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BIKE TECH: Tubular Gluing for Cyclo Cross

Tubular tires inspire visions of flying up a mountain climb on super light race wheels, confident cornering in criteriums, and rock hard tires inflated to over 150psi. Tubular tires do improve performance in all of these areas and have also been noticed much recently in the Cyclo Cross race world!

Tubular Cross tires are widely accepted as the best tire setup for Cross racing. Primary reasons for this can be summarized in 3 points:

  • Reduced Rolling Resistance
  • Ability to us lower tire air pressure with lower risk of pinch flats or rolling the tire off the rim
  • Reduced Weight
While gluing tubular tires is an art, it doesn't need to be a complete mystery. If you can change a standard road clincher bike tire and successfully apply klister to a XC Ski, you have it in you to glue on a tubular! Following are the steps that most tubular tire manufacturers and bike shops recommend taking when gluing on a tubular tire:
  1. "Pre-Stretch" tubular tire by dry mounting it on an appropriately sized tubular rim. Inflate the tire to full pressure and leave it sit for a while, any amount of time will do, the longer the better. DO NOT stretch a tubular tire using any other method, such as standing on it and pulling up on it with you hands.
  2. Inspect the rim the tubular will be mounted to. There needs to be a solid layer of glue on the mounting surface of the rim. If there isn't, use a commercially produced tubular tire glue and apply a thin, but solid layer of glue on the rim tire mounting surface.
  3. Before removing the tire from the rim it is pre-stretching on, check to see that the tire looks good. Check for lumps, irregularities, splits in the casing, etc. Once you get glue on the tire, warranties generally don't apply, so be sure the tire isn't defective before you get any glue on it!
  4. Using very thin layers of tubular glue, soak the cloth base tape of the tubular tire. This usually takes about 3-4 layers, but sometimes requires more. It is very important to be patient here an use very thin layers, letting each layer dry completely.
  5. With the rim preped and the tire base tape soaked in glue, now it's time to glue on your tire! Apply a moderate layer of glue to the rim mounting surface and a thin layer of glue to the tire base tape. Carefully mount the tire to the rim, keeping glue mess to a minimum. (Note Tufo Tubular Gluing Tape is sometimes subbed here)
  6. Immediately air the tire up to about 50psi. Straighten out the tire on the rim such that is is square and straight.
  7. Air up the tire to full pressure and inspect the tire. Make certain the tire is on the rim squarely and straight. Also be certain the valve stem is sticking straight through the rim.
  8. Clean up any messy glue residue from the sidewall of the rim or elsewhere where you don't want it.
  9. Allow the glue to dry for at least 24 hours before use.
  10. Enjoy the ride!
Photo Credits: David Gabrys

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