What is it
Billed as the ultimate accessory for mountain bike tires, the Vittoria Air-Liner tire insert is designed to help maximize grip, enhance trail feel, and eliminate tire punctures. Released at the Sea Otter Classic this past spring, the Vittoria Air-Liner is a foam tubular insert for tubeless tires that protects your rim, while also allowing you to run lower air pressure. Seems simple enough, but how does the Vittoria Air-Liner stand up to real-world abuse and home mechanic setups? Read on to find out.
- Excellent ride quality at low pressure
- More grip both climbing and descending
- Allows for lower tire pressures
- Absorbs high-frequence vibrations, increasing comfort
- Allows for tires with lighter casing
- Solid rim protection after many hits
- Easy to install and setup
- Prevents burping effect
- Prevents bead breaking
- Ability to be ridden flat
- $85 per tire is steep ask for most
- Rotational weight is worst kind of weight to add
- Compatibility with ammonia-based sealants
- Newcomers to tubeless may have a hard time installing
The Vittoria Air-Liner foam is made up of what Vittoria calls a “new-generation polymer,” and the entire insert goes through in the “coring” process. The coring does not alter the chemical structure of the polymer, but it does create a stronger longer lasting foam, resulting in longer ridable life, claims Vittoria. Indeed, Vittoria boasts that this durable polymer material has a projected life of 2000 hours under normal riding — or an hour of run-flat downhill use under a typical rider.
The Vittoria Air-Liner comes in four widths: 1.9-2.2 for XC, 2.25-2.5 for trail/enduro, 2.5-2.7 for all-mountain, and 2.7-4.0 for plus and fat. Each Vittoria Air-Liner at full length weighs 172 grams. When trimmed for 29×2.25 use in this test, that number fell to 165g.
Set up is reasonably easy, only requiring some measuring, cutting, and patience. You start by wrapping the Vittoria Air-Liner around your rim while holding the starting point in place. Then mark the point where the Vittoria Air-Liner overlaps and mark to cut. Next poke a small hole (about 4mm from the cut) on the center on each side of the foam. Then use the provided zip tie to bind the insert together. Finally, use the provided Vittoria tape to conceal the zip tie and cut foam section.
Now the fun part. Install your tire with one bead on and insert the foam on the rim like an inner tube. (Don’t forget to install your valve stems before this). Next install the other side of the tire bead, add some tire sealant (we love Orange Seal) and inflate your tire.
For this test, we installed a set of Vittoria Air-Liner inserts inside Vittoria Peyote 2.25 tires, which is my go-to XC race tire. Then we rode them with 5 psi less than usual, which put me around 18 psi. The feeling of cushion, added grip, and cornering stability was immediate. And while I imagine this would be less noticeable on a full suspension bike, it was very apparent on my hardtail.
The insert’s round cross-section mimics the natural shape of the tire and supports a greater contact area within the sidewalls of the tire’s casing. That netted increased bead stability and improved cornering grip. And since the Vittoria Air-Liner insert replaces air volume in the tire, the tire compresses and rebounds in a more controlled manner compared to a standard tubeless systems.
Protection is the other significant feature of the Vittoria Air-Liner. After my initial run at my preferred pressure, I dropped down to the mid-teens. The sensation of riding with ~15 psi is much like riding a tubular in cyclocross, unfamiliar at first, but then you get used to it and the performance gains begin to magnify. And that comes with the confidence that even a hard hit won’t result in a damaged rim or worse. My go-to pressure ended up around 16 psi. And surprisingly the Vittoria Air-Liner will “hold air” with zero air in the tire, making it perfect for flat protection and a get home plan if need be.
After many miles and switching tires two times I can say the Vittoria Air-Liner lasts as long as claimed. Though the bright color may not be as vibrant over the life of the foam, the performance and structural integrity stay intact.
Bottom line, the Vittoria Air-Liner tire inserts are excellent for upping the performance of any wheelset and tire, especially for those that aren’t afraid to push things into the rowdy realm. Cornering and braking traction alone are worth the price of entry. And while $85 per wheel seems steep, they are not the most expensive foam insert on the market.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Price: $85 per tire
More info: www.vittoria.com