Rabaconda + Nitro Mousse
As I’ve grown older and lazier, I’m much more willing to choose
convenience over cost. In 2018, I pinched a tube while changing a
tire, and then on my second attempt the valve stem separated from
the tube. Thus was the end of my patience for tubes. I opened my
wallet and ordered a set of Nitro Mousse inserts and a Rabaconda tire
changer.

I didn’t do this for fear of flat tires. Early in my racing career I had
learned about super heavy duty tubes, combined with correct tire
selection (i.e. not Michelin S-12 fronts), and that was about the end of
flat tires. The Nitro’s were simply convenience: Tire pressure was one
less thing to worry about. Yes, I am that lazy. And of course pinched
tubes, the result of my poor tire changing skills, would be history.

This is not to say foam inserts are a zero-maintenance proposition.
Installation can be challenging and extended high speed riding can
melt the foam. The Nitro Mousse instructions even suggest storing the
bike on a stand, as prolonged sitting in one place under the bike’s full
weight can put a permanent depression in the foam. I was not
bothered by any of this, of course, as I generally ride slowly and I own
multiple bike stands.

So what’s the point of writing about a topic of which YouTube and
internet discussion groups have devoted terabytes of data to inform,
illustrate, argue, and over-analyze? Because, despite all my research
and preparation, I still learned a few things after installing my first
Nitro Mousse. Here are three issues to consider before you try your
first foam insert:

1.        Don’t bother watching videos of ISDE and World Enduro riders
changing tires in 23 seconds or whatever the unofficial record is. This
creates supreme overconfidence, quickly followed by embarrassment
and self-loathing. The professionals have advantages you and I don’t.
They couldn’t care less about the lifespans of their mousses. While I
fumble with spreading two tubes of lubricating gel on a mousse and
end up lubricating the tire, the rim, every tire iron I own, the brake
rotor, the spokes and two random cats in the shop, the factory riders
may or may not even use the lube. I don’t know this for sure, but their
mousses (or mice?) certainly don’t gleam as brightly as mine and I
don’t see them struggle to grip slippery tire irons. And whatever dirty
work is needed to slip that mousse inside the tire has already been
done for them. I’m also convinced the professionals avoid tires with
any hint of stiffness in their sidewalls (I challenge any of them to set a
world record with a Bridgestone M59). And surely their pit crews must
be heating those new tires to about 130 degrees before handing them
off to their riders. The rubber seems to bend like elastic and they also
don’t give a rip about scratching their painted rims.

2.        The fancy Rabaconda is nice for removing tires but doesn’t
help as much with installation. Technique is still an important part of
an easy (if there is such a word) tire change, and you’ll use plenty of
the same technique with or without the Rabaconda. What I like best is
the stand gets me up off the floor, but there are more economical
ways to accomplish this. The Rabaconda can also push the tire down
into the center of the rim, when you're trying to get that last, final part
of the bead over the rim. Remember, installing a foam insert is like
changing a tire with a fully inflated tube. You need some special help,
and the Rabaconda is the hot ticket.

3.        Get the right sized mousse. They are tire and size specific. I
accidentally ordered a slightly smaller rear mousse than my Michelin
Star Cross 5 tire required, and the bead wouldn't seat. That should
have been a dead giveaway that I’d ordered the wrong mousse, but of
course I tried to force air into the tire (which immediately whiffed out
the spoke holes), then Gorilla-taped the inside of the rim and tried
more air, which seated the bead for about 10 seconds at a time. It was
during this exercise when a curious thought flashed in my mind, and I
sprinted back into the house to see what size of mousse I actually
ordered. I did find it hilarious, while simultaneously waiting for the
correct mousse to arrive and delivering the Beta to the dealer for its
carb problem, when the service tech alerted me to my “flat” rear tire
and offered to fix it.
When riding on trails, I can tell no difference in "feel" with the Nitro
Mousse, compared to tubes. On pavement or super hard-packed dirt,
the tires do tend to feel like they have under-inflated tubes. But where
it counts, these things work well and I never have to think about them.
Which is what I like.