2017 Sea Otter Classic

CushCore Mounted

Mounted and tire ready.​

CushCore, a foam tire insert, isn't content just to prevent flats like other inserts. Its goals are better handling and rim protection, as well as improved trail feedback.

The insert, which looks like a fat coned belt, fits snugly into and extends beyond a rim's cavity, providing better lateral stability by pushing against the tire's sidewall. The net effect is to reduce tire squirm and rollover, as well as burping, especially in the mountain bike nirvana of hard cornering.

The foam also dampens trail chatter and protects rims by soaking up right-angle hits and smoothing out chunky surfaces. And it accomplishes all this with tire pressures in the mid-teens, so traction and wide-rim compatibility stay optimum.

CushCore Close-Up

The insert seats in the rim, extending sidewall support.​

Sounds good, you say. But what about the red flags of tire protectors: added weight and reduced trail sensitivity?

CushCore inserts add a bit more than a pound - 250 grams for each 27.5 wheel, 260 grams for 29ers. And that's rolling weight - the worst. But for aggressive riders prone to punctures, the tradeoff is worth it, contends Dan Hallada, the Bend, Oregon company's product development director.

"The confidence factor is huge," said Hallada, adding that you don't get the jolts and jackhammering of right-angle hits and off-camber deflections. A side benefit is less bar vibration or hand numbness.

Plus the wheel feels more rooted on the trail. "It's a calming effect on the ride," Hallada said.

CushCore Valve

Special valve for tubeless/sealant compatibility.​

Two years of engineering went into the product, which pros like Brian Lopes, Jared Graves and Curtis Keene have been putting through the paces. The Specialized UCI downhill and Enduro World Series teams are slated to use CushCore this season, and Carson Storch may be outfitting a 26" big-hit freeride version. "We're also getting a lot of demand from cyclocross," revealed Hallada.

CushCore costs $149 a set, which includes a set of special T-shaped, side-hole valves that prevent the inserts from obstructing air pressurization.

For more information, visit www.cushcore.com.

This article is part of Mtbr's coverage of the 2017 Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. For more from Sea Otter CLICK HERE.