Kenda Happy Medium
Kenda Happy Medium
By Simon Whiten
Review of the Kenda Happy Medium cyclocross clincher tyres
The Happy Medium is just that; a combination tyre that will get you smiling. It sports a quick looking file tread centre supported by some aggressive looking shoulder knobblies which promise cornering grip. But does it deliver?
The Kenda marketing spiel says that ‘the center of the tire gives you the straight line speed you need to win the hole-shot and the cornering knobs will keep you upright in the turns’. The Happy Medium weighs in at 380g per tyre which is reasonable, though heavier than the Small Block Eight that we’ve also been testing. Like other Kendas we’ve tried, these tyres have a round profile which allows you to transition from the centre to the edges without any fuss and inspires confidence in the corners.
Pavement (5 out of 5): The Happy Medium certainly made us smile on the road. It zips along nicely – nicely enough for me to mix it in with the road riders for a few laps of our local park circuit with no issues – and with that round profile it corners pretty well, despite those aggressive knobs on the tyre’s shoulders. It was only on a particularly nasty and wet, downhill, off-camber, tarmac bend that I had to let the ‘roadies’ go each lap for fear of exceeding the limits of the otherwise adequate grip.
Hardpack and dry grass (5 out of 5): The Happy Medium is designed for these conditions so excels over this sort of terrain. It has good speed and positive traction through the turns even if there’s loose surface material to deal with. Going off-the-road onto the specially-built, bike paths in our local park saw the Happy Medium in its element.
Wet grass (3 out of 5): Like other file treads the Kenda gives a decent enough performance in wet grass and the shoulder knobs actually do work to give good traction. You could run them on a wet grassy circuit but once the surface becomes cut up you may find the limit a few times unexpectedly. However, the good thing is that the Happy Mediums can usually catch a slide – most of the time – thanks to those shoulder knobs. For that reason they make a great training tyre for drills on the local playing field, exploring the limit without continually eating mud pie. During our test I have to admit to having developed a new ‘slide and catch’ game, where I spent a lot of time actually trying to initiate front or rear wheel slides whilst on the centre tread. You can feel it go but then every time, without fail, the shoulder knobs would bite and catch the slide where other ‘similar’ tyres would see you on the deck. Initially it’s a bit unnerving but when you realise that the tyres give such predictable handling it soon becomes simple good fun.
Sodden grass and light mud (2 out of 5): predictably it’s the not so happy medium when things get sloppy. However, we were pleasantly surprised by them; though there was some straight line, rear wheel slip, by working the bike side to side, out of the saddle you can get grip from the shoulders.
Mud (1 out of 5): Riding through mud on file treads is tough, as it’s not long before all rear traction disappears. The Kendas are no exception, though as described above, with some clever bike leaning you can find traction using the shoulders but its not really practical nor is it fast. They did plough through deep muddy patches in mixed conditions but an intermediate would have been preferred.
The Kenda Happy Medium is a good file tread which is well suited to wet or dry hardpack conditions, so they’d be good for British summer cross league racing and some early cross season races. Those shoulder knobs give you extra grip that will help in looser conditions and gives the Happy Medium a cornering advantage over some of the other ‘faster’, open tubular style file treads that we are also running.
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