“Just cover the brakes and let it roll” is an oft-spake phrase on steep PNW slopes through the winter months. Braking on the slick vert is the fastest way to a soil buffet, and you have to scan ahead for support and soft dirt where you’ll be able to slow some. Even without brake energy, it takes an amazingly gummy set of tires to keep the bike upright around here. A lot of riders mount the softest tread they can get, and ride the spent carcasses during the summer.
Kenda has a tire with “mud” in its title, and I assumed Bellingham might be the best place to test a Kenda Gran Mudda Pro out. I chose to combine it with their Hellkat Pro tread in the rear, which is said to be an all-around pattern. Both tires are the 29 x 2.4″ size with Kenda’s thickest Advanced Gravity Casing (AGC) and Race Stick-E Rubber (RSR) tread compound. I will compare them to my personal favorite tread and casings on the Schwalbe Magic Mary and Big Betty with Super Gravity casings, ADDIX Ultra Soft rubber rear, and their Soft tread out back. Kenda doesn’t currently make a rear gravity tread with solid central braking bars like a Maxxis Minion DHR or the Big Betty, so the Hellkat Pro had to fill the rear slot.
The Gran Mudda Pro we have weighs roughly 1,300g and the Hellkat Pro is closer to the 1,100g range.
Stalwart AGC casings under the bars and butt make for the sort of puncture protection that forgets the tube in the garage. I listened to multiple rim strikes while testing these tires, only to roll home without a flat or noticeably lowered air pressure. These burly casings are up for the game that modern gravity trails lay ahead of our uber-capable bikes. The casing’s 20mm apex insert at the bead prevented multiple snake bites, and I didn’t manage to burp any air from these tires despite running lower pressure than I’m accustomed to.
Through fast corners and heavy compressions, these thick sidewalls stand tall and allow you to lean the bike into the shoulder knobs up front without marshmallowing and flexing too far. The result is a precise feel on the trail. The thick casings may deliver more trail feedback than some riders like, but if you generally enjoy hefty DH tires these will feel pretty similar. Through the first few rides, they almost felt too harsh, but both tires relaxed a little and maintained their tall posture where it feels best.
Kenda Gran Mudda and Hellkat Pro treads on track
If the tread across this tire were made into large stone structures in a field it would be hard to tell if they intended to keep things in or out, while it would be patently obvious that they’re intended to fortify. A pair of fat center knobs line up for solid braking traction in soft soil, and the transition into shoulder lugs is smooth and predictable in that same soft earth. Tread spacing is good throughout, but not great. I have had these pack up with mud and become slicks a few times where other tires are able to clear it and keep ahold of the goods.
Again, cornering and braking traction with these tires is quite good, as long as they’re on a soft surface. They perform just as you would expect from a moto-lugged tread in the slippery season. The story flips to a spooky one on roots and rocks. These are some of the scariest tires I have tested to date when there’s a rock or root beneath the tread. I can’t count the number of times this front or rear slipped out and sent me to the ground. The “sniper root effect” was bad enough that I didn’t end up testing this tread for as long as I typically would simply because I couldn’t enjoy the ride.
I find the poor grip on soggy stuff surprising for such an aggressive gravity tire, and my only guess is that there’s something up with the dual-layer tread compound. Shiny wet surfaces are always dangerous, but I haven’t experienced this level of sideways skating in a few years. There are certainly riders out there who race with this combo and manage to get to the bottom, but outside a sponsorship, I wouldn’t re-mount these for a wet ride.
Like the casings, the Gran Mudda and Hellkat tread seemed to need a breaking-in period. On the first three or four rides, it felt extra stiff and slippery, growing grippier on the dirt with time. I have experienced this breaking-in bit with tires from Goodyear before and I’m curious what the reasoning behind it might be.
Both of these tires may work swimmingly in the deepest dust of summer when their sharp claws can dig deep to find stable soil. If you live someplace with grippy rocks, say Squamish for example, this rubber could be worth a rip. For anyone who regularly rides above wet rocks and tree roots, I recommend you would go with something else.
- Price: $84.95 each.
- The Kenda Hellkat is available at Worldwide Cyclery and the Gran Mudda is available at Amazon.
- Slightly lower weight for the given tread and casing
- Great traction on loose soils
- Sturdy sidewalls with good puncture protection
Pros and cons of the Kenda Gran Mudda Pro and Hellkat Pro tires.
- Poor grip on anything wet
- Have to be broken in