Kenda Small Block Eight Tire Review


Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap over rocks and tree branches, and more powerful than your two legs can handle! Kenda’s stable of tires are famous for superhero-like performance and the Small Block Eight tires (MSRP $47.99) are no exception. These tires are super durable, easy to install, roll fast on hard pack, and get good bite in both straight line acceleration and cornering. At the end of the day I had a hard time finding any kryptonite to slow these tires down!

At first glance you might imagine these tires are specialized and limited but that’s simply not the case. The tread is actually scaled-down Nevegal blocks with eight of them across the tread making this a good multi-purpose XC tire. Each tire weighs a respectable 520g (26 x 2.1) which means they aren’t super light but the upside is they are mega durable and stable at high speeds.

Mounting these tires to both the front and rear of my Opus XC rig was a cinch – just make sure to note the correct tire rotation direction and remember not to use any tools other than proper tire irons. I tossed a bit of baby powder in my tires before installing with super light Kenda tubes (124g each) to help reduce the friction that is generated between the tube and tire when the tire rolls and deflects. I inflated both front and rear tires to 42 psi and was ready to go – all in under 15 minutes.

MTB tire testing conditions at the Don Valley trails were perfect: dry with soft patches and the occasional mud pack left over from the rains a few days before. Using the Small Block 8 tires on both front and rear of my bike really gave me a sense of what this tire is all about. At the beginning of my ride I fiddled with tire pressures a bit and I ended up taking out 5 psi on the front to give me better compliance in the corners. Once I got the pressure right, cornering felt tight and accurate.

Climbing with the Small Block Eight tires was great and I got great traction on hardpack, rocks, and even rooted trails. I did, however, find the Small Block Eight’s kryptonite when I hit some hardpack clay coated with a dusting of fine sand. Now to be fair that combination is tough to climb with almost any type of tire and in the end I did manage to get up (with some wheel spin). Even Superman isn’t perfect.

Rolling on trails this tire is very fast and requires little energy to keep its momentum. I found that the tire changed speeds and directions nicely and allowed me to lean into corners without having that wobbling feeling that some tires produce when hitting the transitional blocks in the tread. On one of my rides I did notice the front tire can become overworked when cornering which sometimes resulted in lost tracking and a slide (push). For this reason I dropped the front tire pressure a tad and that seemed to help. In terms of rear cornering these tires nailed every turn.

Braking with the Small Block Eights was great. The good thing about these tires is their ability to generate a tremendous amount of surface friction which allows the brakes to do their thing. In fact I found the Small Block Eights to be one of the best braking XC tires I have tested in a long while. As with any tire, you can easily lock the tires up if you try, though you should always avoid this – it’s dangerous and bad for the trails. The tires work best at the fine point between lock up and rolling which must be that Nevegal block shape biting on the trail when needed.

Here’s how I rated the Kenda Small Block Eight MTB tires:

8 out of 10 for climbing
7 out of 10 for cornering
9 out of 10 for rolling and efficiency
5 out of 10 for loose conditions
10 out of 10 for hardpack
8 out of 10 for stopping in a straight line

Overall I would have to say the Small Block Eight is a great tire for those who want a tire that will last a long time and ride fast with great control on trails that are mostly hardpack with some patches of softer stuff. These tires even work great for those who ride mainly on pathways, producing an even, comfortable ride. If you’re planing on racing, get these tires for training and treat your bike to a set of Kenda Kozmik Lite II tires for race day!

Specifications from KENDA:

  • Excellent hard pack XC race tire
  • 8 Nevegal shaped but smaller knobs across the tire for better ‘bite’
  • DTC – Dual Tread Compound offers cornering grip with faster center line acceleration
  • One of the fastest rolling tires in the Kenda Premium line
  • 120 TPI casing on 26″ and 29″ tires
  • Folding Beads
  • Avaliable in UST tubeless version as well
  • Sizes: 26 x 1.90 UST, 26 x 2.10 UST, 26 x 1.95, 26 x 2.10, 26 x 2.35, 29 x 2.10

Just a quick thanks to the folks at Kenda for the tires and the good folks at Easton for the excellent XC-One wheels to put the Small Block Eights on.

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