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CushCore XC Install & Ride Review

CushCore XC Install and Review with video

CushCore XC Install & Ride Review

CushCore XC Install and Review with video

I started thinking about rim protection a few rides ago. I managed to shove a branch through the center of a tire. Murphy’s law meant it went straight through a spoke hole puncturing the tubeless tape. No quick fix to that one on trail… Before we get into the CushCore XC Install & Ride Review here’s a quick bio and which aspects of my riding suggested rim protection because frankly, I didn’t see myself as a candidate for CushCore.

Riding Bio (R) / Purchasing Bio (P):

R: I’ve been riding long enough that I feel competent in most terrain. I have enough gray hair to know I don’t need to be pushing into the red zone risking crashes. Maximum performance isn’t necessarily my goal, but I don’t want to leave performance on the table either.

P: While traction is game changing for confidence, I’m confident in my particular terrain, and not really out searching for the biggest / burliest lines. I’m not sure I’d pencil in tire protection based on the bio above.

I knew I would be testing this product in a true sense – it might be right for me or it might not.

Balancing tire pressure, tire retention (ie not burping) and sidewall performance have a huge effect on your bike’s personality.


Rear Tire Compression and Deflection
I was shooting self-portraits for the Ride Concept shoe launch when I caught this image. I was going relatively slow and easy (about a bike length roll in) over this rock so the amount of tire deflection caught me off guard and made me think about rim protection more seriously.

R: As a heavier rider with decent cornering I run substantial PSI (around 32) to keep from burping tires. Currently I’ve been riding Maxxis EXO+ sidewalls for the additional support, protection and notably improved damping (another convo for another day).

P: Some of CushCore’s biggest draws are the lower PSI, additional sidewall support and to a lesser extent tire pressure ramp. CushCore PRO and XC both act as a volume spacer for your tire as well as contacting the tire’s sidewall, lowering the leverage and adding support.

Burping tires is a sign that you lack support for the conditions. But at over 30 PSI in most conditions I know I’m leaving traction on the table – but I like keeping both air and sealant in the tire. The options here would be going to a Double Down sidewall or looking at rim protection to get the pressures down a bit.


R: I don’t often flat, but, the last two flats I’ve had have been a pain to deal with on-trail.

P: CushCore will help minimize pinch flats providing material between your rim lip and tire. It will also help protect rim tape from deep punctures like mentioned above.

While it might not eliminate all sidewall cuts there are certainly conditions where a bit more sidewall support will get you rolling past the shark’s tooth trying to cut into your tire.

Another factor I considered was a CushCore would help me get out after a near flat and low PSI condition without too much stress on the wheels.


R: I ride aluminum rims. My front wheel tends to stay in good condition. The rear? Well, I’ve been known to be hard on those.

P: Protecting carbon rims from karate chop hits with at least a CushCore XC is a good idea.

Aluminum rims might cost less than carbon, but if you’re constantly bashing on aluminum the maintenance costs add up and the interval between service will continue to decrease. You’ve got to keep them true and tensioned, rim edges start taking a beating and might not seat tires as well. Etc, etc.

And when finish one off it’s still going to cost you spokes, nipples and labor to get back out on trail.


R: I’m not a great climber (I have no idea what this “pain cave” people talk about is in riding – I’m looking for the Fiesta Plateau hahaha) and everyone I ride with is faster than me uphill – so – compromising climbing performance isn’t big on my list of “to-dos”.

P: Well weight is weight. And rolling weight factors out even more. However, the weight can have benefits (I can’t even imagine riding skinwall tires these days) so it might be worth a chat.

I’ve added rolling weight going to the more substantial EXO+ tires without noting too much grief so I thought a CushCore XC would behave similarly.


R: While fairly adept mechanically I don’t need any additional work or pain in the ass processes in my life.

P: CushCore PRO requires more patience to mount. The CushCore XC is easier to mount as it’s less substantial. I figured if I could get the XC on without too much heartache it would hit my requirements.


You can see the purchasing bio weaves back and forth on whether rim protection was for me. I thought about whether I’d prefer rim protection or going from an EXO+ to a DD Double Down tire as well.

So what put me over? The last couple flats I’ve had have been a pain. The most recent would still have compromised a tire, but with a CushCore to protect the tape I could have used a Stan’s Dart or equivalent.

My previous flat to that was a slice in the sidewall that I believe a CushCore (or the DD) would have prevented.

Finally my rear rim is kind of at a point where if I slowed the wear and tear I’ll get a notably longer service interval out of it.

Not to mention I thought it would be interesting to work with tire pressure and check on gains from a bit more damping from the tire setup.

And, truth be told, I get to write articles about it to help clients and call it work! Sorry boys, gotta go test…

CushCore XC Install:

You can check out the video for the actual installation of my CushCore XC as well as some tips on taping a tubeless rim.

I found following the steps to install a CushCore Pro with the XC were problematic for me. As I worked the first tire bead the CushCore would fall out of the bottom of the wheel. After a couple tries I ventured off into my “I think this will work better” mode…

What I found was mounting one side of the tire bead, inserting the CushCore into the tire and then mounting the second bead worked well.

To stretch the new CushCore over the rim I found getting low gave me the best leverage. This meant I could push with my arms instead of just pulling with my hands. Also, for the last third or so rather than pushing in a thumb width at a time I would stretch the insert about a fist width then drive that into trough.

I managed to mount the insert and tire without levers. Which says a lot as I have bad hands and use levers nearly all the time!

Watching the video over my shoulder Joe pointed out he can do that with the CushCore Pro’s too. Not sure I want to try that – but its possible!

CushCore XC Ride Review

PSI Dial In

There’s a fun little test trail in San Diego called E-Ticket. Relatively short, not super burly and has some high G corners with a bit of rock to bang into if you choose.

Best part? SDMBA tool kit at the top complete with a pump! Put the digital gauge in the pocket and do a handful of drops at different pressures.

I typically run about 32 PSI in my rear tire. I decided to start at 28 and work my way down looking for tell-tale x’s or slashes in the tire sidewall.

At 28 I didn’t see any sidewall loading. After a couple drops I found around 23/24 PSI I had X’s in the sidewalls, typically a sign that you’re about a PSI or so too low.

Tire sidewall X'sJust a little low on the PSI for my taste. The X markings have me increase pressure about 2 PSI.

You’re looking for “/” marks showing some deformation but less than the “X”. The tires felt like they behaving, I didn’t notice squirm or roll, but sidewall marks have always been a good reference for me.

After another drop or two I settled in with a sweet spot around 26/27 psi. About 6 psi, or nearly 20% lower air pressure from my typical. This also let me keep the rear tire at the same PSI as the front. It seemed sacrilege to run less PSI in the rear…

CushCore XC On Trail

Deciding that 26.5 would be the test pressure I put a few test rides in.

Climbing

My biggest fear was getting so soft or heavy that climbing would be notably compromised.

As far as the weight – much like the jump to EXO+ from EXO tires – as long as I wasn’t in full “trudge” mode it wasn’t too bad. If I could keep some momentum on the wheel and a clean cadence through the pedals I was happy with it. If I was riding slow enough to “stall” the wheel or quit paying attention to spinning good circles with the pedals (which I’m notorious for) I could feel the added weight. But in most conditions it wasn’t a notable thing.

In fact climbing some of the chunkier trails in my networks I found the added traction was a nice feature. The mental “this should stick” versus “I’m probably going to spin it out and not make it up” made a difference.

Cornering

It’s certainly not a secret that traction is confidence in the corners. But if the sidewalls start rolling or squirming around you feel like the bike (and thus you, the rider) might fling themselves past the tire’s contact patch.

Without tire inserts I frequently burp tires in the 30 PSI range so heading into fast corners in the 26 PSI had me attentive the first few times. I heard the growl of the tire working into the corners but not the tell tale “hiss” when you slip a bead. No spray on the tire at the end of the rides either.

The bike felt like it was on rails rather than having a bit of skip and slide at the same speed and higher PSI.

What I Noticed Most

This sort of surprised me actually – but what I noticed most with the CushCore XC setup was when you float off a waterbar or whatever into a corner.

Without the insert I felt like my bike had two small wiggles, or spikes when it landed and you tried to instantly change direction. Not sure if it was bounce from the PSI or sidewall wiggle or whatever but it had a distinct extra motion side to side.

With the CushCore the bike just stuck. Instantly. Even if you started leaning the bike before you landed it was well behaved. This got me paying attention to other conditions that would really test initial or small bump compliance.

The setup’s additional small bump compliance is really notable. Similarly braking is improved as the tire is more apt to dig in then skip over.

What I Wonder About

The improved small bump compliance and damping does have another side to it. Pushing the bike hard the rear end is a bit more “numb” than before. I don’t notice it at slower speeds but as I creep into the faster stuff I think I loose a little bit of feel out of the rear end. Now whether that’s good or bad I’m not sure just yet. It’s just different.

I wonder how it would feel in really choppy terrain at speed. Will the bike react as I suspect? Will it kind of monster truck over without my input making as much of a difference? Not sure yet. I guess the other side to that is in a choppy, high speed, high stress situation is when you’re most likely to karate chop a rim or pinch flat a tire. So maybe it all would balance out? Definitely haven’t heard any rim “tings” with the insert.

Is a CushCore XC is for me long term or not? You know I haven’t made my mind up just yet. When I went to the more aggressive EXO+ sidewall instead of the lighter EXO option I wasn’t sure I’d stick with it either. With the sidewalls I decided they were for me when I quit thinking about it every ride. Will the CushCore get there? We’ll see – so far it’s passing the tests.

Wondering if a CushCore PRO or XC is for you? Or questions on sidewall technology? Reach out to our expert team today to discuss your riding bio, terrain and aspirations. Our staff will help you dial in the best setup.

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Ride Concepts Powerline – First Ride Review

Ride Concepts Shoe Review

Ride Concepts Powerline First Ride Review

The contact points on your bike make a huge difference in your riding. Have the right pedals with the wrong shoes? Well, it’s kind of like being “sort of” pregnant I guess. (it doesn’t work)

I was drawn to the Powerline for a couple of reasons. DST 4.0 Rubber & D3o inlays.

Continue reading Ride Concepts Powerline – First Ride Review

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Yeti SB165 Extended Review

12 22 19 Yeti SB165 Extended Review

Yeti SB165 Extended Review

BikeCo’s own Chris Fuller has happily owned a Yeti SB165 since their launch. I sat down with him to discuss the magic he’s found in a Yeti SB165 Extended Review.

 So we got the SB165 demos in and you took one out on trail and had to have it?

Ah, no. In fact the SB165 is the first bike I’ve purchased without a trail demo now that I think about it. I saw Yeti’s pre-release teasers on the bike and something about it caught my eye. BikeCo landed the bikes I ripped one around in the parking lot. And I was just blown away. It was absolutely insanely good. My expectations were on “big bike” feel – but this bike doesn’t feel “big”, it doesn’t feel like a park bike or anything. It accelerates. It changes direction. And the thing that’s really hardest to believe but true, the bike has great ‘pop’. It’s a coil bike that pops like an air bike. It feels so lively and that blew me away. Had to have one. Continue reading Yeti SB165 Extended Review

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CushCore PRO vs XC Comparison

CushCore XC vs PRO Comparison

CushCore PRO vs XC Comparison

CushCore products provide both rim protection as well as tire performance enhancement. With the new lighter CushCore XC release we wanted to drop a quick CushCore Pro vs XC Comparison review for you.

The original CushCore, or CushCore PRO changed rim protection. Designed to not only keep your rims off rocks they also work as both a volume spacer for your tire PSI as well as changing the leverage point on the sidewall of your tire. Didn’t realize it did all that? We’ll touch more on that later.

The knocks on the CushCore offering was it takes a different technique to change tires and it’s rotating weight.

The definite upsides from the competition? It doesn’t absorb tubeless sealant and provides much more than simple snake bite protection.

Well with the launch of the CushCore XC riders have an option that provides great rim and tire protection while weighing in notably lighter than the PRO option.

Let’s look at some of the differences. Continue reading CushCore PRO vs XC Comparison

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I Shift SRAM, GX Eagle Review

I Shift SRAM GX Eagle Review

I Shift SRAM, GX Eagle Review

SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain has been far and away the most popular option over the last couple seasons. Whether you’re looking at the value on a factory build or even spec’ing a full custom the SRAM GX option is worth a long look. After a few months running it on my personal bike here’s a GX Eagle review.

I’ve been running SRAM drivetrains, typically X01, for years now. There are a handful of reasons that I went that direction, all of which are still applicable with the GX options.

Building my last bike using the SRAM GX Eagle options allowed me to rearrange where I spent my budget. Like many of our clients I ended up with custom Chris King wheels, Magura Brakes with the GX Eagle drivetrain. Continue reading I Shift SRAM, GX Eagle Review

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30 vs 32t Comparison – Drivetrain Review

8-14-19 30 vs 32t Comparison

30 vs 32t Comparison – Drivetrain Review

30 vs 32t Comparison – from a slow climber…

We get a lot of questions on chain ring options. So when my old cranks finally gave up the ghost, press-fit eventually gets sloppy and the creak / get loose often, I decided to go to a bigger ring. So here’s a 30 vs 32t comparison – from someone who’s never, never been a climber.  Keep reading – it’s more than a saga of pain and suffering…

My last couple bikes were 27.5″ setups so I ran a 32t Eagle setup. This gave me a pretty solid balance.

When I went to my SB130 I decided to give myself a bit of an easier gear to compensate for the larger wheel uphill. Wait, 29s are faster rolling right so wouldn’t you go bigger? Not exactly. 29s roll faster and maintain more speed on flats and most climbs until you go anaerobic. Now that is a moving bar and varies both rider to rider but possibly even day to day. Point is – when you have power to hit the gas the bigger wheels are easier. When you’ve barely got power to spin the wheels? Longer leverage as well as added mass (more rubber) of the 29s isn’t as “fast”. This is a big reason you see even strong riders spec’ing smaller rings on the 29s so they can spin on climbs.

So did I decide I was giving up speed with the 30t? Not really. Did I decide I needed an ego boost? Far from it I’ll hike a bike if I think it’s faster or I’m blown out. I just wanted to see where the differences might lie for, well, probably a slightly below average climber. I hoped it wouldn’t be “well this is un-rideable” hahaha… Continue reading 30 vs 32t Comparison – Drivetrain Review

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Magura MT7 First Ride Review

Magura MT7 First Ride Review 1

Magura MT7 First Ride Review

If you’ve followed our blogs you’ve seen a handful of posts on how much I love my Magura MT5 brakes. And I do. But, I had a little extra scratch and wanted to upgrade something. So after living on 5 different bikes the MT5s came off and fresh Magura MT7s went on. Here are some details in a Magura MT7 First Ride Review. Continue reading Magura MT7 First Ride Review

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Alchemy Arktos 29 First Ride Impressions

4 8 19 Alchemy Arktos First Ride 1

Alchemy Arktos 29 First Ride Impressions

After the first two EWS rounds Joe came back to the shop with his fresh Alchemy. Which, of course, means I stole it from him for a couple days.  So here are my Alchemy Arktos 29 First Ride Impressions…

The Important Non-Trail Issues, ie First, First Impressions

Colors: Working with Cody Kelley we’ve had a ton of the Arktos 29’s in the shop since their launch. Still to this day, I’m not sure which color I would choose. Both the gray / red as well as the vanilla / brown / orange color combos look great. And like an adult designed them… Both colorways offer a variety of build options that would look good without dating your build.

Lines: The Arktos 29 balances hard edge lines with softer radius tubes. The low mount of the rear triangle creates a long, low look to the chassis. This is a bike that looks elegant. And fast. And that’s important.

(Bikes should pass the eye test… Just watch PinkBike or Vital for the “new” brands that simply do not pass the eye test hahaha…) Continue reading Alchemy Arktos 29 First Ride Impressions

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Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ vs. 2.5″ Review

Maxxis Aggressor 2.3" vs 2.5" Review

Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ vs. 2.5″ Review

The Maxxis Aggressor has quickly become one of the favorite rear trail and enduro tires in MTB. Designed as a fast rolling option with good cornering knobs what’s not to love? I’ve spent quality time on Yeti SB130’s with both the 2.3 and 2.5″ Aggressor options (First Impressions on the Aggressor Here). So does .1″ (2.54mm) per side really change performance? Yup. Let’s go through the details that create personality differences in a Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ vs. 2.5″ Review.

The test bike is a Yeti SB130 spec’d with 30mm internal width rims. 2.3 and 2.5″ tires are an appropriate spec for 30mm rims, but have quite different trail personalities. Continue reading Maxxis Aggressor 2.3″ vs. 2.5″ Review