Ask any rider which tire comes to mind when you mention the Kenda name and they’ll probably name the Nevegal or Small Block Eight–or both. So what would happen if you could combine these two favorites into a single, super tire? Would the sum be greater than the parts or would it end up an inbred mutant? Read on to find out.
I tested the tubeless-compatible 29er version of the Slant Six which is currently only offered in a 2.0 width (50-622 ETRTO). I was a little concerned about the narrow width since I’m used to running at least 2.2s on my bikes but once the tires were aired up they didn’t look that much skinnier than what I’m used to. Once I got on the trail I found they felt more than burly enough for the terrain I ride. These tires weigh 788 (±39) grams which is pretty heavy, especially for such a narrow tire. I would describe the mounted profile of this tire as round as opposed to square.
Like many of Kenda’s popular tires including the Small Block Eights, the Slant Six I tested is a 120tpi tire (get the gist of what TPI means here). Compared to a 60tpi tire, the Slant Six is more supple and flexible; to me, they felt much closer to the Small Block Eight than the (60tpi) Nevegal for this reason.
Most flavors of the Slant Six feature a Kenda-specific dual-compound design that utilizes a stickier rubber on the corner knobs for improved grip in the turns. Why not use the sticky stuff on the center treads too? It wears out more quickly, diminishing the life of the tire. That is, unless you’re riding in circles all the time.
At the moment Kenda doesn’t offer many tubeless 29er options so I was stoked to see the Slant Six available in an “SCT” version, the company’s tubeless compatible designation. With a little high pressure air I was able to mount these with Stans on my Easton Haven wheels. This was actually the first set of tubeless or UST tires I wasn’t able to air up using only my floor pump. I don’t think there’s any conclusion to draw from this–the tires have held air just as well as any other tubeless tire I’ve owned.
Where the rubber meets the trail
Kenda says the Slant Six is designed for intermediate to hard pack conditions and I would say that’s a good description for where this tire shines. Unlike the Small Block Eights, these tires didn’t wash out in looser conditions, though I wouldn’t quite give them the “all rounder” label afforded to the Nevegals. Still, I had no problem climbing over damp roots or generating sufficient traction on ultra-steep climbs at Aliso and Wood Canyon. The Slant Sixes were pretty useless on very sandy trails but then again, most mountain bike tires are.
I also wanted to test Kenda’s claim that the Slant Sixes are “designed for speed, grip, and cornering assurance.” On the trail, I found these tires very fast; the sheer number of knobs give this tire very low rolling resistance. Grip? Check. The short knobs don’t look like they have much bite but I found myself surprised at how well they clawed their way up steep and loose terrain.
Now, as far as cornering assurance goes I have to say I think this tire falls a bit flat. The round profile of the Slant Six makes for a pretty smooth transition from the center knobs to the cornering knobs but wait–all the knobs are the same shape, just at a different angle. I never felt much (any?) additional bite from the tire in corners and was cautious about how far I could push things sideways. In corners the lack of rolling resistance was apparent but this time in a side-to-side direction.
I ran this tire both front and rear in my tests and honestly it worked well in both positions. If I had to choose to run this tire only front or rear, I’d probably go with the Slant Six in the back.
So, how does the Slant Six measure up to the questions I posed at the start of this review? While I wouldn’t say the Slant Six is better than either the Small Block Eight or Nevegal, it does make a good effort at blending the two. Riders who enjoy the Small Block Eight will really like the additional versatility of the Slant Six while those coming from the Nevegal may find this tire a bit limited. But hey, if this tire was closer to the Nevegal than the Small Block Eight, Kenda would’ve called it the Fast Four or the Terrific Two, right?
Thanks to the folks at Kenda for providing this tire for review.