Following on its mountain bike and gravel tire liners, Vittoria is now rolling out liners for tubeless road tires, too. The Vittoria Air-Liner Road system is designed to let you ride on a flat tire, as the foam liner expands in the event of a puncture when tubeless sealant does not seal the hole.
The $40 Air-Liner foam liners weigh between 24 to 39g, depending on the size of the tire, and they compress inside road tires when the tire is inflated. Then, in the event of something like a sidewall tear or a big cut where sealant won’t patch the hole and the air escapes, the liner expands inside the tire, allowing you to ride — carefully — back home.
The tradeoff to the extra security — beyond the nearly negligible weight penalty — is the added difficulty of installation. Vittoria is selling a $25 Tubeless Tool-Kit that includes a set of plastic pliers to unseat the tire beads and clips to help install the tires.
Vittoria has been testing the road system for two years, both internally and with the pro road teams it sponsors like EF Education-Nippo, UAE, and Jumbo-Visma. In fact, UAE’s Alexander Kristoff won the 2019 Gent-Wevelgem using Vittoria tubeless tires with the liners.
“We are the first brand to do tire liners across road, gravel, and mountain bike, but each category has a separate design,” said Ken Avery, Vittoria’s senior vice president of product development. “In mountain bike, it’s about impact resistance, and being able to lower pressure without worrying about a pinch flat. In gravel, it’s also that, plus being able to run lower pressures without worrying about the tire squirming or rolling.”
“But for the road system, it’s about the run-flat story. The idea is this: The air pressure in the road tire compresses the liner and doesn’t compromise the ride quality,” Avery said. “Most of the time, sealant is going to solve the problem in the event of a puncture. But in the event that it doesn’t, you can ride it home or to a shop.”
Avery said EF riders have been using the Air-Line system for two seasons whenever the riders are using tubeless and not tubular tires. Vittoria is launching the system at the Tour of Flanders this weekend.
“All the cobble guys who are running tubeless will have this in their tires,” he said. “But take racers out of the picture. They are there to validate the product, but at the end of the day, it’s about real people. If you have someone who is a little worried about putting a tube in on the side of the road, then they no longer have to worry about it; they can ride home or to the local shop.”
Avery said that pro riders who work with Vittoria have a range of preferences. Some climbers prefer tubulars because they can get the lightest overall set-up that way, but others appreciate that in terms of aerodynamics and rolling resistance, the Corsa Speed TLR is the fastest tire Vittoria makes, ahead of the Corsa Speed tubular.
Air-Liners come in small, medium, and large to fit 25, 28, and 30mm tires respectively.
The Vittoria Air-Liner Road TLR Kit, which includes two liners, the pliers-and-clips Tool Kit, and a bottle of sealant, sells for $100.
Vittoria’s new Universal Tubeless Tire Sealant has platelets suspended in the ammonia-free liquid that help plug small holes quickly. Vittoria claims its sealant plugs holes up to 7mm “instantly,” and in testing provided “excellent air retention up to 1,200km.”