I came at this from a really negative perspective about tire inserts having witnessed the horror of rear wheel failures with inserts installed. The only thing worse than having to limp out on a smashed expensive carbon rim is having to snap a bunch of tire levers fighting with you useless Cushcore insert so you can remove it and install a tube. Oh yeah and wear the sloppy Stans soaked insert around your body bandolier style for the ride of shame back to the car. These were rides where I was on my mid-travel FS bike and had no issues with flats despite never having used an insert.
So what changed my mind? Getting an aggressive hardtail. As I rode my hardtail harder and harder I started to damage the rear rim. It was only a matter of time until I killed it so I dialed back my fury and really worked to ride “light”. That prevented further damage/flats, but I was annoyed I had to change how I wanted to ride that bike. Yet based on what I knew about tire inserts [primarily Cushcore] the cost, hassle of install, added weight and potential for a failure even with CC installed made me stick with just a tire and sealant.
Then I came across an excellent article over at NSMB about the new Tannus Tubeless inserts. The lighter weight and easy install piqued my interest. Pushing me from insert curious to ordering a set for my hardtail. You can read the NSMB article for all the gory details about these inserts I’ll just provide my own experiences here so you can add a data point to your analysis should you be interested in them. Note that Tannus offers two inserts and the model I am talking about is the Tannus Tubeless version. The other version uses an insert plus a tube. I’m not a fan.
The inserts showed up and I pulled one out of the box to get rid of the folds. It looks like a very fancy space age pool noodle. Just to short circuit any crazy ideas…no you can’t get the same result with a pool noodle, box cutter and some zip ties. The insert is a light pink colour and weighs around 150g. It feels fairly stiff/dense for the lightness of the material. I installed one into my rear wheel using a Velocity Blunt 35 rim [IW = 30mm] and a Maxxis DHRII 29 x 2.6″ tire. I mounted the tire first without any sealant in it. Then just opened the bead on one side to push the insert in. Then poured some Stans inside and reseated the tire. The whole process took about 1 or 2 mins longer than just an empty tire and did not involve any broken tire levers or swearing. In fact the whole install was so easy and painless it surprised me.
The resulting rear wheel is ~150g heavier than without the insert. That’s noticeable without being oppressively heavy. When I first started riding that wheel I could feel the insert in it, but a year later I don’t notice the weight at all. Tannus touts a number of performance benefits with their inserts. I can’t confirm or deny them other than to say I can ride that rear wheel as hard as I want to and rim strikes/damage are a thing of the past. Now I have not been smashing the rim into curbs at full speed just for testing purposes, but I have been riding that wheel in a way that would have killed it after a year without the insert inside. So I am a satisfied customer.
I’m running that rear 2.6″ DHRII at ~18psi for my 185lbs [out of the shower] weight. That’s not any lower than I would ride without an insert, but I ride my tires at relatively low pressures so I can get good traction on our frequently slippery trails. It’s just that now I can ride that pressure without riding the bike with protecting the rear rim in mind.
There is a whole school of thought that inserts improve the ride quality of the bike regardless of providing rim protection. I haven’t felt anything along those lines with the Tannus Tubeless insert in the rear of my hardtail. It could be that I am just not sensitive enough to the changes or maybe my riding style doesn’t benefit from that aspect of an insert? I love rough natural trails. My tires rarely see a berm or a flow trail.
I have not had any flats with my Tannus protected rear wheel and therefore no ride of shame. In fact I have done nothing with that rear tire other than add air and sealant through the valve stem. I’m hopeful when this tire is toast I can take it off and reuse the insert. From other peoples’ reports they seem to have good long-term durability. If I can get a solid year of riding out of these inserts then have to replace them I’d be okay with that as well. I will update this review with some comments on service life when I do open the tire up and look inside at the insert.
I haven’t had a flat in forever that I couldn’t stick a tubeless plug or 4! into and get air back into the tire. So I haven’t tried riding out on just the Tannus insert. Given how much volume it has that’s not something I’d be overly excited about unless I was close to the car on a smooth trail. I think Cushcore has the advantage here due to its much bigger volume, but that’s what makes CC such a battle to get installed and you have to carry around that extra weight until you have an unfixable flat…so there is no free ride.
So I am an insert convert and have I gone inserts 24/7/365 right? Nope. I bought two Tannus inserts initially and then got two more from a buddy that was going “275er for life!” I have enough to put inserts into both wheels on my hardtail and both wheels on my FS bike yet I haven’t done any of that. My thinking is that I am enjoying the lighter wheels without inserts and other than the rear wheel on my hardtail getting flats/rim damage is not an issue elsewhere in my fleet. The one mission where I can see using dual inserts is when I head to Moab next time. Putting a Tannus Tubeless into each wheel might be worth it with all the high speed rock hits.
What I am 100% behind is a Tannus Tubeless insert in the rear wheel of my hardtail. That’s just my standard bike setup these days and I am glad I tried it.