About two years ago Schwalbe came up with a tire system that stood to revolutionize the way riders inflate their rubber. The ProCore system is a little like a tire within a tire. It is designed to take proven tubeless-ready systems and make them even more flat-proof by adding a high-pressure inner bladder that acts as a failsafe should you hit a square-edge obstacle hard enough to need it. The system is built for aggressive riders and is designed to prevent the few issues modern tubeless tires can’t seem to shake. According to Schwalbe, riders running ProCore should not only experience a dramatic reduction in pinch flats, they should also experience a decrease in rim damage from impacts, and less burping of pressure from hard cornering efforts, thanks to the high-pressure ProCore tube taking the brunt of impacts and locking the bead in place.
The Schwalbe ProCore system allows a rider to distribute the pressure in a tire into two separate air chambers. It is essentially an internal membrane kept at very high pressure to protect the rim and tire from damage and pinch flats, but it allows for extremely low pressures in the outer tire layer for improved traction and suppleness. The kit includes two special ProCore tubes, complete with a two-stage valve that can inflate both chambers, two ProCore inner tires, and all the rim tape, sealant, tire bead lubricant and tools you’ll need to convert one bike to ProCore technology. The system is compatible with any tubeless tire and rim combo, as long as the inner width of the rim is 23 millimeters wide or more. Our system added almost exactly 200 grams (almost half a pound) per wheel, depending on the amount of sealant added. ProCore retails for $230 and is available online through Schwalbe’s website.
We installed the system on an enduro bike equipped with SRAM Roam 60 wheels and Maxxis High Roller 2 tires. We were able to install the system after carefully following the instruction manual, but we wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself unless you are a very experienced mechanic. Installation is tricky and should be left to the pros.
The ride quality:
This is the closest thing to a perfect riding system we’ve ever experienced. It offers the traction benefits of low tire pressure without the negatives of shredded tires and ding- ed rims. Heading into a rock garden at full speed? No problem. In fact, if you’d rather jump into that same rock garden, the ProCore setup has your back and won’t leave you worrying about the dreaded “ding” sound you inevitably hear when you try to cheat the laws of physics. On the trail, you’ll hardly notice that you’re riding anything different. It truly feels like cheating. The only chink in the armor is that you can actually go below a pressure that’s beneficial for most riders. Despite the fact that you won’t burp pressure or pinch flat, the minimum recommended pressure of about 14 psi feels much too low and (believe it or not) provides too much traction. Every turn feels like an oversteer. Our test riders found a sweet spot at about 20 psi (down from their typical 30 psi), which provided improved traction without the extreme casing deformation that the super-low pressures created. It will take some experimentation to find the sweet spot for your particular trails and style of riding, but the ProCore certainly widens the range of usable pressures by eliminating the issues that used to set our lower-pressure boundary.
The biggest downside to running ProCore is the significant weight penalty. This system adds a pound of weight in the absolute worst place on the bike—the rims. Rest assured, when you install the ProCore system, you will feel that additional heft. This is something we’d like to see improved in future generations.
Other things we noted:
• If you flat, there’s little chance you could replace the system with a tube on the trail. It’s simply too tight—although you could probably limp it out on the ProCore inner layer.
• The valve works very well. The two-stage system makes inflating the inner tire and outer tire a snap.
• The setup needs to be perfect to allow for proper inflation. Be sure all the internal lines, dots and marks are good to go before hitting the button on the compressor.
Bottom line, this is one of the most innovative systems we’ve seen for mountain bikes in recent years. Beyond the flaws noted, it’s an awesome addition to any tubeless system and will be a godsend for the most aggressive riders who, until now, have yet to truly enjoy the benefits of a well-setup tubeless system: no burping tires, no pinch flats and tons more traction. Schwalbe has created a system that will no doubt make other tire manufacturers rethink their tubeless systems, and for that we applaud them.
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