Not too long ago we tested the original Cushcore Pro inserts, which quickly became the household name and gold standard of the tire insert world due to their well thought out shape and foam, which gives them an excellent on trail feel remarkable damping properties. Recently, the brand released a lighter duty “XC” version of their inserts that weigh in at around 100 grams less per insert, depending on wheel size. Although rated for cross country and light trail, we pushed these new noodles beyond those categories…
- 27.5″ or 29″
- Tire Widths: 1.8″-2.4″
- Inner Rim Width: 22mm-32mm
- Proprietary closed-cell, Polyolefin foam
- 140 grams / 150 grams each claimed (156g. our scale, 29″)
- $150.00 USD/pair with valves
- XC & “Light” Trail rated
As you can see, a great deal of material has been removed from the section of the insert that sits down into the rim between the tire beads. Although this means less surface area, applying less pressure to the beads, it’s still rather effective.
That relief, as well as a slightly airier feeling foam and a bit less volume saves quite a bit of weight. Something to the tune of 200 grams per set in our 29″ wheels, which can be felt right away on the climbs.
The valves are very high quality and even feature metal caps, not cheesy plastic ones. The holes that the air flows into the tire from sit parallel to the rim, not perpendicular like a standard valve. This means the air isn’t blocked by the tire insert, so it’s still quite easy to inflate with a floor pump.
Although there are lighter inserts out there, these are indeed “extralight”, especially when you consider the carefully thought out, contoured shape they boast, unlike many of the other flyweight options out there.
For more info and a step-by-step photo walk through on installation, click here to check out our review of the Cushcore Pro insert. *One important note: since the XC insert is a bit softer and more pliable, it’s far easier to install. You needn’t be as “orthodox” in sticking to the method in the video above and the softer foam gives you more leeway to get creative as it’s more malleable.
On the trail
While the heavier duty “Pro” inserts meshed with heavier duty casings nicely, they felt just a bit strange when paired with thinner casings. At lower pressures, the tire would fold rather easily and then as the insert compressed into firm ground it had an odd, less progressive feel. We paired the XC inserts with lighter duty casings only for this test, and felt that unsurprisingly, Cushcore did their research as they offered a more seamless transition under hard cornering. This is likely due to their slightly softer feel – they seem to compress more easily. This also means that they won’t offer quite as much flat protection, but felt much natural on the trail with lighter duty tires.
These were tested on short travel and mid travel 29″ bikes, both of which are on the more aggressive side in terms of stature, although we didn’t really ride either bike way outside of their respective comfort zones. Given that, Cushcore may be limiting their market a bit by dubbing these “XC”. Perhaps a more broad “Cushcore Lite” might be more appropriate as they will certainly appeal to a wider range of riders, but we’re no marketing experts. There’s also the option of mixing and matching – running an XC up front and a Pro out back. In any case, our findings were that the difference in on trail feel was less stark, compared to a standard tubeless setup. Rather, they allowed for dropping down into lower pressures by 3-7 PSI and pick up some precious traction while getting more, not less cornering support. That, in addition to an added layer of pinch flat protection and of course, less banging on your rims. If you ride in rocky terrain and are invested in carbon fiber wheels, particularly ones without a warranty, these are certainly worth a look. Through and through, ride quality is absolutely better with these installed versus without – the only downside is the added rolling weight, which is less dramatic than with their predecessors.
The latest evolution from Cushcore fills a gap that needed filling – a well engineered, light duty insert. While we don’t want to speak for Cushcore, we feel confident recommending them beyond XC – for trail and all mountain usage. Although not every single set of tire inserts has found its way onto our test bikes, on paper these seem to be the most well thought out of the bunch, and we can verify that the on trail feel is absolutely top rate…Even the install is easier now – they’re definitely worth a look.