Carbon Clincher vs Carbon Tubular Bicycle Wheels.

Source: Williams Cycling  

The gap between the two styles is narrower than ever. Tubular and clincher wheels, by design, remain quite different and it is important to recognize where each style excels so that you can choose the wheel and tire style that suits your needs best.

Carbon Tubular Wheels

* Weight. Lighter than carbon clinchers. (Less carbon material needed during the layup process)
* Puncture resistance. No pinch flats
* Less likely to overheat braking surface and cause warping.
* Ease of installation / emergency repair. Let's face it, gluing on a tire is a pain. Flat in a road race and your race is over (unless you get a quick wheel change). Flat in a triathlon,gotta pull off the tubular, install another and hope the tire stays on the rim.

Race day only: Most athletes use tubular wheelsets for race day only.

* Tubular tape: Can work for triathletes but not for road/crit riders. Run tubular tape on a 6 corner crit and prepare to roll tire/peel skin off your body.
* Sealant. Add sealant into tubular tire to prevent flats. Can work well but adds weight to tire and thus additional rotational mass to wheelset.

Carbon Clincher Wheels

Ease of installation / emergency repair. Standard tube and tire setup. Athlete can replace a tube in the field. Triathlons are very expensive to enter and athletes do not want to ruin their race by flatting out of the bike leg. Clincher rim design allows the athlete to install a new tube and keep racing.

* Training. Athletes can train and race on clincher wheels
* Weight. Carbon clincher rims are heavier than tubular rims.
* Puncture resistance. Pinch flats. Hit a pothole hard enough and you will pinch flat.
* Rim delamination. Although rim technology with reputable brands is very good, it is still possible to overheat a rim at the braking surface due to excessive braking on a descent. This can cause delamination or a rim to permanently warp.

Now the facts: At Williams, we sell carbon clinchers 20 to 1 over carbon tubular wheelsets. Yep, it's not even close. 5 years ago the ratio was more like 5 to 1. 10 years ago is was more like 2 to 1.

We find that only the most elite triathletes still run carbon tubulars. Many elite / pro road cyclists still use carbon tubular wheels with hopes of getting neutral support if they flat. Very few athletes train on tubular wheels..