Monday, April 21, 2008

Makin' It Stick: How to Install Tubular Tires


The “Tubulars vs. Clinchers” debate is a heated one—at least, it used to be until I settled it once and for all awhile back. However, there still are valid reasons for using them, so we shan’t be seeing their sticky undersides permanently rolling off the rim of cycling any time soon. If you’re new to cycling and are unfamiliar with tubulars, they are those tires that you glue onto your rim, and some other common names for them are sew-ups, tubs, tubies, singles, wheel gaskets, glue-gutted rim adders, Sissy Spacek’s lips, Brandt baiters, and Flemish rubbers.

I’m not going to go into the reasons you might want to choose a tubular over a clincher. Maybe you want to run low tire pressure, or you don’t like how clinchers look sticking out of the pocket of your wool jersey, or you just like playing with glue. Or maybe you’ve found that clincher tires simply don’t perform well on your tubular wheelset. Whatever--you have your reasons and it’s none of my business. All I’m concerned with is making sure you know how to keep them stuck to your rims so you don’t kill me if I find myself riding near you. Of course, arguments about how to properly glue up a tubular are even older than the tubular/clincher debate, so it can be difficult to separate fact from myth. Well, forget everything you’ve ever learned, because I’m proud to present my definitive guide for mounting tubulars in five easy steps:

1) Stretch the Tire

A tire must be properly stretched in order to fit easily onto your rim. Traditional methods such as mounting them unglued on a dry rim or simply standing on them and stretching them by hand are generally insufficient. 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.

If you don’t have access to a car you can also use the human self-preservation instinct to stretch your tire. Simply slip your tire over a neighbor’s doorknob and then fasten the other end to a cleat on a stationary object like a wall. Then pound on the door and yell, “Fire, fire!” Your neighbor’s frantic and futile attempts to flee the “inferno” in which he or she is now trapped should provide more than enough stretching force—and hilarity!

2) Age the Tire

As any old mechanic will tell you, a tire needs to be properly aged to insure maximum puncture resistance. Ideally, this should involve storing it in a musty basement for no less than a year. However, few of us have that kind of time. If you simply must use your tire sooner rather than later, save up a week’s worth of dirty cycling shorts. Then, place the tire along with the shorts, two cups of vinegar, and three teaspoons of mayonnaise in a plastic garbage bag and leave it under the sink for a week. By the end of the week you should have a properly aged tire as well as an infestation of some kind.

3) Prep the Rim

Some people say you should start with a completely clean rim. Others say you should leave the old glue on there since it provides a base to which the new glue can adhere. The fact is that it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the condition of your rim, take it outside and rub the rim bed on an abrasive surface like a curb or the corner of a brick wall. You should do this at night, because until you see sparks you’re not using enough force. Do this until the entire rim bed is hot and rough to the touch. I call this the “Thomas’ English Muffin” technique, because it creates lots of nooks and crannies in which the adhesive can hide.

4) Make your Adhesive

This is yet another subject everybody argues about. One rider’s favorite brand of tubular glue is the culprit in another rider’s rolled tire nightmare story. Some swear by red glue, others by clear. Some use tape instead of glue. And some even use adhesives not designed for tires, such as 3M Fastack.

The truth is, they’re all terrible. The best tire glue can be made cheaply and easily at home. Put four cups of natural honey in a mixing bowl. Then add two teaspoons of Krazy Glue, one tablespoon of kerosene, and three egg yolks and whip vigorously with a whisk for about a minute. That’s it—you’re done!

(Not only does this make a great adhesive, but you can also use the leftovers to make your own energy bars. Just stir in a box of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch and let cool in the fridge overnight. It’s so filling you may never eat again.)

5) Mount the Tire

Take a paintbrush, apply a thin coat of glue to your rim bed and another to the base tape of the tire. Let dry for 20 minutes as you walk urgently in circles, count toothpicks that have fallen on the floor with uncanny accuracy, mutter about how you’re a very good driver, and cite Quantas’ crash-free record. Then, apply a second coat to the rim and carefully mount your tire. While I generally advise dressing semi-formally for the occasion when you’re doing bike maintenance, in this case I suggest you avoid wearing a neck tie or bollo tie while you mount a tubular as it’s possible it may get stuck in between the rim and the tire and madcap hilarity may ensue.

Once the tire is mounted, inflate partially and let it dry overnight. Then, inflate to full pressure, install the wheel, and ride as usual! (Taking pains of course to avoid: descents that involve prolonged braking; glass, gravel, or other types of road debris; riding in extremely hot weather; riding in extremely cold weather; aggressive cornering; aggressive straight-line riding; riding near beehives; and any situation that might necessitate a tire change.)

Oh yeah—don’t forget to savor that magical tubular ride quality!

78 comments:

Jonathan said...

!st.

Yawn.

Anonymous said...

podium

Anonymous said...

Pathleet for the win!

Anonymous said...

Huh - who cares about tubulars. Shoulda done it about Soma Everwears or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Pass!!!

O'claire said...

Damn leg cramps!

Anonymous said...

Huh?

Adam said...

Tubulars:

More expensive, less practical, fewer tire choices, and more chances for catastrophic failure.

Because of these drawbacks, I only run them on my Pista, where they are truly appreciated.

bother yam said...

Do they make 650B tubulars?

Anonymous said...

FIRST! SUCKERS!

Jim said...

Man, I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue...

Todd said...

You forgot to add the part about riding with cab money just in case you get a flat and left your spare tire at home.

AH said...

"Put four cups of natural honey in a mixing bowl. Then add two teaspoons of Krazy Glue, one tablespoon of kerosene, and three egg yolks and whip vigorously with a whisk for about a minute."

Isn't that same recipe for homemade napalm from the "Anarchist's Cookbook?"

mr.complaint said...

It is a fact that the French age their tubulars in the wine casks of Bordeaux. And the Belgian Trappist monks care for the tires of their Flahoote and Walloony heroes, in their high yeast vats.

I've been using the two-buck chuck as chain cleaner for years. I hadn't thought of it as an additive for making my own glue.

That tire stretching technique works real well on those Wolber steel belted tubies.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely need 150psi 400tpi sew-ups on my tubular carbon rims to rule nubs on the bike path.

Pathleet on your left!

funny movie reference smartypants said...

Man, I picked the wrong week to stop carrying a pre-glued spare. . .

erik k said...

snob I tried you glue mixing recipe and this is what happened to my kitchen

bikesgonewild said...

...erik k...sometimes small sacrifices need to be made to the cycling gods...

leroy said...

Wait a minute.

I've been using that "wrong-week-to-give-up-sniffing-glue" routine from Airplane for the last three weeks to describe what work has been like.

Great. Just great.

Now it looks like I also picked the wrong week to re-cycle comedic classics!

ka_jun said...

http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/bik/647407464.html

Sorry, just had to share after my satisfying bout of schadenfreude.

Commiecanuk said...

Aging rubber makes it stronger, that's why I had that Trojan in my wallet for 6 years, when the time came, I could trust that rubber. (That was a also another good application of tire glue.)

Lance aged his tubulars, that, and massive amounts of dope helped him win the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic and eventually tap one or both of the Olsen twins. So who's laughing now BSNYC? Mary-Kate and/or Ashley, ...that's who.

johnb said...

So, What's on tap for tomorrow - all the reasons we should be using schrader valves instead of presta?

delerious smartypants said...

commie 1:58:

Enough with the "lance was on drugs" theories already. We know where you're coming from, being Canadian and all.

At any rate, the truth is pretty obvious. Regardless of Lance's supposed drug use, he would have won anyways. It wasn't drugs that boosted his performance, it was the vroooom vroooom racecar noises he makes when he passes people or pulls away from the group.

Just watch that famous video of him pulling away from Jens in 2002 or whenever it is - his lips are obvious buzzing with a big loud vrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRR. . .VRRRRRRRRRRRRRwwwrRRRRRRRRR as he shifts through imaginary gears on his way to making history.

Anonymous said...

riding tubulars has a zen-like quality. I read that online. I am going to put some tubbies (thanks again, interweb!) on my velocity deep-vs, I hear it is the new thing. awesome

OpenYourEyes said...

Yeah, I agree...
What about the art of the tubular tire?
What about the history?

Isn't it like the Japanese tea ceremony of cycling? Isn't the act of prepping, stretching, gluing, mounting and riding a participation in one of the greatest rituals since cycling's invention in 642 B.C.?

Tradition!

Anonymous said...

tubulars give you that extra push on race day...DUH! BKW is the true guru of the sew-up tradition.

Jim said...

Smartypants, sure Lance was on drugs. But he got them FOR FREE IN CANADA! Because that and all the other Canadian drugs (except, inexplicably, 4/20) are free.

And, if the fact that Canadians were involved doesn't make it right, then I'd rather be wrong. Look at other things that would be utterly out of bounds if they weren't Canadian - hockey enforcers, curling, bacon sandwiches... Mmmmmmmmm.... baconnnnnn...

Matt said...

I aged a pair of Clement Campionata del Mundo Setas in my garage for 27 years. The rubber got so strong it cracked. The silk was looking a little piqued as well. Anyway, they weren't that good, I was still slow.

localoverground said...

PistaDex is high and strong today in Austin, TX: http://austin.craigslist.org/bik/650427352.html

linky smartypants said...

milk bags. . .


Wait, what?

daddo.one said...

someone has a lot more time these days....

..you need a job, snob?

Commiecanuk said...

Of course Lance didn't dope, only every guy who ever came close to him doped, and almost every member of his teams.
The fact that he never tested positive proves this...like David Millar. And massive hormone abuse does NOT lead to testicular cancer.

I read all of his books, Lance won because he trained hard, unlike typical European racers who just enjoyed 6 week holidays while eating fatty food and frogs. He also won because of his 100rpm climbing technique he discovered, while those moron Europeans were pedaling at 75-80rpm, Lance knew that pedaling faster would make him win, thanks to USA power meter technology.

It's still sad to see the bus loads of Olympians crossing the border looking for our free drugs, hell, I'm so 'roided up I typed this in 1.1 seconds after throwing a table out my office window.

Anonymous said...

If Lance said "I've never taken drugs." as often as he says "I've never tested positive," then MAYBE I could just barely believe he raced clean.

I hope everyone was RIVETED to their TVs this morning for Lance's historic run in the Boston Marathan (for, ahem 200-somethingth place.) Thank you Versus! What would I do without you following Lance around all the time two years after he retired?

Anonymous said...

Not to nag or anything, but Qantas is spelled without the U. Kind of like Qaida.

bikesgonewild said...

...commiecanuck...that whole pedal faster thing works for me...now say your legs go zoom, zoom, Zoom but say mine go like zoom, zoom, Zoom, zoom, zoom, well it stands to reason that i win, right ???...
...now if lance came out of retirement, he could go to, say, seven or even eight zooms & where would everybody else be ???...zoomin', sure but not enough, eh ???...

...lemme explain it this way...while other guys guitar amplifiers go to ten, my pal nigel's goes to like eleven, see & that's one more...so...

...i'm always glad to share reasonable explanations...

ka_jun said...

http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/sfo/608546617.html

Ah...joy.

Jim said...

>>>hell, I'm so 'roided up I typed this in 1.1 seconds after throwing a table out my office window.

Okay, fine, CommieCanuck. So you've got 'roid rage, compliments of the Canadian taxpayer and US BigPharma R&D dollars. ("Growing better Bulgarian powerlifters since 1962...") But your back hair, copious acne and man boobs are why we love you. And don't you forget it, you big, angry, increasingly ambiguously-sexed wookie.

Anonymous said...

In honor of National Stoner Day yesterday, I give you: Lance!

He was the keynote speaker in Boulder where 10K people showed up to toke. He said drugs should be legalized. And that everyone should be able to get them cheaply and honestly, as they can do great things for your life. The best quote of the day was, "after all, look where drugs got me!"

jonathan said...

I'd just like to close this by saying that I am proud to represent the gay & lesbian community on the podium today.

bikesgonewild said...

...jezus, jonathon...this is supposed to be about wheelsuckers, dude...WHEELsuckers !!!...

...not that there is anything wrong w/, ya know, any of that...

...just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

I love it when the fixie kidz run tubulars on their "around campus" / "freestyle underage house party" bikes. Makes all the sense in the world!

SkidMark said...

BGW
Classic comment to jonathan re. wheelsuckers! Altho didn't we have a defensive comment a while back saying, "It's not about the sex". Yeahhhhh, and for Lance "It's not about the bike" either!!

Andy Pandy said...

It is QANTAS , which stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service. Do I have to send my boxing kangaroo and Crocodile Dundee over there to straighten this out.

urchin said...

nice post--

I love it when you play to your base.

bikesgonewild said...

...skids...i refuse to admit to having made...nor will i defend any post older than 24 hours old...i, ah, evolve constantly...

...& lance & sex in the same paragraph...sheesh !!!...as much as i hate drugs in cycling, i'll forgive any past transgressions towards that matter...but the olsen twin thing...wow, it may be over & done w/ but the mind still reels...

Nick A. said...

So, I clicked on a link to one of the older posts (other debates settled) and noticed there weren't any podium announcements. Just sayin'.

Nick

onetwentyeight said...

best post in a while. cheers

anyway, back to dialing in my wooden rims.

abelgus said...

Golly Snob,

Only 46 comments in 12 hours. Not your fault - it was up to your standard (very funny) but not enough people have really experienced tubular mess & despair (disrepair?)to get it -glue soaked rims thrown through windows etc. effing damn shit hell

Matthew said...

As per:
"rub the rim bed on an abrasive surface like a curb or the corner of a brick wall. You should do this at night, because until you see sparks..."
I've been rubbing my new Zipp 303s on the curb for about 30 minutes and am just not starting to see sparks where the spokes have started sticking through the rim. Is that enough or should I keep rubbing?

Vanessa said...

First?

Commiecanuk said...

Jim said...

But your back hair, copious acne and man boobs are why we love you. And don't you forget it, you big, angry, increasingly ambiguously-sexed wookie.


...don't forget the craisin testicles.
The boobs issue works for me, I just changed my name legally to Chris, and my second name to Marion.

The back hair gets me confused for Robin Williams which has major VIP benefits for good restaurants and VD clinics.

AnnaZed said...

Ok Snob, now try to explain the Huntchinson/Shimano Road tubeless dealie to the uninitiated - just try.

Then try to think of one (just one) compelling reason why the customer should buy this set up - just try.

Jonathan (The first comment one, not his homophobic impostor) said...

Hahaha!

Flamed on BSNYC. Whatever next? Someone get me a reality dating show whilst people still care.

My apologies to the Gay & Lesbian Community for unwittingly dragging you into someone's bitterness at not getting the first comment in - although I understand his rage, as it is rather important in the grand scheme of things.

just smartypants said...

Gay jokes. Complaints. Arguments. Comments about the good ol' days.

Has podiuming on BSNYC jumped the shark?

When will jumping the shark jump the shark?

Anonymous said...

F**K Yeah!






I'm last!

got a flat said...

no you're not

Anonymous said...

Why?













Why steal my thunder?

mamsterla said...

Urp. Thunder

Anonymous said...

Sometime BS is funny, everyone has bad days it's okay todays post sucked and resulted in 98% useless and annoying comments. Fact is the aversion to tubulars is ignorance. BS probably knows that but he feeds people what they want to hear and read. Yeah there is a learning curve to quickly gluing a tubular but they are quicker and easier to change a flat, they hardly ever roll off and tubular wheels are way lighter. Not to mention the cornering benefits.

Cottered Crank said...

"hardly ever roll off"

Well, I'm convinced! Off to Nashbar for some nice aged ones!

fastbyfrank said...

Rumour has it that QANTAS is going to make the switch from clinchers to singles, just a rumour...

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prolix said...

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Runescape Gold said...

More costly, less sensible, much less wheel choices, plus much more probabilities regarding disastrous failure.

Due to these types of disadvantages, I simply run them on my small Pista, where they may be really treasured.



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Anonymous said...

This should take me all winter like I planned if I can find my tires.

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