Mountain Bike Action Product Test: CushCore Foam Tires Inserts
Make Pinch Flats
Thing of the Past
CushCore is a Bend, Oregon, company bringing a patent-pending system to the bike world that they claim will not only eliminate pinch flats but also dramatically improve the ride quality of any mountain bike tire. The system is similar to the foam rim liners that have been used in motocross bikes for many years. The system works not only as a protector for the rim to prevent pinch flats but also as a damper to keep the springy feel a standard tire provides.
The CushCore system is sold as a complete set to outfit both wheels and includes the liners and custom-designed tubeless valves. The CushCore system is compatible with tubeless-ready designs and installs much like any other tire system with just a few extra steps. Our 27.5-inch CushCore system added 270 grams (about 9.5 ounces, or just over half a pound) to each wheel and is available in both 27.5-inch and 29er versions for $169. It can be purchased directly from the company or through any local bike shop.
When we first attempted to install the CushCore system, the wheel and tire combination simply didn’t work with the foam liners. After trying several times, we consulted with the CushCore guys and decided to use different wheels for the test.
Once we changed our setup, the installation was relatively easy. We used a pair of Stan’s Flow wheels with Maxxis Minion tires and were able to mount the system, start to finish, in less than 30 minutes. While CushCore obviously won’t work with every single tire/wheel combo out there, it does work with the most popular ones.
The system is installed much like a typical tubeless tire. First, you put the foam strip on the rim and situate it. Then, put the tire in place. Next, push the tire beads into place using tire levers to push them into the rim slot. If you’ve done this correctly, you’ll be able to snap the last bit of tire bead on and then inject your preferred sealant and inflate.
On the Trail:
Once the initial installation snafus were behind us, we were rewarded with a tire that truly felt different and more confidence-inspiring. We were able to run shockingly low pressures for improved traction without worry of pinch flats; however, the highlight of the system wasn’t the lower pressure; it was the improved sidewall support derived from the foam inserts pushing up against the inside of the tire carcass. The CushCore system basically eliminates the squirmy feel any tire has when pressures are too low and provides a firm platform for the tire to dig the knobs into the dirt and carve turns.
The CushCore system adds over a half pound to each wheel’s weight, and that became noticeable immediately; however, with better sidewall support and lower pressure providing excellent traction, we’d be confident recommending lighter tires to compensate for the extra heft of the foam liners. Our only concern would be a flat caused by a torn sidewall. This system will certainly make changing trailside flats more difficult but not impossible. Heck, with the foam liners, you could probably even limp home on a completely flat tire using the liners for support.
Where the CushCore system really shines is how it changes the feel of the wheels as they roll over, rather than bounce over, rocks and roots. The foam liners improve the ride quality and keep the wheels on the ground more than any other tire add-on we’ve tested. Think of it as a basketball filled with soft foam rather than inflated with air. This not only improves cornering traction but braking traction as well, because the tire knobs are connected to the terra firma more than they’re airborne.
The CushCore system is not without its quirks but ultimately improves traction and handling with improved damping and protects the rim with a thick layer of foam armor. For the aggressive rider looking for an edge on the enduro track or gnarly all-mountain trail, these are a heavy and difficult-to-deal-with option but do offer some benefits.
• Improved traction thanks to lower pressures
• Rim protection for rocky trails
• Damped feeling keeps tire knobs stuck to the trail for better braking
• Can be difficult to install
• Adds over a pound of weight to wheels
• Doesn’t work with some wheels
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