First Look: New Kenda Nevegal2 Pro & Hellkat Pro Tyres

by
August 30, 2017

Thanks to the past successes of tyres such as the Nevegal and Small Block 8, Kenda is a brand name that’ll be familiar to many mountain bikers all around the globe. In more recent times however, it’d be fair to say that Kenda hasn’t enjoyed quite the same cache as it used to.

The tyre and wheel scene is one that has seen a dramatic amount of change in recent years though. Fat bikes have come (and somewhat gone), plus bikes have arrived in a frenzy of chubby-rim chasing, and 29ers are now being used in the Enduro World Series and on the UCI Downhill World Cup circuit. We’ve also seen the growth of low-priced options from in-house tyre brands including Specialized and Bontrager, and with the likes of Maxxis and Schwalbe innovating aggressively with tyre sizing and casing technology, there’s no doubt that it’s been a hard market for everyone to keep up.

For Kenda though, that seems to be changing.

kenda tyres hellkat pro
Kenda has been making tyres for a long time, but after going off the boil over the last few years, the US brand is ready to hit back.

Recently the 55-year old company brought on a new VP of engineering, while also making the decision to shelve its auto division in favour of focussing on bikes. Then two years ago, Kenda set up a new technical development centre in Ohio with the sole purpose to design, prototype, and test new tyre technologies. With 40 engineers in the lab and the ability to develop 3D printed rapid prototypes of new tread designs, a much more scientific approach is being brought to tyre development.

Although this renewed enthusiasm within Kenda is still relatively fresh, the fruits of the company’s labour is already becoming apparent, largely in part due to the Polygon UR World Cup team. Tracey Hannah and Alexandre Fayolle have been riding and winning aboard Kenda tyres including the new Hellkat Pro, which is a big deal when you consider that many downhill racers are all riding the same tyres (perhaps some with the logos blacked out).

kenda tyres hellkat pro
This is the new Hellkat tread. It’s already been raced to victory on the UCI World Cup circuit, and now Kenda’s making a lightweight folding version for trail and enduro use.

Kenda is still working closely with the Polygon UR team to develop a broader range of tyres for racing downhill world cups on, but it’s also taking that same tyre development to the trail and enduro realms too. With the success of the Hellkat Pro, Kenda will now offer the same tread pattern in a folding version for trail riders and enduro racers. And in addition to the Hellkat Pro, Kenda is also releasing an all-new version of the legendary Nevegal tyre, called the Nevegal² Pro.

Although the two new tyres are being unveiled at Eurobike this week, we had the opportunity to check out the Hellkat Pro and Nevegal² Pro during PressCamp back in June, and have been riding them since.

kenda tyres nevegal pro
The Nevegal is back!

Kenda Nevegal² Pro Tyres Feature

  • Designed for trail riding and enduro racing
  • Half the rolling resistance of the original Nevegal tyre
  • Available in 27.5in and 29in diameters
  • Widths: 2.4in and 2.6in
  • EN-DTC Dual Compound Rubber
  • 120tpi Advanced Trail Casing
  • Tubeless Compatible
  • KSCT reinforced sidewalls
  • K-Armor Belt for increased protection underneath the tread
  • Claimed weight: 810g +/- 40g
  • Actual weight: 783g (27.5×2.4in size)
kenda tyres nevegal pro
The latest Nevegal borrows some style cues from the original, but it’s essentially a whole new beast.

The new Nevegal² Pro pays homage to the original Nevegal, but features an updated tread pattern, a new reinforced casing, and new dual compound rubber. Kenda claims the Nevegal² Pro has half the rolling resistance of the original, making it a much speedier tyre overall, despite having more cornering traction, more braking traction, and more climbing traction too.

Kenda has also sought to deliver a significant increase in puncture resistance through both the sidewalls and directly underneath the tread, while also keeping the grams in check to deliver a best-in-class weight figure for an enduro-capable tyre. To deliver the durability that Kenda wanted in a tyre that weighs just a lick over 800 grams, Kenda looked to the Advanced Gravity Casing used in its downhill tyres, and came up with a lighter and more flexible version called the Advanced Trail Casing.

*Warning: TLA (Three Letter Acronyms) Ahead*

kenda tyre nevegal casing
The reinforced casing uses protection underneath the centre tread and for each sidewall.

Called ATC (Advanced Trail Casing), the 120tpi tubeless compatible casing on the new Nevegal² Pro and Hellkat Pro features two key components; a reinforcing strip on each sidewall, and a puncture-resistant belt underneath the tread.

The sidewalls use Kenda’s KSCT (Kenda’s Sidewall Casing Technology), which is basically a cross woven polyamide insert that increases the tyre’s defences against slices, small cuts and protrusions. The insert starts at the bead, and covers the sidewall right up to the cornering tread. Kenda claims this special insert is slightly more cut resistant compared to other brand’s technologies, while being significantly lighter.

kenda tyres nevegal pro
Kenda claims the new Nevegal has half the rolling resistance of the original.

In addition to the reinforced sidewalls, the Nevegal² Pro and Hellkat Pro tyres also get the K-Armor Belt: a tightly woven sheet of proprietary fibre that’s designed to decrease the chance of getting pinch flats, or having a sharp and pointy rock penetrate the tyre right through the tread. According to Kenda, this proprietary fabric offers several benefits over traditional kevlar and aramid fibres, including greater puncture resistance and much better adhesion abilities. The adhesion part is important, because you’re talking about bonding this strip to the casing and the tyre rubber. As the K-Armor Belt is much stickier in the first place, it means less rubber is required to form a tight bond, resulting in a lower weight.

kenda sidewall rubber compound
The updated dual rubber compound comes with increased durability and wear life.

Also updated on the new Nevegal² Pro and Hellkat Pro tyres is the rubber compound. It’s a dual compound formula called EN-DTC, which sees a softer rubber compound built into the cornering blocks to allow for more flexibility and grip, and a firmer compound used in the centre tread for faster rolling. According to Kenda, the new EN-DTC compound has lowered rolling resistance, increased wear life, and also improved knob durability.

kenda tyres hellkat pro
The Hellkat Pro has previously been a DH-only tyre, until now.

Kenda Hellkat Pro Tyres Feature

  • Designed for aggressive trail riding and enduro racing
  • Lighter and faster-rolling than the Hellkat downhill tyre
  • Available in 27.5in and 29in diameters
  • Widths: 2.4in and 2.6in
  • EN-DTC Dual Compound Rubber
  • 120tpi Advanced Trail Casing
  • Tubeless Compatible
  • KSCT reinforced sidewalls
  • K-Armor Belt for increased protection underneath the tread
  • Claimed weight: 880g +/- 44g
  • Actual weight: 810g (27.5×2.4in size)
kenda tyres hellkat pro
The tread pattern is more aggressive than the Nevegal, making the Hellkat Pro a better tyre for loose conditions.

Compared to the Nevegal² Pro, the Hellkat Pro features a more aggressive tread pattern that is better suited to riding on loose and scrabbly trails. It isn’t billed as a wet weather specific tyre, but with taller and chunkier blocks over the Nevegal² Pro, its more of an all-rounder.

Also like the Nevegal² Pro, the Hellkat Pro will also be available in both 2.4in and 2.6in widths, and in 27.5in or 29in diameters.

Kenda claims the Advanced Trail Casing is sufficiently tough for full-blown enduro riding and racing.

The Hellkat Pro is equipped with the same ATC casing, which is reinforced through both the sidewalls and underneath the centre tread. The casing is a finely woven 120tpi number, with a foldable tubeless ready bead. Weight-wise the Hellkat Pro does come in heavier due to its more liberal use of rubber, but it’s still claimed to come in under 900 grams. Many other ‘enduro-capable’ tyres around this width are typically closer to a kilo, so if Kenda’s durability claims are anything to go by, then this will be an impressively lightweight tyre.

kenda tyres nevegal pro
Our test Nevegal tyre came under the claimed weight.
kenda tyres hellkat pro
Likewise, so did the Hellkat Pro. It’s significantly lighter than other ‘enduro-capable’ tyres, so we’re eager to test the durability claims.

 

And as to how the new tyres ride? Well we’re not going to lie and say they’re amazing, or that they’re not amazing, as we simply haven’t had enough time on them to hand over our verdict. An unfortunate shipping error that saw our test tyres take a detour to Australia, so we’ve only had them on a bike for a couple of weeks. For what it’s worth, both tyres aired up tubeless without dramas, with the Nevegal² Pro providing a more rounded profile on the 31mm internally wide rim, and the Hellkat Pro sitting a little more square overall.

Initial riding impressions are tentatively good, but we’re keen to subject the tyres to some sloppier riding, as well as to a trip up to the Lake District to see just how durable the new ATC casing really is. Stay tuned for the full review soon…

Want more information on the new Kenda range? Then get your peepers over to the Kenda website for all the deets, or get in touch with Moore Large, the UK distributor for Kenda.

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First Look