With cyclocross season coming to an end, these past months have been filled with me talking with people about tubulars, clinchers, and tubeless setups for cyclocross riding/racing. If you can afford the cost of tubulars and don’t mind paying for the gluing process (with either time or money), then tubulars are by far the best option for racing. The advantages are hard to get elsewhere. But that’s what started my quest; I wanted to find the closest thing to tubular performance and ride quality, while still being on a clincher wheel. I’m a big advocate of the tubeless setup but it isn’t without it’s faults. More on that later… In my search, I (re)discovered latex tubes. Now, I know that latex tubes are nothing new. They have been used in tubular tires for a long while and have been available for clinchers for years, but these tubes specifically, are sized for cyclocross. Challenge make the tubes in a normal road size (700×19-28), as well as the cyclocross specific 700×29-38. These are the same tubes that are sewn inside their tubular tires.
The tubes seem to be sized just right but I found the weight to be more than claimed.
Challenge’s website claims that the tube weighs 72 grams, but I found that both dialed in at 86 grams including the plastic valve cap.
The tubes came pre-dusted with talc powder which is nice. The powder helps prevent friction during installation which helps prevent pinch-flats. I ran the tubes through more baby powder for extra security. The tubes were easiest to install with a little air in them, enough to give them shape but not enough to make them expand. Their diameter was tight compared to butyl tubes so the air helped them stay in place as I moved them around the rim and in the tire. The air also prevented them from folding over and getting stuck under the tire bead. I recommend checking under the bead on both sides prior to airing them to pressure, or you will have just wasted your money.
I rode these with Bontrager CX-3’s in 700×32. Not the most supple or even nicest tire available, but I needed a mud tire and that’s what I had. The ride was better than expected with the 120tpi tires. I ran them at 40psi thinking I would stay on the high side but even that was a plush ride for my 180lbs self. The tire dug well on single track and as I pushed in corners and barreled across roots and rocks, I didn’t have to think twice. The tubes were able to handle all that plus hitting rim once. The tubes allowed the tire to adapt to the trail well, and never felt harsh. Definitely happy with the results. I will update this once I ride with a more supple tire, like an open tubular from Challenge, but for now I am thoroughly pleased with the performance and the psi range available from these tubes. For the price, this is a no-brainer upgrade for those running clinchers.