Intended Use: Trail, All mountain, Dual Slalom
Bike: 2010 Giant Reign X, 170mm travel, XT build kit, Mavic Crossmax SX wheelset.
Test Location: Colorado Front Range
Duration of Test: 20 rides, 250 miles
When I first saw this tire at the Interbike tradeshow a year and a half ago, I was really intrigued. It looked to be the ideal rear tire for an all mountain trail bike. It also looked to be perfect as a rear tire for riding hard pack on a DH bike. It did appear to be a rear specific tread to me at first, and I could not wrap my mind around how it would work on the front. For kicks, I decided to try it front and rear—just to see what would happen—and I figured I would pull it from the front after a ride or two when it proved to be too drifty and loose. Well…I was wrong.
The BBG tires have a casing that flirts with being a little light. The tires weigh in at 750g, and have a true 2.35 size (60mm knob to knob). The BBG are notably larger than a Maxxis 2.5 (57mm), about the same size as a Schwalbe 2.35 downhill or freeride tire (60mm), and are nearly the size of a 2.7 Maxxis DH tire (61mm). Given this volume, the Kenda is about 100g lighter than the equivalent sized trail tires from Maxxis (2.5 DHF EXO – 830-855g) and Schwalbe (2.35 Muddy Mary FR – 870g).
Do not expect to get the sidewall on this tire to bead up tubeless without a lot of effort, and with sealant that is much thicker than Stan’s. I chose to run my test tires with 180g semi-light tubes set to 35psi (6.7″ travel bike, 200 lb. rider), and did not see any issue with flat tires on rough, rocky trail; but I am adamant about checking pressure before every ride, and refilling even a couple PSI.
The DTC Dual Tread Compound is a really nice compound. It rolls smoothly, wears respectably, and still has nice grip, without folding over under hard cornering. Kenda also has a softer compound called Stick-E, that is offered in their downhill line. It is a shame that the DTC compound is not offered in the 2 ply casing tires. The Stick-E tire compound rolls dramatically slower, has much more rapid wear, and at the same time offers less support on the shoulder knobs while cornering.
ON THE TRAIL:
I was really surprised by how well the BBG tires worked on a wide variety of dry terrain. I thought that it would be a drifty mess up front and offer moderate climbing grip in the rear. I also thought that I would need to ride on “edge” (on the side knobs) all of the time. This wasn’t the case. At all.
The center row offers exceptional grip—it deforms just enough to contour and grab terrain, from rocky, loose, hard, chundery, what have you—yet spikes straight into softer, loamy, soil conditions. The small, paddle-shaped knobs deform the perfect amount to offer exceptional grip, both up and down. The channel between the center and cornering knobs offers the right amount of transition from straight line to edge, allowing the bike to steer smoothly. The cornering knobs bite into loose dirt and do not fold excessively on very firm and packed trails. In fact, the tires bite and grab so well that I actually now might experiment with cutting a few knobs to make the tire MORE drifty and loose. As they currently sit, you have to force the tire to release, and initially, I would have guessed the opposite to be true.
I have not tried the 2-ply version, but as of now, it is only offered in the Stick-E compound, and based on my experience with this compound on other treads, I’m not inclined to think that it will translate well to this tread. The center line knobs need to be firm enough that they don’t squirm under hard pedaling and braking, and the cornering knobs are not supported well enough to fully handle in a softer compound the hard forces you’ll encounter in a berm or a flat corner.
Additional Note: I think one misconception about the BBG is that it is fast like an XC tire. It’s not. It’s a dry condition trail bike tire (Dry condition does NOT mean “It rained last night, and is 80 out, so its not muddy.” I mean desert dry). So if you live in Flagstaff, Utah, Denver, Junction, etc., then it’s totally worth checking out. If you live high-alpine and ride dirt and regular levels of rain, then this is not your huckleberry.
Simply put, I think the BBG tread might be the best dry condition tire for trail and all mountain bikes on the market, and if Kenda was to offer this tire in DTC in the 2-ply DH casing as well, it would be an exceptional, all purpose, dry condition tire as well. That said, I do think there is some slight room for improvement to the design.
1) I would love to see the sideknobs of the BBG in a more squared pattern—with slightly larger gaps between them—to lend more support to the cornering knobs and to allow dirt to clear the tread in loose and blown-out corners
2) I am going to experiment and remove a few knobs in the centerline to try and get the tire to clear loose sand and moon dust, and to see whether it will pack up slightly less after a rain.
3) The sidewall could be more robust.
4) I would love to test the 2.1 UST version, but it has not been available all year. Given the size of the 2.35, the 2.1 will come in close to the size of a 2.35 Maxxis, 2.25 Schwalbe, or a 2.2 Continental, be perfect for general trail use, and will have a thicker and more robust sidewall (estimated at 850g).
If you like to lay your bike over and corner, this is the tire for you. These might very well be the single best trail bike tire currently on the market. They roll much faster than the more aggressive treads, but have the braking and pedaling power of the meatiest treads in the category. And really, no tire offers the precise steering that the BBG has in loose over hard pack conditions. This tire is ideal for 5-7″ travel trail bikes in dry places such as southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, etc. And if the BBG is released in the DTC compound in a 2-ply casing, then it will likely be the top performing DH tire in dry conditions as well.
Click to read Kevin Bazar’s 2nd Look review of the Kenda BBG 2.35.