Most riders are familiar with tire inserts for their ability to run less pressure and, in theory, increase traction while keeping your rims safe. Inserts have primarily benefited the gravity-oriented crowd for rim protection and increased sidewall support but have recently worked their way into the trail and cross country categories. The benefits inserts offer come with one common drawback - weight. Developed with the feedback of Vittoria-supported cross-country race teams, the Air Liner Light aims to minimize the drawback of adding rotational mass while improving the ride characteristics of lightweight tires.
- Made from non-absorbent materials
- Focused on XC and trail applications
- Designed to keep tires on the rim when ridden flat
- Fits 25mm to 30mm wide rims
- Compatible with 29" x 2.1" up to 29" x 2.4" wide tires
- Multi-way tubeless valves included with inserts
- Warranty against manufacturer defects
- 50g per insert
- MSRP: $59.99 USD
Vittoria makes tire inserts for most cycling applications, from road through downhill. Their lightest mountain bike insert option supports tires from 1.9" to 2.25" and weighs 90 grams, with the heaviest fitting 2.8" to 4.0" wide tires at 234 grams. The new Air Liner Light is their cross-country and trail option, designed around 2.1" to 2.4" tire sizes, 25 to 30 mm inner width rim profiles, and weighs only 50 grams. The inserts are made from a supple material that feels less dense than other inserts on the market but seems to offer adequate protection when fully compressed. Impact protection is still the primary purpose of the material used, but the shape has a bit more to it than rim protection. In the event of a flat tire, the insert spreads out against the rim to hold the tire in place while deflated. While this is nothing new to inserts, using a softer material creates more pressure against the bead, keeping it firmly in place. Vittoria claims this new material is also non-absorbent, ensuring less frequent sealant refresh intervals. When fresh sealant is needed, the provided valve stems have flat sides along the stem to avoid spilling, creating a tight interface between Vittoria sealant bottles and stems.
Out of the box, the liners were impressively lightweight and had a much smoother (almost glossy) finish than most other inserts. Vittoria provided us with a set of their Agarro Trail tires in a 2.35" width, along with a set of their new tire installation tools. Thankfully the inserts and tires were easy enough to install by hand, without levers, but we did find the tool helpful for removing them at the end of our test. Mounted to our 120mm test bike, the tread pattern and casing of the Agarro tires were less aggressive than the tires they replaced, making for a significant decrease in rolling resistance. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of traction the setup maintained on the loose-over-hardpack terrain we tested on.
On The Trail
On the trail, the inserts made a noticeable difference, providing a supple and smooth ride. From our analysis, this was due to the inserts reducing the internal air volume of the tire. We tested the inserts below our standard psi, then did a lap without the inserts at the same pressure. With the insert installed, we had slightly more traction paired with a softer sidewall. After removing the inserts, the tires felt notably firmer over bumps and provided slightly less traction. The inserts did help reinforce the sidewall, and we did not feel the tires squirm as they usually would with low pressure.
Despite our best efforts, we did not experience any rim impacts with or without the Air Liner Lights. However, we ran into plenty of square edges in both test scenarios. To test the benefits of the insert in the event of a puncture, we deflated the tires and laid down some cutty turns on the street in front of our house. Cornering with zero PSI was an interesting sensation that felt similar to skiing in soft snow, and surprisingly we could make hard turns without any issues. We would have expected at least the rear tire to roll off the rim during our shenanigans, but it never budged after multiple attempts.
What's The Bottom Line?
We like the idea of having a backup plan in the event of a puncture, especially if that means being able to continue riding and salvage a ride or race. We also like the idea of a tire insert with minimal rotational mass. Vittoria's Air Liner Light inserts offer a great middle-ground, giving trail and XC riders extra peace of mind at a low weight and reasonable price point. Those who race cross country and would rather have the option to ride out a flat than install a tube, or those who explore the backcountry often and want some additional rim protection will benefit the most from the Air Liner Light.
For more information, please visit vittoria.com
About The Tester
Jonathon Simonetti - Age: 27 // Years Riding MTB: 18 // Height: 6’4” (1.93m) // Weight: 215-pounds (97.5kg)
Jonny started mountain biking in 2003 after a trip to Northstar showed him how much more could be ridden on 26” wheels than on a BMX bike. He began racing downhill in 2004 and raced for 12 years until ultimately deciding having fun on a bike was more important than race results. After working as a mechanic in the industry for a few years and developing a deeper understanding of bikes inside and out, he has an aptitude for pairing his riding ability with the analysis of bikes and breaking down what makes them work well. He spends most of his time between trail rides and skatepark sessions with occasional days on the downhill bike.