Our newest freelancer, Philip Gale, has been doing a fair bit of globetrotting in the interests of drumming up new and exciting content for our upcoming print journal. His travels included a trip to the workshop of our favorite craftsman, François Marie, of FMB fame. We hope you enjoy Philip’s images and a brief reminder of why it is that we are so religiously partial to these tyres—yes, tyres.
A tubular tyre is simply an innertube sewn into a casing. On the outside of that, the base tape and tread are glued, and yet such a simple thing can have such a huge effect on your performance. Traction and ride quality are two of the top features that have to be considered for any tubular. Both of these are key elements to riding fast in cyclocross. If you do not have traction in the varied conditions found on any circuit, you can have all of the power in the world, but your dreams of a bike race will turn into a nightmare of a running event.
For those of us who are not fans of taking their cyclocross bikes for a run, we stock FMB’s SSC and Supermud tubulars. Handmade by France’s last tubular tyre company, these tubulars really give you an edge. The natural materials used—cotton for the casing, natural latex for the inner tube, and natural rubber for the tread—is the secret. Constructed by one of only 4 workers at FMB, likely even François himself, the end result of meticulously sourcing these materials is a tubular which has higher puncture resistance and is more flexible than other tyres on the market.
Why are these two qualities so important? It’s pretty straight forward. Added puncture protection from the closer weave of the cotton means fewer flats, while the more flexible carcass allows the tread to form to what it is in contact with, having a larger foot print on the ground, which gives the rider more grip. A knock-on bonus of this is that FMB tubulars have the same (or greater) level of flex as other tubulars, but at higher air pressures.
Another bonus to FMB artisan-crafted tubulars is their sharper tread. The other well-known European handmade tubular maker does not use the same tread patterns, and this means that FMB’s treads can cut into the dirt, mud, or snow more deeply, which will see you flying over the off-camber and carving turns like a fighter jet.
Text and images by Philip Gale