Situated amongst the foggy folds of the Allegheny Mountains is Snowshoe bike park. Its trails fall into the dark forest below, consisting of moisture-sodden dirt, gnarled roots, and rocks… a lot of rocks. More often than not, these rocks are the size of toasters and are accompanied by a generous film of water. It was at Snowshoe that I not only thoroughly tested CushCore Pro tire inserts, but quickly found myself relying on them.
CushCore is a foam tire insert designed to protect riders from flats and rim strikes. A single Pro insert weighs 260g for 29” and 250g for 27.5”. The Pro model fits tires 2.1- 2.6” and rims with an internal diameter of 22mm - 35mm. A single insert retails for $76 and a set costs $149.
The product ships with CushCore’s unique valves that allow for unobstructed air flow around the insert. For those who can’t help but color match, the valves are also available in a variety of colors.
I fear the horror stories of installing CushCore turn some riders away before they even get to experience the product themselves. After numerous installs and tire swaps it’s apparent that tire casing, rim width, and technique are the largest determiners of success. DH casing tires are undeniably more of a challenge than lighter trail casings, making it more difficult to get that final bit of tire over the rim. I have found using a large circular trash can to support the wheel, and tucking the bead as deep into the channel of the rim as possible, helps create slack. In times of desperation soapy water can also help the tire slip over the rim.
Understanding their product may be strenuous to install, CushCore have also created their own tire lever. The Bead Dropper Tool is made of a tough plastic strong enough for DH casings while having a comfortable rubberized handle. This tire lever is immensely helpful as it doesn’t dig into your palm like a traditional lever would, making installs a smoother experience.
I have been running CushCore front and rear on all my bikes for the past two years. I have now used them on a 27.5” enduro bike, a 29” DH bike, and most recently, a mixed wheel enduro bike. The majority of my time was spent on the east coast hanging on through violent rock gardens before moving to the Pacific Northwest and getting to test this product on its relentlessly steep and rooty terrain.
Recently, I decided to give traditional tubeless a chance again and didn't even make it a full month before I found my tire with sealant sprayed up the sidewall. However, I had already found myself missing CushCore long before my flat for other reasons. Aside from providing rim protection, these inserts benefit a bike's feel and handling characteristics in a way no other component can.
Fitting snugly in the inner diameter of a rim while filling nearly half the tire's volume, Cushcore acts as secondary suspension within your tires. Consisting of dense compliant foam, CushCore dampens out sharp hits and rough square edges. This added damping results in an overall smoother ride.
Upon returning from my brief hiatus from running CushCore, the same unique benefit shone through immediately, reaffirming my appreciation for this product. My bike feels quiet again. Not in an auditory sense, but in a confidence inspiring one. It encourages me to push into the backsides of jagged rocky compressions, or air into that high line infested with roots I’d normally avoid. When charging rock gardens, my bike holds a more consistently straight line, where I'd typically have to ride with more input to stay on line with traditional tubeless. With CushCore I find myself less focused on the chatter of what is immediately beneath me, and more focused on the next feature ahead.
CushCore’s benefits are still noticeable on smoother sections of trail. Its form fitting shape presses firmly against the bead and side walls and results in a tire that holds air more effectively and enhances cornering feel. The added sidewall support allows for a tire that doesn’t fold or squirm under load. My tires hold their intended profile in all scenarios and I have yet to have a tire burp air or break free of the bead. When leaning the bike over through a turn with CushCore, the lack of tire squirm creates noticeably more consistent traction, frequently resulting in that satisfying brrrpp sound of side knobs pawing hungrily through dirt.
Most importantly, CushCore undeniably limits rim damage and flat tires. After 2,000+ miles I have not damaged a single rim, or flatted once with CushCore installed. No matter the rim and tire combination, this product has performed flawlessly. Ride characteristics aside, I would continue to use it solely for the protection it provides.
After years of keeping my wheels round, my original CushCore inserts are still in use today. While they are covered in scars from defending against pinch flats and are slimy from bathing in sealant, I still have confidence in them to perform as intended. Numerous installs and tire swaps later, they have begun to stretch and lose their shape slightly. This stretching actually benefits the install process by making the insert easier to fit onto the rim. It can, however, also hamper an install by occasionally sliding out of the rims channel when trying to seat the bead from the other side. I’d imagine after a while it wouldn’t hurt to honorably retire my original inserts for a fresh set.
CushCore has ensured I spend more time riding and less time doing trail side maintenance or rushing to the nearest shop for a new rim. Once you consider its additional ride qualities it's difficult to justify not running it. For any rider looking for a solution for busted rims and chronic flats, CushCore is it. It’s not very often a simple product can make such a profound impact on ride quality, confidence, and peace of mind when out on the trail.