CushCore tire inserts are both a curse and a blessing. In our long-term review, the expensive foam inserts proved to be impressively effective at warding off damage to tires and rims, improving handling and lasting a long time. If only they weren’t such a menace to install!
The CushCore PRO is available in different widths for 26″, 27.5″ or 29″ wheels and can be bought individually or in a set of two. Each foam ring comes with the company’s own bright green, 44 millimetre tubeless valve. We fitted CushCore inserts on the front and rear of two bikes and put them through their paces for two years, competing in several enduro races, clocking more than 150 merciless bike park days in Whistler and riding countless rocky trails everywhere from Europe to North America. During this time, we fitted about 20 different tires. All said and done, we can tell you exactly how much puncture protection the foam inserts really offer, what advantages you can feel on the trail and how many tire levers, frustration and fingernails it’ll cost you to get these things on and off your rims. Spoiler: the latter all depends on the tire, rim and moon phase. However, they also last forever. If you frequently damage your rims despite thick tire casings and have the hand strength of a rock climber, then read on.
Fitting the CushCore inserts can cost you a lot of nerves, though the added effort is kept within limits if all goes well. While fitting a tubeless tire normally takes around five minutes, it took us around 15 to 45 minutes with the CushCore inserts. It is crucial that you follow the assembly instructions to a tee. We wholeheartedly recommend watching the manufacturer’s official installation video. Without the CushCore inserts, we can usually get our tires on and off the rim without tools. There’s no chance of that happening with the CushCore inserts! It will hepf, if you have at least two sturdy tire levers and strong hands. In case you don’t have the recommended Bead Dropper in your toolbox.
The rim and tire combination also has a major influence on how easily the inserts can be fitted. The bikes on test rolled on Stan’s NoTubes (Flow MK3), DT Swiss (FR 560) and eThirteen (LG1+ DH) rims and were combined with MAXXIS tires with a Doubledown or Downhill casing as well as Schwalbe tires with the robust Super Gravity or Downhill casing.
Not only installing the CushCore inserts can be tricky but also removing them. Over time, the insert can stick to the inside of the tire because of the tubeless sealant getting sticky and make life difficult for you when you try to remove the tire. Our tester, Peter, had to cut two old tires fitted with CushCore inserts to get them off the rim.
On the trail
To reward the effort of fitting them, CushCore inserts allow for lower tire pressures, thus increasing grip while also protecting your rims and tires, and they work! You’ll still notice when you hit the rim, though the consequences are greatly reduced. Our tester Peter only had two punctures in total. On one occasion, the tire got slashed and, on the other, an impact beyond what the CushCore can fend off had bent the rim so badly that it could no longer seal with the tire. Even then, Peter was still able to roll home quite relaxed thanks to the inserts. The tire remains stable even when deflated and the foam insert protects the rim from further damage when rolling. Burping your tires becomes much harder. We didn’t manage to rip a single tire off the rim with the CushCore inserts installed. During the 24 months that Peter used these rims with the CushCore inserts installed, competing at EWS races and the Squamish enduro race, among others, he only got this one dent. He was also able to keep using the same CushCore inserts without any issues and never had to replace them.
Do you even need tires with thick casings if you’re running CushCore inserts? Yes! Light, thin-walled tires combined with CushCore inserts provide rim protection and improved grip thanks to lower tire pressures but you’ll miss the stability through berms and corners that you get from strong casings. In addition, the sidewall of a light tire can easily get cut open in rough terrain despite the foam insert. It would be like wearing a full-face helmet and flip-flops.
The added weight of the foam rings is noticeable. A higher rotating mass increases stability and composure at high speeds, though it slows you down on the climbs. You can feel the added grams in your tires through slow corners. For many of you, the additional protection of a CushCore insert will suffice on the rear wheel, if you need it at all. Simply choosing the right tires might do the trick.
- excellent puncture protection
- securely seated tire (even without air)
- last forever
- installation, ohhh the installation...
- more expensive than other tire inserts
The CushCore PRO tire inserts do a great job in terms of rim and puncture protection while improving grip as they allow you to run lower tire pressures. They are expensive, but they also last a long time. If you really need them and thick casings just don’t offer you adequate protection, then it might be worth the struggle of installing CushCore inserts. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the installation and do breathing exercises in between to manage your stress levels.
Test duration: 2+ years
Price: 174.95/pair including valves
Weight: 174.95/pair including valves
More information: cushcore.com
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Words: Moritz Geisreiter Photos: Peter Walker