SEVEN DAY CYCLIST
CYCLING, BUT NOT USUALLY RACING
LATEST UPDATE: MAY 30th
TANNUS TYRE INSERT ARMOUR
205g 28-34x622 (700 28-34c) £29.99 each
Tannus Tyre Insert Armour is a polymer foam insert that offers very strong all-round puncture protection from sharps or pinches, and the option to run at lower pressures. There have been many products promising to end flat tyre woes, including solid tyres from Tannus. Mind you, most decent quality tyres now come with some kind of puncture protection. Lower pressures are no longer the preserve of hardcore MTB riders, as gravel and ‘adventure’ touring grow in popularity. Whether you like the Armour or not will depend a lot on what you ride and how you like your cycling. Truth is, in my experience it meets its design brief well, but that does not mean that it will go on every bike in my fleet.
Pros: great puncture protection and compliant ride at lower pressures.
Cons: not so easy to fit as blurb suggests: there are other ways to defend against punctures.
Well, it is a polymer foam insert that is pushed against the tyre by an inner tube. Thickest under the tyre tread, protection extends more thinly under the side-walls, and a flap on either side lies between the rim and the tube. Yes, that means that there should be all round protection from just about anything that’s likely to stick into your tyre whilst riding and pinch flats. Indeed, that’s what the Tannus website claims.
You need to ensure that you buy the right size for your tyre, and get the correct inner tube. This is indicated on the flap, and there’s a cut-line to follow, should you need to trim it. The aim is to ensure that the flap does not get folded. So, measure twice, cut once. Of course, you won’t be able to see if there’s any fold once you’ve mounted the tyre, so best get it right first go.
Note: I enjoy a little light MTBing, but the complexities of styles and the discussion amongst more able and enthusiastic MTB riders regarding Tannus Armour is something to which the ability of this tester and the scope of Seven Day Cyclist can make little useful contribution.
As well as being pretty much puncture free, you are promised a compliant ride on a par with your usual tubed set-up. With a flat, Tannus suggest a mile at five miles per hour is possible. How useful that is has been a matter of debate. Personally, I’d walk and not risk my rims and tyre.
Tannus Armour is available in a range of sizes from 20 to 29inches, as well as widths that should suit most folk – except small folder and trailer wheels.
7000km is the manufacturers suggest lifetime for the Armour. Check tyre wear and seating.
My testing rig was a Ryde Sputnik rim and a LifeLine Essential Armour Commuter Tyre, 622-32 (32x700c). Why? Well, for my purposes, a reliable commute to work and meetings is really quite important. Whilst weight is not a particular concern in those circumstances, even an old sluggard likes me wants to keep his lighter bikes free of additional weight. Having said that, a few frolics on the way home bring joy to the heart after a day’s labour.
I added a bog-standard 23/25x700c inner tube, in place of the bog standard 32x700c inner tube that I stuffed in the saddle pack in case disaster should strike.
A word on weight
Whilst you can debate the weight benefits of tubeless over tubed, there’s no doubt that Tannus Armour is going to add weight. True that you’ll save something on the weight of the larger tube, but I found I was adding about 150g - more or less - to each wheel. With bigger tyres, you’ll be adding even more. That may not be a problem to commuters, gravel riders, E.Bikers, those bent on leisure, and so on. However, if you are shaving grams off, you’ll not want to put on flab unless Armour is an absolute necessity.
First up, read the instructions. Second up, watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1t0Xg5Xu7k Suggesting different techniques for fitting the system may be a little confusing. I’ve tried both, and there’s not that much difference.
Fundamentally, ensure you have the correct sized tube, Armour, and tyre. You’ll need tyre levers, pump etc., of course. Whichever method you decide to follow, the key thing is to make sure that the Armour’s flap does not fold and that the tyre is properly seated.
The flap should enfold the inner tube. I did not need to cut our Armour to size. Taking a bit of time to locate the flap correctly is well spent.
Tannus suggest using a qualified mechanic/dealer to fit the tyre. However, most of us will do it ourselves. Consequently, don’t let the blurb give you an inferiority complex. A specialist might fit it in under a minute, but you may well take lot longer.
I initially used a Hotlines Essential Armour Commuter tyre: this only needed use of basic levers to hoick on the final few centimetres of bead: after a few attempts I managed it with just fingers and thumbs. Turning to my Marathon Plus old-time tourers and I expected to need the workshop tyre wand and call upon Goliath and his big brother. Actually, it was not that bad, although neighbours up to ten doors away may have been concerned by the weird grunting noises and cries of,” Oh gosh, what a jolly pest this is.”
Peter Bird, form Bicycles by Design, is a big fan of Tannus Armour – especially on their E-Bikes. He reckons that the 20” Armour inserts are the toughest to fit. “They generally require talc and a workshop tyre lever.” He suggests using all the old tyre fitting wrinkles, if necessary. On the other hand, he says that the results are well-worth the effort.
I’ll admit to pinch puncturing one tube during my first attempt, so go easy.
The compensation is, that once on, you should not have to remove things until the tyre is worn out.
Ride Performance 3.5/5
Four hundred miles have passed very smoothly indeed. Fears of an ultra-hard, less responsive ride, were quickly dispelled. Keeping pressure toward the top of the range made for a pleasantly lively ride on road and canal towpath cycle route. Something will depend on your tyre, but, there was reassuringly little difference with or without the Tannus Armour.
On greasier road surfaces, post a long dry spell, I dropped the pressure a little on the road. That seemed to work nicely. Dropping a little more pressure improved cornering and climbing on gravel surfaces – as you’d expect. However, I was not tempted to go too low. That is as much personal preference as anything else.
Wet surfaces and raised iron-work did not phase handling.
Puncture Protection 5/5
Where do you find the real nasties for puncturing? Away from the sharp-edged rocks threatening your MTB jaunt, I’d go for flints in the gravel, blackthorn cuttings on the towpath or country lane, and the mixed detritus left on urban cycle tracks.
Well, I have rattled over many miles of them, and not punctured. I’ve pulled a thorn out; pulled tiny shards of glass and flint from the tread; ridden over shattered glass. I’ve tried, but have been unable to get a puncture. That is not to say that I won’t succeed. Even Tannus do not claim that their Armour is impregnable. True, any claim like that would be tempting fate too much.
Having said that, I’ve ridden many of those routes with a variety of tyres – from Schwalbe G One All-Round Tubeless to Continental Top Contacts to Schwalbe Road Cruisers – and only had occasional punctures. Tannus Armour is highly effective, but not necessarily the only way to avoid puncturing.
It’s done well under load, too. Carting the weekly shop in front and rear panniers, and there’s been no noticeable difference in handling.
I occasionally get numb thumb on longer rides. Tannus Armour seems to decrease the frequency of this, but, at least for me, vibration reduction has been marginal. I know that there are some who disagree and would advise me to drop the pressure a little more.
In truth there is little on the market that compares directly to Tannus Armour. Nukeproof’s Horizon Advanced Rim Defence, is not really the same thing, but gives tubeless MTBs the same kind of protection and low pressure running, at the cost of a fiver or so more. Vittoria’s Air Liner Tubeless insert costs nearly double, at RRP. However, most inserts are for tubeless off-road set-ups.
How much do you value some of the best puncture protection you are likely to get, without going tubeless? Short of tubeless rims, a conversion kit and decent tubeless ready tyres are likely to cost enough to make you think carefully.
On the other hand, many tyres now have very good puncture protection. Unless you really want to run at low pressures, the old adage that keeping your tyres hard prevents punctures still stands. That, and watching where you are going.
Overall, however, my instinct is that Tannus Armour will be really good value for gravel riders, general off-road enthusiasts, tourers, E.bikers, amongst others.
Tannus Armour will suit a whole host of cyclists – not just MTB enthusiasts. Ideal for the belt and braces commuter or gravel rider wanting to run at lower pressures. Advantageous to E-Bike riders, or those with complex set-ups at the rear, making fixing punctures a pretty painful affair.
Verdict 3.75/5 A great buy for those who want top-line puncture protection or non-tubeless low pressures.
PUBLISHED MAY 2020
BUILDER OF STEEL CYCLE FRAMES
Ryton On Dunsmore
Coventry CV8 3FH