Choosing a mountain bike tire is all about tradeoffs: More traction means greater rolling resistance. Stickier rubber isn’t as durable. Hardpack tires get bogged down in wet conditions. If it were even possible to find a “happy medium,” would anyone want to ride it? Kenda thinks so… and I sorta agree.
Visually it’s easy to see the Happy Medium isn’t like other tires. The center tread is all but missing, save for rows of tiny, pyramidal knobs packed tightly together. Moving toward the outside of the tire, the transition knobs are closer to what you might find on a “do all” tire while the cornering knobs on the edge are HUGE, like the knobs you’d expect to see on a mud or downhill tire. In fact, Kenda sells a DH version of this tire–the cornering knobs are that burly.
I’ve been testing the 29er version of the Happy Medium which is only available in a 2.10 width (and NOT tubeless ready). I actually tried to cheat and air these up without a tube but I found it utterly hopeless, just in case you’re thinking about it.
Honestly these aren’t the lightest tires out there (670g) and when you factor in the weight of a tube these 29er tires start to look overweight. And yet the weight savings over a full-knobby are visually apparent with burly knobs where you need them and tiny knobs where you don’t. The Happy Mediums also make use of Kenda’s dual compound design with stickier (less durable) rubber on the cornering knobs for improved traction over the longer-lasting center knobs.
On the Trail
Rolling through flowy, hardpack trails on Happy Medium tires is a delight with super-glue traction in the corners and smooth, fast rolling on the straights. The transition knobs are excellent as the bike leans into turns with no abrupt change in traction or any sort of harsh wobble.
Despite the relatively smooth center tread, I was able to climb up and over steep rooted climbs, even some that were leaf-strewn at this time of year. With a 120 TPI casing, the Happy Medium tires are more supple than a lower TPI tire and thus deform to fit the terrain well, especially at lower pressures. Kenda says these tires can be used front or rear but in my opinion they’re much better suited for the front, though still passable in the rear.
The Kenda Happy Medium mountain bike tire does a good job trading off rolling resistance and traction, stickiness and durability. If you like to go fast in the straights and carry your momentum through the turns, this might just be the tire for you.
Thanks to Kenda for providing these tires for review.