Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by James Huang
October 26, 2020
Photography by Vittoria
Foam tire inserts are quite popular in the mountain bike world for the way they guard against rim damage, ward off pinch flats, and allow for lower inflation pressures to enhance traction and ride comfort — and they’re making their way into the gravel world for the same reasons. While we’re still working to find out what the EF Education First road team has been secretly running inside its tubeless road setups, tire sponsor Vittoria is officially jumping into the drop-bar game with its new Air-Liner Gravel foam tire inserts.
Vittoria manufactures the Air-Liner from EVA foam (similar to what’s commonly used in running shoes), which the company says won’t absorb sealant, and is durable enough to last for 2,000 hours of normal riding (or an hour if run completely flat). The trapezoidal profile supposedly helps lock the tire beads into the rim for more secure operation at lower pressures, while still leaving sufficient air space at the outer diameter for a more natural ride feel (not to mention lower rolling resistance).
Vittoria claims very easy installation, too — an important point when it comes to foam tire liners — along with compatibility with both 650b and 700c wheelsets, provided the internal rim width isn’t greater than 25 mm. Special tubeless valve stems are also included to maintain proper airflow when adding or removing air pressure.
Best of all, however, Vittoria’s entry costs just US$30 / AU$TBC / £TBC / €22.50 per wheel, which might still seem like a lot for what is essentially a strip of extruded foam, but it’s still a comparative bargain when held up against some competitors, whose prices can soar well into triple digits.
Actual weight for a pair of Air-Liners is 100 grams, trimmed to fit 700c rims and including valve stems.
We’ve got a set of these on hand already, which we plan to pit against competing products from CushCore and Effetto Mariposa, so stay tuned.
For more information, visit www.vittoria.com.
The foam insert is meant to primarily improve overall tire performance under normal operating pressures, but in the event of a flat that can’t be repaired in the field, Vittoria says the insert will let you ride for a full hour with no pressure at all before the foam starts to fall apart.
Yep, it’s “just” a strip of foam, a zip-tie (to connect the trimmed ends together), and a special tubeless valve stem for US$30. But it’s also a lot less expensive than several other options.