What is it
The Kenda Nevegal used to rule the roost. It was the de facto standard of MTB tires a decade ago, very similar to the Maxxis Minion's domination of today. But the Nevegal's design stayed dormant for a while, as it is very risky to mess with success. Recently, though, Kenda followed it up with the Nevegal X, which rolls a lot better than the predecessor, but is not as grippy. Now Kenda is attacking this segment with a very grippy tire and starting to push into the downhill market.
They addressed cornering speed, braking power, rolling resistance, and tested it on the DH circuit. They also worked on the often-ignored casing technology, attempting to deliver sidewall durability while still providing good feel and traction. And they mated the very aggressive Kenda Hellkat with a rear-specific Helldiver for better overall performance.
Casing is very tough near the bead but it transitions to a more compliant material in the middle of the sidewall.
- Size: 27.5 x 2.4
- Weight: 1200g Hellkat, 950g Helldiver
- Bead: Wire bead for Hellkat, Kevlar for Helldiver
- Rubber Compound: RSR dual-layer compound
- Casing: Advanced gravity casing with Iron Cloak belt and Kenda Vector shield
- Amazing cornering knobs
- Casing that is tough but still has good feel and traction
- Matching speed on the rear with grippy front
- Soft, sticky, low-rebound rubber with solid structure inside
- Clean and straight tire construction.
- Rolls well for the amount of grip
- No 29er version
- Waiting for folding versions
Our home trails in Santa Cruz are starting to get blown out with more ruts, roots, rocks, and a fine layer of dust. So it's actually good tire testing conditions for a change. A friend got these new Hellkat and Helldiver tires and he scooted right along with us on the climbs without missing a beat. But when it was time for the downhills, he descended better than ever before, dogging the ride leader and blowing him out of the water on loose corners.
So we jumped on this new offering from Kenda to explore its limits for ourselves. We've ridden the downhill versions before in all their 1200-gram glory, but didn't spend too much time with them because they were a bit portly and they didn't have a 29er version, which happens to be the majority of our test bikes at the moment.
The profile of the Hellkat is a bit rounded and the tread pattern is gnarly. Knobs are big and complex with many angles and holes to maximize surface area. The side knobs are well supported and they seem to extend beyond the casing with good transition knobs leading up to them. The rear-specific Helldiver is an interesting tire, similar to the Slaughter. It doesn't have big center or transition knobs but has a good profile leading to the side knobs. On climbs, they rolled well and exhibited good compliance on rocky descents. They are heavy though at 1200 grams, which puts a damper on the big rides.
The most important news of all is that these tires have incredible cornering traction. Loose corners are its specialty, as they dig in to find stable ground and claw out as the rider changes direction. Grip is there and it's easy to control, as the transition is handled by the well-supported side knobs hanging out there like a guiding hand. With the Helldiver on the rear, it is easy to throw the back around and change direction. We imagine putting another Hellkat back there will deliver quite a bit of traction and braking power in the rear for very steep and difficult conditions.
Braking is excellent as well, as the front digs in and provides much of the stopping power. The rear holds its own and keeps the rear tracking well, willing to change directions easily with rider input. In the rain, it might not do as well, but putting another Hellkat back there should address that.
This is a great tire and the R&D Kenda invested in this effort is evident. This tire will be key in Kenda's rise back to upper echelons of aggressive riding. But the Kevlar and 29er versions of this tire can't come soon enough.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Price: $80 for Hellkat, $85 for Helldiver
More info: www.kendatire.com