I recently bought some Kenda Kwicker 700×32 tires to try out for cyclocross this season. This will be my second time racing and my first time with a road-style bike with 700C tires. I will attempt to review these tires as I go by updating this post, so check back for updates. I’ll start off by training for cyclocross during my commute from work using the ‘cross tires and finding all the dirt/grass I can get a hold of on my ride home. Hopefully I’ll be able to characterize these tires and their limits before and during my planned two or three races this season. In addition, there are several Cross Labs scheduled for the beginning of the season and I plan to attend as many as possible.
My choice of the Kenda Kwicker tire was based on the following parameters:
- Value: I want a tire that won’t break the bank but that will work decent for a few races in the fall. I’m not a pro racer and spend 99% of my time riding to/from work so these tires are mostly for fun. About $30-40 ea. was my limit. The Kenda Kwicker was purchased at Woodcock Cycle for $40 ea.
- Range of terrain: I plan to use only one set of tires for cyclocross so they must be able to handle most conditions well. No one tire will do everything perfectly, but I wanted a pretty well-rounded tire that would run in dry dirt, grass, gravel, and maybe some mud. It’s been an extremely dry summer and the races I’m trying aren’t too technical, so there won’t be too much mud. Small knobs and fairly close-spacing down the center with larger knobs on the outside was what I was looking for.
- Reviews: I read the reviews on tens of tires and added 15 of them to my spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet), listing their features and my comments. I narrowed them down to these eight tires and would buy any pair that could be found locally within my price range: Kenda Kwicker, Kenda Slant-Six, WTB CrossWolf, Maxxis Locust, Maxxis Raze, Ritchey Excavader, Continental Speed King, and Continental XKing.
So far, my training has been mostly on hardpack dirt and grass and the Kwicker tires are excellent on both. I feel confident on dirt and haven’t found a dirt hill that these tires can’t climb (my own legs notwithstanding).
I just finished my first cyclocross race of the season: DarkCross. This race takes place mostly on the dirt oval and infield at the local stock car track, so I had a chance to race on many kinds of dirt. The Kenda’s were good on most of it, but the really loose stuff is not great. My front tire just would not hold the line when going around loose corners. Maybe loose dirt is hard for everyone.
I’ve ridden on straight grass trails, off-camber sections where I peel off as hard as I can, and I’ve done some slaloms in wet grass. I’ve not slipped once with the tires so far and they make me feel very confident in my cornering ability on grass. My straight-line average speed along a grassy path is about 23-24km/h, which is decent for me on grass. As my friend rode behind me through a soccer field, he remarked that the tires must be biting in because they were flinging up all kinds of grass into the air.
Yesterday, I participated in the first Cross Lab in Winnipeg and we did a cornering drill. These tires bit into the grass on all the corners, including the off-camber hillside corner. I could actually hear the grass ripping out of the ground as I cornered. I didn’t lose traction once and went faster each lap.
Most of my gravel riding is in back alleys on the way home from work. Last night I came flying down the back alley and turned as fast as I could into my driveway. The tires did break away and I had to put my foot out, but I didn’t crash. I’ll DL my Garmin and let you know what speed I was doing when I turned (I’m sure it was excessive).
Several times last week, I took a tour of the gravel infield at a nearby baseball diamond. I went in circles faster and faster trying to push the limits. I never found them and went as fast as I’d dare.
During the first Cross Lab, our cornering drill took us through two gravel/sandy corners in a baseball diamond. I didn’t push it too much due to folks riding behind me, but I didn’t really slip either. I think these tires will slip a bit in loose sand though.
In addition, I found a super-loose gravel road with huge stones that I tried out. This mimics the gravel rock garden we had to race through at MennoCross last year (most folks who weren’t on mountain bikes had to jump off and run). I seemed to do OK on the loose gravel (I’m talking freshly laid 2″ stones here); I did some figure-eights and tight turns but had to go pretty slowly. The tires did spin out when accelerating. I may be able to handle the rock garden, but we’ll see.
Aside from sand, I think wood chips are the most difficult of riding surfaces for long distances. I’ve ridden a few wood-chip trails with them, but had no real chance to test cornering. Riding is slow and cumbersome on wood chips and drains all your energy, so I’m not sure if tires make that much difference here.
Update: In October I finally had the chance to test these babies out in mud at the SouthernCross in Altona, MB. Said mud was more like a water pit followed by 10ft of mud, but I did manage three laps through the stuff. The tires performed fine for me and I was never concerned about wiping out. Because there was a large hill directly after the mud pit, I screamed down into the pit as fast as I could go and the tires didn’t waver or slip. I held my line pretty well up and out and up the following hill. No problems here!
My entire 9km morning commute is paved and after a week of riding on these tires I can say they are noticeably slower than my road-type 28mm tires. I’m probably averaging about 2km/h slower on pavement. Obviously there’s more road noise and vibrations due to the knobs and this is much more noticeable when cornering. My front reflector started vibrating so much that I thought I had loose spokes for the first few days.
When cornering, it is a little unnerving when the side rows of knobs contact the pavement because the tire squirms and you shift a little to the outside. There’s no loss of control, so if you know what to expect, cornering on pavement is not too difficult. I wouldn’t do too much pavement riding with these tires.
Yup, tested them in snow! I had the opportunity that I was waiting for in early November when it snowed some 9″ in one evening. No, these tires are no good in snow. I don’t think any tires are good in that much snow (I’m not talking fatbikes here, these are 700×32 tires!). Basically, I spent my time slipping, sliding, and getting bogged down until eventually getting off and pushing my bike over an hour home. It is MTB time for the rest of winter, just like last winter. It was worth a shot, but skinny tires just aren’t any good on loose snow.
This tire is more than capable in the grass and on dirt, not bad in gravel, and not too knobby, but a bit slow for pavement (understandably). I wouldn’t do long stretches on pavement because there’s a noticeable speed penalty here, not to mention who wants to wear out their nice cross tires on pavement. On grass and dirt: just give ‘er!. After several cross races and many commutes I can say these have been great tires. As the cross and fall season is closed (for Winnipeg), I took a look at the tires for wear and they look to have a decent amount of tread left. I’ll have to tally my mileage on them at some point. So, for a fairly all-around, budget clincher cross tire these are great. Next year I may also buy some tires more specifically made for grass if we have as dry of a fall as we had this year.