Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review- Kenda Blue Groove

The Kenda Blue groove is one of the many tires options in Kenda's John Tomac signature series.  I really like the Small Block 8 and Nevegal, so I was eager to try out the Blue Groove.  I wasn't disappointed.

Reviews for wider tires abound the web, but I haven't found many focused on the 26 x 2.0 Stick-E version.  Although all sizes share similarities, a 2.3 all mountain tire does not necessarily translate well into a narrower, lightweight 2.0 for XC applications. 

My XC endurance racing needs usually dictate that I run tires that are 1.95" to 2.1", and the Blue Grooves fall squarely within that range.  The casing is square-ish like the ever popular Nevegal, but instead of having ramped knobs the main tread features a two-step leading edge.  These two attributes and moderate volume give the Blue Groove its unique characteristics, and foreshadow its on-trail performance.

As I've mentioned in other tire reviews casing shape has a lot to do with the way a tire performs.  A parabolic tire like the Small Block 8 only places the very center of the tread in contact with the ground until it's leaned over in a turn.  Round tires like the Karma put a little more rubber on the ground when riding in a straight line.  A square profile like the Nevegal makes a much wider contact patch that contributes to a very stable feeling with smooth transitions from outside edge to outside edge because of the amount of tire in contact with the ground. 

The square profile makes the tire stable, but the downside is that it can make the tire roll slowly because of the amount of rubber it's pushing along.  In cases where the terrain is soft or loamy, this profile does well because of its stability, and the square-edged two step knobs accentuate that.  Rounder tires may have less rolling resistance, but it's often so soft and slick that their lack of grip makes them irrelevant.    Those conditions are also muddy or sticky, and the open tread on the Blue Groove does well to stay clear.

With all of that in mind, the tire does well where I'd expect it to, and favors soft to muddy conditions.  It's not a full-on mud tire, and although it excels in mud it is much more versatile than many other mud-specific options.  

With the amount of rain we've gotten in Vermont I've been running these tires a lot.  Amazingly there are still some places where the trails are dry and rocky, and in those instances the Blue Groove was sufficient, but I could feel that it was rolling more slowly than a true hardpack tire like the SB8.  The square edged lugs didn't squirm, but the square leading edges tended to slip on rocks and exposed roots.  The volume was also fine but didn't offer the same confidence-inspiring centering bounce that comes with a wider casing. 

Overall these tires do very well in soft conditions, and offer great stability and traction.  In my mind these are a great addition to the quiver for days when you're sure to have mud but still need a reasonably fast rolling option.  They're also more versatile than a standard mud tire and won't let you down if the terrain is firmer than you'd expected.  When things dry out and firm up they can still run, but they're outpaced by faster rolling options with more volume.

In my race tire quiver the Blue Groove sits on the outside of the range covering moderately soft to full-on muddy conditions.  The round profiled and higher volume Karma with its slightly shorter knobs sits in the middle as the versatile all-rounder, and the Small Block 8 is the hardpack speed demon.  

On the scale both tires weigh in exactly at their claimed 460 grams, and their light weight belies their relative toughness and great climbing ability. 

The Blue Groove is a great tire, and damp trails are in the forecast it is my weapon of choice.  For more information visit www.kendausa.com. 

1 comment:

  1. Somehow this picture makes the treads look worn and flat, but they're taller and sharper.