Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Tire Insert Systems 24

Looking to up the smash-ability of bikes around the world, we took six of the most well known tire inserts and put them up against each other to find out which would take the top step.

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Tire Insert Systems

Sticking things inside your tires to help prevent flats is nothing new. From thorn resistant strips to tire-inside-a-tire systems, it seems like brands are still figuring out what works best. So, what works best? We took five of the most popular inserts, as well as a lesser known insert sold at Walmart, and stacked them up against each other. After weeks of downhill laps, plenty of curb smashes, and nearly sixty hours of testing, not to mention what likely amounts to a full eight hours spent installing and removing these things, we’re finally ready to let you know which insert is numero uno.

1st Place: CushCore ($149 USD) - Best in Test

Based in Bend, Oregon, CushCore’s roots are deeply embedded in moto and power-sports suspension development. While the brand was conceived only a short time ago in the fall of 2016, they’ve managed to engineer and produce the most refined and best-performing tire insert we tested. While the system isn’t the easiest to install and remove, in the end it checked off the most important boxes when it comes to a tire insert Face Off: excellent rim protection and excellent vibration damping. Not only did the CushCore system take the sting off sharp impacts, it did so while improving the overall feel of the bike by helping smooth out chattery sections and reducing trail vibrations that make their way to your feet and hands on a traditional tubed or tubeless setup. CushCore markets their insert as an “Inner-Tire Suspension System” and we have to agree, this was by far our favorite feature of the system. The CushCore inserts also edged out the competition when it came to sidewall support, offering the best in class performance while ran at lower pressures. While the CushCore insert is decently larger in size than the Flat Tire Defender, it weighs-in at nearly 50g less per wheel.

Shop CushCore at www.cushcore.com

2nd Place: Huck Norris ($69.99 USD) - The People’s Champ

Why The People's Champ? Simple. Ease of use, protects the rim well, it's the lightest of the inserts, and it's also the cheapest. So why isn't it sitting in the number one spot? There are several reasons, but the biggest was it doesn't add that damped feeling we got with both the Flat Tire Defender and CushCore systems. Gwin said it himself, and we have to agree, our favorite attribute to running an insert is that feeling, with the added bonus of flat tire prevention and rim protection. That said, the Huck Noris is the most user-friendly of all the systems. Trailside repairs are no different than a standard tubeless setup, and your bike will handle nearly the same as a standard tubeless setup. Plus, you get some added rim and tire protection to boot, all while costing less than half of some of the competition.

Shop Huck Norris at Huck Norris and Jenson USA

3rd Place: Flat Tire Defender ($121.50 USD)

The race between 2nd and 3rd place was a tough one with both the Flat Tire Defender and Huck Norris inserts performing strong in some areas, but not so strong in others. In the end, the numbers don’t lie, and while the Huck Norris system doesn’t offer that trail smoothing feeling like both the Flat Tire Defender and the CushCore inserts, the overall weight and user friendly nature of Huck Norris edged out the Flat Tire Defender by a hair. So where does the Flat Tire Defender insert shine? Most notably in the trail vibration damping category, where it was tied with CushCore. While it does protect your rims quite well, you do feel a bit more feedback when compared to the CushCore insert. Of the closed cell foam inserts (CushCore, Flat Tire Defender, Huck Norris, and Bell NoMorFlat), the Flat Tire Defender insert is among the easiest to install and remove making it one the most user friendly in that specific category.

Shop Flat Tire Defender at Jenson USA

How We Tested

Now, before we get too deep into the details of each setup, let’s discuss how we tested them. To keep the playing field even, e*thirteen provided us with a fresh set of LG1+ alloy wheels, and a couple spare hoops should we damage anything during the test. Schwalbe sent us out some Magic Mary tires for us to use, and Stan’s NoTubes sealant was the final ingredient for this test.

Shop the e*thirteen LG1+ wheels at Jenson USA, Schwalbe Magic Marys at Competitive Cyclist, and Stan's NoTubes sealant at Competitive Cyclist as well

In an effort to keep things consistent, we threw three specific tests at each setup: The curb smash, incremental pressure dropping, and repeated riding on exactly the same trails for each insert.

We're sorry wheels, but it's for science. (No rims were harmed in the making of this film)

For the curb smash, we lined up at the same point, with the same pressures (32psi rear / 29psi front), and nailed the same curb for every configuration we tested. The no-pedal roll-in had us hitting the curb at the same speed consistently throughout testing, and our suspension settings remained the same for every insert. We absolutely expected to see some kind of failure in this test, but surprising every insert passed it. So when it came to evaluation, it came down to how much feedback, or sting, we felt with each individual insert. This results of this test, which can also be thought of as a square-edge hit test, were combined with our on-trail experience to determine the insert's overall rim protection score.

For the pressure test, we started at our normal pressures of 32psi rear and 29psi front, dropped the pressure down to each tire insert’s recommended pressure, before dropping down to sub-20 pressures, hitting the same corners and rock sections every time. The results of this test showed us how well each insert supported the sidewalls at lower pressures, the ideal pressures we found the inserts to work best, whether or not the insert was effectively protecting our rims even at less than ideal pressures, and how well each insert held the bead to the rim. As such, the results contributed to both the Trail Feel and Rim Protection scores.

As for repeated trail testing, we paid specific attention to perceived trail feel and how carelessly we could charge rocky sections. After evaluating a particular setup, the wheels were inspected for damage and tensioned/trued (if needed) before installing the next tire insert. The same two test trails were ridden throughout the duration of the test, one of which features six bermed corners back-to-back before dumping into a high speed braking bump section that leads to a flat corner, and finally a short but rocky section. The other trail features loose baby-head rocks before two small rock gardens, both of which can either be jumped or plowed. For the sake of testing, we intentionally "shorted" jumping these two sections for maximum smash-ability. 

After quantifying all the above from on-bike testing, as well as weighing in the ease of install as well as the overall weight of each insert, it was time to plug-in the numbers. Overall rim protection was the most important factor, and therefor weighted the heaviest with trail feel being the second most, followed by weight and finally ease of install and removal. So, now that you know how we evaluated and rated these products, let's dive into the inserts themselves. 

By The Numbers

Constants

  • e*thirteen LG1+ wheelset weight (200mm rotors, tubeless tape, and cassette installed) - 2,620g (5.78-pounds)
  • Schwalbe Magic Mary tires, 27.5x2.35", EVO DH casing, Vert Star compound (average weight of six tires tested) - 1,420g (3.15-pounds)
  • Total wheelset weight setup tubeless with sealant - 5,640g (12.43-pounds)
Brand Insert Insert
Type
Weight Carbon
Compatible
Bead Lock Rim Modification
Required
Price
Bell NorMorFlat Closed Cell Foam 1,090 Yes Yes No $34.60
CushCore 27.5 Kit Closed Cell Foam 260 Yes Yes No $149.00
DeanEASY Tube+ Dual Air Chamber 250 No Yes Yes 220€ (≈ $247 USD)
Flat Tire Defender 27.5 DH Kit Closed Cell Foam 310 Yes Yes No $121.50
Huck Norris Huck Norris Closed Cell Foam 90 Yes No No $69.00
Schwalbe ProCore Dual Air Chamber 230 No Yes No $199.99

Note: Tested insert weights are for a single insert, not including additional hardware or tire sealant. All pricing is for complete insert kits, no single insert pricing.

We've also sorted each insert by weight, price, ease of install, as well as ease of removal. 

Weight Ranking

  1. Huck Norris - 90g (0.20-pounds)
  2. Schwalbe ProCore - 230g (0.51-pounds)
  3. DeanEASY Tube+ - 250g (0.55-pounds)
  4. CushCore - 260g (0.57-pounds)
  5. Flat Tire Defender - 310g (0.68-pounds)
  6. Bell NoMorFlat - 1,090g (2.40-pounds)

Price Ranking (For Two Inserts)

  1. Bell - $34.60
  2. Huck Norris - $69.00
  3. Flat Tire Defender - $121.50
  4. CushCore - $149
  5. ProCore - $199.99
  6. DeanEASY - 220€ (≈ $247 USD)

Install Ranking

  1. Huck Norris
  2. Flat Tire Defender
  3. ProCore
  4. Bell
  5. DeanEASY / CushCore

Uninstall Ranking

  1. Huck Norris
  2. DeanEASY / ProCore
  3. Flat Tire Defender / CushCore / Bell

Scoring

So where did all the inserts stack up? Here are the actual results, along with how each scored category was weighted:

Weights: Rim Protection (40%), Trail Feel (30%), Weight (20%), Install and Removal (10%)

Brand Tire Insert
Total
Score
Rim Protection
Score
Trail Feel
Score
Weight
Score
Weight
(grams)
Install/Uninstall
Score (averaged)
Install
Score
Uninstall
Score
Insert Type Price
CushCore 27.5 Kit 7.80 9 9 5.5 260 4 3 5 Closed Cell Foam $149.00
Huck Norris Huck Norris 7.70 7 7 10 90 8 8 8 Closed Cell Foam $69.00
Flat Tire Defender Downhill 27.5 Kit 7.00 8 9 2.5 310 6 7 5 Closed Cell Foam $121.50
Schwalbe ProCore 6.40 7 6 6 230 6 5 7 High-Pressure Tube $199.99
DeanEASY Tube+ 6.10 7 6 5 250 5 3 7 High-Pressure Tube 220€ (≈ $247)
Bell NoMorFlat 3.75 6 3 0 1,090 4.5 4 5 Closed Cell Foam $34.60


We left pricing out of the equation as we felt basing the results purely off performance and usability was the most important factor, and it’s up to the end-user to decide whether or not they want to make that investment based on the results.


Our Picks

The results of six inserts tested, starting with our winner:

1st Place: CushCore - Best in Test

General:

  • Middle of the pack in terms of weight
  • Middle of the pack in terms of cost
  • Best overall performer (protection and trail feel)

Strengths:

  • Like Flat Tire Defender, CushCore reduces chatter vibrations to hands and feet, zero sting on super hard square edge hits
  • Best in Test for curb smash
  • Best in Test for sidewall support
  • Offers excellent sidewall support due to the insert's large volume and design

Weaknesses:

  • Hardest system to install (The DeanEasy Tube+ was easier physically, but involves rim modification docking it down to a tie with CushCore)
  • One of the most difficult systems to remove

First off, we’ll start by saying these inserts were among the most difficult to install and uninstall. Our first attempt at installing them with only one person took us nearly an hour and a half. The first insert took nearly a full hour, with the second insert taking about 30 minutes. The initial removal took multiple people and was not something we were able to do alone on our first attempts. After revisiting the uninstall, curious if our first attempt was just a combination of not knowing the proper technique or if the system really was as stubborn as we thought, we eventually figured out a method that allowed us to remove the system in only about 10 or so minutes. That said, we felt this system provided the best-in-class performance with the best of both worlds in regards to where the number two and number three finishers shined - sidewall support and the ability to “smooth out” the trail by damping high-frequency feedback from trail chatter as well as take the sting off square-edge hits. Of the two foam inserts that helped with vibration reduction, the CushCore slightly edges its competitor in the weight department, testing 50g lighter per insert for a total weight savings of 100g.

CushCore Highlights

  • 100% compatible with current tubeless tires and rims
  • Fits tire widths between 2.1-2.5”
  • Fits rims with internal width of 22-35mm
  • Weight: 260g (tested with 27.5” insert)
  • Includes two CushCore tubeless air valves
  • Recommended tire pressure: 5psi lower than what you normally run
  • Carbon rim compatible
  • Closed cell foam to prevent sealant absorption
  • Available in 27.5” and 29” sizes
  • MSRP: $149 USD

Initial Impressions

The look alone of the CushCore insert should quiet some of the chatter regarding the pipe insulation DIY talk. It features a distinct shape that is clearly engineered to both support the sidewalls of the tire and sit tightly into the rim bed to lock-in the bead. Included with the kit are two CushCore tubeless valves, which slightly push the insert up and deliver the air via two horizontal holes. 

Fancy engineering aside, these inserts are not easy to install or remove, with our first install attempt taking us nearly and hour and a half. Removal was a similar experience, and unseating the bead proved to be a multi-person task. But, before we pulled out our score cards to dock these things some major points, we revisited the process. Install time drastically dropped to about 20-minutes per tire, which is still a lot of work and swearing, but quicker none-the-less. For removal, the most difficult part is unseating the bead, and even on the revisit we couldn’t break the seal with a tire lever. Our method - placing part of the tire on a raised surface (say, a big rock or curb in our case), and stepping on the rim to force the bead to unseat. Not elegant, but it brought our uninstall time down to about 10-minutes. We were able to inflate the system using only a floor pump. Once we had our install and uninstall methods dialed, it was time to hit the trails.

On The Trail

We don’t know about you, but one of our favorite feelings on a bike is recklessly smashing through the rough…it’s why downhill is our favorite discipline. As if downhill bikes weren’t already capable enough, the CushCore inserts allowed us to ride with even less regard to staying light over this or taking the slower line to avoid that. Before we even hit the dirt with these inserts installed, it was apparent they do an excellent job at protecting the rim and preventing that jarring sting that occurs when you smack a sharp edge at full-clip. The best way to describe this sensation would be to say it feels as though your suspension reacts just a fraction of a second quicker than what it feels like without the system equipped. Once we did hit the dirt, we immediately noticed the effect of CushCore’s “Inner-Tire Suspension System” philosophy. Trail chatter was quieted and less feedback was felt in our hands and feet.

CushCore states that riders typically tend to run about 5psi less than their normal pressures for optimal performance. Airing down accordingly from our normal pressures of 32psi front and 29psi rear, we felt no difference in tire squirm during hard cornering. For the particular tester doing this Face Off, anything below about 30psi in the rear will cause tire-roll, so we were impressed with the support provided by the CushCore inserts. To push the limits, we started incrementally airing down the tires and hitting the same corners over and over, and to our surprise, we got down to 15psi front and rear before the tire-roll was too much to handle. At no time during this process did the system burp any sealant, which is a testament to the insert’s bead-locking abilities.

All-in-all, with a middle-of-the-road performance in both the price and usability departments, it was the on-bike performance that put the CushCore system on the top step of this Face Off.

Summary

With tire inserts still somewhat in their infancy in terms of figuring out what works best, they seem to come in all different shapes and sizes, with the CushCore insert looking the most unique and perhaps the best thought out. They offer excellent sidewall support, rim protection, and improve the feel of your bike significantly by “smoothing out the chatter” with their trail damping qualities. After weighing a few spare tubes we had on-hand (27.5x2.35-2.5”), which averaged to 240g, the weight of the CushCore inserts is roughly the same. All-in-all, with a middle-of-the-road performance in both the price and usability departments, it was the on-bike performance that put the CushCore system on the top step of this Face Off.

Shop CushCore at www.cushcore.com


2nd Place: Huck Norris - The People's Champ

General:

  • Simple but effective
  • No tubeless valves included
  • The packaging doubles as a fender
  • Regarding “will the insert soak in sealant concerns” - the after testing weight of the insert was 0.01 kg heavier (on a scale that only measures to the nearest hundredth of a kg), which is pretty insignificant and falls in-line with Huck Norris saying the insert will soak in about 2% of the sealant

Strengths:

  • Protects well against rock strikes with no "pinging" sensation which can be felt with some other systems
  • Lightest of all the tire inserts
  • Added a surprising amount of sidewall support at lower pressures and we were able to run 18psi front / 20psi rear before tires rolled too much
  • Least expensive of all the inserts (except Bell NoMorFlat)
  • Easiest to remove of all the inserts
  • Normal install process (no harder than tubeless)

Weaknesses:

  • Misses out on the trail damping feel (if this would have been present, Huck Norris would have likely been the number one insert)

With a comical name and a FAQ where the first question is "Ok, did you guys just make it out of camping mattress?", it's clear Huck Norris is a brand with a sense of humor. That said, when it comes to product performance, they mean business. With one of the most simple designs in the tire insert department, Huck Norris' insert is not only light and inexpensive, it was also one of the most effective inserts we tested in regard to protecting your rims.

Huck Norris Highlights

  • Weight: 70-85g (tested to 90g)
  • Fits both 27.5” and 29” tires
  • Size S: 21-26mm internal rim width and 2.25-2.50” tires
  • Size M: 26-35mm internal rim width and 2.25-2.50” tires (tested)
  • Size L: 34-45mm internal rim width and 2.6-3.0” tires
  • Material specially developed for MTB use “by actual scientists”
  • MSRP: $69.00 USD

Initial Impressions

Packaging that doubles as a fender? Clever. Aside from that, the Huck Norris system only includes a thin strip of Velcro to secure the ends of the insert and the inserts themselves. You’ll have to supply the valves yourself. The insert itself is a simple, porous closed cell foam strip making the Huck Norris insert not only the lightest of all the viable inserts, but also the least expensive. Unlike the other inserts, Huck Norris only makes one kit that fits both 27.5" and 29" wheels, though they do offer multiple widths of the insert for 21-45mm internal width rims (and yes, you 26-for-lifers can run this insert, as well). Installation is as straightforward as the insert itself and is no harder than setting up a standard tubeless wheelset. Simply mount one side of the tire, put the insert in and secure the ends with the velcro strip, add your sealant, mount the other bead, and inflate. We were able to use just a floor pump to get the bead seated. 

Expecting to be able to blow the rear tire off in our favorite corner, we were actually surprised that there was still some sidewall support, which was a bit of a disappointment to our inner Bryn Atkinson and we were unable to unseat the bead.

On The Trail

Getting your bike rolling with the Huck Norris inserts installed felt no different than our typical tubeless setup thanks to their lightweight nature. Starting with pressures of 29psi front and 32psi rear, the bike handled exactly the same had we not had them installed. Finding no recommended pressure starting point, the company simply says "use the pressure you want," without having to compromise traction for flat protection. So, we started incrementally with 2psi drops each lap. Surprisingly, we found ourselves finding our sweet spot a bit lower than we expected, settling at 25psi front and 27psi rear. With our typical insert free tubeless setup, these pressures would give us too much tire roll during hard cornering, but with the Huck Norris inserts installed we didn't feel this occur at all. Continuing to push it in terms of dropping pressure, we finally hit the trail with 18psi up front and 20psi in the rear. Expecting to be able to blow the rear tire off in our favorite corner, we were actually surprised that there was still some sidewall support, which was a bit of a disappointment to our inner Bryn Atkinson and we were unable to unseat the bead. That said, those kinds of pressures is where we tap-out, as the bike is too unpredictable in the turns and rocks. 

So, how about that extra trail damping effect we were so fond of with CushCore? Unfortunately, with the Huck Norris inserts installed we didn't get that magic feeling as the bike rides almost no different than a standard tubeless setup. That said, these inserts do quite well at the square-edge hit test, surprising us again due to taking a lot more sting out of the curb smash than we had expected. So while you do miss out on that damped feeling, you can still ride a bit more recklessly. If you do nail a big rock, you don't experience that hand and foot stinging jolt you normally would. Huck Norris was one of the best in class with how well they preformed in this regard. 

While it may be the simplest of all the tire inserts systems we tested, we were surprised at how well the Huck Norris insert took the sting off sharp impacts, as well as how much sidewall support the system offered. 

Summary

Huck Norris is light, easy to install, doesn't break the bank, and best of all - it works. The only box it didn't check for us was that damped feeling, but we've been riding without that for years, right? While it may be the simplest of all the tire inserts systems we tested, we were surprised at how well the Huck Norris insert took the sting off sharp impacts, as well as how much sidewall support the system offered. One of the selling points from insert manufactures using closed cell foam is that they don't absorb any tire sealant, and while the closed cell foam Huck Norris uses can soak in some sealant after repeated impacts, the before and after weights of the same strip were within 10g of each other, so only a very small amount of sealant was actually present on the strip. Overall, we were very impressed with the Huck Norris insert.

Shop Huck Norris at Huck Norris and Jenson USA


3rd Place: Flat Tire Defender

General:

  • Simple, effective design
  • Some sidewall support, but not as much as CushCore and Huck Norris

Strengths:

  • Good rim protection, though not quite as confidence inspiring as CushCore (pings rocks a little harder)
  • Great trail feel with chatter damping
  • Easy install

Weaknesses:

  • Heaviest of the legitimate tire inserts
  • Difficult removal though CushCore trick works with these, too

Perhaps the most understated of the inserts we’re testing is the Flat Tire Defender. With no fancy packaging, this kit comes with two valves, multiple O-rings for different rim profiles, two zip-ties to help with installation, stickers, and the two Flat Tire Defender inserts. Having developed these inserts with world class riders such as Aaron Gwin, Tracy Moseley, Brook MacDonald, Cole Picchiottino, among others, there’s no doubt these inserts are racer tested, mechanic approved.

Flat Tire Defender Highlights

  • Inner rim width 24 to 36mm (optimum 28 to 34mm)
  • Recommended tire pressures: 24psi to 32psi
  • Recommended tire size: 27.5x2.30-2.50”
  • Weight: 290g (DH 27.5 inserts, tested)
  • Foam rubber polymer construction
  • Closed cell foam to prevent sealant absorption
  • High impact / high-density material
  • 100% airless insert
  • Enduro and Trail 26” / 27.5” / 29”, Downhill 26”, Plus and E-Bike kits available
  • MSRP: $121.50 USD (Downhill 27.5” Kit)

Initial Impressions

The inserts themselves look quite simple, not too dissimilar to a partially inflated traditional bicycle tube. Constructed using a closed cell, high-density, foam rubber polymer. Despite their simple appearance, Flat Tire Defender tested a wide variety of different materials before this EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) material was selected as the top performer. As mentioned, the kit does include tubeless valves, which do lack some refinement in terms of construction (they’re a hand modified Bontrager valve), but as long as they work, this is a non-issue in our eyes.

Installation was not something we struggled with using the Flat Tire Defender system, as it’s pretty straightforward and not too different from a standard tubeless setup - install one side of the tire and the tubeless valve, stretch the Flat Tire Defender insert over the rim, make sure it’s seated, add your sealant then pop the remaining bead over the rim and inflate. Airing up the system was also pain-free, with only a floor pump needed, no compressor necessary. As for the uninstall, we had a similar experience as we did with the CushCore inserts and did struggle a bit. While the initial method we figured out during our First Ride article with the Flat Tire Defender system of removing the valve retaining ring and pushing the valve into the rim, which in turn pushes the insert off the rim bed and allows you to break the bead easier works. In the end, we preferred the CushCore method of just side-loading the wheel with one end propped up with a curb.

On The Trail

One of the main points stressed by Aaron Gwin and Flat Tire Defender regarding this insert is not only does it help prevent pinch flats and rim damage, but it also changes the feel of the bike by damping vibrations on trail that make their way to your hands and feet. They’re spot-on in making sure to point that out, and this, along with taking a good amount of the sting out of sharp impacts, were the biggest benefits we found with these particular inserts. Flat Tire Defender recommends you start at your typical pressures with their inserts and experiment from there to find what works best for you. As such, we started with our normal 29psi front and 32psi rear, and aside from feeling that vibration damping we just discussed, we felt no other discernible difference in terms of traction or sidewall support. Dropping the pressure to 25psi in the rear was the limit for us when it came to rock strikes and tire roll, and the lowest pressures we could handle was 23psi before it was just too much. We did air down to 19psi to see if we could rip our tires off in a corner, but the system held on and we didn’t bump a milliliter of tire sealant. That said, we found the sweet spot of slightly increased traction with no handling drawbacks by only dropping 2-3psi while running the Flat Tire Defender system.

The overall simplicity of the install process and the fact that these are only one of two of the usable inserts that offer the added benefit of chatter damping goodness make these an excellent insert.

While the Flat Tire Defenders improve the overall feel of your bike and help protect against flats and rim damage, they do fall short in a few areas. While sidewall support is there, they don’t offer quite as much when compared to both the Huck Norris and CushCore systems, which means more tire squirm at lower pressures. The overall simplicity of the install process and the fact that these are only one of two of the usable inserts that offer the added benefit of chatter damping goodness make these an excellent insert. They do their job incredibly well, they’re less expensive than all but two of the other tire inserts (one of which we’d recommend against using altogether), and the setup process caused us far less of a headache than average.

Shop Flat Tire Defender at Jenson USA


4th Place: Schwalbe ProCore

The ProCore system is a dual air chamber type system which not only helps prevent rim damage and sealant burping, but can also work as a run-flat system should you puncture. Included with the kit is two blue ProCore inner tires, two ProCore tubes, two tubeless rim tapes, Doc Blue Tire fitting aids, tire levers, Easy Fit mounting fluid, and two bottles of Doc Blue tire sealant.

Schwalbe ProCore Highlights

  • Recommend a minimum pressure of 20psi, but can go as low as 14psi
  • Dual air chamber tuning
  • Minimum internal rim width of 23mm
  • 26", 27.5", and 29" kits available
  • Weight: 200g (tested to 210g, 27.5”)
  • Can be used with any tubeless MTB tire
  • MSRP: $199.99 USD

While extremely low pressures are possible with dual chamber systems like ProCore, there's obviously a point at which a bike becomes difficult to handle. That said, when you're up against the clock and points are on the line, getting to the bottom no matter what is important and that's where systems like this excel. Sure, we've seen them fail, but we're willing to go out on a limb here and say it's these type of systems that offer the best bead locking performance of the various insert styles. 

Schwalbe uses a slick tube inside a super thin "tire" that allows both the low pressure chamber (your MTB tire) and the high pressure chamber to be inflated with the use of one valve. Should you puncture the ProCore tube, replacements can be had for about $28. So why didn't ProCore make our top-three? It's a bit more involved as far as setup goes (though not difficult to execute), it's not carbon rim compatible, and unfortunately doesn't add anything in terms of how well your bike handles like some of the foam inserts do. That said, we found the system to work well and experienced no burping (even at lower than ideal pressures) and zero damage to our rims during both the curb smash test as well as general riding. In the end, ProCore didn't have too much of an impact on how we rode our bike or how the bike handled. 

Shop Schwalbe ProCore at Competitive Cyclist


5th Place: DeanEASY Tube+

Going full-circle from the simplicity of the Huck Norris and Flat Tire Defender packaging, the DeanEASY box is packed with parts. The meat of the system is two tubular tires, numerous valves and sleeves, two yellow “air guides,” thread lock, a schrader valve tool, extra valve spare parts, a sleeve closing tool used to install the second valve, as well as a rim drilling bit guide.  

DeanEASY Tube+ Highlights

  • Dual valve, dual air chamber system
  • Allows for very low pressures
  • Inner tubular recommended pressures between 116 and 174psi
  • DH kit fits internal rim widths of 26 to 32mm
  • 26", 27.5", and 29" kits available
  • Weight: 110g (tested to 240g)
  • MSRP: 220€ (≈ $247 USD)

Similar to Schwalbe's ProCore setup, DeanEASY's Tube+ is a dual chamber tire insert. Instead of using a road bike like "tire" and tube, Tube+ uses a tubular much like those used on non-clincher style rims. Installation of the system is the most involved of all the inserts we tested for this Face Off, and unfortunately involves drilling out your rims to fit their dual-valve system. This, along with the fact that the insert uses very high pressures, makes them non-compatible with carbon rims. Had this not been the case it would have been a toss-up between this system and ProCore in terms of overall rating. Performance wise, the two systems work pretty much identically. Its bead locking abilities are at the head of the pack and rim protection is excellent. But, like ProCore, this system didn't impact our ride as much as the foam inserts.


6th Place: Bell NoMorFlat

We may be stretching the use of these as they’re designed to be a solid tube replacement for non-performance bikes, but what the hell. We found these bad boys on Walmart’s website, and included in the box is a simple solid tube and nothing else.

Sitting in last place is the Bell NoMorFlat solid tubes. Now, to be fair, these were not intended to be rim protecting inserts like all the others, and we included them in the test as they were an inexpensive possible solution. When foam inserts first started popping up on the market, lots of people’s reaction was “why not just go to a hardware store and put foam insulation in your wheels?” Well, these were the next best thing - pre-made, cheap, and intended for bicycles. Unfortunately, they weigh nearly 2.5-pounds each and being that they only come in 20 and 26-inch sizes, are quite the pain to install and remove.

Bell NoMorFlat Highlights

  • Solid 26" tube stretched over 27.5” wheels
  • No valve stems (we supplied our own)
  • Weight: 1,030g (tested)
  • MSRP: $34.60 USD

So why the bottom spot being that they're such an affordable option? Well, adding nearly 5-pounds to your bike in one of the worst places possible has a largely negative effect on the bike's handling. Getting up to speed takes more effort, corning feels odd, and slowing down takes longer. Also, being that these are made for 26-inch wheels and the material they're made of being far denser and less compliant than any of the other foam inserts makes them quite difficult to install and remove. But, if you're not willing to pony up the dough for a proper tire insert, these did pass the curb smash test and our rims survived riding at low pressures just fine. So if you're willing to go back to 2005 downhill bike weights, these are an option.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 14 // Height: 6'1" (1.85m) // Weight: 245-pounds (110.95kg)

"Drop my heels and go." Fred has been on two wheels since he was two-years-old, is deceptively quick for a bigger guy, and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. Several years of shop experience means he's not afraid to tinker. He's very particular when it comes to a bike's suspension performance and stiffness traits.


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24 comments
  • ondrugs

    11/15/2017 11:06 PM

    I've used Huck and they've definitely saved me a few times. The problem I have is that I've shredded a set in less than a year. They're not an investment, they're a consumable, which makes them a little expensive.

  • jeff.brines

    7/13/2017 11:43 AM

    Just wanted to update this - I installed cushcore myself this morning in the parking lot of my office with absolutely no problems. Probably an extra 10 minutes per wheel when compared to normal. I think its worth noting, those who are using the system with trail tires on 30mm ish rims are going to have a far easier time than those mounting DH tires to narrower rims.

    Just wanted to mention that in case the ease of install was a turn off to anyone (it was to me).

  • rgilron

    6/22/2017 8:42 PM

    I have a Santa Cruz Bronson that came stock with RaceFace rims.. These are not compatible with CushCore. Only after I installed these and ruined two perfectly new tires did CushCore change their website to indicate its not compatible with these rims. CushCore did not perform well and the one ride I did with them - almost impossible to seat and quickly leaked sealant. Make sure you choose a rim with a deep enough wheel well! And, do not use any force to install these, despite what the video may indicate...

  • daniel.weinman

    6/15/2017 10:39 AM

    This is a great article,thanks for this! I have been using both Cush Core and Huck Norris. The Cush Core seems to be holding up well so far but I have not removed the tires yet for an inspection, these are on my DH bike. On my trail bike I wanted the lighter set up so I opted for the Huck Norris. This option seemed great at first, definitely allowed lower pressures and deadened hard hits a bit. But, when things got serious these things did not hold up and hits got harsh again. Upon removal of Huck Norris I found that the rim had cut through the foam and there were tons of slices and gouges in the insert. For the money I would be careful with the Huck Norris as they did not even last as long as a tire.

  • kev.1n

    6/22/2017 11:42 AM

    I wonder if you wrap the edges with some gorilla or duct tape if it will make the inserts less prone to slicing... might try it out on a brand new set I just got.

    Also, would different brands of rims slice the foam easier?

  • Scrub

    6/22/2017 4:04 PM

    I hear what you're saying about using tape, but will the tire sealant loosen the tape inside the tire and become useless and wad up? And this tape job could probably only be done for best results before the sealant gets introduced to the foam insert. Let us know how it works out if you try kev.1n

  • adamdigby

    6/15/2017 7:24 AM

    These seem like good ideas, but at that price I need to know they will last for at least a solid season of aggressive trail or DH riding. Did you guys experience any failures (tearing, cracks, etc.) with the inserts or signs that they may fail in in the next few months?

  • Salespunk

    6/14/2017 11:01 PM

    I was an early adopter of ProCore and now run CushCore. The main problem with ProCore is that when you are leaned over in a corner the tire can slide up the side of the insert and still pinch on the bead. I have had this happen multiple times. CushCore pretty much eliminates this possibility due to the shape.

    As for install, all I can say is watch the video and follow the instructions. Make sure to use a trashcan as a wheel stand as they recommend as well. The key to the install is to push REALLY hard on the bead to get it into the center channel of the rim. As for removal, it is similar. Work your way around and lift the insert up in the tire while putting a lot of pressure on the bead. My first install was about 45 minutes for two tires. I pulled them off the next day just to see how hard it was and did a complete removal and reinstallation in about 15 minutes.

  • evasive

    6/15/2017 9:17 AM

    That's good to hear. I haven't been looking forward to trying to take my tires off.

  • boaz

    6/15/2017 12:53 PM

    The main problem with ProCore is that when you are leaned over in a corner the tire can slide up the side of the insert and still pinch on the bead

    could you explain a little more about this? i know of some seriously fast dh racers (they corner hard) that run procore and i haven't heard of this happening. i'd like to understand this though

  • frazzle

    6/14/2017 10:05 PM

    Would have been nice to see a baseline in the tests of just a standard tubeless setup(same tire/rim combo as the rest) to see how it would compare to the inserts, especially for the kerb test. Would be surprised to see any rim damage with that DH tire and pressure even without an insert.

  • FredLikesTrikes

    6/15/2017 9:46 AM

    I had initially planned to include a basic tubeless comparison as a control, but quite honestly I got too sketched out to do one as hard as I was hitting the curb with the inserts installed. I was sketched out every first run-in with a new insert installed. Knowing a basic tubeless hit would have the greatest chance of a big failure meant it had to be reserved for last, and I opted out. At 245-pounds with firm suspension settings, hitting that curb while not unweighting the bike at all is a very hard impact.

  • boaz

    6/14/2017 8:29 PM

    i've been using procore for the last couple months and so far it's been great. i don't notice a difference in the ride except i can run significantly lower pressures and never burp or have rim-rock impacts. i cut a sidewall on a rock dropping into a steep chute on a local trail. this would have been a scary moment just tubeless but with the procore i rode it out just fine. tire stayed on and procore didn't let my wheel get messed on the way down

  • Cougar797

    6/14/2017 8:29 PM

    So I guess the old run a tube inside a tubeless, two valve system is obsolete now. I feel old.

  • erik saunders

    6/14/2017 2:22 PM

    Been running Cushcore for a few months now and the test results are pretty much what i have experienced... would not ride without it just because of the comfort and the extra traction provided by the damping... more than half the benefit is how it works as a suspension element to take care of high frequency low amplitude vibrations...

  • NoahColorado

    6/14/2017 1:20 PM

    Great test! These solutions aren't cheap, but well worth their cost if they live up to their promises. Recently popped (no pun intended) for a single Cushcore to give it a go. So far I'm stoked with it.

  • jplloydf

    6/14/2017 10:50 AM

    just got the cushcore but havent installed them yet. Thoughts of running front and rear for enduro? Would rear be enough or would the benefits of running front outweigh the weight penalty?

  • rgilron

    6/22/2017 8:54 PM

    be very careful when installing and don't use force to get tire on. I ruined two new tires by trying to stretch tire over CushCore and stretching out bead. Even when you follow all of their direction its not an easy install

  • Nicholas_Porter

    11/30/2017 11:33 AM

    I have a similar question: does it make sense to try to mitigate weight penalties by running Huck Norris front and cushcore rear?

  • FredLikesTrikes

    6/14/2017 3:00 PM

    Since you already have them I'd say test both configurations and see what you think works best for you. I like the feel of running both and think it's worth the penalty. Aaron Gwin just posted similar sentiment on his Instagram account regarding running the Flat Tire Defender in the front and rear vs. just the rear. Keep in mind too that one of the benefits of running these kinds of systems is being able to drop your pressures a bit to allow the tire to track better. Considering more of your cornering traction comes from your front wheel, not running the insert negates that benefit in one of the most important parts of riding where traction is paramount.

  • jplloydf

    7/27/2017 1:36 PM

    Hello Fred! What tire choice would you go with between maxxis regular EXO protection or DD using both front and read on carbon wheels the cushcore system?

  • jplloydf

    6/14/2017 9:12 PM

    Thank you Fred! I will do as you say!

  • Salespunk

    6/14/2017 10:56 PM

    Definitely run them front and rear. My experience is that I am hitting things so much faster that my front rim will bottom out now.

  • jackhill

    6/14/2017 10:07 AM

    Just got cushcore. hell to install, but wow did I notice an improved ride. Loose rock felt so much more stable and a decrease in handpump.

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