Review: Vittoria's 50g Air-Liner Light Promises Run-Flat Protection For XC & Trail

Apr 21, 2023
by Seb Stott  
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While the hype surrounding foam tire inserts appears to have peaked, they're nevertheless popular, especially among DH and enduro racers. But while they have been seen on cross-country race bikes, the weight has understandably put off riders who prioritise climbing speed.

So far, one of the most popular options marketed specifically at cross-country riders is the Cushcorre XC, which weighs in at 150 g per insert. That's not what many XC racers would call a negligible weight penalty. In contrast, Vittoria's new Air-Liner Light comes in at just 50 g per wheel, making it one of the lightest out there - perhaps the lightest.
Vittoria Air-Liner Light Details

• Intended use: XC, Downcountry, Trail
• Actual weight: 50 g per insert
• Fits tyres 29”x2.1” to 29”x2.4”, rims 25-30 mm
Claimed run-flat protection
• Price:€ 59.95 (per wheel, inc. valve & lever)
vittoria.com

photo
Yup, it really is just 50 grams.

And in addition to all the usual things you'd expect a foam insert to do (pinch protection, rim protection and sidewall stability), Vittoria claims their insert offers run-flat protection. They say it expands as the air pressure inside the tire drops after a puncture, filling out the tire and making it easier to salvage a race.

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When the tire pressure drops, the insert expands to fill the space, as shown in these demos from Vittoria. Vittoria say this makes it possible to finish a race (or just make it to the tech zone) on a flat tire.

This is possible, Vittoria say, because the foam in the insert is permeable to air, so as the tire is inflated, the insert gradually soaks up the extra air like a sponge. When you get a sudden puncture, the foam - still full of pockets of pressurised air - expands to fill up most of the tire, at least for a while until the air seeps back out of the foam. Vittoria says this makes it possible to finish a lap or a race after a puncture. Last season, BMC MTB Racing, Santa Cruz FSA and KTM-Vittoria teams used the insert for XC racing and helped with its development. Vittoria say their insert has already saved the races of some of their athletes.


If you're wondering if this ability to absorb air will cause the insert to soak up all your sealant, Vitoria says it is coated with "a tough waterproof skin which prevents cuts and any absorption of sealant". Though Vittoria recommends its own sealant, they say it'll work fine with other brands.



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The Air-Liner comes with compatible valves and specially-designed tire levers.

Installation

I fitted the Air-Liner Light in a 2.4" tire on a 30 mm rim and the process was very straightforward. Though a nice, slim tire lever is included in the box, I didn't find it necessary. Just unseat one of the tire beads, install the valve, pop the insert in so it sits straight, pinch the insert over to the opposite side while re-installing the bead, inject sealant through the valve and re-inflate. With a narrower tire and rim, it may be trickier to install the tire, but the low-density foam makes it much easier than many inserts to install.



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Can you really ride with a puncture? (Sort of)

To test Vittoria's claim that the insert will support a flat tire, I fitted the insert in a 2.4" tire and inflated it to 25 psi, then left it for an hour for the air pressure to work its way into the insert. As shown in the above video, I then removed the valve core to simulate a severe puncture. Disappointingly, I couldn't feel the insert expanding to fill the space inside the tire casing, and it was easy to compress the tire or unseat it from the rim bed by hand, much like with other inserts.

So while you could ride like this, gingerly, and the insert will help prevent further rim damage compared to nothing at all, it doesn't seem to support the tire noticeably more than other inserts I've tested.

True, the insert would likely do more to support the tire with a smaller tire width, but 2.4" is becoming a common size even for XC racing. Also, I did this test after the insert was installed for three months, so perhaps if it was newer it would perform better. But if you're reading this review and considering buying one, you're probably hoping it will last far longer than that.

The bottom line is that the Air Liner Light no doubt makes it easier to finish a lap with a puncture when compared to no insert at all, and it probably makes those punctures less likely in the first place. But don't expect it to support the tire almost like it's inflated; you're still going to have to nurse it back to the pits. After all, this is 50 grams of foam we're talking about.




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Ride impressions

Generally, the lighter the insert, the less of an effect it has on ride feel and the Air-Liner Light doesn't buck that trend. In the rear, it's barely perceptible, although there is a slightly more muted feel - like someone's added more compression damping. In the front, it's more noticeable - there's less of a jarring clang when you hit something really hard, and sometimes the tire feels more damped for a given pressure, but if you didn't know it was there it would be hard to tell the difference. While some inserts can actually make the tire feel harsher if they're too dense and take up too much of the tire's volume, the Air Liiner has no such issues.

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In this screenshot from Vittoria, you can see how the force taken to compress the tire is much the same with or without the insert, until the last part of the tire's "travel", where the force required with the insert (red lines) ramps up dramatically. It's like adding a volume spacer or bottom-out-bumper to your suspension.

How effective is it at preventing punctures? That's very hard to assess without some sort of lab equipment, but generally, less weight results in less protection. I haven't punctured so far with the insert in a Maxxis DHR2 EXO casing tire, but nor would I necessarily have expected to.

Pushing an under-inflated tire against a square curbstone, you can feel the added resistance with the insert installed. Even with no air in the tire, there is a subtle but progressive ramp-up of force as the rim gets closer to the curb, so there is certainly a benefit if a subtler one than heavier inserts.

After three months on my bike, they show no visible signs of wear and haven't started soaking up sealant, so durability seems impressive.

bigquotes With a real-world weight of just 50 g, I expected these inserts to either make no difference to the feel of the tire or to fall apart after a few rides. But they do a good job of muting trail feedback without adding harshness, and after three months in my tires, they look and feel like new. How much they reduce the chances of puncturing is hard to assess, but it's safe to assume they will reduce the risk somewhat.

Vittoria's claim that they make it possible to keep riding after a puncture should be taken with a pinch of salt, as mine didn't seem to support the tire significantly more than other inserts after releasing the air. But in the event of a puncture, it's certainly going to be easier to get to the finish line than with no insert. Besides, the low weight and relatively low price mean they're still a good choice for XC, trail and potentially even enduro riders who want some rim/tire protection and don't want the weight penalty of a heavier insert.
Seb Stott




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93 Comments
  • 69 0
 I too, have a load-displacement chart at home.
  • 88 2
 Chart? I have a sock.
  • 4 1
 @ReformedRoadie: you killed it with that one...
  • 30 1
 In the future there will be c02-like cartridge that injects a highly expanding foam into your flat tire to cushion the rest of your ride. Only drawback is it will kill any flora or fauna it touches and if you get it on your skin you'll never get it off. Ever. Worth it
  • 11 0
 Muc off already make that
  • 1 0
 One came with my car
  • 23 5
 I used inserts all last year and got a flat in a race because the insert caused the sealant to dry out 3x faster. (It balled up from the friction of the insert moving around in the tire).

Anyone else have issues with inserts like this?
  • 8 1
 I used to use Huck Norris inserts and had the same issue. Nowadays I just run DH casing tyres with no inserts.
  • 2 0
 Which sealant do you use? I noticed this with MucOff but I don't now with Stans.
  • 15 0
 No. I have run Tannus Tubeless inserts in the rear of my HTs with Stans for a few years now and no issues with sealant drying out early.
  • 7 0
 @vikb: Same. I've had no issues with Tannus and quite enjoy the ride feel. It's like it takes all the harshness out of square edges without the deadening feeling of cushcore.
  • 1 0
 yes to drying out sooner. Not sure if that that's friction or being absorbed by the insert. This is on the super lightweight tubolight xc and "enduro" inserts I got from Lordgun inserts for xc/trail. Not as much of an issue with with the stouter (maybe more closed cell) Rimpact product.
  • 2 0
 Some tires and inserts would react badly.With regular Stans you got much less residue and to me it works better with tire inserts. But is always a good idea not let more than a few months without checking it cos you could run dry or the insert would stick to the tire forever. Had some serious battles in the pass with some Maxxis and Specialized tires.
  • 3 1
 @Dtwillow: same here with MucOff and Vittoria. Most of it gets trapped between the liner and rim and dries out. Additionally, the liner removes so much volume that it's hard to get more than 2oz in it.

Back to orange seal endurance now.
  • 4 0
 Yes. Orange seal, both endurance and the regular stuff, with the original Airliner.
  • 3 0
 I noticed that the e*13 sealant has a tendency to form massive sealant monsters (and dry out as a result) with inserts.
Conti Revo Sealant and Stans do not seem to suffer as much.
Stans Race Sealant doesn't seem to dry out faster with inserts but as it dries out quite quickly anyway it is hard to determine if the insert (Tannus and Cushcore XC) made a difference.

Tannus Tubeless insert in a Michelin WILD Enduro Front (both wheels) with Conti Revo sealant seem to be good for at least four months. But I am only running inserts on the e-Sight now (due to massive extra weight and it being my only bike with alloy rims).

I find that the better (Conti or Michelin) 1140-1350 gram 'enduro/ trail' tyres handle perfectly well without an insert and the associated pfaff that comes with them.
  • 1 0
 Yes. I laser cut my own inserts out of Eva foam (huck Norris like), and they give this problem too. Seems to be worst where the tire and insert touch. Tried Stan's and Caffelatex and another Brandi don't remember, it didn't seem to matter much between them.
  • 2 0
 The Nukeproof ARD also compromises the sealants ability to well, seal. It's harder for the sealant to get everywhere and quite some also is lost as it sticks to the noodle. ARD helps forming nice sealant corals though.
  • 1 0
 @JohSch: I tried nuke proof ARD once. Once was enough.
  • 1 0
 Huck tends to have the biggest issues with sealant balling up. After trying most out there, we have Tyreinvader from Effetto Mariposa in all the XC and gravel bikes now. Made of shoe foam, so I takes a good hit and I've ran a whole CX race on a flat with rolling off.
  • 2 0
 Yeah inserts create freakishly large Stanimals. Do the slosh test before important rides!
  • 1 0
 I run a Vittoria regular insert in one bike. Rock stop in another bike . Both ball up sealant after a while but it is probably time to renew the sealant after this time anyway. The Rock stop was cut up pretty badly last time I swapped a tyre so obviously doing a good job of protecting my carbon rim. I think an insert is a cheap and effective way of protecting your expensive rims.
  • 22 5
 Why did they test it with a DHR tire? The results of the pinch flat test would be more relevant if they'd have used a super lightweight tire. That's what these inserts seem to be made for, aren't they?

Ride flat properties are nice for those riding from home. If you're out for a short blast and puncture, it may be more efficient to nurse the bike home than to spend your remaining trail time trying to fix the tire (end then ride home). I'm just curious how slowly the insert deflates eventually. Both to know how quickly you need to be home as well as how long before a tire change you need to deflate the tire. I suppose it can be extra hard to remove the tire immediately after deflating it.

I do think the open cell foam could be nice. It will compress under pressure so that will provide more pressure against the tire bead keeping them from burping (which is one of my main reasons to use an insert) yet it will be soft when completely deflated so not particularly hard to install and remove a tire. They currently don't seem to make one for my wheelsize so I won't be testing it but I do think it always interesting to see different alternatives on the concept. I honestly believe that the current inserts differ more with respect to each other than some rear suspension designs. If there is a place for them, there is a place for different inserts too.
  • 4 0
 The pressure acting on the foam would be equal from all sides, so it wouldn't necessarily be pushing harder against the bead when inflated. Unless vittoria has managed to make an foam with anisotropic compression properties, which surely would be in the marketing wank.
  • 10 1
 Testing the XC noodle with a DH tire is pathetic, yeah
  • 3 0
 Surely we all know that DHR2 is just a tread pattern, available in many different casing versions. EXO, mentioned in the article, is not the lightest but on the lighter side of available casings. This was not tested on a DH casing tire.
  • 17 0
 Can i make an animal balloon with that... !?
  • 5 0
 Jokes aside, looks like a nice product !
  • 4 0
 I admittedly have only tried running flat on a different insert only one time… but it was enough to make me believe that’s total bs. I believe the insert will protect the rim… and stay on when it’s flat. Because got knows I destroyed my hands getting it in there…. But there is no way you’re keep a tire from folding over and rubbing your frame to the point of making run flat not feasible… unless you’re running a dh casing or something, in which case I wouldn’t use an insert
  • 1 0
 I used to run Cush Core on my DH bike with downhill casing wire bead DHF tires. Anything under 15psi was unridable in anything other than a straight line. Normal pressure was 24-26 depending on where I was riding. I used them for 1 season and then threw them out. Big old waste of money.
  • 3 0
 @somebody-else: you could have sold them on buysell. I like mine in the DH bike, I never run more than 22psi, I weigh 160 pounds. 12 psi is rideable in the front but not ideal
  • 1 0
 @wburnes: the rear had so many cuts in it from trying to ride it down the hill on low air.
  • 5 0
 Feels like you’re just buying air. I found Cush core XC to be almost useless and I love Cushcorre pro. These seem way less substantial which makes it seam like they’d do almost nothing.
  • 1 0
 Same here WRT Cushcore pro. Also heard that the lighter inserts are much less effective.
  • 4 0
 My experience as well. Cush Core XC didn’t really help at all, but Pro has been very beneficial.
  • 6 0
 How can it be a good choice if it doesn't work?
  • 10 0
 Vital says it works, they simply dropped pressure from tires and went for a ride, quite smart, definitely better idea than just squishing tires with a hand ...
  • 2 0
 @lkubica: Yeah, Seb said he waited an hour then deflated. Vittoria recommendS airing up after an evening installation, then topping off the next morning.

Vital had great luck in their run flat test using this approach.
  • 2 0
 Using the standard Vittoria Airliner has worked well with a 29" x 2.35" Mezcal tire for us. Tried the Tubolight SL recently with same tires and they fit tighter to the 23mm internal rim. There are no perimeter holes for air to circulate, which I think is causing us to not being able to get an accurate air pressure reading no matter what we try. We heard this complaint from others when using Tubolight. Using new MucOff valves designed for inserts with side airflow ports doesn't help. Considering drilling a few holes in the Tubolight like you see standard on the Vittoria Airliner to see if that helps, and also make sure it's not squeezing up around the valve. That's our only complaint thus far, and a pretty big one since air pressure knowledge matters for dialing in the bike. For XC the inserts could maybe help get to the pit zone when on a rocky course that pushes an XC bike's limits. Otherwise, they are not really worth it on most courses when running quality sealant, tires and proper air pressure. Just our experience thus far...
  • 2 2
 Reserve Fillmore valves will change your life.
  • 2 0
 @M4tt12: 76projects valves have higher flow, lower weight, and lower price.
  • 6 0
 @wburnes: I just had a look. Doesn't come in blue. Unrideable.
  • 2 0
 I run a Vittoria airliner in the rear of my enduro and DH bikes, I've finished DH race runs with a near flat tyre thanks to the insert. However it stretches over time and i have to cut at least an inch out of it every time i change a tyre.
Any stretching with these lite ones?
27.5 availability for front tyres of "old" enduro bikes?
  • 2 0
 The stretching is induced by the friction between the inserts and inside tire casing that occurs at the start and end of the contact patch (that's twice for every rotation of the tire!).
As the insert leaves the contact patch (rotates back up off the ground) it expands, drawing in sealant - and air (also the reason @seb-stott 's air retention experiment didn't work as planned). The lower the pressures, the greater the 'squeeze' each time that part of the insert spins around, the greater the effect.
As @BarneyStinson, @garrettstories and others have noted, this is less of a problem with closed-cell style inserts - at the cost of a faster degradation in the cell structure - and won't happen with plain plastic inserts - but they obviously don't offer side wall support.
So, will this insert stretch? For better and worse: yep. Smile
  • 3 0
 PTN are already on the market. 60g (pink) and runflat ready (tested and approved).
They give a real protection to carbon rims also.

I
  • 4 0
 I've used the regular Vittoria airliners in my bikes and have been really happy. The 2.5 x29 weighed 150 grams cut.
  • 3 0
 Tubolight SL comes in 29 or 27.5 and are 58g and a bit cheaper than these. I'm trying them out in the rear of both of my bikes with sealant for rim protection.
  • 2 1
 Big fan of the RimPact inserts. Run a standard version in the rear of my Top Fuel and a Pro / standard combo in the types on my Fugitive. As a disciple of poor line choice who lives in a very rocky area they give excellent peace of mind and keep my rims and tires in good shape
  • 1 0
 I’ll save you the trouble on the Vittoria liner- they’re great until you hit a rock, then they just tear and get sliced.

One month of what I would call light/regular use (170lb rider) and mine had multiple chunks cut off the sides, and a huge slice in the middle.

Pretty much worthless for their supposed task. I’m not sure what use case these would be good for.
  • 3 3
 What if I don't put any sealant into my tires (they don't leak air without sealant) and use these inserts instead?

50g insert instead of cca 100g of sealant, and in case of puncture I can still get back home without a need to carry a spare tube with me.

Would that work?
  • 2 1
 With my Cushcore, if I run out of sealant they puncture pretty much immediately. If the sealant is topped up they’re fine. Which suggests that sealant is vital.
  • 3 0
 I took one day of enduro ride with a Michelin DH22 bone dry,no insert no sealant and it worked like any other tire. I added some sealant but at the end of the tire life it was not needed even one time.It was all there when I swap it for a fresh one. For my rear tire I put an Octamusse insert,something close to this thing with octagonal form and it works really good,0 dents and flats over 3 years now. I have some problems with softer carcass DH tires when pressure is too low and tire insert is in,sealant start to leak all over the place,so you could have not much force to seal the tire well due the reduced air volume. With trail tires had 0 problems. It could be a bad combo.
  • 3 0
 In my area, you wouldn't get far. You'll just puncture from thorns.
  • 3 0
 @BarneyStinson: what if the puncture punctures the foam insert, wouldn’t that then cause the sealant to absorb into the foam?
  • 1 0
 @blackthorne: I’m not an expert, but I think that if it’s a closed cell foam then it won’t soak in. However I have noticed that I need to top up sealant more often with inserts, and I’m not entirely sure why.

My theory is that because I’m running much lower pressures with lighter casings, they’re puncturing and then sealing a lot, and that’s what’s using up the sealant?
  • 3 0
 I think you'll need a least a bit of sealant to keep air in most tubeless setups.
  • 1 0
 @plustiresaintdead: Michelin DH tires are wire bed and very very stiff carcass. I know it would work 0 problem cos the tire seals very well. When I put new tires on,I always let them inflated dry to see if there is good seal,most of the tires loose the air over night and those Michelin DH tires keep air like a champ.0 loose for weeks.
  • 2 0
 @BarneyStinson: depends on the tire. My new generation Forekaster EXO has never had sealant and holds air just fine.
  • 1 0
 With some rim/tire interfaces, you can run without sealant. The airliner will protect a little bit from snake bites. But thorns and sharp objects will still puncture and the run flat performance is not really there according to the review.
  • 1 0
 @bushbush: Caffélatex sealant is very bad in my experience with tire inserts. It separates very quick and let ton off residue in the tire. I had my worst tire swap fight with a Maxxis Assegai DD,Octamus tire insert and caffeshit sealant,it was all 1 piece. Never had that problem again with Stans.
Another huge thing is never add your sealant using the valve,it would difficult the sealant to reach is final destination and in some cases it would create a huge separate ecosystem with the tire insert and the rim. It is true you can add a little more of sealant and check it more regular.
  • 1 0
 @BarneyStinson: it says in the article that the foam has a waterproof skin, which implies it’s a laminated layer keeping the sealant out. Not very confidence inspiring.
  • 1 0
 @homerjm: we all have a preference. I'm into orange seal myself. But at least this helps answer the question about why sealant gets used up more.
  • 2 0
 @blackthorne: I hope it's extra coating on top of the closed cell foam to keep it from sticking to the foam? Otoh, the 'absorbs and releases air like a sponge' suggests open cell. @homerjm: in the article linked above the caffelatex people themselves admit that it's better to use there veggie product with inserts.
  • 1 1
 I must be doing something wrong as I just run tubeless or slime tubes and can’t remember ever having a time when I would have benefited from a tyre insert.

I’ve considered trying them a couple of times then just thought my £ would be better spent elsewhere

Oh well horses for courses and all that.
  • 3 0
 Definitely, I used to get through a few rims a year riding 30psi. Now I ride 27 with a cushcore and my rims might get a bit square but never destroyed by dings. FWIW I found ARD and FTD had almost no effect preventing rim fails and I'm not even that smashy.
  • 1 0
 I believe Schurter is running a light version of Pepi tire noodle, It would interesting to see how it performs compared to this one.
It seems that less riders are using inserts in dh and Enduro, does anyone knows why?
  • 5 1
 No 27.5 version?
  • 6 0
 Are there any XC bikes still running 27.5?
  • 8 0
 @BarneyStinson: no, but trail bikes are. and there is a need for light 27.5" tyre inserts.
  • 5 0
 @BarneyStinson: It's supposed to be for trailbikes too and there's quite a lot of 27.5 trailbikes out there.
  • 3 0
 Pretty Sure you can just cut it to size...this one appears to be a solid loop, but on my normal Vitorria liner, it comes as a long strip and you zip tie the ends together after you trim it to size. Don't see why you couldn't do that with this.
  • 2 1
 Can't trailbikes have 26" wheels? My bike has 26" wheels but I only know it is a mountainbike.
  • 2 0
 @nullzwo: good point, my oversight.

Got to wonder how much benefit they’d give for trail riding though?
  • 1 0
 +1 for a 27.5 version. Would love one to pair up with the Airliner i have in the rear of my 27.5 enduro bike.
I'm concerned about these stretching though because the current Airliners have to be cut down every time you change your tyre.
  • 1 0
 @bmied31: As this one appears to be designed to shrink and swell as described in the article, I can imagine it could deform in weird ways where the ends meet and you're going to notice on the outside.
  • 3 0
 @seb-stott did you notice any sidewall support?
  • 1 0
 Would also like to know.
  • 2 1
 Air permeable = Sealant permeable, right? Sponge soaking up Stan's not so great at sealing holes, right?

Test Tubolight or PTN and get back to us, thanks.
  • 1 0
 Nah, air can fit through thing that liquids can't, see breathable waterproof fabrics.
  • 1 0
 In this world of overpriced stuff, 60 euro for 50g of foam in a circle is probably the worst deal I've ever seen. That's $90 cad...
  • 1 0
 I know what it is like to fill up with pockets of air and then let them out, so I totally understand where they got this idea from
  • 1 0
 Why would you even bother to exaggerate something like that lol, like, we're going to test it.
  • 4 0
 Mtb products are feeling like late night "as seen on tv" garbage.
  • 2 0
 As light as moar air
  • 1 0
 MOAR AIR™️ is a lot cheaper,though.
  • 1 0
 It’s green like Grogu. If you get a flat just use the force.
  • 1 3
 cheack my store , i have the best offer for you
  • 2 5
 Or just.....lose some weight. 56kg, never had a flat in my life.
  • 3 0
 mate I haven't been 56kg since I was 12 and 165cm
  • 1 0
 Generally yes, but height is something to consider, and muscularity helps a lot with MTB. So many riders neglect weight training, it's a real shame.
  • 1 0
 I guess the plants in England aren't covered with thorns, but they still have broken glass, no?







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