Tubeless tyre inserts claim to offer additional protection for your mountain bike rim, so you can run lower tyre pressures for improved traction. The Panzer insert is one of the latest to arrive on the market, so we got our local rim-dinger, David Hayward, to put them through the grinder as part of a tubeless insert group test. Over to David!
As Wil has said elsewhere, 2018 was truly the Year of Foam, with everyone putting foam in everything, especially tyres. Panzer is another contender, with its wedge-profiled, Morzine-tested insert promising to eliminate flats. Like many similar companies, Panzer states it has tested a variety of foams and arrived at one that combines the preferred density and weight, whilst not guzzling tyre sealant.
For those of you who haven’t read any other tyre insert reviews: this sits inside a tubeless tyre, absorbing and slowing down impacts, in turn reducing the chances of pinch flats, burping, punctures or rim dings.
Claimed weight for Panzer is 100g per insert – plus or minus 20g, which is quite a large tolerance but still a low amount of weight. Our 27.5in inserts have a verified weight of 109g each.
The yellow branding sticker covers a join, so rather than being made in an enormous mould, these are an extrusion cut to length then welded together at the ends – which means no messing around with knives or zip ties, they’re just ready to go right into an appropriately sized wheel.
The actual shape of these is quite hard to photograph, as evidenced both here and on Panzer’s website. In cross section, it’s sort of like a Superman logo, but with the shortest sides near the top vertical rather than bevelled. The wide part sits somewhere in the middle of your tyre carcass, below the tread, leaving plenty of air volume. The point goes inward, sitting in your rim well.
Installing this was easy, not quite Huck Norris easy, but with plenty of room left to push beads around, it went quickly. One bead on, insert insert, sealant in, other bead in, and it was up. The wedge-like profile makes a lot of room for the bead, and the circumference means it snugs down to the rim bed, but not so much it’s hard to get in. Granted, by the time I got to these I’d tested a good few other tyre inserts and had quite a bit of experience with various systems, but this is definitely among the easier ones to fit.
I did have to push the foam off the valve before inflating – Panzer recommends removing the valve core and poking something down the valve stem to do this. I kept the core out to inflate it. The foam sitting on the base of the valve made it a little harder to pump, but not painfully so. The tyre still went up with just a track pump. Interestingly, the foam then sat back on the valve and kept some of the air in. Instead of going all the way down, the tyre just dropped from 33psi to 22psi while I was removing the pump and, not especially quickly, replacing the valve core.
I found installation easy enough on 25-26mm internal rim widths (oh dahhling, I’m *so* last season), but another friend I asked to try one out said he found them difficult on 25mm internal width rims, but really easy on 30mm internal width.
The tyres I ran these in were a 2.4in Maxxis Minion SS EXO (780g), and a much heavier 2.4in Panasonic Padura tyre (1309g), which had much burlier sidewalls. I typically run 17PSI front and back, with or without inserts. Only really high volume ones, such as Vittoria’s Air-Liner, induce me to run them lower, and these have a slightly smaller cross section, so for most of this test I was running 16-17PSI.
These got a hammering around Calderdale in the back of my hardtail, plus a pre-Christmas trip to Revolution Bike Park. They handled everything from clumsy drop offs, braking bumps, fast cornering, waterbars, pack horse trail, and even a hit directly onto a sticky-up corner of an inconvenient square rock, all without stuttering. Despite thuds and occasional audible dinks, there was no damage to the rims during this test. My tyres were consistently at 17psi.
In terms of support, they give a little bit of lateral support midway up the tyre casing, and that must be helped slightly by the innermost point of the insert profile also snugging itself down to the rim bed. Other than that, the tyre beads have some freedom to move around. I don’t generally burp (it would be very uncouth of me), but pushing through corners and traversing bits of pump track, I could feel the tyre moving a little more than with some other inserts – still less than a bog standard tubeless setup though. If it’s bead locking you’re after, Panzer does much more than thinner inserts like Huck Norris; but CushCore, ProCore and Vittoria’s Air-Liner all do still more in this department.
Panzer’s inverted triangle shape basically gives some contact to the sidewalls and the rim bed, but otherwise leaves the tyre a lot of room to react the way a tubeless tyre would to most things. The width at the broadest part does stop the sidewalls getting much closer to each other, helping to stop any feeling of rollover or lateral compression. The large amount of air volume still free gives plenty of scope to tune out trail buzz and get your tyres gripping exactly as you want them to. I think Panzer has struck a really good balance in this respect.
There’s not much else to say about the ride really. They went in my tyres, worked, and didn’t make themselves known in any way during the test.
The tradeoff with all tyre inserts seems to be bead retention versus ease of fitting. The more an insert clamps down on those beads, the harder it’s going to be to get them in there in the first place – or off.
Thanks to the roomy profile behind the tyre beads, dismounting a tyre and getting the inserts back out was a cinch. If you tend to look at the weather forecast and swap tyres, these would work for you while giving greater protection than thinner inserts and DIY versions. If you run one tyre all year round and tend to burp it, there might be something else that suits you better though.
On extracting them, I noticed the sealant ran off them well, beading up and leaving large areas of the insert surface with only a very light coating. Some of the cut edges have a slightly rough finish, which led to germination of some tiny Stan’s monsters, but they were 3-4mm. For a few months of buildup, that’s pretty small, but worth keeping an eye on.
Mechanically, the inserts were perfectly intact, with no slits and no separation at the joint. Much like other high volume foam inserts, it seems Panzer puts so much material above the rim that harsh compressions don’t cut through or damage them.
At around 100g each, these are around half the weight of most rim-protectors. Despite the lighter weight, they did a great job keeping dings at bay. I reckon these give one of the best protection-to-weight ratios in this grouptest, so if added rotating mass worries you, but you still want a bit of rim padding, these would be a good bet.
Interested to see what other tubeless inserts are available and how they perform? Check out all of our tubeless insert reviews right here!
|From:||Whyte Bikes, whyte.bike|
|Price:||£55 per wheel|
|Tested:||by David Hayward for 2 months|