I have a problem. I can’t quit obsessing about tubular tires and wheels. Especially cyclocross tires. It all started with a set of Tufo tubular clinchers. I bought a set at the apex of having colored tires on your cross bike. But because I had only clincher wheels, they tubular clincher set up seemed like the perfect idea. They only have two issues. One is you get addicted to how well a low pressure tire rolls across bumpy slow terrain and two is they suck everywhere else. Seriously, no traction on anything and they have a tendency to pop off the bead if you run them hard through corners. Especially if you run them low enough to get any kind of traction. They also have a habit of leaking air at very in opportune moments. Their prescribed sealant helps, but not very reliably. They also run a little on the small side. Since I don’t live in 1976 when cross tires were 26c and pumped up to 85psi, 32c is as small as I want to go and the Tufos only reach 30c.
The easy solution would to just go back to clinchers. At the time there were a plethora of decent tires for clincher rims headed up by the infamous Michelin Mud with the green tread. It’s really an excellent tire that is as good as you’ll find to this day. Flats would only cost a buck to fix and take about 5 minutes. I also wouldn’t have to worry about another set of wheels. I could continue to switch out the tires every year from the road bike. Hell I could even get a second set of wheels so I wouldn’t have to have the road bike without hoops for cross season. Shit, I might even have a spare set of wheels and be PRO.
No, I had tasted the sweet nectar of tubbies and wanted the fully leaded, non-diet, sugar filled goodness of the truly Belgian way. Since I was new to the tubular game, I decided I would get one set as the race wheels that were only brought out at the big time Portland races. Ones that featured lots of grass and no rocks or thorns. No way I was going to waste these babies on goat heads and the Southern Oregon jungle cross courses. That lasted about a week. Pretty soon I was running them in all the Portland races due to the importance and stature of the series. They deserved to have tubulars used. I mean, if I’m going to drive 5 hours to compete in a 45 minute race, then shouldn’t I bring out the big guns? This lasted pretty much one season.
I’d love to say the reason I held out so long for a second of set of tubulars was due to my already established principals regarding the stature of the local series versus the Crusade Cup series, but it was really about finances. I blew all of my dough on travel and there was no way I could justify buying another set of wheels and tires at the time. Utilities have to be paid and Christmas presents have to be bought. Besides, waiting until after the holidays gave me all year to obsess over it. I had time to shop and scour for deals. If I was patient I could get a second set pretty cheap.
Yeah right. Part of the problem with running sweet gear is that anything but matching stuff is unacceptable. Okay, it’s my problem not the problem, but whatever. Anyhoo, I did find a second set of blingy tubbies, although in my defense, I did wait around and score a set of Kings laced to ceramic 28 hole Reflexes. Cool, now I have a set of bomber deep sections for the Southern Oregon series and a set of lighter box sections for the P-town races that will still work in the glop. I was even thinking ahead. I bought a pair of Vittorias in a 34c for the local races due to their flat protection and a set of 32c Challenges for the Crusade courses.
Two things ruining the plan, as we now know it. First is Vittorias kind of suck. I mean, they are better than clinchers, but shit, they aren’t as nice as the Challenges when it comes to plush. They also run a bit wobbly and bumpy. Second is that I’m only racing the local races due to family constraints. So I have sweet set of wheels just sitting in the garage, begging to be used. It’s hard to save the goodies for the big races when you know you aren’t going to get to go. It’s like saving yourself for marriage when you know the reality is you are going to wind up a cat lady spinster. Good thing the season was mercifully short, once again giving me lots of off-season to plot and scheme.
Long story getting longer, but oh well. I pony up for a second set off Challenge tires, this time in 34c, ‘cause that’s how I roll. Well, around this time I luck into a free set of carbon tubular wheels. That’s right, free. Well the only thing going on those bad boys is Mr. Andre Dugast himself in all the new Rhino glory. I’m certain this time I really will save this set for only the big races in Portland. I wonder how long it will be before I manage to convince myself I need a second set, this time with a dry conditions tire.
Let me get this straight. I now have three sets of tubulars, two with Chris King Hubs and Mavic rims running Challenge sew ups, and a set of carbon tubbies mounted up with Dugasts. I guess I need a pit bike for all of these wheels. Time to call Mikey D. See, I told you I have a problem.