Teravail Kessel: A Reliable All-Mountain Tire [Review]

Teravail debuted in 2015 as Quality Bike Product’s go-to tire brand, and at first, their focus seemed to be on gravel riding, bikepacking, and lightweight trail riding, with an emphasis on plus-size tires. Over the past few years though, Teravail has widened its selection by a lot. The brand still has a sharp focus on exploratory riding with fat bike tires, some plus tires, and four different gravel tires.

Their mountain bike tire line has also grown a bit. Last year they launched the Honcho and Ehline. The Ehline, Teravail says, is made for “modern XC trails,” with fast-rolling knobs and durability. The Honcho is still a fast-rolling tread with lugs that are made to bite on uneven or loose terrain. Even with the addition of those, the Kennebec gravity tire, and the Cumberland, there was still a space for an all-around aggressive trail tire.

This spring, Teravail launched the Kessel, which they say is an “aggressive trail, all-mountain, and enduro tire.” The Kessel uses a dual-compound rubber. Down the middle, Teravail designed the tire with tall center knobs that are ramped in the front for rolling speed. Two knobs sit closely together to assist with rolling speed, and on every other set of knobs, they are placed farther apart with siping down the middle for traction.

Not too round, not too square.

The side knobs are angled in or out on every other knob for cornering traction and every other side knob is siped to add even more traction. For the tire’s profile, they spaced the lugs with mud-shedding ability and wet weather performance.

The Kessels come in a few different options: tan wall or black, 2.4″ or 2.6″ widths in the 29er size, and one 2.5″ width for 27.5″. There are two different casings. Tan walls and black tires are available in the Durable casing and Ultra Durable is only available in black. The Durable casing tires weigh a claimed 1,180g (1,066g for a 2.4″ and 1,203g for a 2.6″ on our scale). They are optimized for rims with an internal width of 29mm and are tubeless-ready. The Ultra Durables have a claimed weight of 1,215g/1,400g for the 2.4/2.6″ widths. These weights are for the 29″ diameter. Pricing is $85-90, and they are available at Backcountry and other online retailers.

Ride Impressions

I tried out the tan walls first, because who doesn’t want that 50s classic car look on their carbon fiber, complex full-suspension mountain bike, where every engineering detail has been obsessed over and perfected? I digress, as everyone has their tastes even if the eras that the products signify clash a little.

I installed a 2.4″ width in the rear and a 2.6″ up front, which has been my preferred combination lately. The tan wall tires mounted up fine, but it wasn’t long before I ran into issues. Despite adding more sealant and re-checking my sealable areas, my tan wall Kessels would not hold air.

The sidewalls were visibly losing sealant and air through their casings and I had to air them up before and during every ride. This happened so much, that I would lose enough air on a short ride to end up back at the trailhead bouncing off my rim.

I asked Teravail if they have had any issues at large with the tan wall tires, and they said they haven’t. They sent a set of black tires, in Durable, and the same widths to try instead. I mounted them on the same wheels, with the same sealant and they have been holding air like a kid diving to the bottom of a swimming pool.

Without air retention issues, I could finally get a feel for the Kessel’s performance. For the lighter Durable casing, they still aren’t the lightest option out there, but they also don’t have the ride feel of a heavier casing while pedaling. The Kessel’s knobs seem to be efficient in design and the compound isn’t too sticky.

The design, compound, and weight seem to make them a good all-around aggressive trail tire. They are reasonably light, efficient, and aggressive but are certainly not a downhill tire. Enduro racers might want to opt for the Ultra Durable casing, or a stickier tire altogether. The Kessel suited most of my trail needs, but on really dry and dusty trails, which have been most of Colorado’s trails this year, there are better choices out there.

They have a sharp brake bite that’s most noticeable on buffed out dirt. They will drift but feel predictable under the slide and it’s easy to reel them back in. Transitioning from the center knobs to the side knobs comes without fright. The tire lets you know exactly where it’s at, and when the side knobs have hooked up.

Closing thoughts

The Kessels (in black) have been a trusty all-mountain tire. They roll with enough speed to satisfy those who aren’t chasing uphill Strava segments and don’t want the burden of climbing with downhill tires. On descents, the Kessels lock into the dirt with enough confidence to make them a competitive choice in the tire market.

MSRP: $85, available at Backcountry | Compare