Cush Core Tire Inserts

Cush Core Tire Inserts

Words & Photos by Taylor Haenny

What if I told you there was a product that could make your bike corner better. It could also make 160mm of travel feel like 175mm and protect your favorite rims from damage. Even more, what if it also offered you a 3% faster rolling speed? To many of you it would sound like I’m blowing smoke, but this is exactly what Cush Core claims their tire inserts will provide you.

While a healthy amount of skepticism isn’t a bad thing, I was curious to find out if the product was just an overpriced pool noodle cut in half like so many commenters have said, or if they are some miracle product that I didn’t even know I’d been waiting for.

The Lab

Cush Core has taken a lot of time refining the compound that they use for their inserts. Compared to the many other tire inserts I’ve used, I noticed right away that Cush Core’s are much higher quality than their competitors.

Located on the rim side of the insert is a rectangular piece that protrudes and provides a secure fit to most rims. This is also what makes them fairly difficult to install, but more on that later. The inserts feature a wedged shape that provides lateral stiffness and increases stability in corners.

Cush Core Tire Inserts

The tire side of the insert is where Cush Core really separates themselves from the competition. Think of your tires air volume like a suspension fork. The air chamber would be your air-spring and the Cush Core insert becomes your damper. This allows the tire to behave differently under different loads. Since the insert reduces the air volume of the tire it offers a lively and precise feel on smaller obstacles and smoother terrain.

Pushing onto medium size impacts the Cush Core starts to absorb some of the impact and reduce the vibrations associated with those hits. Adding some moderate damping to the mix the sidewalls hold their position creating more stability and less tire roll.

Next let’s talk big hits. You know the ones that make you grimace and pray that you didn’t just tear that brand new DHF, or dent/crack that brand-new hoop? For most people this is the main reason they choose to add Cush Core to their rig.

As the tire compresses and starts to push into the insert, the damping effects greatly increase. Due to the surface area, impact energy is dissipated across the insert, which reduces bump force experienced by the rider and keeps the bike in contact with the ground. This also increases braking efficiency because the tire isn’t bouncing off the ground. Returning to the air spring analogy, the insert provides the bottom out protection of bottom out tokens in a fork, while controlling the rebound as not to create a trampoline effect.

Cush Core Tire Inserts

Installation
This is that part of the write-up where I tell you that the inserts are hard to install and you nod your head and say, “I’ve heard this before.” But, what the others might not tell you is that with the proper technique they are pretty painless to install. Got your attention yet?

For a smooth installation, there are a couple tips that will go a long way. My first attempt at installing a set took me nearly an hour, and on my last tire change it only took me 10 minutes for the pair.

First off, do not use a brand-new tire. Instead take a couple rides on a new set of rubbers then throw in the Cush Core. Second, the installation video provided by the mechanics at Cush Core show you an elaborate trash-can set up to expedite installation which for me, simply isn’t the best way to do it. Not to mention when you add sealant into the equation it can get a bit messy. Instead, after getting the insert seated on the rim pull the tire over and start inserting the bead. By using a large tire lever, you can easily push the bead deep into the well of the rim (which is the most important part) It’s as simple as that, just be patient and make sure you get that bead all the way under the insert and in the center of the rim and it should go on really quick.

Cush Core Tire Inserts

The Dirt

I was able to test the inserts in a variety of terrain, and in some of the most challenging conditions. From chunky, sharp rocks in Mammoth, to the punishing conditions at the Northstar Bike Park, and even regular old trail riding at home in SoCal. The first noticeable change is the plush and squishy feel that the tires provide. This comes back to the smaller air volume due to the displacement caused by the wedge-shaped insert. So even with the same PSI loaded into my tire it felt rather soft. Initially I thought this would lead to slower climbing, and much slower rolling speed due to higher rolling resistance and drag. However, when I started to inspect my timed practice segments I was consistently putting down faster times.

I, like many people, had heard about the ability to run “crazy low pressures” but due to the lower air volume I didn’t see the need to drop my pressures drastically, even after months of use. I settled with 24PSI in the front and 27PSI in the rear on my wagon wheeled Rocky Mountain Instinct. For comparison, that is down a bit from my normal 25/29 respectively. In fact, I tried to pump my tires up high enough to simulate the feel of a regular tubeless setup and I had to go up to 30/35 to get anywhere close to the same stiff bouncy feel.

Immediately, it felt like my bike got a little more travel and it took just that much longer to reach the initial stroke of my fork and rear shock. This takes the edge off of sharp and square-edged hits as well as keeping the bike on a straighter path through tricky rock sections. I found that with the tire absorbing more angled blows, my bike stopped deflecting laterally off rocks. After a couple weeks of testing, I was taking straight lines through rock gardens I thought to be nearly impossible without Cush Core. And this may be just me, but I absolutely love the way they make bumps sound. All you hear is a faint thump as you tear through rock gardens that previously made your bike sound like a paint shaker.

Cush Core Tire Inserts

Cornering is certainly the secret sauce of the Cush Core insert system. But I would argue with their conclusion that it comes mainly from the wedge shape pushing against the inner wall of the tire. In my experience the improved corning performance is achieved through superior small bump sensitivity. Many people will be only interested in adding Cush Core to the rear of their machine, but this is the biggest argument against that mindset. That lower air volume allows the tire to absorb the majority of chatter, and tiny washboard bumps. This keeps your front tire grounded and gripping the ground like it should, not bouncing and catching like other setups can create.

When I removed the Cush Core inserts I noticed right away that the rear took much more abuse, but what surprised me was the folding marks (created by cornering support) were much more defined on my front insert. This would lead me to believe that you add one in the front to improve cornering performance, and one in the rear to protect and soften the ride.

So, do they protect your rims? You tell me?

The Wolf’s Last Word

If you are looking to improve the way your bike feels and rides all while protecting your tires and rims, look no further. Some might shy away from the price tag at $149 per pair, but considering the performance benefits, and the flat protection it’s a no brainer. Go out and grab yourself a pair! You will not be sorry.

Price: $149.99;
Website: Cushcore.com

We Dig

Superior Rim Protection
Confidence To Charge

 

We Don’t

Longer Tire Change Times

 

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