Thursday 22 January 2009

dugast vs fmb tubulars


Not quite in the same league as the PC vs Mac debate, or even Shimano vs Campag, this little teaser nonetheless has many similarities. Dugast are the industry leader in cyclocross tubulars, having been around in pole market position for years, but FMB offers a truly artisan, even quirky alternative for those who eschew the mainstream and wish to make a statement about their own taste and style.

Actually that's crap because though produced in larger quantities, Dugast could hardly be described as mainstream in the cluttered world of cross tires, but you get my drift?

Having used or tried both types (in different specs), I feel I am vaguely qualified to comment on their relative merits and qualities and the following may make interesting reading for anyone thinking of splashing out their last credit crunch spends on some cotton, latex and rubber. Any comments on the performance of the tubs come with a health warning - I am not an elite rider, nor amongst the most technically gifted BUT I am an enthusiast and have been riding cross competitively at one level or another for a good few years now so hopefully my opinion is worth something.

Dugast used to reflect it's founder - Monsieur Andre Dugast's little company in a shed, known amongst the pro cogniscienti and not many others. Famous (amongst those in the knowat least)in Europe on both the road and the cross scene, the best riders would beat a path to his door for their handmade weapons of choice, a situation which remains unchanged even in todays sponsor obligated pro circuit. Brother Nys and his adversaries still pay for their own tubs, though probably at a discount as long as they do not upset 'Old Man' Richard Groenendaal who part owns the company now!

Andre Dugast in his workshop

The other owner, who bought the name and the moulds for the treads is Richard Nieuwhuis, one time and possibly still-time mechanic for the Dutch National Team and certainly Groenendaal's partner in crime on the Euro scene. The two Richards have modernised the business, keeping the look but upping the production numbers for a wider market. It seems to be widely acknowledged that the quality has gone down accordingly as production increased, but Dugast are still special and still a cut above anything out there. Except perhaps FMB.........

Richard Nieuwhuis

And what of the new kid on the block? Urban legend has it that Francois who owns FMB used to work for Monsieur Dugast when he was but a lad - a nice story though I have it on good authority that this isnt actually the case. He does however come from the era when Dugast was at it's height and is clearly familiar with the concept of beautifully supple handmade tubs. I first came across FMB from cross impressario John Holmes who met Francois touting his brand new products in the pits at the Hooglede World Champs in Jan 2007. I have 'spy' shots from the pits at that Champs showing Sven Vanthourenhout's bike with a new Dugast like tub but with a different tread pattern. John began importing the tubs alongside the Dugast range and I plumped for some in lieu of some Dugasts that were slow in coming in. More on that later.

FMB have grown much bigger now but Francois has positioned the brand as artisan made, the only truly artisan tub manufacturer left. His tubs, though of superb quality have yet to seriously challenge Dugast in terms of volume sales.

The ranges:


Typhoon - the classic tread pattern also used by Grifos. Suitable for most mixed courses.

Pipistrello - white diamond pattern for sandy, frozen or very dry courses. Old model had side knobs, new does without.

Rhino - knkown as a specialist mud tire primarily, though they work well on most other surfaces. Reduced clogging and great grip due to aggressive side knobs.

Flying Doctor - in Typhoon or Pipistrello versions. Softer white tread (than a normal Typhoon) but with a stiffer casing to allow lower pressures but higher speeds. Best on faster courses with less mud.


SSC - all purpose tub. The tread is a combination of Typhoon centre and Rhino side lugs, more aggressive than a Typhoon but less so than a Rhino.

SSC Sprint - diamond tread with aggressive side knobs.

SuperPrestige - orange latex side wall, puncture resistent band under tread. In SSC or Sprint tread.

SSC Pro - thin super supple latex wall. Like the old Pink Dugasts from yesteryear.

World Cup - Limited Edition silk walled tub.

Special editions - send your tread to Francois. I did this with a green Michelin mud tread and the result is striking!

How do they compare?

I have ridden Dugast Typhoons and Rhinos, FMB SSC, FMB Superprestige Sprint and Superprestige SSC. I started my journey through the tub world with Tufos - the coloured Prestige and then Flexus (now Cubus). The Flexus was a revelation compared to clinchers and the other Tufos, in terms of its suppleness. On getting Typhoons, I realised there was a whole new world out there of low pressure and grip to be had as they were a quantum leap above in terms of suppleness.

Rhinos certainly set the benchmark in terms of mud tubs - they grip in anything and at any angle. Even with an average rider such as myself, I can tell a big difference in the grip levels compared to normal tubs let alone clinchers, as long as the pressure is low enough. The FMB carcasses are definitely as supple as a Dugast, the benchmark for such criteria and they are straight and well glued/sown together.

On balance I feel the FMBs are the better tubs. They are more durable (ie better made) than the Dugast, the standard SSC version is almost as grippy as a Rhino and the Sprints grip like the proverbial to a blanket even in quite slippy mud. In the orange latex SP version, they are simply superb as the walls are proofed against rotting and punctures and operate like a Dugast Flying Doctor Typhoon or Pipistrello allowing lower pressures without folding over.

So why this season did I use Rhinos for the bulk of the races I did? Simply because the Rhino tread is the best out there for NW mud (and probably any other mud come to think of it). This season has to have been the muddiest for a good few years(?). The ultimate tub then? It would have to be an FMB SP casing, 32mm with Rhino tread - special order from Francois.

I actually had a pair of these made up by Francois in green SP 34mm using the treads off my first pair of Dugast Rhinos. They are superb, though I messed up ordering them in 34 rather than the more appropriate 32 - the 34 front can feel a bit cumbersome in the mud, though better when it is rougher. They are still fantastic though and will see many years of service.

FMBs (and Dugasts) are best ordered through John Holmes of Cyclocross Imports who usually has stock in and is in regular contact with FMB. He also carries a delectable range of specialist cross gear from frames to zipped legwarmers - contact details on


Chris said...

Spot on!

I love my Rhyno's but the sidewall's are way too delicate. Even after aquasealing them they don't last a full season. The FMB sidewalls are much more durable and can be run at lower pressures without worrying about them shredding.

I end up doing most races on the SSC Sprints...awesome versatile tire. I just got a set of the Pro's (green sidewalls). I'm looking forward to using them in the Fall.

I've also got an order for an FMB casing with Michelin Mud tread. That one should be fun.

When the Rhyno's are completely toast I'll probably send those treads to Francois too.

Very nice comparison.

crossjunkie said...

Thanks for the endorsement Chris - let us know what the Pro's are like. They are too bling even for my out-of-control tub habit!!

My green Michelin FMB is probably the best front tire I have, even compared to Rhinos and Francois even pre-sealed the sidewalls for me. Quality. You will love yours I am sure.


Andy Waterman said...

I wish these things weren't so expensive (and probably 25% more expensive at the minute now the euro's so strong). I want 4 sets of wheels for next season with 2 set up with grifos and 2 set up with - as yet not purchased - mud tubs. Rhino's are £73 each at Zepnat now. That's crazy money.
Or am I just tight? I'm new(ish) to all this.

Ian said...

Interesting reading Simon might try FMB tubs myself this year feel a trip round to John Holmes coming on all the best to all cyclocross riders for the coming season.