Kenda Small Block Eight
Kenda Small Block Eight
By Simon Whiten
Review of the Kenda Small Block Eight cyclocross clincher tyre
The Small Block Eight is one of Kenda’s hardpack offerings. Kenda describe it as a ‘fast accelerating hard pack tire’ and at just 315g it should be. It is littered with numerous knobs that ‘provide multiple contact points with the ground’. Kenda’s marketing spiel continues, “Is winter the off season? John Tomac doesn’t think so, winter is the cyclocross season” which sounds good to us, but whilst a tyre developed for a rider such as John Tomac is going to be good, surely it is out of place in the wet, muddy UK..?
From what we’d read we expected this tyre to be great in the dry and on hard ground, and rubbish as soon as there was a puddle in sight. In actual fact, these tyres can handle everything this side of ‘very muddy’ with aplomb. They are fast, predictable and grippy. If you armed yourself with a pair of these and then a pair of full mud tyres for those really sloppy days, we reckon you would be set for just about anything that the UK can throw at you. Note that we are yet to test them in snow and ice (though it shouldn’t be long now…) or in proper sand (Hopkins will be taking them down the beach).
So far we have been running them at between 30psi to 80psi with no issues.
Pavement (4 out of 5): This tyre is at home of the road. Obviously it’s not road tyre fast but it is quick for a cross tyre. When fitted it has a nice round profile which gives you more cornering confidence than most as well. It resembles a hybrid tyre in many ways and this shows in its excellent road performance.
Hardpack and dry grass (5 out of 5): The Small Block Eight has good grip and plenty of speed to deal with hardpack and dry conditions. At 120tpi it’s supple enough and rolls nicely over the ground, only losing out in terms of ride comfort to the more supple ‘open tubular’ tyres over the roughest of sections; even then, you have to weigh that up against the fact that the Small Block Eight offers way more grip that any of the more supple hard pack offerings we have tested thus far.
Wet grass (3 out of 5): The Small Block Eight is a competent performer here as well, which was a surprise. Fortunately there were few surprises from these tyres in wet conditions, even when cornering hard. The handling is predictable and controllable, front and rear. For wet grass, however, we reckon that an intermediate would be faster once the grass starts to get cut up but if you can make them work then you might have built a bit of a lead with the Kendas by then…
Sodden grass and light mud (2 out of 5): The Kenda copes relatively well with these conditions even though they are not really it’s remit. The Small Block Eight’s predictability instills a real sense of confidence in you and we only really came unstuck when facing the steepest of ascents, off-camber turns, or an obstacle after a muddy section where the tyres inability to shed the mud quickly proved our undoing.
Mud (1 out of 5): This could have easily have been a ‘2’ but for the fact that in sticky mud they do not clear well, but in wet mud they do a decent enough job for a non-mud tyre. At the end of the day though, they are not a mud tyre. On a drier course with muddy patches, they perform well through those gloopy sections though.
Snow/ice/sand: we have not tested the Small Block Eights in these conditions – yet…
Wear: we will come back with a full wear report once we have clocked up more mileage on these tyres.
The Kenda Small Block Eight is a tyre with a very versatile design. As such it has gained the label of my favourite cross tyre as I believe it is the perfect cyclocross training tyre, especially if like me you cycle on the road to a cross training ground featuring mixed conditions. I have also found that if you do longer rides on your cross bike, where varied conditions are a given, including road work, then this tyre is excellent; it can literally handle just about anything you throw at it from road to mud. In so doing it’s a bit of a surprise and highly recommended.
Kenda UK (Moore Large)
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