David brings us a round up of the many, many tyre inserts that he has been testing. Which tyre insert might be right for you?
Given the first review in here was four years ago, this is about as long as long-term grouptests get. I started out with Procore, which Chipps gave to me after seeing just how often I flatted, dinged, and destroyed wheels – about every other week. I never looked back, and have mostly run inserts ever since. Now, I flat or ding a rim about once a year.
So what are they and what do they do? There are a bunch of different shapes and systems, some foam, some polymer, some with multiple layers, some a combination of inner tubes with protective outers. Most do roughly the same two things: Protect you from flats by putting material between the tyre and the rim, and support the tyre laterally, giving you more traction and less squidge.
Most have a bias toward one of those things, which is worth bearing in mind according to your riding. They do carry a penalty in that they increase the rotating mass of your wheel, which will slow down steering and braking a little, though a part of the idea is you can offset this somewhat by running a lighter tyre.
Not all inserts work with standard tubeless valves, as they block airflow. Some come with their own valves, featuring lateral holes to solve this. For all of the reviews in this test, I used Stan’s tubeless sealant (the standard one, not Race).
Weights per wheel range from the svelte Huck Norris at just under 80g, to Rockstop and Cushcore each approaching 250g. (I’ve made a spreadsheet here, including verified weights)
Another characteristic of inserts is that they change the suspension characteristics of your tyre, and your tyre is indeed a suspension component. Syntace talked about this when they co-developed Procore with Schwalbe, and some people laughed, but they weren’t wrong. Tyre pressure has an enormous influence on how your suspension feels, as well as rolling resistance over small chatter. Tyre inserts let you run lower pressures safely with more flexible tyres. CushCore have also published some research on this, but bear in mind it only compares their own product to a standard tubeless setup – not to other inserts.
Nothing makes a wheel indestructible though, and while these inserts have let me roll out of some situations I didn’t expect to, I have also managed to flat spot a couple of wheels. This is no fault of the inserts, given the magnitude of the wallops, so I’m not going to single those two out.
I ride in Calderdale, where a lot of the trails don’t have much in the way of corners, but do have a lot in the way of rocks. Naturally, I select more for rim/flat protection, and you’ll probably pick up on that in my reviews. If you’re railing bikeparks, it might be that you need more in the way of lateral support than I look for – but I’ll still point you toward the better options in the summary that follows.
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