Flats and Dings Gone?

Helping Gwin Win

Words by Cam McRae. Posted by
February 14th, 2017

In the past few years things have changed radically in the sphere of rims and tires. For most high performance riders, tubes are a thing of the past and tubeless, combined with wider rims, has reduced the fear of pinches and allowed many of us to drop our minimum pressure. This in turn has made our rims more vulnerable to dings and tires more susceptible to cuts. The Lord giveth…

Flat Tire Defender

Aaron Gwin’s secret was exposed at World Championships – but nobody figured out what it was.

Higher volume tires and tubeless led some bright thinkers to come up with solutions to prevent rim damage and tire lacerations. One has been used under our noses in top level races and the other was released in the fall.

Trail Riders

Huck Norris is the solution that will likely appeal to riders who aren’t racing gravity disciplines. These foam inserts weigh between 70 and 85 grams, depending on tire width and diameter and appear to be very easy to install. In the end it’s possible that your bike will actually lose weight if these allow you to run a lighter tire. Because they press the bead against the rim Huck Norris strips are said to aid tubeless mounting for those who don’t have a compressor.

Huck Norris

It’s amazing that nobody at a tire company thought of this one. There is a patent pending on Huck Norris but copy cats are likely to pop up shortly if this is as good as it seems. Full length is 29 and there are guides to cut for 27 and 26 so sizing is by width. A velcro strap secures the ends to each other.

Huck Norris

How it works. It’s likely that we’ll see models for wider rims before too long.

Huck Norris

Take my money.

Huck Norris

Early models were only compatible with big diameters but more recent runs work with heirloom wheels (two six!).

The idea of course comes from motorsport. Some rally and moto run flat tires use similar tech, which makes you think that bike tire manufacturers could potentially integrate a similar system.  It seems that the prime criticism the Finnish lads have heard is that ‘anyone could just chop up a yoga mat,’ but they assure us they worked with a material scientist to find the best balance of weight and protection. Another design concern was a material that wouldn’t absorb too much sealant.

Huck Norris claims:

  • No more punctures in tubeless MTB setup
  • No more nasty dents to your rims
  • No more hassle with tubeless setup
  • No modification to your rim or glue needed
  • No need for compressor to install tubeless anymore
  • No need to over inflate the tires to avoid punctures. Use the pressure you want!
  • No more downhill tyres on trail bikes

Get Some

The bad news is that the Huck Norris system (only sold in pairs) will set you back €79 a pair but that includes shipping and a plastic fork mount fender. Head here for more…

Gravity Riders and Racers

In a racing situation keeping air in your tire is mission critical. It turns out Aaron Gwin has been using this product, the Fat Tire Defender, for a year without telling anyone about it. Borrowed from moto, FTD is a an insert made of “high quality foam rubber polymer, closed cell, high impact – high density material” that sits between your tire and your rim.

Flat Tire Defender

Aaron Gwin tells us that flat prevention and rim protection are only part of the story. It also feels like an extra 2″ of squish.

Aaron Gwin tells us in the video below that FTD protects against flats and rim damage, but it also improves ride quality. The weight penalty is higher here with a 27 version costing you 290 grams. As above, if this allows you to ride a lighter tire, some of that penalty can be clawed back.

“The FTD is so valuable as a racer, the extra traction and dampening feel allow you to run a lower pressure in your tires without the tire collapsing in the corners. The protection it offers to the rim really saves you in those rocky situations.” – Justin Leov

Flat Tire Defender

I don’t know why you didn’t think of this either.

Flat Tire Defender

Channelled valve stems are an essential part of the system because the insert would block conventional valve stems. Zip ties are required for the installation process.

Gwin’s Mechanic Talks FTD

John Hall (Gwin’s Wrench) once again

And Removal

Enduro riders like Jusin Leov and Tracy Moseley ran FTD last season as well, so it’s pretty clear that top level riders feel the weight penalty is worth the benefits. For your average Joe the best use of these will be in the bike park. Even if the system doesn’t prevent a flat you’ll be able to ride out on the FTD system. Magic!

Flat Tire Defender

Available in 8 sizes for now. Expect more to come.

These are not cheap, but I don’t expect that to dampen the demand.

For more on Flat Tire Defender click here…

Do either of these products appeal?

  • Wacek Keepshack

    I have huck Norris and so far I got three pinchflat worthy hits on my Minion SS Exo. Hard to determine it’s function based on that, but at least one hit has been serious, since the tyre burped sealant somewhere midway the descent and I landed into rocks after a small hop. I would definintely use it coped with Double Down casing. The only issue is that it’s not really as they say that you don’t need a compressor. I couldn’t inflate it just with the floor pump, I hade to use the Bontrager Charger pump. I have Minion SS 2.35 on DT EX471 rim. Then it is a bit hard to put it on, but nowhere close to muscling with installation of a Full on DH tyre.

    • WNCmotard

      I’ve been wanting to try the Huck Norris system, but haven’t found anywhere to purchase it in the US as of yet.

      • Cam McRae

        You can purchase online WNC.

      • WNCmotard

        Thanks Cam, I’ll do some digging around. For my intended use, I think these would be worth the cash.

  • Millsr4

    FTD out back and a Huck Norris up front would be rad, too bad you can’t buy them individually…

  • Brad_xyz

    It would be interesting to see an at least semi-scientific comparison test between these two foam insert options and procore. Testing these three options to failure (both pinch flat and burp test) in a press with some sort of force measurement would not be too hard but it would be expensive to get any kind of statistically significant result (think lots of tires destroyed in the pinch flat test). Otherwise all we are left with will be anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I also wonder about the relative life expectancies of these 3 options.

    I would expect procore to out perform the other two in burp protection but pinch flat protection would be an interesting comparison. FTD defender seems like it has best potential to provide a smooth progression in tire feel depending on how hard the compound is unlike procore where you can definitely feel when you bottom the outer chamber out and are hitting the inner procore casing (at least if you are running below normal tire pressures in the outer chamber).

    The thing that bothers me about Huck Norris is that the edge to edge width is not consistent. I’m curious what their reasoning for this was.

    Does anyone have accurate weights on procore to compare against these two options?

    • Cam McRae

      My impression is that the wave is there to keep the insert centred. The edge isn’t necessary for protection because it hangs beyond the rim so I can be cut away to save weight. We have some on the way so we’ll be testing them further.

  • Didn’t help him at World Champs.

    • Cam McRae

      Helped him win the overall though. Sidewalk ripped I believ at worlds.

      • these options aren’t going to help with sidewalls unfortunately.

    • whatyouthink

      In a later interview he said he blew up the wheel on that run.