CushCore is a foam tyre insert that promises to protect rims and resist flats for XC, eBike, Gravity and Gravel riders – but does it improve performance and just how much should you reduce pressures by?
Developed in 2017 by Adam Krefting in Bend Oregon, CushCore is a foam tyre insert available in different widths and wheel sizes covering the XC, eBike, Trail, Enduro, Downhill and Gravel riding segments. Other than rim and tyre protection, CushCore claims a multitude of benefits including improved bump absorption, better traction and bead support that allows you to keep rolling if you do flat. Made from a closed-cell foam it is tapered in a T-like shape with the narrower side sitting in the rim bed and the wider side extending over the sidewall. It is available as a kit, with two inserts and two valve cores or as a single insert and valve core. In 29″ sizing the XC version weighs 150g and the more robust model, the PRO, is 260g.
Impressions – CushCore XC Inserts
For endurance riders
MY SET-UP | For reference, I weigh 71kgs and usually run 19psi front and 28psi rear on short travel (100-120mm) bikes with full XC tyres. Those pressures are pretty successful in preventing harsh (tyre and rim destroying) rock strikes. With these inserts fitted, I was able to run much lower pressures but before I tell you about the ride experience let’s address the elephant in the room, rotational mass. On the first ride with CushCore fitted I could feel the added weight, but only initially and it’s only really noticeable when accelerating from a standstill. Once you are a few pedal strokes in and the wheels are rolling there is very little to whine about.
CLIMBING | There’s a sizeable increase in grip on rough or loose climbs with CushCore XC. When I was forced into a rougher line on a climb I could just keep the watts on without loosing traction and stalling. The bike also carries momentum over square edges well. It’s a softer, smoother ride – I can best describe it like a little pillow inside the tyre cushioning things out, making the trail smoother. On short-travel bikes, this added comfort is an advantage – especially for long efforts and for riders who battle with lower back pain.
DESCENTS & HIGH-SPEED RIDING | As soon as the speed picks up the benefits are a whole lot more obvious. For starters, there is less harsh feedback coming through the grips and pedals. I did some riding on rough high-speed terrain at Jonkershoek and on sections of the Cape Epic route in Wellington and there is a tangible increase in comfort and control. With pressures around 20% softer (15psi front and 22psi rear) the bike rolls over square edges and corrugations a whole lot easier. Corner speed is a whole lot faster too – courtesy of the added traction – and the tyre doesn’t squirm or feel like it’s about to fold. To date, I’ve probably done around 300 hard kilometers with the inserts, on 2.2″ tyres – with no flats.
THE SCIENCE | CushCore has a few videos that talk to the percentage gains across the cushioning, stability and strength of their inserts and with the amount of riding I’ve done on them, I have to agree with the numbers they present. I think once the Endurance market catches on to the benefits there will be a lot of happy riders on CushCore. The Gravel version should be very popular too, for racing and adventure riding.
CushCore XC | Tyre inserts are not often spoken about at the sharp end of the ‘dirt peloton’ – but they are being used. Nino Schurter won the 2019 Cape Epic with a tyre insert in his back wheel. When I see the number of flats that are impacting results at the rougher coursed marathon events, perhaps more riders should consider using inserts, even if only in the back wheel. Having experienced the gains in comfort, climbing grip and reliability of the CushCore XC inserts, I think a lot of racers and weekend warriors who ride technical or rough terrain will benefit from them.
Impressions – CushCore PRO Inserts
For gravity biased riders
MY SET-UP | On long-travel (140mm to 170mm) trail bikes with Enduro casing I’ll typically run around 21psi front and 32psi rear. That’s typically the right combination for the trails I ride and the way I ride. Adding CushCore PRO I gradually dropped pressures down by as much as 20% – which equates to pressures of 17 and 25psi respectively. It was around these pressures that I began to feel the occasional rim/rock strike. I could obviously go softer than that if I was riding on smooth trails like in Howick KZN, but here in the Cape there is no getting away from rocks and lower pressures would just be too risky.
ON THE TRAIL | The corner traction is insane! I can see why many of the world’s fastest Enduro and DH racers are using CushCore PRO. I felt confident to commit more to sketchy turns but it took a few rides to develop the trust to enter corners faster. Also, there’s a noticeable improvement when traversing up a camber or across ruts – again the added grip is incredible. When it comes to janky rock gardens and other rough sections of trail the system reduces deflections and to put it simply, the bike is just easier to control. I also felt more confident to ‘drop heels’ and smash my way through rock gardens.
ENDURO CASING with CushCore vs. DH CASING without | This is something worth pointing out: I didn’t do any scientific testing on this but even though the rotational mass is about the same it definitely feels like an Enduro casing tyre with CushCore rolls faster than a DH casing tyre without it. Of course, if the lines you ride are really steep, fast or technical, then a DH casing with a CushCore will be a solid option too. I’m going to continue testing different iterations in this space and will update this review with any new takeouts that arise.
CushCore PRO | I’ve done around 15 hours of riding the PRO version, including a local downhill race and I’ve had no reliability issues. They’re not cheap (+/-R1400 per wheel) but if you are pinch flatting, cutting beads, blowing up rims, in pursuit of more speed and all round durability, then I’d highly recommend them. The performance gain is real! I’ve heard they can be tricky to install so if you’re like me and don’t like fighting with sealant, beads and valves – then let your bike shop fit them.
- Enables lower pressures
- Very comfortable
- Protects rims
- Resists flats
- Increases rotational mass
- Tricky to install
| IMAGES: Gary Perkin | CushCore is distributed by THBCdistribution |
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