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Home > Magazine > General > An Inside Look at the Best Ugliest Tire!

An Inside Look at the Best Ugliest Tire!
November 03, 2015

There's a secret world that some have heard about but very few have visited. ...The innards of a Tubie Tire!

I love my Challenge Grifos. I've used 'em for years. They are trashed beyond belief and they are still the best tires I've ever experienced!

I've shredded them and impaled them and their sidewalls are disasters but they still have That Special Feel.

They make a CX course feel like a ski trail. Soft'n'cushy and flowy. They carve and arc and float the terrain.

Tubies are famous because they don't pinchflat and they can be made to a very high quality level with super-supple sidewalls and give super results. And they're superlight. And so are their wheels. You can instantly lose a couple pounds off your bike just by switching to tubies. (Or "sewups" as we once called em.) And you can run them like 5-10 psi less than a clincher. I like mine about 28psi, I suppose. (I note that mine are old 30mm. Likely you'd prefer newer 33's, the legal max.)

Tubies are infamous because you have to SEW them to fix them! Then you have to GLUE them onto the rim!

And the sweet ones cost over $100 each.

Really, as in all cycling -- which is done with the infamous 1/2HP human motor -- the most important thing that determines performance and feel is the tire! So no matter what kind of riding you do, if you buy the best you'll definitely notice it, have more fun, AND USUALLY SAVE MONEY! The best tires last the longest and get the least flats. (I hit myself in the head when I first learned that. In my broke roadie years I used cheap sewups. After I stopped racing I bought a set of best road tubies: they lasted for years of bliss! They cost 2X as much but lasted 3X as long! Bargains!) But, for sure, in the lower-speed disciplines, like mtbiking, that use sizable tires that can weigh quite a bit -- like mtbiking! -- getting the best, lightest tires will really boost your game! Indeed tubies are big inside secrets in MTB as well! Suppleness, quality, weight: all key! And they all COST.

Now, some folks out there give tubies a try and decide they can't take the overhead. Those are the ones I run into: they cast off their cast-offs on me at dimes on the dollar.

People also often refuse to repair their sweet tires once they flat em. Those are wonderful finds as well.

These Grifos lost their sidewall sealant and at low pressures the inner tube keeps squeezing out through the threads. I've now resealed the sidewalls. I've fixed these tires like 6 times already.

It takes me a half hour to patch a tubie. I don't mind. It's a craft. I listen to the Cyclocross Network podcast while doing it. The pics show a bit of what's up with that. I pull up a section of tire then peel off the protective strip then cut the threads then bust open the guts of the tire then pull out the section of condom-thin inner tube that has the hole. If your inner tube isn't wafer-thin when you pull it out then you don't have a sweet tire, sorry to say. The best ones have such THIN inner tubes. Sweet! Like membranes.

So then I patch the hole and reverse the procedure. I just use jiffy stitching to close things up. Then I use some liquid latex carpet glue to put the strip on then smear some rim-glue on the rim then inflate the patched tire firmly. After a day the whole repair has set up.

You always want to make sure your tubies are glued on good. Like they need refreshing every season pretty much. It's the grey areas that get riders like me. There's only one way to test: deflate your tire then try to pull it off all around the rim. Dried out failed glue will give way. Then also inflate it about 20 psi and try to roll it off. It wants to feel stuck on. Don't be a superstud about it, tho: it will be possible to tear off the tire. You just want it to stay on during the forces of riding. The main bad time in CX is on the ubiquitous off-cambers. Get a bumpy one of those going fast down a hill with soft tires in a turn and you'll roll a lame glue-job. Then you'll hurt and be embarrassed. (I know.) Also, once you get into CX tubies you'll want a CAN of glue rather than the little tubes that roadies use.

But it's all worth it! ...So check out my gross pics of a gross tire. And rejoice in the bliss of such a great ride!


Fixed! Ugly in looks, beautiful in function.


The guts. The crude but sufficient repair stitch. The pliers. ...Use pliers.


A peak inside the guts. Thinnest tubes are bestest. So supple. Sensitive -- for his or her needs.

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