Educamate me on tubulars!

So I bit the bullet and got some tubular wheels to do some TTs and maybe some road racing this summer where the pack/roads aren’t too sketchy.

Thing is I have NO idea how to mount wheels/what tires to get etc …
I need advice people. I need to make a withdrawal from the collective experience and generosity of the team. I need some serious edumacation…

  1. What size tire do I buy? I think they come in 26 3/4 and 27 3/4 which I asssume is 650c and 700c respectively. I would therefore want the bigger right?

  2. They also seem to come in variable widths. Somewhere between 19 and 21, which seems narrower than a standard 700x23c clincher tire. What’s up with that?

  3. How do I get them on the wheel? Is there a best glue? Should I get a shop to do it the first time?

  4. They seem to go to like insane pressures (ie 140psi). Is this a good idea/necessary? I want these babies to last!

  5. What else should I know…?

Thanks for the help,
A bit lost I am,
Peter 8)

Oh boy. That’s a big plunge. I would start by reading up. Extensively. Here’s two good sites:

I’m sure others can supplement my answers, but as for your questions:

  1. 27" and 700c are both nominal sizes. That is, no part of a 27" or 700c wheel/tire actually measures 27" or 700mm. They ARE NOT the same. 700c is the new standard, and it is what you will find on modern tubular (or clincher) wheelsets made for modern bikes. I ripped this straight from Sheldon Brown:

"Standard size tubular tires use a rim that corresponds in diameter to a 622 mm (700C) clincher rim.

Back in the 1970s, 622 mm clinchers were very rare in the U.S., and most sporty bikes used either 630 mm (27 inch) clinchers, or standard (622 mm) tubulars.

The fact that these sizes are so close led to an in-accurate habit of referring to “27 inch” tubulars. This careless nomenclature still causes confusion, and people often imagine that there is a different “27 inch” size in tubulars as there is in clinchers.



  1. Tubular road tires do tend to be thinner. This is one of two big reasons why they are run at high pressures (the other being that a tubular tire’s construction allows it to be run at those high pressures without too harsh a road feel, and sometimes necessitates a higher pressure to make up for glue-flex.) I guess they also figure that if you’re riding tubulars, you’re racing, and if you’re racing, you’re not worried about skinny tires.

  2. See the above sites. I wouldn’t glue a tubular tire for the first time without somebody experienced watching. Continental makes a pretty widely-used glue, but then again, I don’t have tubular tires, so I’ve never used it.

  3. See 2., I guess. Tubulars do tend to have really high maximum pressures. But one of the things that I always tell people (and that I’ve always been told,) is that the maximum pressure is almost never the ideal. I once had a triathlete (of course) walk into the shop I used to work at bragging about how he rode his tubular-clinchers (one of Tufo’s nifty designs,) at 210psi or something. Which is ridiculous. That much pressure offers no advantage whatsoever, and defeats, in my opinion, the real benefit of a tubular tire, which is the silky-sumptuous-smooth ride. Tubulars naturally have a higher rolling resistance than clinchers (again, because the glued interface flexes,) but the ride is completely different, and is absolutely great. I heard somebody say that whereas clinchers “roll,” tubulars “flow.” Sweeeeet, duuuuuude…

You should experiment with tire pressure; I run 110psi in the back and 100psi in the front on clinchers that are rated as 120psi maximum. Why the difference? Your front tire has about 10% less weight on it. Try it sometime. Your bike handles better (since your front tire is what you corner with,) and it smooths out the ride. Anyway, you’ll be able to run higher pressures on a tubular set, but don’t go thinking you need to pump it up to the max. Experimentation is the name of the game.

  1. …hmm…I got nothing. Re-read those websites?

Do you think a wider like 23mm tubular will better protect my precious wheels than say a 19mm tubular?

Theoretically any increase in tire width means more weight distribution, but it’s probably unlikely to matter in such small increments. A wider tire won’t necessarily prevent you from dinging your rim. Tubular wheelsets are nice in that respect, too, since if you flat out and coast to a stop, your braking surfaces won’t get scratched up on the outside edge or fold in if you run over a pebble on the way. Not the case with clincher rims. I remember hearing somewhere that you can even ride a flat tubular tire home if needs be, but don’t quote me on that.