With rough terrain in Sedona, we carry a few different tire inserts to help protect your rims and provide some extra dampening. On test here is the Cush Core Pro vs Tannus Armour Tubeless.
I used both inserts with Maxxis Minion EXO casing tires on Stan's Flow rims. Both inserts have done the job of providing flat protection, extra dampening, and allowing less air pressure than normal. While I've heard you can go ridiculously low air pressure with Cush Core, I found doing that still gives a feeling of tire squirm when cornering hard. I feel there still needs to be a balance between tire stability and dampening, especially with EXO casing tires. Heavier casing tires could be a different story with lower psi, but then we’re really getting heavy. In the end, I could run Cush Core with lower air pressure than Tannus and maintain tire stability, but at the end of the day - I found myself settling on about the same tire pressures with both inserts, around 22-24 psi.
Installation - Installing inserts can be tricky at first, but over time there is a technique to it. On first impression, Cush Core is much much harder to install. You really have to work the tire bead in order to get the tire on. It even helped to push in the tire bead with a tire lever, that way the tire is better seated and not overly tight when pushing the last section of tire into the rim. Tannus, on the other hand, needs a similar technique but not nearly as much effort. This insert is more malleable and easier to move with the tire bead. Another benefit with Tannus, is that you can use your standard tubeless valve, while Cush Core requires installing their required valves.
Weight - The Tannus inserts are half the weight of Cush Core Pro, but still adds some rolling weight that can be felt when climbing or accelerating, at 150 gram per insert. I felt that Cush Core was heavy enough that it completely changed the bike handling characteristics, making it feel dead and planted. Not necessarily a bad thing if traction is your priority, but not a lively feel. With the Tannus weight, there is a nice balance between feeling the extra bulk, yet still feeling a lively ride characteristic similar to no insert at all - promoting the usual pumping and jumping trail features that makes riding fun. This was also much better for Sedona's rolling terrain.
Dampening - Both inserts provide considerable benefits to dampening and soaking up extra vibrations. Arm pump and hand fatigue was reduced with both. With Cush Core, I was able to ride them at a lift-served bike park, and with the recent pandemic, this was my first day back at the lifts in over a year. I expected the usual hand fatigue on the first couple runs, but with Cush Core, it deadened the ride so much that I really had zero hand fatigue all day. Quite impressive. Since Cush Core takes up so much space inside the tire, the air volume changes the rebound of the tire. To me, the tire rebound was an unnatural feel, like I said, it felt dead. But, it works... With Tannus, these inserts have 2 air pockets, above and below the insert, maintaining the natural rebound of the tire. To me, the Tannus has a better overall feel while still providing enough dampening.
Protection - For ultimate protection, Cush Core wins hands down. Being a bigger and heavier insert, it better supports the tire through bigger impacts. If you're riding expensive carbon rims that you want to protect from impacts, Cush Core is the way to go. Tannus is malleable enough that you can still ding your rim with a hard impact. If you get a flat, you can ride it out on the Cush Core insert, as it holds the tires to the rim. With Tannus, when I tried riding it with a flat, the insert folds over to one side, pushing the tire far enough over to rub the frame.
If you're interested in trying out these tire inserts, we have both available at Thunder Mountain Bikes, and our experienced staff can include installation with purchase! Call the shop today!