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The Vittoria Air-Liner Road Tubeless inserts are designed to allow you to ride on if you lose pressure in your tyres. The system works, but it is a little tricky to fit and the system isn't suitable for every situation. That said, they're excellent at keeping the tyre on the rim.
Tubeless inserts are nothing new. They've existed for mountain bikes and gravel bikes for a number of years now, mainly because those disciplines have been much faster to adopt tubeless tyre technology than the road market.
For mountain biking and gravel riding, the point of a tubeless insert is as follows. First, they help to protect the rim against rock strikes. They also support the tyre's sidewall when running super-low pressures and that's great for grip, plus at those pressures the insert will help to stop the tyre from burping air. And finally, the damping qualities of the tyre are said to be improved. That's a whole load of functional benefits that you can take advantage of on each and every ride.
But what about on the road side of things? While pressures have been coming down with wider tyres, we don't run those super-low pressures of the off-road world. The answer to what the liner does on your day to day ride is... absolutely nothing. Yep, you can't tell that they're in there at all while you're riding along. When I raced on them at the weekend, the bike felt no different and I still finished mid-pack like the bang average rider that I am.
In fact, to start with, I was cursing them. Fitting this system adds some considerable faff to the setting up process and there are some considerations to make if you're using deeper wheels. There's also the question of what you'd do if you punctured the tyre beyond what the sealant could plug.
The Air-Liner is there to secure the bead of the tyre into the bead hook and it does a very good job of this. So good that getting the tyre off at the side of the road would be an absolute nightmare, and then if you did get it off, you've got a foam tube that is covered in nasty sealant to get home. It costs a lot of money and you can't fit it and an inner tube into the tyre, so what are you going to do with it?
If you do puncture a long way from home then you can keep riding the tyre, but it does feel like a very soft tyre. There is also the option of inflating as much as possible, riding until the tyre gets squishy and then inflating again. But essentially, there's no way to boot the tyre and stick an inner tube in as you usually would.
I'd suggest that if you already think that tubeless is too much bother for you, and believe me, I get that, then I'd suggest sticking with your inner tubes.
So that's hardly a ringing endorsement, but before we get into installation, there is the matter of the one massive reason that you should go and buy these, and that is safety.
As I mentioned, the liner is there to keep the tyre bead seated in the bead hook, and it does a very good job, and should you suffer a sudden loss of air while riding fast you'll be thankful of that because these things are probably going to save you from crashing into a hedge.
A tyre with the Air-Liner installed can be ridden and, crucially, cornered on, at a decent speed. For the pros, it means they can ride the punctured tyre just like they would a tubular tyre. The tyre won't come off the rim, and so they can roll along while they wait for a replacement from the team car.
But punctures don't just happen to the pros, and they don't just happen in races either. Plenty of us who are just out for a nice ride or even tackling a sportive will puncture, and sometimes, that can happen on a descent at high speed. Having the ability to ride safely until you can stop is really worth it in my eyes.
In terms of installation, there are a few things to go over. First, they're available in three sizes, which correspond to your tyre size: S (25mm), M (28mm) and L (30mm). Second, and this is very important, don't go adding sealant before you put the Air-Liner into the tyre. That's a next-level mess that you don't want to clean up.
As with any system, the tyre goes on one side at a time. Then you need to put the valve in and then the Air-Liner needs to slide on with the other side of the tyre.
Sounds easy, but where with a normal tubeless or clincher setup the tyre bead can drop down into the rim well to make getting the tyre on easier, the Air-Liner is pushing it out, and the result is a tight installation of the tyre. You'll need levers. But once they're on, you reap the rewards of the tight initial fitting with easier seating of the tyre bead.
Add sealant through the valve, rotate the wheel to get it all around the tyre, and then you should find that the tyre inflates with a track pump.
To remove the tyre, you'll need the special tool (provided in the kit) or monumentally strong thumbs. The tool pinches the tyre together and then you are able to insert these special clips that prevent the Air-Liner from pushing the tyre bead back into the bead hook.
You can find more information on Vittoria's website.
That's enough about fitting, how the system rides is what is important. Vittoria says that the Air-Liner adds no rolling resistance, and my personal impressions are of a fast system that works well with the Vittoria Corsa G2.0 TLR tyres used for testing (I liked the clincher/non-tubeless version of these when I tested them last year).
During a typical ride there is no indication that there is anything in the tyre, and that's great. My bike still feels fast and that's just the way I like it.
Rather than slash a brand new tyre, I simply let all of the air out to see how the Air-Liners work when running a hypothetical puncture. The tyres are a little squirmy underneath me and I have to say that I wouldn't want to do an alpine descent with them flat, but as you can see in the video below, I was cornering without the tyre rolling off.
If you've ever ridden a muddy cyclo-cross race, where you effectively let all of the air out of your tyres in a desperate attempt to find grip, this sort of feels like that.
For racing and short, fast rides I think these are a no-brainer. It's not a cheap upgrade – the kit here with two Air-Liners, the tool, valves and sealant is £89.99 – but they give you safety in the event of a blowout and there doesn't seem to be any sacrifice in performance or ride feel.
But for long rides, I'm not so sure. While you can ride a flat tyre with the Air-Liner, it is still a flat tyre, and pushing one along on the road is hard work. If you had a puncture a long way from home, you'd really be struggling to ride the deflated tyre all the way back. To put an inner tube in, you'd have to first get the tyre off, which is super hard without the special tool, and even if you managed it, you've then got a sealant-soaked foam tube to wrap around your shoulders like bike racers used to do in the old days.
Personally, I think a standard tubeless setup that allows the easier insertion of a tube is a better bet for long distances.
In conclusion, the Vittoria Air-Liner system works well at keeping the tyre on the rim when flat. It's great for tyre security in the event of a sudden loss of air, but it might not be suitable for everyone's riding.
Great at keeping tubeless tyres on the rim when flat, but the system isn't ideal for all
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vittoria Air-Liner Road Tubeless Insert Kit
Size tested: S (25mm)
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Vittoria says: 'The legendary combination of durability, protection, and run-flat performance of Vittoria Air-Liners, made for your favorite tubeless-ready road tyres! The Vittoria Air-Liner system provides unmatched bump compliance and impact protection, while ensuring bead lock at lower pressures. In the event of air-loss, the Vittoria Air-Liner Road system is designed for run-flat use. The insert increases the safety of your tubeless set-up by keeping the tyre in place even in case of puncture - No risk to ride on the wheels! The Vittoria Air-Liner Road system is compatible with all tubeless road tyres on the market. The lightweight material absorbs no sealant, while the proprietary Vittoria tubeless valves eliminates valve clogging. Whether you are training, touring, exploring, or racing, the Vittoria Air-Liner Road system will provide peace of mind and protection for the ride ahead."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Air-Liner Road bag contains:
One Air-Liner Road insert
Two Multiway valves
Longer valves for deep wheels, please.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
When you haven't got a puncture, the system is unnoticeable. Fitting is more of a faff than usual, but it works perfectly when you do puncture.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The system works well to keep the tyre on the rim.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You're not going to get the tyre off to put an inner tube in if you puncture a long way from home.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are no other systems.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, for my race wheels.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, for racing or short rides.
Use this box to explain your overall score
These aren't suitable for all situations, but for racing and short, fast rides I think these are a no-brainer. They're great.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.