Schwalbe ProCore

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date May 29, 2016

Schwalbe and Syntace‘s jointly developed ProCore system stormed into town on a triumvirate of promises: More Traction! No Flats! Rim Protection! If the company was run by a bunch of Canadians rather than our friends from Reichshof-Wehnrath, you would almost think their marketing tagline was a send-up of the bike industry in general: Nothing stays the same.

“I’m your private ProCore
More traction for Money $$$
I’ll do what you want me to do…
I’m your private ProCore
No flats for your Money $$$
And most any wheels will do…”
-With apologies to Tina Turner

PROCORE: Two inner chambers (the blue tires), two tubes (with dual air ways), two air channels (red), two bottles of sealant, one bottle of Schwalbe’s excellent ‘Easy Fit’ tire mounting fluid, some high pressure rim tape, and the best plastic tire levers you can buy.

When in 2014 they said “in the future, air pressure can be controlled in the tire’s double chambers” you could be forgiven for thinking it was a bold proclamation along the lines of The Future Is Now! The excitement was palpable and there was a great deal of chatter in shops and online. In reality they meant to say ‘check back a year or so later’ and here we are with production kits available worldwide, and a chance to put your money down and see what the buzz, that started in the 2014 World Cup DH season, was all about.

I’m going to have a look at the installation process for the system and talk to some pro-ProCore folks about what they see as the chief benefit(s) of the system.

All ready to install. My plan: three wheels, three different rim tapes, three different tires, discussing three trains of thought.

Before the kit arrived I hadn’t considered myself an ideal candidate for ProCore. I like the damping characteristics of a beefier sidewall so I’m already running fairly aggressive rubber and ~23-to-28psi front & rear setup tubeless is enough to give me adequate traction in the wet, good support from the tire, and to prevent expensive rim contact. And I’m not looking for more weight or complexity. But the more I started to collect information and opinions, the more interested I became.

Wheel #1. Schwalbe’s high-pressure rim tape installed. For those just skimming the captions: Stan’s NoTubes yellow rim tape worked great as well. Gorilla Tape, while an awesome value for regular tubeless conversions prevents proper air flow into/out of the outer chamber.

In case you missed the hype, let’s get you up to speed on ProCore. It’s actually really simple and surprisingly easy to install. There is a tube with an adjustable valve that can fill either the inner chamber, which consists of the blue inner ‘tire,’ or the outer chamber, which consists of your tire of choice and some tubeless solution.

If a wheel rolls in the forest and it doesn’t have a ProCore decal, how will anyone know?!

Super nifty ProCore valve allows you to inflate both the outer chamber and the inner chamber separately.

The red rubber insert allows air to transfer around the inner chamber and fill up the outer chamber (your tire of choice).

Where things really get interesting is when you start to ask what ProCore can do for you. If you’re an XC racer the short answer is, give you heart palpitations about how much it weighs. I assumed that for me, ProCore’s value was limited the rear wheel. Up front, I’ve had no issues with rim damage, burping, or sidewall support running 25-27psi in a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 EXO tire or 23-25psi in a Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Gravity 2.35. In the rear, I run more pressure than I’d like to avoid bottoming on the rim, burping the tire, and flatting. I hate flats. Being able to reduce rear pressure by 3-5psi, from the 28psi I run now, to get superior traction and no rim strikes, without sacrificing support, sounds like pure gold.

The magical inner chamber. It’s a bumper that prevents you from bottoming out on the rim. It holds the beads of your tire against the rim to eliminate burping and provide a fail safe if your tire does have a failure. It acts as a volume spacer inside the tire changing how pressure ramps during compression. It provides the option of hours of nerdlicious fun balancing your inner and outer air pressures… it…

It was a chance encounter with a local bicycle wizard named Rick Loader that really got me thinking of ProCore’s potential for a trail rider like myself. Rick’s key ProCore benefit is the ability to run ~23psi (or less?), get all of the ground-hugging characteristics of a tubeless tire setup, and have the support of the tire beads you get from a traditional tube. And this will only cost you around 200 grams.

Wheel #1 aired up. ~75psi for the inner chamber and ~25psi for the out chamber as a starting point based on other’s recommendations. Tire is a Specialized Slaughter Grid. 60ml of Schwalbe sealant inside the out chamber (tire).

Speaking of costs, ProCore sells for somewhere around ~$275 CAD. Wow. But for some folks I know that’s going to end up being a bargain when you consider the price of a rim, spokes, nipples and labour to rebuild a wheel. It doesn’t take more than two totaled rims to cover off the cost of ProCore. Plus the kit includes Schwalbe’s fantastic Easy Fit tire mounting fluid/applicator, for those tires that are stubborn to bead up, and a three-pack of the best tire levers you can buy. Tubeless rim tape and two 60mm bottles of sealant are in the package as well.

Best. Tire. Levers. Ever.

Once the inner tube/chamber are installed the rest of the process is just a straightforward tubeless tire setup. Then air up the inner chamber and then the tire will inflate right up every time. Way easier than many tubeless setups I have performed and definitely no compressor required.

Dave McInnes is a creative wrench who services a lot of aggressively thrashed bikes. He’s experimented with the ProCore system more than anyone I know and he offered a unique perspective from his experience supporting privateer DH racers. These are the guys that bankroll themselves traveling all over creation. It can be a hard choice between a winning set up and one that limits the amount of overtime you have to work to pay for wheels/tires every weekend.

I love Gorilla Tape for tubeless conversions. Not only does it work really, well it only costs about $3 for a roll. But leave it in the drawer for your ProCore conversion.

Dave is adamant that ProCore adds significant value to anyone looking to maximize their DH performance, with rim protection being the number one feature. Running 80psi in the inner chamber and experimenting with pressures ranging from 19psi front / 22psi rear all the way up to 30psi front & rear depending on conditions, he has seen riders going from cracking and/or flattening rims every race-paced lap to going whole weekends with minimal truing.

This tiny patch included with the ProCore kit ensures a proper seal for the valve base against the rim tape. Works brilliantly and would be a great idea with any tubeless conversion.

Just as Campagnolo invented the quick release but Shimano perfected it, Dave points out that before ProCore was available, many racers had experimented with various “ghetto” versions of the system by running a road tubular, which acts as a bumper but doesn’t lock the tires’ beads into the rim the same way.

I arranged for some bench time at the Bike Room to do my ProCore installations. Jeff, the lead instructor, and an experienced racer himself noted that some racers run partially inflated DH tubes with tubeless sealant as a multi-stage fail safe to try and salvage race runs in case of a tubeless tire failure.

Schwalbe can’t take all the credit for the idea of ProCore, but they ran with the idea and released a unique and very polished product.

ProCore install #2. WTB i25 rim with Hans Dampf EVO SnakeSkin tire. No word of a lie, it took longer to ‘extract’ the Hans Dampf from the stock rim strip than to install the ProCore setup.

Handy little plastic tool included to both tighten down the valve core, and replace it as needed, and also to open and close the dual chamber valve settings.

The last of my three ghosts of ProCore’s future is Ken Perras of Rocky Mountain Bicycles. In addition to being a solid rider, Ken, as one of the guys tasked with spec’ing bikes to provide the best value for the consumer, has a very keen sense of performance per dollar.

Ken agrees that there is value in the system in terms of prolonging rim life, but has managed to destroy a Flow EX rim by casing his rear wheel. If you case your wheel hard enough something has to give – fair enough. But while the damage prevented the bead from holding and his tire deflated, ProCore meant that his inner chamber held air and the tire stayed on the rim potentially preventing an awkward high-speed crash.

Great insurance if you’re racing or pushing your bike to the limit.

What are you looking for? Traction? Tire retention? Rim durability? All of the above? Schwalbe makes some big promises but the more people I talk to who have ridden the system the more excited I am for the possibilities.

Valve body collapsed : open valve core and pump up inner chamber (tube).

Valve body extended : open valve core and pump up outer chamber (tire).

As I am writing this I have a few rides split between two bikes. The first is a front-&-rear setup with a Specialized Slaughter Grid rear tire and a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 EXO 3c front tire. The second is a rear only setup using a Schwalbe Hans Dampf EVO Snakeskin tire with a Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Gravity setup tubeless up front.

Installation was a breeze in all cases and I can already speak positively about increased and a more fluid suspension feel. You get a tonne of traction from running less air pressure but you don’t get the washy feeling. There is still good support when you lean the tire over.

I’m really looking forward to testing the system through a range of settings conditions and also in checking back in with riders using the system differently than myself to collect their experiences. So, if you’re on ProCore yourself I’d be keen to hear your comments below.

For more on ProCore click here…


ProCore, huh yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely something…

Trending on NSMB

Comments

ron-chang
0
Ron Chang  - June 11, 2016, 7:15 a.m.

Hey Andrew, thanks for writing this article I love my procore, but had to stop using it for 1 reason and I'm interested if you'll experience it, as well. I always inflated/deflated the chambers with the valve in a position so that the sealant would not clog up the valve as easily. However, after 4 months of frequent use, I noticed that it became more difficult for air to pass through the valve. Eventually, it was so clogged that I just could not get enough psi in there. I cleaned the valve to clear the latex and that worked with 1 end, but the other didn't respond to any cleaning. I still love the benefits of the system so much that I'm going to use it with new tubes on my DH bike. However, my day-to-day trail bike will just be tubeless now. I also want to see if another brand of sealant would prevent clogging of the valves, so I can use it on all bikes again. I was told by a credible source that doc blue is relabeled Stans and we all know about the latex balls that form with that brand. Thanks, again.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - July 26, 2016, 6:54 p.m.

Hi Ron,

I apologize for the delayed response; I just saw this.

I recently experienced what you are talking about re. needing to clean out the ProCore (I like you was concious of adding/removing air in a position that would minimize the chance for sealant to get in).

It was a quick/easy job. I removed one bead of the tire, removed the valve core from the ProCore valve and then opened the ProCore valve to the position you use for filling the outer chamber (Tire). A little bit of really hot water flushed everything out and I was good to go.

ProCore is definitely more maintenance than a standard tubeless set-up but the benefits definitely outweight the extra work from my perspective. The weight is harder to justify for a trail bike?! But in many cases justifiable?

I really appreciate your reading/commenting. The follow up review "ProCore for Trailbikes" should be up on the main page in the next couple of weeks.

Take care,

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kirk
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Kirk  - May 31, 2016, 12:56 p.m.

I was extremely keen to try procore. I run Light Bicycle carbon rims on my bikes - they are 31.6mm wide (ID) and 32mm deep (model RM650BC13). The procore valves are not long enough to install on these rims. But as you say, the carbon channel is likely not strong enough to withstand the high(ish) pressure of the inner tube. I may have avoided a catastrophe without knowing it. Still leaves me curious though.

Reply

Xorrox
0
Brad_xyz  - May 31, 2016, 12:50 p.m.

After wrecking around 10 tubes, 2 tires and 1 carbon rim from rock strikes / snake bite this year (many of them on Ned's and all on the rear wheel), I am stoked about the procore concept. I've been using it in the rear for around a month now on both an aluminum and a carbon rim. So far so good. I'm over 220lbs riding weight, so 23 psi in the back seems to be the sweet spot for North Shore trails for me right now. This is on a Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin 2.35″. Any less and it feels mushy on landings and sharp, fast corners, especially on my narrower aluminum rim. For wet winter NS riding I need all the traction I can get but the cost in tires, tubes and rims was getting high enough that a gamble on procore seemed worthwhile.

My LB 30 mm inner carbon rims say they are rated for 70 psi so hopefully they can take the pressure. As far as I know, very few aluminum or carbon rim manufacturers have officially approved the used of procore. There have been some stories of carbon rims exploding, but I have not seen one example of that where it was obviously cause by the extra pressure. The bigger consideration for me is whether the rim is too deep for the procore valve. I think a lot of carbon rims would be too deep. Fortunately with the LB rim I have there is just enough thread.

I don't see any reason the air guide would not work with gorilla tape, although I have not tried it. My biggest concern would be if gorilla tape could handle the extra pressure, especially with only one wrap or if it would blow out into the spoke nipple access holes.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - May 31, 2016, 3:10 p.m.

Thanks for your post Brad, its very well considered. I don't know of any aluminum rim manufacturer's specifically recommending against ProCore and I haven't heard of any ProCore related failures whereas, as you note, there have been a notable number of documented issues with carbon.

It's merely a hypothesis, but I think the thickness and compress-ability of Gorilla tape is the issue as under the air channels would be forced downwards into the tape. It definitely make it notably harder to air up the outer chamber and prevented the release of air from the outer chamber without first significantly decreasing the inner chamber pressure.

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awesterner
0
awesterner  - May 31, 2016, 4:15 p.m.

I did mine with (black) gorilla tape, and the condition of it looks consistent with the schwalbe or stans tape after use. Use to do road rims with electrical tape in s pinch FWIW with no issue 🙂 My rims have issues with the plastic tape (read: doesn't stick well)

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drewm
0
DrewM  - May 31, 2016, 10:02 p.m.

Interesting. No issues adding/removing air with the inncer chamber inflated?

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andrew-batchelar
0
Andrew Batchelar  - June 1, 2016, 12:38 p.m.

The Gorilla tape issue is probably not all that common. The Schwalbe tubeless tape that comes with the kit is a lot better than Gorilla tape anyhow… it comes with the kit so may as well use it.

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awesterner
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awesterner  - June 1, 2016, 5:15 p.m.

The only issue I had was leakage at the valve shoulder, remedied by installing the little patches, which I initially thought weren't in the box. And a little extra tightening of valve nut. The schwalbe tape was a problem for me as my rims are fairly narrow and are offset drilled. I suppose a double wrap would work but I didn't (at the time) think I had enough tape

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denomerdano
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Deniz Merdano  - May 30, 2016, 10:26 a.m.

Ahem…awkward question maybe but how much do you weigh Andrew ?

Psi numbers fluctuate with rider weight and unsprung bike/ wheel weight.

I am 170lbs kitted and run 23/28 on magicmarry/ hansdampf snakeskinn tubeless combo on WTB KOM rims with no problems.
So many variables in the wheel game to come up with a conclusion swiftly. But this procore setup will give people having problems another fighting chance…. In marketing theory

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drewm
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DrewM  - May 30, 2016, 3:41 p.m.

Not an awkward question; I'm ~185lbs in a 5'9″ frame with T-Rex's ape index. That said, I've been working in the bike industry in a part of the world with a significantly higher % warranty/failure rate than most for a pretty long time and weight is not a great predictor for component failures. Although, as you note it will definitely affect tire pressure/support (tire sag and sidewall choice).

The worst offenders are solid dudes with short legs because they have to plow things that those with longer limbs (even heavier guys) can finesse. I know too many 'dancing bears' and too many 'crusher gnomes' to recommend a product based on the scale.

I'm not experiencing flats, tire failures, or damaged rims on my trail bike with any regularity, but that is at least partially because I compensate by running more than optimum air pressure. Where that trade off (weight vs. traction vs. durability) is going to entirely depend on the rider.

And yes, the reason I put together this Intro and tried to involve some experts with more experience is drawing conclusions about ProCore - specifically for non-race applications - even for myself is a process. If I was running two wheelsets it would be a no-brainer to leave it installed in one -- particularly for shorter, wet, low traction winter shore rides -- but there is something to be said about a simpler, lighter, standard tubeless setup for longer days in the saddle.

Thanks for reading!

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awesterner
0
awesterner  - May 30, 2016, 10:01 a.m.

Nice Andrew, nice! I've been on Procore for a few weeks now on my heavy duty wheels. Magic Mary front, Hans Dampf rear (for now-cleaning out storage). Tire feel at the lower pressures for normal Snakeskin tires is pretty unreal. I would never have been able to run lower pressures (22 front, 24 rear) on narrow 23mm rims without the tires folding or burping. They add about as much weight as an average tube (maybe a bit more), but honestly its tough to tell for just all around riding. If one were to drop major cabbage on carbon rims I think it's a wise investment even just for the rim protection. A 1500 gram set of carbon hoops with Procore still ends up to be a fairly decent weight, awesome performing wheelset. Oh, and Ken burped his 27+ at the fiver, and Wade…and….;-)

Tire swapping can be a bit messy, but once you get a system, it is pretty quick.

Next up will be trying Maxis tires with the setup

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drewm
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DrewM  - May 30, 2016, 3:52 p.m.

Thanks Steve! Very on point.

A few of quick thoughts:

1) definitely want to check with your carbon rim manufacturer of choice as most (all?) carbon rims can't handle the load of bottoming on to the inner chamber (especially at higher pressure) and it's a recipe for cracked rims. Schwalbe is only recommending the product for alloy rims.

2) yes, even with the Specialized's, even lighter than snake skin, Control casing it is crazy between the bead lock and difference in volume how supportive the tires feel at lower pressures. I had to stop thinking about pressure relative to non-ProCore the same way tubes vs. tubeless are different animals.

3) re. Weight vs tubes. It's like running an all mountain tube, plus an extra valve stem, and 60ml of sealant -- so it is heavier than a tube but not a ton. It's also important to note that the outer casing still feels like a tubeless tire so it conforms to terrain much better than a tire with a tube installed.

Cheers,

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awesterner
0
awesterner  - May 30, 2016, 8:23 p.m.

Andrew, good call on the carbon rims! I'll keep them on my alu rims. My only experience with carbon and high pressure has been tubular track wheels. And of course, no issue with high pressure on sew ups 🙂 clincher carbon may indeed not be able to handle the increased pressure.

Another note on weight, it hides well. Maybe not on the road but on tech climbs one can relax a bit from the added traction.

I'm a convert, but I still enjoy a light quick wheel set on smooth summer single track 🙂

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steve-low
0
steve low  - May 30, 2016, 3:37 a.m.

Hey Andrew. Mate great article thanks. What bike did/are you running it on? Why i ask is that i ride a slack steel hardtail that i like to hammer the dh on ( and really annoy my cousin on a zesty carbon) and ride trails on. Im feeling that this system will have even more benefits on a hardtail than on a full susser!?? Any thoughts mate?

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drewm
0
DrewM  - May 30, 2016, 7:13 a.m.

Thanks Steve,

Thus far I've run it on the Cannondale Jekyll we had for testing and on my personal hardtail (Ti Kona Explosif if it matters).

The one place I've noticed a positive on the hardtail that was a negligible difference in the Jekyll is climbing traction (much less wheel slipping in loose-over-hard conditions).

I love hardtails but I can simply go faster/push harder on a duallie so in terms of support it probably makes a bigger difference on a full suspension bike.

The extra traction is great on both.

Speaking of the rear wheel only, it's nice, on the hardtail, not to have to set your air pressure based on rim strikes vs. performance. I'm currently running ~55psi in the inner chambers on the trail bike (thanks Ken for the recommendation!) with just over 20psi in a Specialized (s)Laughter Grid tire. Normally I could/would never run that low but with the internal chamber protecting the rim, holding my tire's beads in place, and taking up so much volume that the tire "ramps" way more aggressively compared to the more linear feel of a regular tubeless setup I really feel like it makes a big performance difference on the rear of a hardtail.

The bigger traction difference is up front though, so splitting kits to just run rear is not something I'd really consider now.

You have to weigh that all against weight, cost, and complexity. DH race bike for sure. Enduro racing I think is a strong yes. Trail bike I'm on the fence. It is a lot of weight gain over a long day although I have to admit I don't really notice it even on long rides (adaptable I suppose) or comparing climbing times to friends before/after ProCore.

Hope that's what you were looking for!

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steve-low
0
steve low  - May 30, 2016, 12:11 p.m.

Thanks Drew
Was the way i was thinking and the rear wheel damage protection was my main reason for considering procore. Being able to run lower psi on a hardtail and not becoming eastons number one customer would be nice! And i guess with the extra wgt its the old saying of you get used to what you ride! Probably notice it for the first bit of the first ride then adapt! ……………its only the first generation of a product like this too and if industry history tells me anything it will only get better.
Many thanks for your informative reply!

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