A little background on sew-ups
|"Sew-up" tires are sewn together around the tube|
This is because the construction of sew-ups and the special sew-up rims required, provide a truly round tire profile, that many riders feel offers superior cornering and a significantly more compliant ride (less shock to the rider = more energy throughout the race and quicker recovery, too). You can see the round profile on this photo showing a cutaway end view of an old tire.
Even more important to some riders is the weight savings provided by less material in the rim due to its simpler profile, and the lighter tires available (since the closed design of sew-ups allows the use of lighter tubes and casing materials with less risk of flats).
Also a significant advantage, you can inflate them to extremely high pressures for racing on super-smooth surfaces like some velodromes (cycling tracks), or on the other extreme, for racing like cyclocross where traction is all important, you can run them at low pressures and not risk pinch flatting). For some of these reasons there have even been mountain bike sew-up rims and tires.
Sew-up tires require sew-up rims and glue
Understand though, that sew-up tires are only for use with sew-up rims. Unlike clincher rims that have upright walls on either side so that they can hold onto the sidewalls on clincher tires so the tires stay on when inflated, a sew-up rim is a closed section, like a box, and the top surface is flat and curved to perfectly match the curve of the sew-up tire profile.
|Sew-up repair is a little tricky|
Interestingly, the newest tire, the tubeless is gaining popularity because its ride feels similar to sew-ups. Yet, because it's just like a standard clincher tire, except made not to require a tube inside, there are none of the gluing or surgery-to-repair hassles of sew-ups.
The sew-up questions that follow allow me to go over some common issues with repairing and installing and removing sew-ups, the two biggest hurdles with these tires.
FYI: All of my regular and training rides are done on clincher tires. On race days I usually use my carbon wheels with sew-up tires because I believe they're advantageous.
Q: Hi Jim,
I recently started riding again after a 20-plus year layoff. Here's a little equipment background: I have a Bianchi Reparto Corse-built SLX frame with Campagnolo C-Record and Campy Record Strada tubular wheels.
Two days ago I flatted a Vittoria CR sew-up and it took 3 of us and what seemed like 20 minutes to roll it off the rim. I'm used to being able to do this by myself without too much effort. The tire, which was new, had only been on there two weeks, w/Vittoria clear glue. If I had been by myself, I don't think I could have gotten it off. What did I do wrong, did I use too much glue?
I used about 3/4 tube between the wheel and the new tubular. On the wheel I applied one coat, waited 45 minutes, then a second coat. On the tire I only applied one coat - went away for about 4 hours came back and mounted the tire, inflated it and rode around the block to set everything.
What do you think? I'd like to learn how to do this properly and avoid that kind of herculean effort in the future. I read your article on installing tires and don't see where I deviated too much.
Appreciate your help,
A: Welcome back to riding, Jon! There’s no way to really satisfactorily answer your question because it’s an age-old issue with sew-ups. Basically you have a choice: 1. Glue them on good and tight so they’re as safe as possible and there’s little chance of them coming off when you’re riding. Or 2. Use a little less glue so that they are easier to get off and take the risk that they might come off when you’re riding.
From what you wrote it doesn’t sound to me like you used too much glue. It just sounds like a good glue job. To me the most important thing is to make sure the tires won’t budge when you’re riding. And these days with carbon rims, tires stick even tighter than they did with aluminum rims. So it’s actually getting harder to pull them off if they’re glued on nicely.
But with any rim, I would expect to have to wrestle to remove a tire. If it came off easily I’d be concerned that it would come off in a corner. Of course, the older the glue job is, the looser it may become making it easier to remove the tire. But a new, good glue job should be really tight.
|Vittoria Pit Stop sealant|
Another approach is to carry tire levers to help get tires off, but riders with carbon rims want to use them carefully. It wouldn’t be too hard to damage a carbon rim if you were too rough with the tools. And it can be a struggle to remove a tough tire even with tire levers.
You could also experiment with other gluing “tricks” such as using tape glues instead of liquid glues. I’ve never tried them but I’ve heard some mechanics say they work fine. And in theory, they might act as a release strip when you’re trying to peel off a tire.
Tufo Gluing Tape Tufo is one such product. I put their video showing how it's used below. It looks like a nice alternative to glue that I need to try. This article also provides some excellent tips on using gluing tape - some not shown in the video.
Ultimately, though, I would say you know how to glue tires just fine, so I wouldn’t worry about that part of it.
To no more tire trouble,
Q: Hi Jim,
We exchanged some information on sew-up tires a while back. I thank you again for your valuable insight which I've put it to good use. Since our correspondence I've laced a pair of 36-hole vintage Aspin rims with 2mm spokes, using Campy Record hubs and 3x pattern. It all went well. I installed a pair of Continental Sprinter tubulars.
The gluing job so that the mounted tire wouldn't move off the rim took several attempts but overall I was happy with the results. After about 100 miles, I had my first flat on the front: a 3mm horizontal cut on the tread. I used Stan's sealant which didn't work at all. I slowly rode back 2 miles on a completely flat front tire - this alone may have compromised the inner tube.
My first attempt to repair the sew-up was a complete failure. I'm not sure what went wrong. I opened the stitching of the base tape, opened the inner stitching (noticed this was lightly sewn with finer thread). Used a Park sticky patch that doesn't require glue. I also used a Park boot patch on the inner tire casing wall. The inner tube held the pressure well.
I used a sewing awl with curved needle to stitch the inner casing. Continental uses stitching for the liner tape. I used a fine waxed thread for this [editor's note: some tires have a strip of cloth between the bottom of the tube and tire]. I glued the base tape back in place.
I next mounted the tire on a spokeless rim to stretch it. I inflated it to 20 psi and everything seemed fine. But, as I pumped, going over 120 psi, I noticed the repair section of the tire was bulging and ballooning. Before I could relieve pressure with the valve, it exploded like a gunshot.
The inner tube must have worked its way out of the inner casing, which is puzzling because I stitched the inner casing tighter than the original pattern which was spaced out more. The inner tube exploded next to the repair area, a longitudinal section 2-3 inches along the stitching. I'm suspecting the waxed thread may have been too rough chafing the inner-tube at higher pressures. But I'm not sure.
I'd be very happy if you can comment on what I might have gotten wrong. In the meantime I'm going to ride my clincher tires. I'd be interested in what tires you ride, Jim.
PS: Next time I may use a sew-up repair business called Tire Alert in Florida. They have very good customer feedback. I read accounts that they install a higher quality base tape than most manufacturers. They charge $22 per sew-up repair which includes new inner tube, base tape and free shipping on the return. A removable valve core and new Presta valve is $25. They offer discounts if you have more tires to be repaired. They take credit cards and PayPal. If you are interested their address is:
2320 Hawthorne Dr
Clearwater, FL 33763
Please let me know if you're aware of any other sew-up repair services.
A: Sorry to hear of your sew-up trouble, Mike. I save my Vittoria sew-ups for racing and log most of my miles on clinchers due to the frustration of flatting an expensive and time-consuming to fix tubular. I ride on Continental Grand Prix 4000 clinchers in 700 x 23c and they fit in any road frame just fine and ride great and are highly flat resistant.
I also ride a fair amount on Dura-Ace tubeless clincher wheels with Hutchinson Fusion 3 700 x 23c tubeless tires that almost ride as nice as sew-ups. Both these sets of tires are easy to fix flats on by simply popping in a spare tube. But, I’ve had very few flats with these tires. You can buy the 4000s at any bike shop. To use the Hutchinsons you would want to be on tubeless rims or convert your rims to tubeless.
On fixing sew-up tires, it’s not always easy to figure out what went wrong when something does. Reading your email I wondered if you marked the original casing stitching (see photo below) before you cut it so that you could run your new stitches in exactly the same place and in exactly the same angle as the original stitches?
That’s very important since the tire is stitched a certain way at the factory so that the stitching doesn’t change the shape of the tire or interfere with the tube. If you stitch it wrong during a repair you can put an S in the tire casing and the stitches may work loose.
It's actually not easy to line the holes up right once the original thread has been cut and pulled out of the holes. If you mark it first, before cutting, you'll have guidelines to follow and always get the restitching right.
Also, I wondered whether the base tape was glued down well enough after your repair. Usually they glue it down with a liquid latex glue at the factory and that helps seals the stitches in the casing. Maybe if you didn't get it to stick fast, it was able to lift.
You mentioned using a Park glueless patch, which I wouldn't have done because they are best used for emergency flat repair on a mountain bike with low pressure tires. When going to all the trouble to operate on a sew-up I would always use a proper self-vulcanizing patch that uses glue to becomes part of the tube and create a patch even stronger than the original tube.
|Overlap the factory stitching on both ends|
You always want to run your repair stitches so that they run over the factory stitching for an inch or so on both sides to prevent this. That's because those stitches become loose when you cut the adjacent stitches. Maybe that was the issue.
As you can tell, there's a lot to learn about fixing sew-ups. A good quick resource is cycling technical expert Jobst Brandt's article. There's also a nice step-by-step repair article on the great bicycle shop Yellow Jersey's website.
I don't know of any other sew-up repair services for you. Perhaps we'll receive some suggestions from readers. But I have heard of Tire Alert. They say they've been in business for 15 years, which is impressive. Sometimes bicycle shops repair sew-ups so if you need it done quickly, you might call around and ask.
If you decide to fix any more sew-ups yourself and you follow all these tips, I think your repairs will hold up fine,