Sitting between your rim and tyre, ‘foam inserts’ provide an additional layer of protection against pinch flats and rim damage … as Oli happily discovers.
Back in the day, bikes were considerably less reliable than they are today. Wheels would buckle at the sight of a rock, gears would go out of sync and cantilever brakes required constant tinkering, not to mention tubes that needed patching. Nowadays, things still go wrong but certainly not as catastrophically, nor as often, as they used to.
While tubeless systems have dramatically improved punctures from thorns and the like, the dreaded pinch flat and slashed-sidewall still rear their head too often for my liking. And with bikes becoming more capable, riders are pushing their limits too, which opens up their rims to more abuse. And in some unfortunate circumstances, riders’ rims succumb to harsh impacts, with carbon rims cracking or alloy hoops dinging irretrievably.
While ‘Huck Norris’ was one of the first to market, in the last few months there has been an increase in the number of brands offering ‘foam inserts’ that fit snuggly between your rim and tyre, providing a protective layer against pinch flats and rim damage. If you do manage to somehow flat with an insert, they also help to keep your tyre on the rim, enabling you to finish your run safely (in the case of Downhill or Enduro).
A year ago, I raced one of South Africa’s rockiest and gnarliest enduros – Ezelduro – using an early prototype of cSixx’s FOAMO insert. I can confirm that I hit many rocks during the 5 brutal stages but didn’t suffer a single tyre/wheel issue. They were the kind of ‘dings’ that make you immediately feel very sorry for your rims, to the degree where I may or may not have apologized to them after each stage, thanking them and the FOAMOs for their hard work in keeping me up to speed!
Fast forward to earlier this week and I was pinning it on my beloved Stiggy The Stigmata on the Rhodes Memorial single-tracks, which have many a sniper (aka sharp rock) lurking in the shadows. Flowing through the sinuous turns I suddenly heard (and felt) the dramatic ‘ting’ of a sniper’s bullet. I had connected with a rock at high speed!
Yanking on brakes and checking for damage I was relieved to have dodged the venom of the bullet … this time at least. My close call with the ‘Rhodes Memorial sniper’ reminded me that many razor-sharp assassins lie in wait throughout the country. From Hakahana in Pretoria to Helderberg in Somerset West, we mountain bikers are under constant threat!
With inserts like cSixx’s FOAMO and Huck Norris more popular in Downhill and Enduro circles, my close call with the Rhodes Memorial sniper got me thinking about how perfect they would be for gravel as well as ‘main-stream’ xc/marathon bikes – especially in events like the Epic and Tankwa Trek.
Some investigation has revealed that Matt Beers, my 2016 Cape Epic partner, won this year’s Transbaviaans using cSixx foam inserts and is adamant that he will race the rest of the season and into 2018 with them fitted. He reckons that fixing a puncture will cost him a lot more time and effort than the added weight (at 100g an insert).
So, as we push our limits, mountain bikers now have a new tool in their fight against snipers. Look out for ‘foam inserts’ at your local bike shop or online … they are very likely to save you a lot of admin for relatively little weight gain.
Ciao Ciao, Oli
cSixx FOAMO // R590 per set // available from cSixx dealers countrywide // www.csixx.co.za
Oliver Munnik is a former professional mountain biker. Pinner by trade, he travels the world testing the latest and greatest cycling products as Bicycling’s Gear Editor.