Old School, but not enough

In a lot of ways, when it comes to bike riding, I’m pretty old school.

All of my bikes are steel, and all but one are made with lugs. Over the course of my life, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know both English framebuilder Ron Cooper and American framebuilder Richard Sachs, both of whom have built bikes for me, and both of whose work I admire deeply.

I’m also old school when it comes to wheels. While not all of my wheels are handbuilt, most are, and pretty much all of them (handbuilt or not) are for tubular tires rather than the far more popular and economical clinchers.

I’ve ridden a lot of different sew-ups over the years, from cheap Clement Futura’s to mid-range Continental Giros and Vittoria Rally to high-end Vittoria CXs, Veloflex, Continental Sprinters and Challenge/Clement Criteriums. Of these, by far the most common and my favorite up to now has been the ubiquitous Vittoria CX.

Yes, I’m old school … but apparently not old school enough, because I never learned how to repair a flatted tubular.

At one point I had a stash of at least a dozen CXs, if not more, aging in a closet, but over time, almost all of these tires have been used and I’m down to my last pair. Since I don’t like not having spares available, I’ve started shopping around to see what kind of deals are to be had, and how much replacing my stash is going to cost me … what I found just about made me choke. The price of tubulars has skyrocketed, and even though I don’t ride nearly as much as I used to, I still much prefer the road feel of a good tubbie over any clincher … but $110 per tire is definitely hard to swallow.

I’ve been very lucky in my life … I worked in a bike shop in Sausalito, California for many, many years, and got most of my tires for wholesale at that time … about $35 each, if I recall correctly, and I’ve gotten other tires on the cheap from people I’ve known who made the switch to clinchers for one reason or another; their (in my opinion at the time) poor choice became my gain!

So now what to do? I much prefer to support my local businesses than mail-order; but when it comes to tubular tires, even mail-order doesn’t offer much of a break, especially not for my preferred Vittoria CXs. On the other hand, the selection of tires does seem to be better from mail-order sources, and the prices are a little less expensive.

Herein lies another problem … with the wider selection available online, I find myself wondering if I should consider changing to another brand/model of tire, like the new Challenge Criterium Nerones, or should I wait and see what Donn Kellogg at Clement comes up with?

Maybe I’ll get really lucky and the tubular tire fairy will send me a selection of sew-ups to try to figure out what to do going forwards … keeping in mind that switching to clinchers is still not really an option.

I need a sponsor, or at least a pro-deal/bro-deal. Anyone wanna help a guy out?

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