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Editorial

Should You? Tire Insert Pros and Cons

Words Cam McRae
Date Feb 3, 2021
Reading time

The pneumatic tire is one of the most elegant and successful systems ever devised. In 1888, John Dunlop, a Scottish veterinarian living in Ireland, was told by a doctor that cycling would improve his son’s health. Unfortunately, the hard wheels on the boy's bicycle (or tricycle according to some sources) gave him a headache. In his veterinary practice, Dunlop used plastic sheets to cover the operating table, which likely got pretty gruesome at times. Using his surgical skills, he fashioned tubes made from those sheets (hopefully not used ones) and successfully affixed them to the rear wheel (or wheels) of his son’s two or three-wheel conveyance, covering them with canvas for protection. Word soon spread and Willie Hume, the first racer to use his rubber, air-filled tires, won all four bicycle races he entered at his first event in 1889.

*Unaware that the rubber pneumatic tire was patented in 1846, by another Scot, Robert William Thomson, Dunlop was granted a patent in 1888, only to have it declared invalid two years later

Why would you mess with a system so perfect it’s hardly changed in 130 years? It’s as blasphemous as suggesting wheels shouldn’t be round. Our reverence for Dunlop’s invention makes it easy to see why riders are reluctant to mess with their rubber(s). And yet this system has a glaring weakness when it’s applied to riding mountain bikes in gloriously bony terrain; it can only function if that pressurized air stays in.

Johnny_Dunlop.jpg

John Dunlop's son, also named John Dunlop, was the first to ride on pneumatic tires. What isn't clear is how many wheels he was riding on.

Lately I’ve had more questions and feedback about tire inserts than anything else; even more than help finding a new bike in the age of COVID (I've got nothing...). Aren’t they heavy? What happens when you get a flat? Are they all torturous to install? Which ones do you like best? Will they turn me into Wade Simmons or is this more a Brandon Semenuk product?

All these queries are understandable, because like most ‘solutions,’ there are upsides and downsides to riding with inserts. Consumers are also justifiably more skeptical than ever about manufacturers' product claims, and insert makers have many of them; they make your suspension work better, reduce flats, provide damping in your tires, improve low pressure performance and cornering, protect your rims, and even make your bike roll faster.

rimpact-vs-cushcore.jpg

Rimpact Pro on the left and Cushcore Pro on the left. Both of my preferred inserts share a teacup shape that supports the sidewall.

Figuring out which of these is bullshit and which will be useful to your riding can be a bit of a minefield unless you’re able to try out one of these products, but unless your buddy has some, that’s a tricky prospect. To help you sort through this, I’m going to focus on the points that are most easily verifiable or felt, so suspension performance and rolling speed are off the table (until we go full-German and do some back to back testing wearing lab coats) but I feel confident talking about every other element mentioned above.

There is a long list of perceived and actual downsides as well. Chief among them are added weight and installation woes, but there are more. You will probably eventually get a flat with inserts* and you’ll need to consider several factors to solve that problem when it happens on the trail. Cost is going on the list as well and, like tires, most inserts seem to be wear items that need to be replaced eventually. There are even some riders who don’t like the feel of some inserts, so there is a lot to talk about here.

*I’ve only had one puncture with Cushcore and I rode it out without issue

The basis for all these questions is pretty simple. Riders want to know if inserts will improve their riding experience and if those improvements are worth the downsides that come along with them. That’s the question I hope to begin to answer here, starting with the downsides.

octa-mousse.jpg

A number of smaller operations are getting in the insert game. Octa Mousse, shown above, weighs a claimed 125g in the 29 x 2.4-2.5 size.

Insert CONS:

Weight

Riders are so loath to add mass to their rolling hoops, that even a few grams can be too much. While the additional hit that rotational weight adds to climbing a mountain biking may be overstated for the speeds we generally travel, it’s mass that is certainly more easily felt than adding water to your bottle.

The heaviest insert combo I’ve ridden is the original Tannus Armour, which is a solution that uses a tube. The inserts themselves weigh more than others I know of at 330 grams, and you need to add a tube to that which can easily be another 200g. You can use lighter tubes, like Tubolito, and there is no need for sealant, so it’s possible to get the total weight hit of the system down to well under 400g. Cushcore is probably next down the list which can weigh up to 280g* for the pro model in 29, and you’ll have to add sealant as usual. Flat Tire Defender is also one of the heavier solutions, and it’s listed as between 230 and 250g for the new FTD II in 29. On the other side, there are feathery insert solutions available, like Huck Norris at 85g, Rimpact (original) at 100g, and Pepi’s Tire Noodle which start at around 80g in 29.

*inserts, like tires, seem to have some variation in weight

SuperMouse-by-Andreani-03.jpg

More Mousse - this time the SuperMousse, which is a dual density, high volume insert. In the large 29" size it's said to weigh 180g.

(Pro Within a Con)

The counterpoint to the weight issue is that many riders, myself included, find they are able to run lighter casings than normal while using the right inserts, meaning those like Cushcore, Tannus, and Tannus Tubeless that take up significant volume and provide sidewall support. I’ve spoken to heavier and harder charging riders who have come to this conclusion as well. I’ve taken it a step further and I’ve mostly been riding rims recommended for "trail"* use with both Cushcore and Tannus Tubeless for the last 18 months or so without incident, despite riding trails that are more like challenging DH tracks. In my experience,** if you are running the more robust inserts you can easily erase any insert weight gains.

*in this instance I'm using trail in the way some manufacturers use it - to convey riding that is less challenging for rider and equipment than DH or enduro racing

**unless you are already smashing the gear you are riding now

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Adding Cushcore to the Kona Honzo ESD I've been testing has made it much more enjoyable to ride. Photo - Deniz Merdano

Installation Woes

If you are experienced at installing downhill tires on stubborn rims, you’ll probably be okay with an insert install. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, particularly the first time, but after installing several I’m at the point where I can start with wheels on the bike, install two Cushcore inserts and have the bike ready to go in under 30 minutes.

Cushcore is the most challenging install I’ve encountered thus far (and there is further variation depending on the rim/tire combo) but it teaches you strategies that can be applied to any other insert or tire install. The first is that, for both install and removal, your life will be much easier if the entire bead of the side you are dealing with is pushed all the way into the centre channel of the rim. This is best accomplished with Cushcore’s Bead Dropper tool, which makes the job much easier. Beyond that, anything that eases a regular tire install will help, like adding something to lubricate the tire and rim, like sealant, Dick’s Bead Slip, or even some soapy water. I find wearing gloves helps the process as well.

It can indeed be a pain in the ass, and if you already dread installing or removing tires, it’s going to be a bear. It does however get easier, and some, like Tannus Tubeless, and Rimpact, are significantly easier. Minimalist solutions like Huck Norris are only marginally more difficult than a normal tire install.

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For my riding, minimalist, low volume inserts like Huck Norris, don't deliver what I'm looking for.

Cash Money

A Cushcore setup, which includes high quality ported valves, retails for 150 USD. A similar kit from Flat Tire Defender is 90 USD, and Tannus Tubeless is 50 for one or 100 USD for two with valves (although special valves are not required with TT). A pair of Huck Norris will set you back about 70 US. You'll likely have to add shipping for most inserts, unless your local shop happens to carry the ones you're after.

I have given a pretty good beating to a pair of Cushcore inserts to the point that I would have swapped them front to back to extend their life. That was probably about 6 months of use. Tannus tubeless, because they have a pocket of air inside, don’t seem as susceptible to impacts and it appears they may stay in good condition for longer. I haven’t spent enough time on any single set of inserts to give you accurate impressions of their longevity, but at this point it makes sense to consider them all wear items that will need to be replaced eventually.

A minor counterpoint is that I’ve found that grip is less dependent on tall knobs when you are running inserts at lower than usual pressures, so it may be possible to get more life out of your tires.

tannus-tubeless-8.jpg

The tubeless version of Tannus takes a unique approach by using a stiffer foam that presses against your sidewalls, and contains it's own vented air chamber. In 29 they weigh 160g and I've had a lot of success with them.

Punctures with Inserts

As mentioned above, I’ve yet to have a flat that I had to fix in the wild with an insert, but it’s bound to happen eventually. If you hit something sharp enough and hard enough, it’s going to put a hole in your tire that can’t be fixed with bacon strips. If you need to put a tube in, you’ll somehow need to get your insert home. If you have a decent-sized pack, you can likely strap it on. Otherwise you’ll need to wear it over your shoulders, possibly with a twist in the middle to keep it in place. It’s a great look, especially with sealant all over the noodle you’re wearing.

Cushcore can be ridden out flat with surprising success. I could ride at decent speed on challenging trails when I rear flatted with a Cushcore Pro installed. It didn’t take much care to keep the rim from chiming off the rocks and I could corner surprisingly well. I wasn’t that surprised because I’ve done the same thing with front and rear flat, again with excellent results. From there the success of other inserts I’ve tried this with falls off quickly. I didn’t try with Rimpact, but they might be decent in a straight line. Tannus tubeless isn’t terrible either, but not great in terms of protecting your rim from dings. FTD II is probably pretty good, and perhaps Vittoria Airliners as well because of the volume they occupy. There are several other lesser-known inserts that might also work decently as a run flat solution, including Octa Mousse, Supermousse, and Pepi's Rokkline, but that's only a supposition until I get a chance to try them.

In the comments someone mentioned a video by Cushcore inventor Adam Krefting, showing how to install a tube with a Cushcore insert. You'll need a smaller tube than usual and a longer valve, and he's got some great trailside installation and removal tips as well.

Trail Feel?

When AJ wrote about Rockstop inserts, he mentioned that the impetus for the design was related to the originators disliking the feeling of some inserts and wanting something more lively. I don't share this concern, but for people who don't like a damped feel that omits some high frequency trail chatter, this might apply for the inserts that have this feel, like Cushcore, Tannus Tubeless and likely for the other higher volume inserts like Vittoria and Flat Tire Defender.

pepis-tire-noodle.jpg

Pepi's Tire Noodle's latest iteration has a shape that mimics the inner profile of your tire and rim. The R-Evolution model weighs an outrageous 109g in the largest 29er size, which makes me suspicious.

Insert PROS:

Puncture Prevention

This is likely pretty high on most riders' lists, and even higher for racers. All inserts claim to reduce your puncture incidence, and I have enough experience with both Cushcore and Tannus Tubeless to confirm the performance of both in this regard. I have less confidence in Huck Norris, but some riders have had a good experience with them.

The idea is a simple one; when your tire encounters either a heavy blunt force or a sharp trail obstacle, the insert provides a cushion between the rim and the impact. This is important because most punctures occurs when the tire is squeezed between the rim and the offending nasty trail bit. As I mentioned earlier, it's possible to get a puncture with an insert, but it's much less likely in my experience.

Sidewall protection is claimed by some insert makers but this is trickier in my view. When they are shaped like a teacup, like Cushcore or Tannus Tubeless, an impact against the sidewall could sustain more damage because, rather than deforming against air pressure alone, the spiky villain can pin the side of the tire using the insert as backing. It could also be that protecting the tire from deforming under high cornering loads or impacts reduces the likelihood of a wound. I haven't experienced any noticeable sidewall damage while using inserts to date, nor have my compadres.

finn-iles-bartek-wolinski.jpg

Top riders who use inserts, like Finn Iles, shown here in Lousã, Portugal in 2020, are now sponsored. In the past riders who used Cushcore did so without compensation, giving their testimonials credibility.

Rim Protection

My best anecdote about rim protection comes from my friend Mike Wallace, the sometime World Cup mechanic. Nobody is harder on rims than UCI DH riders, and some are harder than others because of their stature and/or riding style. One young Canadian rider was destroying a rim, on average, every single run at the last Fort William race. We're talking about aluminum DH rims. After starting to use Cushcore, that same rider could get 3 or more runs out of the very same rim (which still sounds awful to me).* Which means you can still destroy a rim, but you're going to have to try much harder than before.
*after a follow up with the rider above, he told me that in general, at dh speeds he doesn’t run inserts because he feels the added weight makes his wheels hit harder, while some of his contemporaries prefer the added grip in the rear at lower pressures

As mentioned above, I've been riding lighter rims lately to see if I could damage them, with Cushcore and Tannus Tubeless, without success, despite running dangerously low pressures. I never even hear the sickening clack of rim bottoming on rock, although I did have that experience with Rimpact Pro in a rear tire. Other lighter solutions aren't likely to provide the same level of protection, but at this point I'm confident my rims will survive with the inserts I generally prefer.

If you have a history of rim destruction, I would recommend trying some of the more substantial inserts.

FTD-II-product-3 copy.jpg

Flat Tire Defender was the first insert I heard anything about, when Aaron Gwin endorsed the product. Shown above is the second iteration, which I hope to try eventually. Weight is claimed at 230-250g.

Low Pressure Performance (high volume inserts only)

This is where a lot of the magic is for me. It is very rare to go for a ride on the North Shore without having situations where grip is severely compromised. Today's highlight was glistening off-camber roots further lubed with slushy snow. In situations where I would have previously had to unweight, change direction, crash, or lift up, with inserts I can generally just cruise right through. I also no longer worry about having a soft tire compound because I have ample grip.

The confidence this adds to my riding can't be overstated. Lines that used to terrify me are now in regular rotation. This morning in the slush, riding Tannus Tubeless and 29 x 2.6 Maxxis DHR II Exo Maxxterra tires, I was riding 16 psi in the rear and 14 up front, but I still had excellent rolling speed and cornering support was superb.* It seems that bumps that would normally slow the progress of your wheels get absorbed, allowing you to cruise along at higher speed with less effort.

*This has been my experience with Cushcore Pro and Tannus Tubeless but not with others

Cushcore made a massive improvement to my experience on the Kona Honzo ESD hardtail. Less shock is now transmitted through the tires and Chromoly into my old bones and I can charge (for me) into lines with more panache and a little less fatigue.

The experience can be a little like riding a magic carpet, because so much vibration and chatter disappears. making the ride smoother and quieter. It's not quite as profound as the difference between hardpack and powder snow, but if you tune down that comparison it's apt.

vittoria-airline.jpg

Vittoria's Airliners take up an incredible amount of volume and should work well running flat. Another I'm eager to check out. The medium size (2.25-2.5) in 29 has a claimed weight of 160g. The bad news? They'll set you back between 83 and 90 USD. Each.

Ride Flat Capability

Cushcore Pro allows for remarkable performance without any air at all. Because of the damping properties of the foam, it doesn't even feel terrible, and it seemed my rims were relatively well-protected. Even cornering, albeit at lower pace, was possible with two un-inflated tires. Tannus Tubeless doesn't provide what I would call acceptable ride flat performance. I'm keen to try others with sufficient sidewall support and volume to see how they do in this regard.

If you are a racer this is obviously a very important consideration, but this capability is helpful for anyone who wants to avoid the bandolier of shame.

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Riding a flat corner with two flat tires, and Cushcore Pro, without any trouble. Photo - Dave Smith

Inserts on the North Shore

Lately I've been running into more and more hard-charging Shore riders who have quietly installed either Cushcore Pro or Tannus Tubeless. A pair of OG Seymour riders, who always ride with the same crew, wrestled in Cushcore without telling any of their riding buddies. A cynic might say they didn't want to share the benefits, and these are not the sort of lads who keep their mouths shut generally. At first I wondered if the benefits I was experiencing would transfer to burlier riders, but everyone I've spoken to appreciates them as much as I do.

I would not however say inserts are for everyone. An example would be riders in Sun Valley Idaho. While I've ridden some more aggressive trails there, the fast majority are smooth and fast, with hardly a root or rock to be seen. It's also generally pretty dry for a mountain resort, so wet weather traction isn't a huge issue. The same goes for smaller riders who don't have a problem with flats or rim damage, and who don't ride very aggressive terrain. And weight weenies likely aren't the target market either.

If you have an e-bike, inserts would be an excellent addition, and they shouldn't impact your range much at all.

My goal is to get my mitts on as many of the promising inserts I can so we can do a larger comparison test and provide some much needed data in this emerging category. So far some of these small companies have been tricky to get in touch with, but we're making some progress. Stay tuned...

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Age - 55

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 165lbs/74.5kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 34"/86cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 485-500mm (longer with 27.5 wheels than 29)

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Comments

jaydubmah
+1 Pete Roggeman
jaydubmah  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:49 p.m.

Great article Cam! Would you recommend starting with an insert in the rear tire at first, or go all in and run inserts front and rear right from the start?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Mammal Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 5:56 a.m.

Thanks! This is very goal dependent and location dependent. The biggest draw for me is increased grip on roots or creeping into rock faces covered in slime, and that’s all about the front wheel. Ride quality is up there for me as well and rear wheel is probably a little more important for that. 

If you are trying to prevent flats and protect your rims, rear only is likely just fine, assuming those are only rear problems for you. Good luck!

Reply

JVP
0
JVP  - Feb. 3, 2021, 12:28 p.m.

I personally find DHF 2.3 side knobs to be too wimpy vs the chunkier 2.5 side knobs. Big difference in corner grip and how long they last before tearing comparing same casing and rubber.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Feb. 3, 2021, 1:10 p.m.

This maybe the downfall to my plan.  I do like DHR2s F+R which happen to be lighter than 2.5F so may end up going down that route.

Reply

fartymarty
+2 solar_evolution Pete Roggeman
fartymarty  - Feb. 3, 2021, 1:43 a.m.

Thanks Cam - a very interesting article.  I'm very insert curious... particularly TT which seems to tick the box for performance and weigh.

I flat very infrequently (touches wood) however am very interested in using inserts (TT) to run a lighter narrower tyre (2.3 DHR2 exo MT) and achieve similar grip and better support than a 2.5 DHF exo MG at a similar or lesser weight.  

This would primarily be for summer riding however is likely to extend to wider tyres for winter.  I'm currently on a Verdict / Judge combo which are awesome in the slop we have in SE UK at the moment.  I love the damped feeling of the V / J but the rotational weight is a killer.  Hence something that provides similar grip, feel and lower rotational mass would be great.

Reply

Lornholio
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Lornholio  - Feb. 3, 2021, 3:13 a.m.

I put a CushCore Pro in the rear of my Patrol last year after getting too many flats on my 1100g-ish rear tyres (usually Michelin WR2, similar to Maxxis DD) even after increasing to 28psi and really didn't want to go higher than that, and figured I could probably run that tyre with an insert at a similar weight to DH rubber without insert, maybe with less pressure.  I'm completely sold.  Felt noticeably better when I dropped 3psi but not a big difference dropping another 2-3 to I settled on 25psi and only had one flat in that time but that was a heavy landing directly onto a sharp rock which dented both sides of the rim and snapped a spoke.  I wondered about dropping back to EXO weight when when I first got the CushCore, or dropping pressure a little more especially when more grip might be desired but for peace of mind I'm happy with how I run it.

If I can get hold of a new 29" bike next summer I'm going to give Tannus Tubeless a shot for a little lighter weight, €20 cheaper than CushCore and easier removal/installation.  CushCore on/off gets a lot easier the more times you do it but is still a hassle especially if you need to do it three times in the space of a month for a tyre change then snapped spoke then rim damage.  If it works, cool.  If it doesn't I'll go back to CushCore.

I'm still 50/50 about trying an insert on the front but I rarely flat my front (Michelin Enduro Front these days at about 1000g) and don't really want to add more weight.  Maybe the old 850g Magic Mary Snakeskins with a light insert would be good to try but looks like those don't exist any more.  If I could borrow an insert for the front I'd try it out of curiosity.

80kg rider, riding day-to-day on very rough natural French walking trails with lift access 4 months of the year.

Reply

Masacrejoe
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Michael Klein  - Feb. 3, 2021, 5:12 a.m.

After denting my Hunt Trail Wide rim four times in the first two months, I got hold of a TT-insert for the rearwheel of my hardtail. I went from 22-25psi without insert to 15-20psi (Maxxis Dissector EXO) and have had zero dents (I weigh 62kg). I can run as low as 8psi, but below that all air escapes, and rim and inserts slips inside the tire making it impossible to reinflate the tire without pulling it off and aligning the valvehole in the insert first. Install is like fitting the tire twice.

Reply

Masacrejoe
0
Michael Klein  - Feb. 3, 2021, 5:12 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

Masacrejoe
0
Michael Klein  - Feb. 3, 2021, 5:12 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

cam@nsmb.com
+2 solar_evolution Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 6 a.m.

I too love the Verdict/Judge combo but I don’t generally go to narrower rubber in the summer. Although since I’ve been spending more time on 2.6 this winter that may happen. Sounds like you are onto something to maximize performance and keep weight in check.

Reply

fartymarty
+1 Cam McRae
fartymarty  - Feb. 3, 2021, 6:19 a.m.

I'll report back in an edit once I finally get around to playing around with it.  

In my mind 2.3s are like narrow skis where you can get from edge to edge quicker plus roll faster...  All well and good if you have enough braking traction.

Reply

martin
0
Martin  - Feb. 3, 2021, 6:27 a.m.

Here is my atypical setup that works perfectly for me :

Front : Magic Mary Snakeskin soft + Tubolito 29 + no insert / 21.5psi

Rear : Magic Mary Snakeskin Soft + WPL sealant + Cushcore Pro / 22.0 psi

No tears, cuts, flats, dents, etc all summer in sharp rocky east coast (touching wood!). Will run the same setup for 2021 as I like the suppler casing and it seems to resist rocks so far.

950g Snakeskin won't an option anymore for the Magic Mary 29", but I'm eyeing the new E Thirteen Grappler next and hoping they do a 1000gram version!

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Feb. 4, 2021, 5:58 a.m.

If anyone identifies an equivalent alternative to the now defunct MM snakeskin let us all know!

Reply

Timer
+1 Agleck7
Timer  - Feb. 4, 2021, 12:40 p.m.

I tried, but it’s tough. The closest thing might still be the DHR2 2.4 Exo which is usually below 1kg. 

Another candidate might be the Kenda Hellkat. Tread similar to the Mary and the ATC casing is light. But for grippy rubber one has to go for the heavier AEC casing. 

The Hutchinson Griffus looks good too, great rubber and ~1kg. But tread is more DHF than Mary.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+1 Timer
AndrewR  - Feb. 7, 2021, 5:03 p.m.

Michelin WILD Enduro FRONT Gum-X 29 x 2.4" is the replacement for MM. Same weight (well within 50 grams, better casing, better compound and similar loam shredding tread.

Magi-X if you are absolutely certain that you are riding fast ALL the time (has a harder base rubber so the rebound is really stiff if you are not a fast rider).

The first tyre in five years that has proved better (all round) than my Continental Der Baron Projekts. 

E-13 LG1s were awesome but rolled extremely slowly and wore fast (but the grip was sublime).

I have just pulled my Cushcore XC as they are a PITA despite owning the world's largest tyre lever (the Cushcore persuader) and the Michelins just refuse to pop back onto the bead (having been jammed under the insert as per the fit instructions) from the centre channel despite running the compressor at full flow through the open valve (ie no core). 

They worked with the Der Barons and I really like the dampening characteristics and the slightly unicorn jizz magical rainbow way that the bike seemed to slow down less in the jank with them fitted. I honestly didn't notice the extra weight including hauling that bike up ITM and LOTS (including a full pull to Sproat) and a 40 km day in the Chilcotin (where they were awesome in the lake side jank beside Hummingbird Lake).

I found that as a heavier rider (98 kg with gear) that I did not see a huge pressure drop allowance with the Cushcore XC. I usually run 21.5 front and 23.5 rear and I could safely drop to 19 front and 20 rear with the Cushcore XC but the edge grip was vague when speeds headed up. But I bought them to help save the rim from my crap timing when trying to double rocks and roots on tech trails and they did that job well.

I have just replaced them with Tannus Armour Tubeless. At first impressions the install is about a 5/10 on the Cushcore Install Hernia & Hand cramp scale (Cushcore XC is 9/10 and Cushcore Pro is 10/10). In fact it was faster to install the TT than it was to remove the Cushcore.

Ride impressions of the TT, other than a spin up the street, will have to wait until I get to see some snow free trails.

Reply

Vikb
+4 Cam McRae Mammal Pete Roggeman Angu58
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 3, 2021, 7:27 a.m.

The new Maxxis 29 x 2.6" DHF/DHR tires are the first Maxxis rubber that I have been really happy with. They measure ~2.5" wide on 30mm internal width rims. So not particularly wide for my 185-190lbs + gear + heavy bike. Every time I ride a skinner Maxxis tire the small casing volume is noticeably less pleasant to ride.

The issue with bigger volume tires is running lower pressures means less protection for smashing into things and for cornering support [not as big a deal in the slower techy natural terrain I ride]. Putting a Tannus Tubeless insert in the rear of my hardtail lets me ride it pretty much without a second thought and so far zero problems. If I didn't have the insert in there I could make it work, but I'd be focusing a lot more energy on that rear wheel trying to ride it light and being more careful about getting off the ground and picking a smooth spot to land.

I can ride the 2.6" DHF up front down to 14-15psi without an insert so I haven't bothered trying one up there. 

Thanks for the previous TT review Cam. That motivated me to try one and I am glad I did. For my shreddy 29er hardtail I can't see taking it out unless it's to put a new one in.

Reply

BkrAdam
0
BkrAdam  - Feb. 3, 2021, 7:29 a.m.

In a flat situation is it possible to shove a tube into the tire with any of the insets?  I’ve been able to do that with a Huck Norris.  It actually worked fine.

Has anyone tried with the Tannus?  It obviously wouldn’t work with the very high volume inserts.

Reply

Lornholio
+5 Cam McRae solar_evolution Pete Roggeman BkrAdam Angu58
Lornholio  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:25 a.m.

CushCore has a video on their own YouTube channel showing you how to insert a tube with the CushCore Pro still in place.  You need a tube with a long stem and I think they might recommend a low volume 29" tube or even a road tube if doing it on a 27.5" setup.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 lewis collins
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

Interesting. I've wondering about that with Huck Norris and TT. I have a tubolito as my spare so it will likely fit into the Tannus, but without inflating the entire tire. I'm quite sure it's too stiff to allow the tube to expand very much, but in that situation it could be like having Cushcore in there with a flat. Time to give that a try. 

I've also thought it would be great to have a minimalist tube - like Tubolito - that could deploy from a cavity inside an insert in the event of a puncture. There are several hurdles here, and one is keep the tube puncture free until you need it, not to mention how you'd add air. A dual-delivery valve like the one used by Schwalbe for ProCore might work but those aren't trouble-free. 

I love the idea of getting a flat, flipping a switch and then having a tubed system to get you out without any repair needed, without having the weight get out of hand. It may be a pipe dream but more challenging problems have been solved in this industry. 

Eventually you'll likely be able to do it with a wireless system and a button from your bar. Or maybe with a glance of your eyeball when the heads up display on your eyewear indicates a flat!

Here's that video - which is excellent.

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fartymarty
+1 Cam McRae
fartymarty  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:27 a.m.

Maybe even a road tube installed in the TT?

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andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - Feb. 7, 2021, 5:05 p.m.

Can't say for sure as I haven't needed to but based on installing two TT today (and their original concept included using a tube) that you probably could throw a tube inside the insert.

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rwalters
+6 Cr4w Cam McRae solar_evolution Pete Roggeman sansarret cedrico
Ryan Walters  - Feb. 3, 2021, 7:47 a.m.

Great article. For anyone thinking of going inserts, I can't stress it enough - watch the YouTube tutorials on installation and FOLLOW THEM TO A TEE! You will save yourself a lot of misery - particularly for CushCore. And when they "recommend" you use a plastic garbage can to support the wheel during installation - they mean it. I couldn't imagine installing CC without the garbage can. Also applicable to other insert installs.

As was touched on in the article, to fully appreciate the benefits of inserts, you really have to think of the rim/tire/insert as an integrated system. The right insert will allow you to get away with lighter rims and tires. I love my carbon hoops, but I'd never run them without inserts. I feel that the Shore is the ideal environment for inserts as well. Our terrain can be heinously slippery, and we don't have a lot of very sharp rocks. A location with sharp rocks probably means you're not going to get away with lighter casing tires even with inserts.

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denomerdano
+3 Mammal Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Deniz Merdano  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:24 a.m.

I have been running the tannus on the back of the Druid for the past few months. EXO casing assegai 2.5(soon to be DHR II 2.4)

The short travel bike has gained significant damping for the rear. Definitely allows for faster charging in rougher ground.

On the long travel coil sprung Canfield I'm testing however, the EXO+ front and rear seems to work very well without any obvious need for inserts.

The suspension suppleness and amount may also calculate into this already complicated matrix.

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alexdi
+1 Cam McRae
Alex D  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:40 a.m.

Great stuff, Cam. Will bookmark this one.

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Glass
+4 Cam McRae Martin BkrAdam Pete Roggeman
Glass  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:54 a.m.

Dry set up: Assegai EXO dual compound front and back both with cushcore and tubolite tubes. No sealant, no mess, no dented rims, tons of grip with needing to go for maxxgrip compound.  I run 14psi front and 17psi back for trail riding and 17psi front and 20 psi for bikepark.

Wet Setup: WTB Verdict Wet light casing high grip with cushcore front and currently Schwalbe Eddy current front super gravity setup tubeless. I will change that to either a Verdict with light casing and cushcore or get an Eddy current front in the new trail casing with cushcore. 

Rider weight: 132lb/60kg with riding gear.  

I highly recommend this setup! It comes out weight wise about the same as DH/supergravity tires setup tubeless but with no risk of burping and allows you to tune your tire pressure for the terrain you ride and not to prevent flatting/rim damage.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 9:37 a.m.

Interesting that you are using Tubolito (or maybe tubolite wasn't a typo?) with Cushcore. I haven't heard of anyone doing that previously. Cool that you don't need to worry about your tire holding air. Is that the main advantage from your perspective?

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martin
+1 Cam McRae
Martin  - Feb. 3, 2021, 1:02 p.m.

I have inquired Cushcore about doing this as I didn't want to deal with sealant or burping either, but they strongly advised me not to do it.

They said that the tube could push the tire away from the rim and that it should only be done to get out of the trail in case of a flat tire. I couldn't wrap my head around the difference between a tube and air pushing on the tire so I asked if they were sure about that and they replied the same thing again haha!

For how long have you been running this setup?

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mammal
+4 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman IslandLife Skooks
Mammal  - Feb. 3, 2021, 9:09 a.m.

Tannus front/rear on my 27.5 hard tail, with 2.5 EXO Maxterra Minions. Hard charging over the winter, like I never have before. Unparalleled traction on all the slimy things, no flats, no rim damage, and I got over the extra weight on the first ride.

Thanks to Cam for the initial review that pushed me in that direction, and to @islandlife (?) for passing on the promo code that helped me justify the purchase (full price and shipping is worth it in hind-sight).

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IslandLife
+3 Agleck7 Paul Stuart khai
IslandLife  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:56 p.m.

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khai
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
khai  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:39 a.m.

Fantastic article - thanks!  I run CC Pro in my DH & FS trail/enduro bikes on both ends, and on the rear in my HT - though recently I've been considering a Tannus Tubeless for the front.  If only there was an affordable way to get them in Canada!  Having dabbled in moto, mousses are huge depending on terrain and speed, so I can see some of those newer options being really good in a mtb tyre as well.

As far as I'm concerned, more competition and more options only benefit us users as the best have to keep innovating to stay ahead of the challengers - and new thoughts/approaches keep coming forward.  It also should help on affordability.

Also, just a note that in the 2nd image set the description says: "Rimpact Pro on the left and Cushcore Pro on the left"

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IndigoInkTaco
+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman khai
IndigoInkTaco  - Feb. 3, 2021, 11:05 a.m.

Tannus has responded to people on other forums indicating that if you contact them and need shipping to Canada, they can work with you. I'm in the states so I can't verify that, but they seemed willing to work with you northerners. Send them an email and see what they say. Can't hurt.

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ep888
+3 khai Cam McRae Skooks
ep888  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:50 p.m.

Are you close to North Vancouver? Check out Obsession Bikes, as of a few months ago they had a bunch of the Tannus inserts. 

Just found out another local bike shop sells them online too: https://bicicletta.cc/products/tannus-armour-tubeless-tire-insert

Hope that helps someone in their quest!

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skooks
0
Skooks  - Feb. 5, 2021, 11:41 a.m.

Thanks for that. For those living a bit further east, Kinetik still has some of the TT inserts in stock.

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ep888
0
ep888  - Feb. 4, 2021, 10:34 p.m.

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IndigoInkTaco
+1 Cam McRae
IndigoInkTaco  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:40 a.m.

Nice writeup, thanks!

So if you were to choose one  insert (or rate them) strictly for sidewall support which would you go with based off your experience?

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:07 p.m.

Both Cushcore and Tannus are solid in this regard. Tannus is a little lighter 160g vs approx 260g but Cushcore has a more damped feel under impact and has much better ride flat capabilities. I like both actually but it depends on your priorities.

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skooks
+1 Peter Adamkovics
Skooks  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:46 a.m.

Cam, that 26x2.6 is a typo right?

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Vikb
+3 Mark Timer Skooks
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 3, 2021, 11:46 a.m.

26 ain't dead! ;-)

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:05 p.m.

LOL. Good catch! Thanks

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Taz123
+1 Pete Roggeman
Taz123  - Feb. 3, 2021, 11:53 a.m.

Running dual Nukeproof ARDs on Assegai/DHRII (EXO+) no issues for my 220# Clydesdaleness on the shore. I did shorten them a bit as they do swell a bit.

The only flat I've had was due to a snapped spoke pushing through the rim-tape...not an insert-related failure.

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Gdreej
+1 Pete Roggeman
Graham Driedger  - Feb. 3, 2021, 12:37 p.m.

Taz, I also ran the Nukeproof ARD for a couple years for pinch-flat protection on the rear wheel, with the same tires as you. The ARD is viable as a low volume insert (like a Huck Norris), but pales in comparison against a Tannus Tubeless/Cushcore/teacup shaped insert which sufficiently supports the sidewall and allows much lower tire pressures = better traction on the shore.

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skooks
+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman ep888
Skooks  - Feb. 3, 2021, 12:37 p.m.

Great, informative article Cam, thanks. I am currently experimenting with running Tannus Tubeless front and rear for winter shore riding, and I have to say I like it.  I am able to run 4-5 psi lower tire pressure without a noticeable increase in rolling resistance or tire squirm. The increased traction is immediately obvious, as is the increased weight on climbs. I think it's a worthwhile tradeoff though.  

I recall you had some discussions with the TT guys about a new, lighter front-specific insert they are working on. Any update on that?

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:08 p.m.

Actually I didn't hear back on that. Maybe they thought better of it?

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WalrusRider
+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
WalrusRider  - Feb. 3, 2021, 2:09 p.m.

Ran full cushcore for about a year on my full suspension bike. After a year I pulled it out during a tire swap and decided to try riding without an insert again. The weight saving alone was incredibly noticeable especially when climbing. I never put it back in. I ended up putting my cushcore into my hardtail where it remains. The additional damping is very welcome on the hardtail and I don't seem to notice the weight as much.

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Skeen
+1 Cam McRae
Skeen  - Feb. 3, 2021, 7:16 p.m.

Great article, first the pneumatic tire history was excellent. And it’s helping me narrow down my if & which tubeless decisions. I am 200lbs, and like to ride hard through chunky lines. Living on CO front range so almost always dry conditions. I still use EXO or EXO+ casing with higher pressures (high 20s, almost 30psi) with variation depending on tire width. This approach works for me (haven’t flatted in years, here comes the jinx) but I feel it is one of my remaining old school hold overs and I’m interested to try the new tech. Go for the no-spare-tube-carrying dream with Cush core F&R? Minimalist insert: TT in the rear only and still carry a tube? Or just stick with what already works, not spend more money but maybe miss out on a more forgiving ride, at least on my hardtail? I’m leaning towards the TT option for now.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 3, 2021, 8:12 p.m.

Thanks Skeen! Lots to think about. I'm amazed you don't get flats being a clydesdale (with all due respect!) and riding where you do. The front range terrain I've seen is very rocky indeed, but maybe not where you are? Or maybe you're just silky smooth! Good luck sorting it out!

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Skeen
0
Skeen  - Feb. 6, 2021, 2:37 p.m.

I ride plenty of very rocky trails around here so 29 PSI in the rear keeps my rim safe, anything less than 28 is a no go for me. That’s why I’m thinking of going with the TT so I can hopefully drop down to 26.

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rwalters
+1 Cam McRae
Ryan Walters  - Feb. 4, 2021, 7:36 a.m.

Having tried both CC and TT, and I am close to your weight and riding style - I would say it all boils down to what is most important to you. If you really want the ability to run flat, go CC for sure. If keeping the weight down is most important, go TT. I would personally say that price shouldn't really factor. Even though they can be considered a wear item, both those inserts should be expected to last a few seasons, unless you were a real smasher.

I am currently on TT, and will stay on them for the foreseeable future. They seem to offer all the benefits of CC, but in a lighter package. They are also much easier to install. I ride with a bunch of various sized bacon strips and tire patches "just in case". I also found that CC had a strange effect on the bike when jumping. It's hard to explain, but my bike seemed to want to jump further and higher with the CC installed. It sounds weird, but I have chalked this up to the greatly reduced air volume in a CC tire. When you press into the lip of a jump, the air pressure ramps up a lot quicker and higher with a reduced volume, and I think that's what pushes you further off a jump. I wouldn't call it a bad sensation, it was just different - something to get used to. I am curious if any other CC users have felt this. The TT don't seem to experience this as much.

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IslandLife
+2 Ryan Walters Cam McRae
IslandLife  - Feb. 4, 2021, 8:40 a.m.

Just as a little counter to the longevity of CC vs TT... I ran CC for about 6 months and at the end, they were becoming petty cut up with a bunch of cuts right through the insert.  I'd estimate they would last me another 6 to 10 months or so??  Tannus after a longer period still looked like new... have now idea how long they'll last and how they might break down over time... but so far for me, it looks like they'll last far longer than CC.

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rwalters
+1 Cam McRae
Ryan Walters  - Feb. 4, 2021, 10:18 a.m.

Wow, that is crazy. I ran CC for a full year, and definitely didn't have that experience. I wonder if the thickness of the rim wall has anything to do with it. I was running Nobl TR38s which have a huge 4mm rounded rim wall - probably a lot harder to damage the CC with that rim. I also never ran crazy low pressures.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 4, 2021, 2 p.m.

Tire pressure and weight are probably big factors with Cushcore longevity.

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nick-nimmo
+1 Vik Banerjee
Nick Nimmo  - Feb. 3, 2021, 10:55 p.m.

A local shop is telling me the tannus setup often doesn't work with regular tubeless valves and there's a 95% chance I'd have to buy cushcore valves so I might as well go straight to cushcore. In all my reading I haven't come across a single instance of this. And it's not like they only have cushcore in stock. They have plenty of both on the floor. Thoughts?

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strawberryletterno.23
+1 jaydubmah
Luminous Fractal  - Feb. 4, 2021, 4:33 a.m.

sounds like the shop has stock they cant shift tbh. get a new bike shop thats doesnt palm off unwanted gear on you

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Vikb
+3 Ryan Walters Skooks jaydubmah
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 4, 2021, 6:48 a.m.

In my limited experience this is BS. I had no issues and looking at the design I can't see how it would be an issue. I think the LBS wants to sell you CC for some reason.

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rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Feb. 4, 2021, 10:51 a.m.

Same here - this sounds like BS. No idea why you would need the CC valves for TT (assuming the insert is installed correctly), and I've run both.

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nick-nimmo
0
Nick Nimmo  - Feb. 4, 2021, 10:57 a.m.

Thanks for the input. It definitely seemed a little weird the way they were pushing CC with this being the reason. Off to grab the Tannus setup I go

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 taprider
Cam McRae  - Feb. 4, 2021, 2:03 p.m.

Another point is that if you have have valves with aluminum bases it takes about 10 minutes to put cross hatches in each on to make them work with Cushcore and similar inserts. If they have rubber bases you can probably do it more easily with a knife. Either way, Cushcore valves are not essential even for Cushcore. They are nice though.

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Weetbix
+1 Cam McRae
Weetbix  - Feb. 6, 2021, 12:36 a.m.

The valves that came with my Tannis Tubeless inserts were absolutely garbage. Admittedly they were free (or included in the price at least) but they leaked from the start and then the stem pulled clean out of the rubber end when I removed my one up pump at the start of an uplift day. Very frustrating. 

I think maybe this is what your shop is referring too, in that you'd be best to get some decent valves rather than bother with the ones that come with TT. I just used my old valves however. 

Other than that TT is great and agree with the comparisons with CC in the article.

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andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - Feb. 7, 2021, 5:24 p.m.

Yeah I'd call BS on that statement. That said the CC valves are bomber and probably the equal best tubeless valve set up I have used (e13 are the other one) for being able to get a good valve seal and not blocking. Just installed the TT valves as they came with the inserts and they seem well made and well thought out, don't try and over tighten them however as the aluminium tube will pull out of the rubber grommet. In my perfect world they would not be red but hey one cannot have everything.

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boomforeal
+1 Cam McRae
boomforeal  - Feb. 4, 2021, 5:48 a.m.

i'd be interested in your impressions of the vittoria airliners cam

out east without the big hits, compressions, and rocks i hadn't originally been paying attention to inserts. then all of the guys at the lbs got airliners and started raving about the comfort and grip. i finally ponied up for a pair at the end of the summer and it was pretty eye opening. a bit more rotational weight for sure, but the increased grip on wet roots and comfort of low pressure, along with the support in corners, was wild. bigger improvement than going tubeless for non-fat tires, imo (though obviously you have to do that, too)

if that's the kind of feel inserts offer broadly, i'm not sure why people relegate them to the rear wheels -- as you say above, the improved grip and cushion out front is a big part of the appeal

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 4, 2021, 2:08 p.m.

You're out east now? How did that happen? I guess I missed it but sorry you aren't nearby to bump into any longer. Vittoria is on my list but I haven't figured out how to reach out to them yet. I don't have a contact there but it shouldn't take too long. Were they pricy? When I checked they seemed to be 80 USD apiece! I like the look of the shape and the fact that they take up a huge volume without being too heavy. How was the install?

I agree with you about the rear wheel but I can see why the weight conscious might stop at rear only.

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boomforeal
+1 Cam McRae
boomforeal  - April 27, 2021, 12:44 p.m.

didn't see this reply cam: we moved to nova scotia in 2016 when my partner found a job right after getting her phd. plenty of trails around here, but nothing like what i'm used to of course

i got a substantial "bro" deal on the airliners through my lbs. they weren't cheap, though i think they've recently come down in price considerablu. installation was a piece of cake

i just took possession of a pair of WaO carbon wheels. so snappy! i haven't transferred the inserts yet but plan to do so this weekend

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Pnwpedal
+1 Cam McRae
Pnwpedal  - Feb. 4, 2021, 10:28 p.m.

Great article Cam, thanks for addressing the larger discussion of inserts VS no-inserts. Many of us have not "seen the light" that insert fans rave about, and while a lot of it depends on combinations of bike, terrain, tire, rim, rider skill, rider style, speed, etc, it does also boil down to feel and preference. It's even interesting to hear differing opinions among pro racers, a majority whom seem to not run any inserts at all.

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Littleman
0
Littleman  - Feb. 7, 2021, 12:09 a.m.

Having been a sceptic on dropper posts ("I can just stop and put my seat down"), which I now wouldn't be without, I've learnt to be not be so cynical about new tech. So I can definitely see how inserts like cushcore and tannus tubeless would be of benefit. The issue I have is being 153cm (5ft) and 57kg I just think maybe the weight will be too much for someone my size/weight and deaden the ride too much.

Yes, using them with exo casing tyres would help that but I've slashed the sidewalls of exo tyres plenty to not really want them again by choice, and I can't see how inserts would help prevent a slash high on the sidewall like happened not that long ago to me. Exo + o'r DD and tannus then? Rear only? It would, in reality, be an experiment for me and I'm not sure if I want to drop the cash on an experiment.

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Littleman
0
Littleman  - Feb. 7, 2021, 12:11 a.m.

Oh, I'm running sub 20 psi and I'm not heavy enough / don't ride hard enough to have too many problems with squirm / burping.

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skooks
0
Skooks  - Feb. 7, 2021, 4:59 p.m.

What are you hoping to gain with inserts? If you're already running 20psi you might not see much benefit.

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nick-nimmo
0
Nick Nimmo  - Feb. 7, 2021, 5:39 p.m.

Wild, sub 20psi and no inserts? I won't run less than 26 rear on my new wheelset for fear of denting it. Got a set of Tannus inserts this weekend I need to install now

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Littleman
0
Littleman  - Feb. 7, 2021, 11:51 p.m.

Yeah, about 19-20 in the rear and 17-18 in the front. Only 57 kg remember (dd tyres). Not sure what I could gain, more of that damped feeling maybe. In reality I don't think the benefits are there for me really, just curious I guess.

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jaydubmah
+2 AndrewR Cam McRae
jaydubmah  - Feb. 7, 2021, 11:22 a.m.

Quick heads up - Inside Line in Calgary has Tannus in stock with great pricing.

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flattire2
0
Brian Tuulos  - April 13, 2021, 11:31 a.m.

Can inserts allow you to run a narrower rim without burping?  I burp my 25mm inner width rims occasionally.  Would a insert prevent this?  Saves weight of going to a wider rim.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - April 27, 2021, 12:59 p.m.

I would say that inserts would help a lot with this, but installation might be tricky on a narrower rim depending on the profile of the rim and the insert you are using.

Still waiting on the Vittorias. How do you like yours?

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