When only the best is good enough.
Well you aren't gping to mount a Dugast Piste Diamond silk tubular tyre to anything less than a Lightweight disc are you?
Nob's on something!
This time it's silk tubular tyres. Nob says ...
For anyone who may be interested or who cares … I haven’t died, I’ve just been laying low
enjoying the delights of life here in the desert by sampling the pleasures of everything that is
good in cycling. While sipping my Tequila by the pool the other evening, my mind was cast
back to my carefree days of youth and how different it all was back then.
When I was a budding engineering apprentice working like a slave on the shop floor I was
living at home milking my parents for almost every penny they were worth. As a consequence
I had almost as much disposable income then as I have grown to accept as normal in my
more recent life in the various tax exiles that have been graced with my presence. Even at
such a tender age I could therefore afford the very best. Clement No 3s, which retailed for £25,
were the order of the day. They were the Holy Grail of time trialing tubular tyres weighing a
mere 6 ounces or so, made out of silk and labeled up with a lovely yellow ‘Seta’ logo. If you
REALLY wanted to push the boat out, you could take out a second mortgage on your parents’
house and lose another 1/2 ounce by taking the shit or bust approach on the green labeled
Naturally, since the purchase of Clement Setas was (even then … to me … or at least my
parents!) a substantial investment, I spent a lot of time carrying out research to ensure
my / their outlay was safeguarded … how was I going to look after them properly?
I lightly inflated them to 20 psi and carefully draped them over a modified coat hanger inside
a nice dark cool wardrobe. In those days, quality tubular tyres needed to be nurtured and
matured like a good wine. Although I often got comments at work about the peculiar odor
emanating from my work clothes, I considered it a small penalty to pay. Indeed it was well
worth the ‘ribbing’ as it groomed me well for my leaning towards everything rubber and latex
To fix the Clements to wheels I used that great Advance Tub Tape brand which was, and is
still considered to be, the best tube tape on the market. Sadly the Health and Safety
Executive decided to ban it due to the chemicals that had gone into its very creation.
Tyre pressures back in the day were anywhere from 160-190 psi dependent on road and
weather conditions. When you flicked the inflated tubulars with your finger (a common pastime
of that era … sadly missed) a really luscious ‘pinging’ sound was heard and you knew you
were about to ride something special. Setas were always mounted on your best wheels which
were normally 24/24 spoke combos with large flanged hubs for the extra stiffness which was
better over the shorter distances.
Once you’d launched yourself away from the timekeeper, those things really started to come
into their own purring and singing as the speed gradually increased to one that you could
comfortably maintain. Although the response was truly awesome with immediate feedback
from the road, you always seemed to be aware of their fragility and the likelihood that hitting
any kind of bump would result in a blowout. Having said that, you also knew that speed was
the only priority for a personal best or a top field placing so you just had to ride something
special. It was worth the ‘risk’ without a doubt! These were the Rolls Royce of tubular tyres
that any serious time trialist just had to have.
My own initial impression of Clement Setas left a life long impact. It goes back to, I think,
1981 on the K16 in September when I used them for the very first time. I had put a pair of No.
3s on for this 25 mile event and immediately recorded a personal best with a time of 58.12.
This annihilated my previous best of 1.00.31 which was done on Butyl tubulars (Wolber Neo
Pros if my memory is correct). I sacrificed durability for speed but having done a recce of the
great A38 road surface well beforehand knew I had to go for silks.
Later in August 1987 up on the newly surfaced dual carriageway Laurancekirk by-pass near to
Aberdeen I did a 19.49 on a privately marked out 10 course on a perfect sunny Sunday morning
private time trial with a No 3 on my rear wheel (as I had a 24” low bike at that time) so it was
patently clear to me that these silks were fast.
No 3s were the main choice of the legends of the time but there were also the Seta Extra No
1s (used by the likes of Griffiths and Cammish) and ‘white strips’ (for the likes of Engers).
Clements are legendary and are fondly remembered and highly regarded by those of us who
were fortunate enough to have used them. It is really sad they are no longer made.
However, coming up to date, the Dugast brand of Silks challenges the legend with their Piste
Diamond Silk and red Piste Latex models. Again I am lucky to have acquired a pair of 20mm
Dugast Piste Diamond Silk tubulars (supplied by the good Mr Cammish) and no I was not
bribed or offered a deal on these … I simply wanted the closest thing to No.3s currently
available. They handle and feel almost the same but with the advancements that have been
made in technology over the years they seem to offer a LOT more confidence reliability-wise.
The modern silk gives you the added reassurance of avoiding blowouts but having ridden the old and new I’d still have to say the No3 is more ‘raw’ and responsive on the road than its modern day descendants. Having said that, the Dugast gives me much more peace of mind and as it’s the nearest thing out there to a No 3 … well it’s a ‘no-brainer’ isn’t it?
Would I buy No 3s again if ever they were produced? You bet I would because, apart from the Dugasts, there has never been anything close to them.
Now ... a difficult teaser to test the grey matter.
There are at least ten differences between these two pictures. Can you list any of them? The first is obvious ... in one picture the rider is using 'white strips' ... in the other he's using No 3s. Others don't quite jump out at you with the same impact!! Over to you ...
Clement No 1 Seta Extra 'green labels' (above) and their modern day counterpart, the Dugast Piste Diamond Silk (below).