Kenda designed its K781 tire for Arenacross, but this low-profile tire tackles multiple terrains very effectively.
I initially dismissed the idea of the tire for my own use. Like 99% of off-roaders, my only plans for an indoor arena involve sitting on my back side and drinking overpriced beer. Then word came around that Kenda signed the Am-Pro Yamaha GNCC squad and the riders had been universally enthusiastic about the new Triple compound. That was enough to catch my interest, so I set out to put the new Kendas through a variety of riding and conditions and see what the hoopla is all about.
The first thing I noticed when I received the tires was the overall construction. The light carcass and low profile stance is pure moto looking. The front is available only in a 90/90 series and the rear is a 120/80/19. This is a big departure from other Kenda offerings like the Washougal that comes in a whopping 90/100/21. The short knobbies are dimpled on the outer rows only.
So what is the benefit of the lower profile construction? Tall profile tires can act as additional suspension, soaking up some of the impacts which makes them popular with lots of riders. But that ability to flex can also lead to vague feel while steering. As the front tire loads in a corner, it will flex and then rebound, throwing the steering off line during the corner exit. Steve Hatch first explained this concept to me a number of years ago, and he used to run 18lbs of pressure to help reduce this effect. A lower profile design helps combat this.
I shoed on the new treads filled with some Tireballs and headed out to tackle the Hare Scrambles in Big Sky Montana. I immediately noticed that the design really reduces overall flex but transmits more of the terrain harshness. The steering feedback, as expected, is very precise.
The front takes just about every condition in stride. The Montana course featured a number of rocky sections and the front tracked with very little deflection. The small profile follows ruts well and doesn’t tend to climb up the side. In general the traction was excellent. The only place it was unhappy was on cobbled surfaces like a coarse gravel road, here a little flex and taller knobs would have given better traction.
The rear has very similar characteristics. The knobs have a rounded profile so the feel is very consistent when making the transition from up right to leaning. The rear will drift with just a little help from the throttle, but doesn’t buck around. Toward the end of our test Kenda sent along a new preproduction 18” rear and so far I think it is going to be a great all around choice for varied riding conditions. While 19” rears are slowly becoming more accepted for enduro use, they are still more prone to flats and rim dents.
Rounded knobbies and a low-profile design helps to improve the
handling on some dirt surfaces. On heavy gravel, a taller knobbie
would have been better.
After the three-hour Hare Scrambles, both tires still looked near new. Since then they have seen a number of track days, a couple of hundred miles trail riding in Mexico, and finally another couple of hours racing the Tecate Hare Scrambles. After about 22 hours of hard ride time the front is just starting lose a couple of knobs. I have split riding time between both rear sizes and they are holding up very well. The 19” is obviously the choice for moto, while the 18” gives a noticeably smoother ride on the trail.
The Triple combo feels at home just about all intermediate-to-hard conditions. On the track they are pure sweetness, giving both traction and control. I find myself liking the precision of the lower profile construction better and better. The Kenda also performed well in the sand, about the only condition we didn’t encounter was mud, but everywhere else it seemed flawless.
I can’t help but wonder if Kenda is really making the right marketing choices with this tire, but don’t be put off by the Supercross/Arenacross pedigree. The Triple is a tire that works well in many conditions and its precise feel is rewarding for a rider who wants to get the very most from it. The harder you push it, the better it works. The 18” rear should be arriving in dealers as you read this. All of the sizes are also available in the “Sticky” compound.
The Kenda K781 offers precise feedback back to the handlebars and makes cornering easier due to less flexing in the sidewalls.
Four-time AMA National Hare Scrambles Champion and Am-Pro Yamaha rider Jason Raines gives us his input:
I use the Kenda Triple rear for hard-packed applications, I actually used the Triple rear all season in the EnduroCross series because if it’s ability to grip logs, rocks, tires and many of the other obstacles. In GNCC/Hare Scrambles I use it occasionally, mostly when the terrain is rocky, hard-pack or silty with hard-pack underneath the surface. The Triple rear has great wear, exceptional traction and predictable characteristics to make it one of my favorite tires in the conditions listed. I would say as far as a medium-hard terrain tire the Kenda Triple is hands down the best I have tried and raced with!
The Kenda Triple front tire is also a great tire in the medium-hard terrain. It has a good bite on the corners and delivers very precise traction. I really like the Triple front because of its predictability and its low profile which allows it to fit into ruts better than a bigger 80/100-21 tire. I use the Kenda Washougal “Sticky” front in most of my races because of its soft terrain characteristics, but when the going gets hard or rocky, the Kenda Triple is my tire of choice.