Kenda Pinner Pro and Onza Aquila MTB Tires, Both Aaron Gwin Approved [Comparison Review]

kenda pinner pro vs onza aquila downhill tire review

Athletes on Aaron Gwin’s level are not only asked what they think of new tread patterns, they’re sometimes directly involved in the design process. From the general tread pattern to knob shapes and casing layout, that firsthand knowledge at maximum speed is crucial. Without racing, and the discerning efforts of athletes like Gwin, our two-wheeled toys would be a lot less capable and fun than they are.

I recently pedaled at less than half of Gwin’s speed on two of the tires he helped to develop. In order of creation, the Onza Aquila tire came out a few years back when the California DH pro was sponsored by the Swiss tire company and the more recent Kenda Pinner Pro was developed with his current tread sponsor. Below, I’ll share some brief technical info about both tires followed by a comparison.

Onza Aquila DH Tire

onza aquila downhill tire review
I photographed the tires before wearing out the tread for a change.

At 1018g each, the 29×2.4″ Onza Aquila tires with their all-mountain/enduro casing are on the lighter side of what I’m accustomed to. I set them up with a Nukeproof ARD insert in the rear to save the somewhat thinner casing from rim strikes, and they have held up nicely.

Onza makes three 27.5×2.4″ versions of the Aquila, with two wire bead options that offer differing tread compounds, and a tubeless-ready folding version that’s identical to the 29″ tires I tested. The 29″ options include a wire bead with softer 55a/45a rubber and the kevlar folding circles that reportedly rate at a 65a/55a on the durometer.

The brand says that the RC2-55a tread compound I tested is designed with rolling resistance in mind, wrapped in harder rubber to withstand loads of gravity training. This lighter model uses a 60TPI casing, whereas the burly DH version has “dual ply casing with butyl inlay and additional 40×40 TPI bead to bead construction.”

On the tread pattern, Onza says that the vertical channels between the side and center knobs provide cornering bite, the center knobs have aggressive braking edges with small sipes for added traction, and the four rows are aligned to create a predictable cornering sensation.

Kenda Pinner Pro

kenda pinner pro tire review
The molded topographical lines give the Pinner Pro a subtly unique look.

For the Kenda Pinner Pro mountain bike tire I tested the burlier version that tips the scale at nearly 1300g in the 29×2.4″ size with an Advanced Gravity Casing (AGC). There are two versions of the 29″ and 27.5×2.4″ tires, and the lighter trail version uses their Advanced Trail Casing (ATC). Unlike the Onza Aquila, there is no wire bead option for the Kenda Pinner Pro, and all of the tires are tubeless compatible. While I wanted to test the ATC for a closer match to the Onza Aquila, the AGC casing was what Kenda had available.

These latest Aaron Gwin-inspired tires all come with what Kenda calls Race Stick-E Rubber (RSR). The brand says “this new dual layer compound offers better performance because the stiff bottom SRC layer serves as the hard foundation for the softer RSR layer to push against. The result is a compound that provides better control and lasts longer than previous versions.”

The tread pattern shares a host of similarities with the Aquila, and some minor differences. More on that below.

Similarities of Kenda Pinner Pro and Onza Aquila Tires

Kenda Pinner Pro on left vs Aquila Onza tire on right
Kenda Pinner Pro left, Onza Aquila right. Neither profile is overly square.

I mounted up a pair of identical tires from both brands front and rear, with rear inserts, both on 30mm-wide carbon fiber rims. The Kenda tread measures a little more than one millimeter wider than the Onza, and both tires are almost precisely 2.4″ wide.

While I’m not able to directly compare the different casings, given their weight and layer differences, both tires feel similarly supportive and robust. With the same pressure front and rear, there hasn’t been any folding or squirm from either casing, and they both hold up well under high speed corner compression.

I have yet to puncture either of them, despite my best efforts trying to crack the carbon rims beneath. The Tyre Yogurt in the Aquila set and scented Muc-Off sealant in the Kenda Pinner Pro remains full and flowing. I would love to see tough tires like these two on more stock gravity bike builds. Yes, they weigh more, but my hatred for punctures weighs even heavier.

The inflated profile of both tires is similar, with a rounder curve than a lot of modern gravity tread. Their overall arch is closer to that of a Minion DHF, than the further squared off DHR shape. Despite my preference for square tires these shapes worked well on most of the terrain that they’re designed for.

Tread comparison of Kenda Pinner Pro on top vs Aquila Onza on bottom
Kenda Pinner Pro top, Onza Aquila bottom.

Both the Onza Aquila and Kenda Pinner Pro tires are designed for dryer summer gravity riding. The tread patterns are decidedly similar, with large channels between the shoulder and center rows of knobs, and the taller shoulder knobs have a scoop-like shape to grab the earth. Rows of tread on either tire line up to create a clean transition when the rider leans the bike over and the corresponding siping was clearly influenced by the same person on both models. Those even rows also contribute to great braking control, and both of these tires slows down similarly well.

Differences of the Onza Aquila and Kenda Pinner Pro Tires

The primary contrast between the Onza Aquila and Kenda Pinner Pro tires is in their ride qualities. Though they are both cut to ride fast in dry soil, the Kenda Pinner Pro feels faster on the climbs and descents alike. Even with its heavier casing and seemingly softer rubber, the Kenda mtb tire feels like it rolls easier than the Onza Aquila. I tested both of these tires on my all-mountain hardtail and 160mm full-suspension enduro bike, and the Kenda tire felt faster and easier to pedal regardless of the platform.

The Kenda Pinner Pro tire also hooks up a little better in the corners. Not to say that the Onza Aquila isn’t a good tread in the turns. It definitely is. The Kenda tire simply felt grippier and gave me more confidence to let off the brakes.

Likely the wire bead Onza Aquila tire, with its far softer tread compound, would have hooked up even better than this one, but that option would add 400g per tire and forego the tubeless ready component. You won’t catch me testing tires with tubes in them any time soon… or maybe ever. Feel free to invent the truly puncture-proof system that makes me eat those words. I am ready to trade a little humility for no more flat tires.

I have ridden both of these mtb tires in the rain a few times, and the resulting grip should be no surprise. The Kenda Pinner Pro slides around far less than the seemingly harder tread of the Onza Aquila. Neither of these tires is amazing in the mud, yet neither is terrible either. They both will get you to the bottom of the mountain in a rain storm, and the Kenda Pinner Pro will do it with slightly more grip.

Conclusion

The Onza Aquila and Kenda Pinner Pro are two sets of fantastic gravity tires for slightly different terrain. Though I don’t have a durometer to test the compounds, the softer-feeling rubber on the Kenda Pinner Pro tire should wear a touch faster than the Onza Aquila model that I tested, making the Onza tire a better option for extra rocky terrain.

At the moment the tires appear to be wearing at the same rate, though it’s not an entirely fair comparison because I didn’t precisely time or map the terrain and length of each ride on either tire. Riders who pedal their gravity bikes to the peak will likely find the Kenda mtb tire takes slightly less effort to move, though the difference is not significant enough to be a singular deciding factor between the tires.

The Onza Aquila feels like a tough tire that I could push into anything without much concern for puncture. It grips well on dry dirt, and corners as well as a lot of the competition. It might work best as a rear mtb tire given its solid braking characteristics, with something a little grippier at the helm.

The Kenda Pinner Pro is a fast and grippy summer tread that would work well for gravity racing and playful adventures alike. The heavy casing removes a lot of potential puncture woes and gives it a precise steering character in the corners. It also rides better than a lot of dry weather tires in the mud.