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Similar story; 49 years old, riding since the late 80's, just got my \*first\* hardtail ever in 2020 (went from fully rigid in 1988 - not counting a Girven flex stem and Koski fork - to fully suspended in 1996). Just stopped wearing a chamois and looking into pants. but I still see no need for inserts. I run 20psi on both bikes (27.5x2.6EXO+x30mm, and a 29x2.3EXOx27mm) and I never flat and never destroy rims. Not in New England and not in SoCal. I am 180lbs wo gear and ride hard and aggressively. Maybe if I go into the 14psi range I would appreciate them, but I hate the idea of adding the grams to the worst place on the bike (outer rotating mass).
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