Huck Norris Inserts
Words & Photos by Robert Johnston
Tubeless tires have been considered the MTB standard for several years now. With bikes being ridden harder and faster than ever, tire inserts have seen a huge growth in popularity as they claim to allow more aggressive riding performance and increased tire/rim durability. Huck Norris, the insert with arguably the most awesome name in the biz, designs and produces their inserts in Finland. I’ve been enjoying them for several months on my rocky Scottish trails.
First impressions are mixed with the Huck Norris. However, one cool feature right away is that the packaging is designed for use as a front mudguard. Once the product has been removed you simply mount it to your bike. It’s a nice touch in limiting unnecessary packaging waste.
It’s clear Huck Norris puts performance at the forefront of their ethos. The foam insert itself is very functional looking. Don’t be expecting anything exotic. We’re not sure how you’d go about making a rubber donut sexy anyways. It may not be the most glorious product for your build, but quality is good with no imperfections visible.
Installing the Huck Norris is a very simple process for anyone able to set up their own tubeless system. If you’re running 27.5 or 26″ wheels, you will need to chop the relevant portion off of the insert, and re-thread the Velcro strap through the new hole to make it a circle again.
Then it’s as simple as fitting the first bead of the tire to the rim as normal, sticking the Huck Norris into the rim before adding sealant and closing up the second side of the bead. For particularly narrow tires, the insert may make the second bead harder to squeeze onto the rim, but it should go on with some persistence and elbow grease.
Huck Norris suggests the insert will only absorb roughly 2% of the sealant when new, so your quantity of sealant need not change. Actual weight of a single Huck Norris in a medium size (recommended for 27-35mm rim inner widths) is 81g when trimmed to the 27.5 size.
Once fitted, the Huck Norris can help a small amount with pressing the tire bead into the rim to get a tubeless seal, but it certainly doesn’t have the same effect as systems like CushCore and ProCore. Tire pressures with the Huck Norris installed feel much the same as without it. For tires in the upper half of the suggested width for the specific size of Huck Norris, the insert will simply float around in the air space and not contact the tire sidewall at all.
According to Huck Norris, you may be able to actually save weight with the installation of their inserts. They claim this is because riders can reduce their tire casing thickness as a result of the insert’s improved flat prevention. Personally, issues created by weaker carcasses such as increased tire roll over and reduced tear resistance would not allow for lighter tires, however for some less aggressive (or smoother) riders, this may be a possibility.
When on the trail, I found the insert allowed tire pressures to be decreased by 2-3psi. Even with the lower pressures I ran, I avoided the harsh feeling of the rim bottoming out on rocks or roots. In three months of hard alpine riding with the Huck Norris installed, I managed to pinch-flat a tire on a harsh G-out on a smooth section of trail, and added a couple of small dents to my rims.
The Huck Norris insert doesn’t completely eliminate tire and rim damage, however I would certainly say it reduced the number of flats and dings I’d normally see over a similar test session. I spent three months riding lift-assisted trails six days a week on some of Europe’s gnarliest trails, so it’s a commendable job to limit damage to this extent, as I’m usually very hard on wheels and tires.
It wasn’t until I removed the Huck Norris inserts from the wheels that I truly saw the abuse they had been subjected to. There are distinct channels where the insert has been squeezed between the rim and the ground. The insert forms into the channel of the rim bed and breaks down under the repetitive impacts. My front tire insert has faired better, however it still appears to have taken some punishment.
Weighing the insert after removal from the tire suggests a roughly 8g increase from dry weight due to sealant absorption – nothing to be concerned about.
Comparing the Huck Norris to CushCore and ProCore inserts, the Huck Norris takes a far more passive approach, making little difference to the ride quality of the bike. Conversely, both CushCore and ProCore provide significant sidewall stability and change the feel of the wheels completely. In terms of puncture protection and rim-dent prevention, the Huck Norris doesn’t quite match either of these systems, however it is light enough not to have a great effect on the acceleration characteristics of the wheel. The weight of CushCore and ProCore is significant in comparison.
It is worth mentioning that a DH version of Huck Norris has been released since the time of this review utilizing a higher density foam, which should lead to improved protection with a small weight penalty.
The Wolf’s Last Word
At $35 per wheel, plus shipping, the Huck Norris tire insert may prove to be a worthwhile investment for riders seeking a small increase in security to their tubeless system with a minimal weight penalty.
I was asked by The Loam Wolf why would I run inserts instead of running a thicker casing tire? That’s a really hard dilemma to answer with no simple answer unfortunately. I believe it should take into account a number of factors such as:
Terrain: For terrain with a lot of sharp rocks, a heavier duty casing will outlast a lighter casing with a Huck Norris. However if carcass tearing due to sharp rocks isn’t an issue, then the insert will prevent dents better and work out to be lighter (comparing the difference between a DD Maxxis and an EXO Maxxis with inserts).
Riding style: A lighter casing with a Huck Norris will roll off the rim more easily than a thicker casing tire (at the same pressure) when squaring off corners etc. So if tire roll is an issue, go for the thicker casing, or a CushCore/ProCore insert as those routes will reduce the feel of tire roll.
Dent prevention: If you dent rims a lot and this is your reason for the dilemma, then an insert will provide better protection than a thicker casing, at the same pressures.
Tire pinch flats: For riders who are happy with the feel of their setup but would like to reduce pinch flatting, I would say it’s a very equal toss up between heavier duty tire casing or inserts.
Users of the inserts will reduce, but not eliminate, rim dents and tire pinch-flats. Ideally riders will be able to reduce tire pressures by 2-3psi to increase levels of grip. My takeaway for more aggressive riders who require ultimate protection, bead retention for racing or general hard riding? They should consider more substantial inserts for ultimate protection. If you’re looking for a lightweight, easy to use strip that will help reduce flats and offer some rim protection, Huck Norris strips are worth a shot. The weight to cost ratio is ultimately your call depending whether you’d rather run a thinner tire with an insert or just invest in a heavier casing. We’re split on the decision here.
Price: $35 ea.