday rides.

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