Product: Kenda BBG (The Cornrow!) 2.35, DH casing, Stick-E rubber
Intended Use: Stoppin’, Startin’, Leanin’, Puttin’ mohawk patterns in dirt.
Rider: 5’9”, 160 lbs., likes zooming, currently has mustache.
Test Location: Lake Tahoe area, Northstar
Test Bike: 2011 Specialized SX setup all mountain bikey.
Duration of test: 2 months
I was fortunate enough to get a DH version of these tires in a 2.35 to test. I say “fortunate,” because the DH casing ensured I’d be evaluating the tread, not the ease with which I put holes in the lighter versions. The lighter versions that Marshal tested (see his review HERE) scare me due to the weight alone. I know I like tubeless tires on my trail bike, and I know I’ve torn up every tire I’ve ever used in that weight class.
As soon as I saw this tread prior to summer, I knew I wanted this tire. It reminds me of what I refer to as “The Champ’s Champiest period of Champing.” It’s a Brian Lopes designed tire that actually LOOKS like his best hairdo (See below).
At first sight, the BBG (to be affectionately known as ‘The Cornrow’) jumped out at me as a pattern that covered all the essentials for the terrain I ride most, with no extra bullshit. There’s a good wall of sideknobs with no garbage ‘intermediate knobs’ to get in their way, and a simple series of rectangular ridges in the middle with well defined braking and climbing edges. It’s all a feller really needs.
The Cornrow is barely even directional, with only a small series of little nubs sitting at the back end of the sideknobs. What I mean by ‘back’ is that the little nub sits by the rearward end of the sideknobs when the tire is on the ground. This forms a bit of an ‘L’ shape that works to cup dirt in breaking as well as hold during and steering drift for the front tire. This pattern is so regular that the end at which the little nub sits probably doesn’t even matter, but it is there, it does serve a purpose, and it does help with leaned-over braking. It is the first point of engagement when cornering. It flexes, grips a little, and then, when it gets overwhelmed, it just bumps into the true sideknobs where the real meat is.
I knew these tires would rail as soon as I saw them mounted. The sideknobs aren’t too far toward the centerline to be useless when really leaned over, and aren’t too far out to be impossible to reach (both scenarios occur far too often in far too many tire designs). Guess what? The Cornrow friggin’ rails. On my first day out on these, I actually had to unweight my feet to get the rear to break loose. I even ended up locking up my rear wheel intentionally a few times just to get them to slide to make a few high speed, tight turns. I’m a bit of a Maxxis whore and I can honestly say that I haven’t ridden a Maxxis tire that holds a corner as solidly as the Cornrow.
The centerline or ‘hawk’ of the cornrow isn’t nearly as squirmy as I thought it would be. Even in the stick-E Kenda rubber it just grips without a whole lot of weird tire deformation. I’d say this is one of the best—if not the best—all around dry conditions tires I’ve ever ridden. (And yeah, I know it says Kenda on the sidewall.) I single out dry conditions because it just looks like it’s waiting to gum up in sticky mud. Of course, I don’t know this, because I live in California where it doesn’t rain in the summer. But if you live somewhere similar, just buy these tires. You’re welcome in advance.
As is usually the case with most tire manufacturers, the glaring issue with these treads is the striking lack of options. Kenda decided long ago to devote any and every resource to Nevegal options (affectionately known as ‘nevagrips’ by the more leaned over crowd), because they sell for some reason. Right now the redheaded stepchild Cornrows only come in a handful of flavors, which is a shame. It’s the best tire Kenda’s ever made for the kind of conditions I ride in. If these were available in a 2.5 DH casing, they’d be on my DH bike right now. If they actually produced the 2.1 UTC dual tread compound that they’ve been threatening to make for months, they’d be on my trailbike right now. That’s the Champ’s honest truth.