Die Frage nach dem schnellsten Reifen: Clincher, Tubeless oder Tubular

While in Formula 1 you can change tires depending on the weather, this is not possible in triathlon. Of course, the question of which tire is the fastest is all the more important. When cycling, a distinction is made between clincher, tubeless and tubular. In this article you will find an overview of how these systems differ in structure, what their respective rolling resistance is, how puncture-proof they are, what general advantages and disadvantages are and what the speed is like.

The tire types

The clincher (also called wire or folding tire) is the system that most people should be familiar with. With this classic tire, the casing is attached to the rim flange with a bead. The tube is located between the tire and the rim and keeps the tire in shape with its air pressure.

With the tubular system (also known as tubular tires), the rim has no horn. The tube is sewn together with the tire and then glued together in a semicircular rim well.

The latest of the three systems is called tubeless. It is more similar to the clincher than to the tubular, since the tire is also attached to the rim flange with a bead. However, there is no tube here, as the tire itself contains the air. The rim is then usually sealed with special rim tape so that the air does not escape. The valve usually sits on the rim tape or is attached separately to the rim. Theoretically, every clincher can be converted to tubeless, but a "tubeless ready" rim is better.


In general, one can say that the carcass is the basic structure of every tire. This affects almost all important performance characteristics and is made of nylon in many tires, with some top tires often using cotton or silk carcasses. The fabric density of the carcass ply is given in TPI (threads per inch) and the finer and denser the fabric, the higher the TPI number. An advantage of a high TPI is that the fabric is more flexible and can therefore more easily compensate for bumps in the road surface. This benefits rolling resistance and traction, thereby improving ride quality.

carcass differences

The 320 TPI cotton carcass (e.g. from Veloflex, Bontrager, Specialized, ...) offers an excellent driving experience. Silk carcasses (e.g. FMB, Challenge, ...) are often used in cyclocross races because of their first-class grip. But nylon carcasses also have their right to exist, because of their great robustness, which is why there are definitely high-quality models with "only" 120 TPI. However, when buying, you have to be aware that Continental, for example, advertises its Grand Prix TT with 330 TPI, but this number reaches 110 TPI from a stack of 3 layers.

Structure of the different systems

With the clincher, there is a bead consisting of a wire or Kevlar ring at the outer end of the carcass. Kevlar is foldable and lighter, which is why it is used in high-quality tires. However, the bead material has no relevance for the driving experience.

With the tubular, the carcass runs completely around the tube, as this is sewn into it. The construction is protected by a seam protection tape.

puncture protection layer

Between the carcass and the rubber tread is a puncture protection layer, which is intended to prevent penetration of the tube by punctures or cuts. If you try to penetrate the tire with a nail, for example, you will feel a resistance that makes it difficult to penetrate. However, this protective layer is not impenetrable either. Almost every good road bike tire has this puncture protection layer, except for some pure TT tires.

rubber tread

The rubber compound and profile are crucial for traction and, in conjunction with the carcass, also for rolling resistance. The rubber layer is also essential for mileage, as a thicker layer means higher rolling resistance. Compounds are now also an option, in which the tread has a hard compound that is replaced by a softer one on the outside to guarantee good cornering grip. Different manufacturers always give their mixtures great names, but in the end the actual difference is only small. That's why you should simply try out different models and form your own opinion.

rolling resistance

This results from flexing of the tire. The contact point with the road is not round but slightly flattened, and since this point has to be overcome, there is resistance that the manufacturers want to keep as low as possible. The inner tube can also flex, which is why this also has an influence on the rolling resistance. Although this can be reduced by higher air pressure, it cannot be completely eliminated. External factors such as road conditions must also be taken into account, as these are usually not smooth but relatively rough, which is why the tire has to adapt to them. If he didn't do that, you would have a very wooden driving experience. This can be observed especially with MTB, as technical trails with excessive air pressure are difficult to master. A high quality carcass can help as it can adapt better to different terrain. A wider tire also helps, with the same air pressure (but only then), as it distributes the power over a larger area and thus reduces flexing. But you have to accept more resistance elsewhere due to worsened aerodynamics.

puncture protection

Although a puncture is very unlikely over a distance of 180 km and a healthy and initially intact tire, puncture protection is often a special concern. However, the best puncture-proof tire will not protect anything if a shard, nail or stone is unfavorable on the route. The biggest difference is that competition tires are no longer usable after around 1000 km, while other training tires last even longer. So in competition it is an individual decision. For example, Jan Frodeno used a Specialized tire in the 2014 season (one of the fastest in the world at the time), which was also used in the 24-hour world record set by Christoph Strasser, the World Cup in time trials and at the Challenge Dubai 2015 for the best bike split by Martin Jensen found. After Frodeno's defects in Frankfurt and Kona, however, there were enough "experts" who said he should simply buy a set of Contis privately (Specialized was Frodeno's sponsor at the time). However, as mentioned at the beginning, there is no 100% safety with any tire because you can never rule out external factors.

Advantages and disadvantages

Clincher : The biggest benefit here is simplicity. Hose changes and other defects are quickly remedied and there is a large selection of spare parts. The disadvantage is that the repair is easy but long. The clincher also has a generally higher susceptibility to defects and when changing the tube you always have to check the tires and rim tape for correct seating and foreign objects, otherwise a new defect can quickly occur.

Tubular : Due to the missing rim flange, the tubular rim is significantly lighter and more stable. The susceptibility to defects is also lower than with the clincher and it is the only tire system that has an acceptable emergency running property that allows a few kilometers on flat tires. The change is also faster because you can easily remove the old tire from the rim and save time when pumping up the new one, since low air pressure is already sufficient. However, the spare tire is not fully resilient because it is not glued, which is why high cornering speeds are not possible. The gluing itself is also time-consuming and experience is an advantage, but adhesive tapes such as those from Tufo or Velox make it easier. In professional cycling you will mainly find tubular systems.

tubeless :

Since there is no inner tube, it cannot flex either, which reduces both rolling resistance and susceptibility to punctures. Latex milk in the tire also seals smaller problem areas immediately and in the event of a defect you can simply put a tube in the tire and continue driving. However, the assembly can be a problem because the tire and rim have to be absolutely tight and you sometimes need a compressor to create the necessary tire pressure. The choice is also quite small, but that may change soon as the low rolling resistance and puncture resistance could soon make this system the system of the future.


Now let's get to the point that most have been waiting for - the speed. Unfortunately, the answer is not clear here, since not only the type, but all tire models are different. The tests are also not extensive enough and mostly take place in laboratories. While Continental claims that clinchers are faster than tubulars, and their models do, other manufacturers point to tubular variants as their fastest tires. Overall, however, the clincher is often called the fastest tire (which can also be due to the larger selection and demand).

Hard direct comparison

Structure and carcass can differ greatly, even with the same systems. Tubeless are also often developed as all-rounders and are therefore slower than clinchers that are designed for speed and sell well. But latex tubes are significantly faster than butyl, but due to their flexibility they are also more prone to pinching between the tire and rim.

System of the future - tubeless?

The addition of graphene is intended to further reduce rolling resistance. It can also be seen that, depending on the race, professional teams are no longer exclusively driving clinchers. The tubeless also has the greatest untapped potential, which can still strongly influence its future use.

Form your own opinion

Due to the large number of reasons listed here, a clear recommendation is not possible. Each of the systems has its own advantages, which should be compared with each other depending on the driver's ideas and priorities and, ideally, should simply be extensively tested. Depending on your preferences, however, any model and tire system can be a good training or competition tire!


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