Kenda Hellkat Pro first ride review

No messing around here

Kenda had a solid run of pro rider-branded mountain bike tires throughout the mid 2000s, but has somewhat fallen off the map as other brands have released newer, more modern treads and compounds. Kenda is looking to reclaim some of that past glory with its seriously burly Hellkat Pro and rear-specific Helldriver Pro.

The RSR dual layer compound features a stiff, durable base layer with a soft, slow-rebounding layer on top
The RSR dual layer compound features a stiff, durable base layer with a soft, slow-rebounding layer on top

Hellkat Pro specs

  • 27.5 x 2.4in
  • 1,170g 
  • Wire bead
  • RSR dual-layer compound
  • Advanced gravity casing with Iron Cloak belt and Kenda Vector shield
  • Tubeless ready
  • Enduro and folding bead options in development
  • MSRP: $80, UK and Australian pricing TBD

Kenda Hellkat Pro technology

With development and testing done by World Cup downhill UR Racing team riders Mick and Tracy Hannah, Kenda makes no qualms that this is a pure gravity tire. To meet its World Cup needs, Kenda designed its Advanced Gravity Casing featuring three technical components: Kenda Vector Shield, the Iron Cloak and the Apex insert.

The sidewalls boast a 20mm tall rubber insert above the bead to stiffen the sidewalls and lessen pinch flats
The sidewalls boast a 20mm tall rubber insert above the bead to stiffen the sidewalls and lessen pinch flats

Kenda Vector Shield is a woven sheet of aramid fibers on the sidewall. It's claimed to provide 285 percent greater cut resistance than other sidewall protection. Additionally, Kenda contends it saves up to 200g over a regular 2-ply downhill tire casing.

The Iron Cloak belt is an aramid belt that lies under the tread to ward off punctures. An 18 percent increase in protection is touted as is its flexibility, which allows the tread to conform to the trail better. 

To stiffen the sidewalls a 20mm tall rigid rubber insert sits just above the beads. The Apex insert is said to be more than 60 percent taller than standard sidewall inserts. The extra height helps to reduce pinch flats and tubeless burps. It also allows lower tire pressures and is claimed to increase feedback so a rider knows how hard to push before traction lets go. 

RSR dual-layer compound

Building on its successful Race Stick-E compound, the Hellkats feature a dual-layer compound that's said to increase longevity and deliver better control.

A stiffer and more durable compound comprises the base which is layered with a sticky, slow-rebounding rubber on top. Together they're said to provide traction but still deliver a solid foundation to press against and deliver increased wear resistance.

Kenda's new Hellkat Pro is a gravity tire with the company's Advanced Gravity casing
Kenda's new Hellkat Pro is a gravity tire with the company's Advanced Gravity casing

Gravity fed

I've had a few rides on the new Hellkat Pro tires on a 170/160mm enduro bike with 30mm wide rims. They slipped over the rims without struggle and aired up sans tubes easily with just a track pump.

First and foremost, the traction is apparent, seemingly on par with the torch-bearing Minion and current fave Magic Mary. Unlike some tires with a more rounded profile, the Hellkat Pros appreciate a heavy hand. More than a few times I let the bike run fast and loose and each sketchball moment was met with a big bite of traction as soon as I weighted the front end.

The huge side lugs do a lot more than just look the part too; put some pressure into them and the confidence that the siped knobs and gooey durometer imparts is noticeable. 

The tread design is claimed to have low rolling resistance and superior cornering and braking control
The tread design is claimed to have low rolling resistance and superior cornering and braking control

Despite being far from lightweight, they aren't total pigs when it comes to rolling resistance. The knobs are ramped but even so they work best when partnering with gravity, not fighting it.

I plan on putting in a lot more laps on the Hellkat Pros and hitting the lifts when the bike parks open, but for now, enduro and downhill fiends should take note, Kenda's Hellkat Pros aren't messing around.

Learn all about the Hellkat and Helldiver gravity tires in this video

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