Vittoria already offers Air-liners for mountain bikes and gravel bikes, so it only makes sense that road bikes would be next, right? Hold up. Isn’t the point of most tire liners to run lower pressures while protecting the rim and the tire from otherwise-damaging impacts? Unless you’re smashing potholes with low pressures on your road bike, you probably don’t need that same level of protection on a road bike.

That’s why Vittoria’s Air-Liner Road functions a bit differently…

Like their other Air-Liners, the Air-Liner Road is a green foam insert that you slip into the tire cavity. But the similarities end there. According to Vittoria’s Marketing Director and SVP of Product Development, Ken Avery, the Air-Liner Road uses a different type of foam. While the other liners use EVA foam like you’d find in a running shoe, the foam for the Air-Liner Road is less dense and has more air voids in the foam itself.

This causes it to have a peculiar trait – it shrinks when you air up the tire to road pressures. Instead of acting as a rim protector for big impacts, in this case, it’s specifically designed to collapse under high pressure and push against the tire bead inside the rim. That effectively acts as a bead lock, preventing any burping from tubeless road tires under hard cornering or other conditions.

And what if you get a flat? Well, as soon as the pressure inside the tire releases, the foam supposedly expands back into its original shape, and fills the (now flat) tire. Vittoria claims that this allows you to use the Air-Liner as a run-flat tire liner system.

That means if you actually get a flat that the tire sealant won’t seal, then you might not have to do anything – just ride home on the flat tire. Now, Vittoria points out that this is for “temporary low-speed run-flat riding to get you home.” Specifically, they recommend no more than 50 km at speeds lower than 20 km/h. Realistically, after that distance riding on a flat tire, the tire itself may be toast. Vittoria also recommends checking the size of the tire liner to make sure it hasn’t been damaged in the process. It may need to be replaced, it may not. But Vittoria does recommend replacing each Air-Liner Road after one year of use, and storing them with at least 1 bar (14psi).

Pro-tested (and won)

Already proven at the highest level of competition, Vittoria claims that the first big win on the Air-Liner Road happened all the way back in 2019 when Alexander Kristoff won Gent-Wevelgem. The Spring Classics are not races where you can typically afford a tire-related mechanical, so the bead lock function preventing any tire burping over the cobbles seems like it could be a big deal.

Three Sizes

Vittoria Air-Liner Road installed on Bontrager rim

To test it myself, Vittoria sent over an Air-Liner Road Kit along with some Corsa 700c x 25mm tubeless road tires. Note that these liners can be used with any tires, not just Vittoria. I planned to mount them to a pair of Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 rims – that’s an important consideration since the Air-Liners come in three sizes, each with a recommended tire width and internal rim width.

Vittoria Air-Liner Road TLR complete kit

The Small kit that was sent is meant for 25mm wide tires and internal rim widths of 21mm. Perfect.

How Much Does it Weigh?

Vittoria Air-Liner Road actual weight for small Vittoria Air-Liner Road valve actual weight

With something like this designed for road bikes, weight is a big concern for many riders. Fortunately, the Small inserts are extremely light – just 22g each on our scale. The valves aren’t bad either, at 5g a piece for a 60mm valve.

What’s in the Box?

Vittoria Air-Liner Road complete kit

Vittoria Air-Liner Road complete kit

Inside the complete kit, you’ll find two Air-Liners, two tubeless valves, the Road Tubeless tool kit, and a bottle of their Universal Tubeless Tire Sealant.

Vittoria Air-Liner Road tubeless valve

The proprietary Vittoria Multiway tubeless valve is designed with holes on the side of the valve as well as the base, which allows air to pass through even when pushed up against the insert…

Vittoria Air-Liner Road valve on rim

Which is a good thing since the flat seat of the plastic Bontrager TLR rim strip caused the valve to sit quite high. If I were going to run this set up in the long run, I would probably remove the strip and use standard tubeless tape to allow the conical rubber grommet of the valve to sit deeper in the rim. It worked as is, though.

How is it Installed?

Vittoria Air-Liner Road install

Installing the Air-Liner wasn’t impossible, but it was definitely more challenging than just installing a tire. You start by working the liner into the rim cavity, with one side of the tire installed, just like you would a tube.

Vittoria Air-Liner Road tire pliers

I found that while installing the tire, the best tools for the job were standard tire levers and my trusty tire bead jack – basically what you may reach for on any ultra-tight tire/rim combo. The foam makes it so you can’t get the beads to drop into the center channel of the rim like you normally would, so it’s a bit more difficult to wrestle it onto the rim.

But removing the tire, you pretty much have to use the included Vittoria Pliers. It’s a bit counter intuitive, where you use the pliers to pull the tire away from you, which allows you to insert a tire lever or clip, to then pry the bead towards you. Once you get the hang of it, the tire comes off pretty easily.

This definitely isn’t something you’ll be able to do on the road, but thanks to the run-flat capabilities, you shouldn’t have to.

Vittoria Air-Liner Road sealant bottle with valve core tool Vittoria Air-Liner Road sealant bottle

Once you have the tire and the liner all mounted up, the bottle of Vittoria Universal Tubeless Tire Sealant has a clever cap with a built in presta-core remover on top, and a direct-fit to the presta shaft underneath. Squeeze in the proper amount, air up the tire, and you’re good to go.

Does It Work?

Vittoria Air-Liner Road with flat

Mostly, I was curious about the run-flat claims. What would it be like? Would you have any control if you got a front flat? To find out, I deliberately set up the front tire without any sealant to mimic a slow leak.

What I found was that even with a tire that was noticeably squishy, the ride was surprisingly controlled. You could definitely tell that something wasn’t right, but it rolled, stopped, and even turned pretty well.

But what about if it was completely flat? Like, you gashed-the-side-of-the-tire-open-flat? After completely removing all air from the tire, the ride was much more akin to a flat tire, only the rim was still prevented from touching the pavement. Even with the flat on the front, I was still able to turn and stop – while exercising caution.

If you do manage to completely flat the tire, it won’t be the most pleasant ride home, but it does seem like you’ll make it there.

Of course, this is all worst case scenario since the tire sealant should do the job for most punctures – before you have to resort to riding on the Air-Liner. I tried later with a tire loaded with sealant to puncture the tire with a push pin, but the Vittoria tire sealant made quick work of the puncture before it lost enough air to force me to ride on the insert. At that point, more air could be added to the tire, and I kept riding.

How Much?

 

Offered in three sizes, each liner is sold individually for $39.99. The Road Tubeless Tool-Kit is available separately for $24.99, and the Vittoria Universal Tubeless Tire Sealant is priced at $6.99-$24.99 depending on the size. If you want all of that in one kit like the one sent to us for testing, the Vittoria Air-Liner Road TLR Kit includes two liners, one tubeless tool kit, and one bottle of tire sealant for $99.99.

vittoria.com

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. Can these be recycled if they have a one year use?

    The size chart is pretty interesting. Running a 30mm tire with 26mm internal width seems a bit odd of an odd choice.

    • Yeah, Vittoria just posted an updated sizing chart on their site. The new one (added above) makes more sense – internal rim width is a maximum size, and there is an ideal tire width, and maximum tire width as well.

  2. If only I had these while living in Portland. Anyone who regularly rides the ‘Dirty 30’ knows what I’m talking about.

    • I live in Portland and know your pain. I ended up riding the STP one-day with Tannus Armor inserts on gravel tires. Even these don’t protect against old razor blades, however. Ask me how I know…

      • Indeed, I believe that all tyre inserts are made of closed cell foam. They would not otherwise give much protection and would suck up all the sealant load.

        That means that any tyre insert will shrink when the tyre is pumped up. But this much more in a narrow road tyre inflated at 6 bar than in a big MTB inflated at less than 2 bar.

        What is specific about the present insert ? As it is round, it won’t give any protection against pinch flats. It’ll just allow you to go back home when you have a puncture. Is it really worth it ?..

  3. If you had this system installed say for a full season of riding so tire pressured up for 9-10 months without a puncture and then you had a complete flat would the foam expand back to original size after all that time in compression? In my experience even dense foam under pressure for any amount of time will not go back to its original shape immediately.

  4. The weight saving is the simple fact you don’t need to carry spare tubes, canisters and a pump, awesome.

      • So? It’s a minuscule amount of rotating mass, and given that the effects of rotating mass on a bike are already minuscule and far overstated, the mass of this foam insert isn’t even worth considering.

  5. I’d still carry some CO2 or a pump – sometimes sealant can take a bit to fill and can result in a significant pressure drop. Would rather just pump and finish that ride (and maybe save the tire the wear of riding on the foam).

  6. The foam won’t soak up the sealant but I guess the surface area of the foam tube would take a fair bit of coating. I may work how much of the sealant it would take to coat the tube but I couldn’t be arsed. Its a bit anyhow.

  7. That’s a ton of extra labor, tools, and hassles vs. just running a tube and carrying a pump and a patch kit. In the backdrop of the current cycling boom, I’d love to see brands making bikes (and their components) easier for the average new rider, not more complicated.

    Solution looking for a problem. Again.

  8. if 90 PSI will squish this down inside the tire, how does the riders weight not just squish it down when the air is gone due to a puncture? Most run flat systems have a rigid internal structure that you end up running on. kind of like a half flat tire. this seems like trek marketing, i mean engineering again. it can be squishy and firm at the same time. unless you just re-wrote physics.

  9. This /is/ making it easier for the new rider – tubeless will shrug off many small punctures that would see your hapless newbie stuck by the side of the road wondering how to change a tube, while with a larger failure the ride-home (or ride-to-shop) ability will let someone else deal with the problem.

  10. Uhhhh…if the air pressure is compressing the foam, it’s going to compress it from all sides equally so I’m afraid it won’t be turning into a bead lock.

    • As the insert is stretched over the rim, it would resist compression from its inner surface (increasing strain). This would also be the case of a closed circular loop in free space, as opposed to just a length of foam, but the pre-tensioning is going to make it more difficult. It would be energetically more favourable to shrink down towards the centre of the when than to spend work pushing and stretching the material outwards.

  11. That’s nice that it works as a bead lock when the tire is pressurized – but also pointless given that you only really need the bead lock when the tire is flat! I don’t run any kind of tire insert, and find that with lower pressure handling becomes horribly squirmy long before the bead lets go and burps.

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