It’s no secret that Kenda has been working some new tires and materials over the last year. We’re long time Kenda riders, and we’ve gotten familiar with their line - which has a tread for any type of trail. So we were of course excited to get on some early prototypes of a new xc tire that was being fine-tuned back in late 2015.
The tire in question became the new Saber Pro - Kenda’s latest and greatest XC race tire. The Saber picks up where the SmallBlock 8 left off: low rolling resistance, lighter weight, great straight line speed, and adds improved corner traction.
The obvious differences are spaced out knobs to help with mud shed (something the SmallBlock struggled with) and to help with better braking. The new line of Kenda’s are also available with a new rubber compound and casing that feels more supple and gives great traction. Kenda techs equate the new compound closer to their road tire material.
As with all Kenda tires, set up is super easy. We clean the rims with soapy water and hit the tire bead with a soapy brush. This helps the tire slide into place and removes any dirt for a tight seal. Removable valve cores and an air compressor help set the tires on stubborn rims, but we’re usually able to use a floor pump on our Valor wheelsets.
ON THE COURSE
These tires are fast. Really fast. Our prototypes were 2.0’s and rolled unlike any tire we’ve been on. They were tubeless compatible, but were not Kenda’s SCT (Sealant Compatible Tire) construction which has a thicker/stiffer side wall. The knob spacing on the 2.0’s gave a surprising amount of grip and control for a 2.0, especially over hard pack and loose-over-hard trail conditions. It was good in loose sand, and as good as any other tire when descending on loose, marbly fire roads.
The 2.2’s are the same - fast and smooth rolling with exceptional corning. One thing we noticed was that they feel a little more drifty in looser conditions - maybe because the knobs are slightly more spaced out compared to the 2.0.
The difference between the softer prototypes (the TR compound) and the SCT rubber is noticeable. Make no mistake, both are fast and reliable, and while we only had one side wall slice in over a year on a course that was full of jagged rocks (pre-riding, luckily), we’d need to do plenty of course recon to choose the thinner TR’s over the SCT’s which has been extremely reliable to the point that we often don’t bother to carry spare tubes.
These tires are also best left for the race course. One reason they roll so fast is that the knobs are low profile. Putting miles on them on the pavement wears them down quickly. So, keep these on your race day wheels and you’ll easily get a season out of a set.
We’ve added the Saber as our first choice for races, along with the Kozmik Lite, the HoneyBadger XC, and the Karma for all around trail riding.