CushCore PRO tire insert review – instant traction and toughness upgrade

CushCore are the household name of tire inserts, but are they still a benchmark performer when it comes to performance and protection?

Cushcore tire insert
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

BikePerfect Verdict

Heavy on the bike and wallet, but the inertia and investment are well worth it for regular rim and tire killers who also want a more more supportive, damped and controlled – but not dead – feel.

Pros

  • +

    Increased traction and damping with a natural feel

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    Excellent rim and tire protection

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    Not as bad to fit as legend would have it

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    Last well long term

  • +

    Signature green valves are included

Cons

  • -

    Heavier than other inserts

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    More expensive than other inserts

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    Slightly harder to fit than other inserts

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Tire inserts are designed to protect your rims, reduce tubeless burps and give you a better ride feel. CushCore are the original tire insert brand and have an incredible tally of top level DH and Enduro race wins as well as a great reputation among hard riders everywhere. After head to head, back and forth testing with and without them I can see why too. They’re not as bad to fit as I feared either – if you follow the instructions. They are heavier and more expensive than most other inserts though.

If you're looking for tire inserts, you may also be interested on our guide to the best trail tires and best XC tires.

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

CushCore

Two foam loops, a pair of valves and some stickers doesn't seem like a whole lot for the money, but they'll potentially transform how you ride (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specifications

CushCore looks relatively simple in terms of design with a single compound, wheel size specific loop of ‘Extralight’ firm foam material. 22mm wide bottom rib that mushrooms out to 56mm, making it one of the widest inserts available. At only 22mm deep it’s much flatter/broader than inserts like Tannus, Rimpact and Vittoria, and lower profile than dual density Rimpact Pro. At between 260 and 270g depending on size CushCore PRO is one of the heaviest options around though with some competitors coming in just over 100g. They do have a lighter weight XC option with cut outs in the rim insert section though, and there’s a CushCore gravel option too for tires under 45mm. 

Because of the rim insert rib you also need a valve with side exit ports to stop the insert blocking air/sealant flow. That’s not an issue however, as CushCore provide their signature green anodized valves with the inserts, as well as rim and toolbox/bumper/laptop stickers. Cost is high compared to competitors though.

Cushcore

Yes, the official CushCore fitting instructions really do suggest using a garbage bin, but if you follow them you'll have a much easier time (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

While I’d heard horror stories about installing CushCore, as long as you follow the instructions (the ‘bead push’ hack is a winner for any tight tire set up) it’s pretty easy, if slower than a non-insert setup. The new CushCore ‘Bead Bro’ tool I got sent with the inserts is a really useful ‘3rd hand’ tool too. Once massaged into place, the way the insert shapes the tire on the rim and fills the bed makes inflation blissfully easy and the ‘V’ channels in the side prevent trapped pressure.

As well as locking the tire in places, having the mushroom of material in the base of the tire adds obvious support and a more progressive spring feel. These all open up lower pressure use without risking burping or tire against rim ‘snakebite/pinch’ puncture damage This then translates into noticeably improved control, traction and communication that becomes more and more obvious the harder you work the wheels. Compared to other inserts I’ve tried the spring and damping feel is very natural and predictably progressive, so your favorite tires will still feel familiar – just better damped and grippier. Even the audibly quietening effect of the inserts increases calmness and confidence in the same way as wearing a full face helmet can. Repeating the same runs on the same tires and wheels without inserts really brought home the difference that the CushCore made and guaranteed they’d be going back in whenever I need to max out grip and control.

The broad shape gives plenty of rim protection from a wide range of side swipe and vertical slam angles too and as the insert doesn’t ‘float’ around in the tire, you know it’s where you need it, when you need it. Cue full flat out rock garden attacks even on relatively light carcass tires.

While their obvious gains are in punishing gravity situations they don’t completely kill the air sprung feel like some inserts (Rimpact is a proper deadener) either. That means there’s still enough buoyant pop to keep your bike feeling alive on flatter/power sections. 

You will need to use the increased speed they allow through corners and impact zones to offset the slower acceleration effect of the increased weight though and I'm keen to try the XC versions to see how well they work as a trail rather than enduro/DH option.

CushCore

The green side exit valves are a key part of the CushCore package (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

CushCore is expensive, heavy and slightly more awkward to fit than other inserts that have followed its pioneering work. It’s not as hard to fit as I feared though and once in, the advantages are very clear in terms of better tubeless security and all angle rim protection when you’re proper slamming through rocky/rooty sections. It’s the balance of increased damping and traction from any given tire, but without killing dynamic feel and flow that’s most impressive though. It was even enough to instantly solve support and impact spike issues in a coil shock I’ve been struggling to set up. 

When you start talking in those terms, then add the cost of a couple of dead tires and/or rims (particularly carbon ones) into the equation, the comparatively high cost looks like a smart investment for more aggressive riders. Feedback from long term users marks them out as one of the longest lasting inserts you can buy too.

Tech Specs: CushCore PRO tire insert

  • Price: $149 / £159 / €179
  • Types: Pro (tested) XC
  • Weight: 260g – 27.5in, 267g – 29in

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg