ProCore Review: For Trail Bikes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 17, 2016

I’ve ridden it on the front. I’ve ridden it on the back. I’ve ridden it on the front and back. Big wheels? Small wheels? All wheels! I like it on most trails. Dual suspension and hardtails. It compliments most forks. And before this Dr. Seuss rip-off makes me look like too much of a dork: I am talking about a Schwable ProCore review on trail bikes of course.

Schwalbe ProCore / ProCore Review

In case you needed a reminder here’s the full ProCore kit. 29″ and 650b models look identical. You can check out my original installation article here if you’re interested!

ProCore for Trail Bikes

I am going to do my best to stay on point and focus on my trail bike (160mm travel or less) centred ProCore experiences. My intended focus is on all mountain, trail, Shore-to-Sky XC riding, or whichever term your prefer to describe riding aggressive up-and-down trails. NSMB.com resident ripper Tim Coleman will be following up with a DH oriented review and I won’t stomp on his fast toes.

Schwalbe ProCore / ProCore Review

I found that semi-reinforced casings like Schwalbe’s Snake Skin or Specialized’s Grid worked better with ProCore than thinner options.

Tire Choice

I found that semi-reinforced casings like Schwable’s Snake Skin or Specialized’s Grid worked better with ProCore than thinner options. I also much preferred the livelier ride of these options to the more dead feeling options like Schwalbe’s Super Gravity.

Because the ProCore inner chamber notably changes the volume inside the tire, (much like adding a spacer to the air can of your shock) I noticed right away how much more my tires ramped up as they compressed. The slightly heavier casings offered enough support off the top, compared to light weight single-ply options, to not feel too squirmy as the tire initialized.

They were also significantly easier to dial in to work well with suspension. With ProCore, I found I could adjust my tire pressure to match how my fork and shock initialized with the end result being this amazing feeling that my bikes’ suspension and tires were working seamlessly.

Schwalbe ProCore

Aluminum rims only? I ran ProCore in rims from Stan’s, WTB, and Mavic all with equally easy installation.

Not for Carbon Rims

With the installation process being so easy and both 29″ and 650b kits at my disposal, I happily tried ProCore on almost every bike I could get my hands on. I say almost as some of our test bikes are equipped with carbon rims. In some cases carbon rims are too deep to function with the ProCore valve stems. Beyond that it would appear all carbon rim manufacturers are suggesting riders not use ProCore as the rims aren’t designed to take the load of the ProCore bumper on the spoke bed area during a hard bottom out.

This realization was a downer for a number of riders I talked to who were looking to protect their significant wheel investments from bottom-out events.

Schwalbe ProCore / ProCore Review

Yes all my annoyingly on point riding friends, you are correct. ProCore functions exactly the same without applying the little blue ‘ProCore’ stickers to your rims. Thanks for pointing it out. Repeatedly. Jerks.

ProCore Review: Front

I really, really, thought that ProCore would be a rear wheel specific product for me; increased traction, fewer rim strikes, and maybe even more comfort on my hardtail, enhanced wheel durability on a full suspension bike. In reference to ProCore for trail bike usage I was absolutely wrong.

With 20-22psi in the main chamber, depending on which tire I was running, and 55-60 psi in the ProCore inner chamber, there was a notable improvement in braking traction and an increase in support leaning the tire over even with running 5-7 psi less than I normally would.

ProCore Review

Running ProCore allowed me to increase traction and run less sag for better support with the Lefty SuperMax on front of the Cannondale Jekyll. Photo: Dave Smith

I only bottomed the front tire on the ProCore a couple of times during this review. In both cases, it was a combination of a bad line choice, bad weight distribution and a bad braking moment. Bad everything. With the inner chamber set at 60 psi, there is a notable point of resistance during bottom out events but it is less distressing than the THUNK of bottoming your front rim.

One notable constant since my ProCore review began has been improved comfort on my personal hardtail. With big tires and long & slack geometry to get me into trouble, but only 100mm of travel to save me once I’m there, I tend to run my suspension on the firm side on this bike. ProCore made for a significant improvement in small bump performance and worked seamlessly with my fork to deliver great traction off the top.

ProCore Review

There’s that blue sticker again. ProCore rear: improved traction both climbing and descending meets improved survive-ability (whether that’s the rim or you).

ProCore Review: Rear

For the cost of a single rim replacement and rebuild, you can run ProCore on the back of your bike. The inner chamber may not save the rim from every type of hard casing event but it definitely reduces contact with my rear rim’s bead even with significantly less pressure than I normally run.

Even in the case of a hard bottom, the inner chamber absorbed the vast majority of energy before any rim I was running had any contact. That’s with 20-22psi in a few different tires.

Traction in loose conditions, or loose-over-hard conditions, was also notably increased. This was particularly evident on my single speed hardtail when the traction in greasy or loose conditions made up for the increased rolling weight.

Schwalbe ProCore / ProCore Review

The ProCore is at least twice as complicated as a standard Tubeless setup. It takes more work to set the air pressure in two chambers and the tubeless sealant that is required to seal the outer chamber can affect the inner chamber.

ProCore & Suspension Setup

With the decreased volume inside my tubeless tires, it was very straight forward to adjust tire pressure (outer chamber) and suspension to work more seamlessly than on any non-ProCore bike I have ridden.

It isn’t a weird ‘two-stage’ feeling but at the end of the test period, I am running less sag front and rear and a more linear setup on the fork (fewer volume spacers/oil) with excellent initial traction and a good feeling at bottom out. As with everything else ProCore related, experimentation is definitely the key to getting your suspension and ProCore setup working seamlessly. I was rewarded with better performance through tinkering.

ProCore Review: Issues

Other than the small increase in pre-ride preparation, I only had one issue with ProCore.

I once had tubeless sealant from the main chamber clog the valve which made it difficult to fill the inner and outer chamber. This was easily fixed by removing the valve core, setting the stem in its longest position – as if filling the outer chamber – and then flushing the stem with very hot water. I was careful to always fill the system with the valve stem and to leave the valve closed (in the inner chamber position) when not filling to try and prevent this issue.

ProCore Review

ProCore worked very well with the DYAD equipped rear suspension of this Jekyll. I would have loved to have it up front when I bottomed the fork and tire in the first edition of this roll in but the system was not compatible with the carbon rim I was running with the Trace. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

ProCore Review: Buy it?

I hate flats, cringe at rim strikes and I don’t mind some extra fuss and maintenance. I enjoyed the performance gains of ProCore to such an extent that I would run it front and rear on any full suspension bike covered by the scope of this review. The performance improvement offered in aggressive conditions has me recommending ProCore on trail bikes for our greasy off season conditions – if not all year.

For more info hit up schwalbe.com/procore


How much are improved tire support, traction, and rim durability worth to you? $275 CAD?

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Comments

Xorrox
0
Brad_xyz  - Aug. 18, 2016, 3:12 p.m.

I'm still loving the Procore with my CARBON Light Bicycle rear rim. This is one of their older rims with a lower rim profile so the Procore valve stem is just long enough. This is the perfect setup for me so far. My riding weight is around 230lbs and I tend to destroy rims normally but I've gone all summer without an issue other than almost all my non-drive side spokes loosened up on one long ride up in Pemberton. I'm not sure if this was related to the higher inner pressure of the procore tube or just that I didn't have enough spoke tension. I've riden all over the place, done pretty well for an old guy in my first NSMBA Fiver (that a number of other people flated on) and still have not had my rim explode or crack (which I'm pretty sure it would have by now without Procore).

After recently pinch flatting my tubeless front tire and slightly chipping the front carbon rim I am thinking of going Procore in the front as well, especially once the rains return and I want to run lower pressures for more traction.

Reply

chrisw
0
ChrisW  - Aug. 18, 2016, 12:24 a.m.

Andrew, how critical is Schwalbe's recommended minimum internal rim width of 23mm?
If Procore can save rims from at least some damage during those heavy impacts it would have saved me numerous rims (and $$) over the years (never did learn to ride 'light'!)

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 18, 2016, 5:25 a.m.

Hi Chris,

Great question. The widest rim I tried it on was 27mm internal - which worked great. I had intended to test it on a 30mm as well but didn't have the opportunity.

The narrowest I tried was 21mm (older Stan's Crest) It's tight on install to squish everything in but it aired up and functioned fine. I only road the setup twice and didn't test it outside of riding so I can't comment definitively here but in my mind it worked properly. How narrow were you thinking?

Thanks!

Reply

chrisw
0
ChrisW  - Aug. 18, 2016, 10:59 p.m.

I have a set of DT Swiss XM1501 (came stock on bike) and as far as I can work out could be down to 22mm internal width. I would actually get the ruler out but that would involve dealing with the mess of tubeless goop, Cheers for letting me know you can finnaggle it into rims less than Schwable's recommended and the review in general. Keep up the good work-I'll keep coveting all the gear you guys review

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 18, 2016, 11:27 p.m.

Thank you Chris.

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dj
0
DJ  - Aug. 17, 2016, 10:27 p.m.

this got me thinking. all those EWS guys flatting in Whistler. they don't run procore? you'd think it was made for them as the prime target market.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 17, 2016, 10:44 p.m.

If nothing else it may allow you to finish a run.

For experimentation sake I did a few sections of trail (climbing and descending) with the outer chamber totally flat and the inner chamber at 60psi. It is impressive how ride-able it is compared to trying to ride a flat tire otherwise and I had zero issue with the tire (old Slaughter Grid) coming off the rim.

Sponsors aside (unless if you are sponsored by a carbon rim company) you would have to get caught by a next level nerd for anyone to even have anyone know you were running the system as the valves all closed just look like regular mid-length presta valves.

Reply

Jerry-Rig
0
Jerry Willows  - Aug. 18, 2016, 9:05 a.m.

I think a lot of the flats from EWS were from casing slashes. Most riders are running tubeless nowadays so pinch flats aren't as much of a concern. I'm pretty sure all the WC downhillers have given up on ProCore.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 18, 2016, 9:22 a.m.

Yes, but the thinking is if you slash the sidewall the ProCore system still holds the tire bead in place firmly & protects the rim so you can ride out the stage on a flat and hopefully not have to take the time penalty for a new wheel and not lose the tire off the rim.

Reply

Jerry-Rig
0
Jerry Willows  - Aug. 18, 2016, 9:27 a.m.

not sure if it's a weight thing or some other thing going on but I don't think any of the top EWS riders are running PC.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Aug. 18, 2016, 1:45 p.m.

Could simply be that if you're already taking the weight penalty for a Super Gravity or Double Defense tire the combined weight penalty is too great?

I find ProCore with a lighter casing like Grid or Snake Skin combined with ProCore has a nicer ride but I'm definitely not a pro Enduro racer.

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