The Hutchinson Kraken MTB Tire is a Fast Roller, Corners Well [Review]

Today, Hutchinson releases their new Kraken tires.

I got a chance to test a pair of the all-new XC mountain bikes tire on my local trails, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Specs and features

Hutchinson bills the Kraken as a tire designed to meet the needs of both XC Marathon racers and everyday trail riders. Naturally, it’s a 29er tire and is offered in just a single, 2.3″ width. For a cross-country tire, that’s fairly wide, though we are starting to see other brands move in this direction. A wider tire can be more forgiving, though often at the expense of weight and rolling resistance.

Still, the Kraken keeps the weight down low — 800g for the 66tpi version I tested (actual weights: 778g and 782g) and a claimed of 700g for the 127tpi version.

Looking at the tread pattern, it’s clear this tire is designed to roll fast. The center knobs, in particular, are short and fairly tightly spaced with a suction-cup-like knob for improved straight-line traction. The side knobs are much taller for added bite in corners, making it essentially a semi-slick tread.

The tire features three distinct rubber compounds: the softest is used on the side knobs for maximum grip, while the hardest compound makes up the inner base of the tire. A middle-softness compound is used on the center knobs to help them last longer while still offering a decent amount of stickiness.

Hutchinson is pricing the Kraken at $79.99.

Installation

I installed the Krakens on my 29er hardtail trail bike with 30mm-wide carbon rims. Both tubeless-ready tires went in without the need of a lever, and I was able to inflate using a standard floor pump.

On 30mm wide rims the tire has a nice round profile. That rim width is probably toward the wide side for this tire, though not totally unreasonable. A narrower rim would give the tire an even rounder profile.

On the trail

I’ve been forced to get creative with my photography as well. I recently picked up a remote control for my camera.

The current crisis has forced me to get more creative when it comes to mountain bike adventures. I’m fortunate to have a number of short singletrack trails nearby, but I’m starting to get tired of them. Besides, they’re just not that challenging. There is some really good stuff about 8 miles from my house by road and concrete bike path — but it’s not a fun ride out or back, especially on heavy buzzing tires.

The Kraken couldn’t have come at a better time, at least for me. I don’t own a gravel bike (yet) and a tire like this could serve a similar purpose for mixed-surface rides.

On the way to the trail, the Kraken proved itself to be a very fast roller, at least as far as 2.3-inch mountain bike tires go. With about 35psi of pressure front and rear, it feels solid and not particularly bouncy. Some mountain bike tires tend to sound like a Jeep when rolling on pavement; the Kraken purrs more like a sports car. I easily averaged 14mph for the first 5 miles over mostly flat terrain, and the time flew by.

Before I knew it, I hit a 1-mile section of twisting, flat singletrack, with flat corners to match. The round profile works well in situations like this, where the tire leans to one side and then back to the other. The transition knobs work with the profile to provide a smooth and consistent feel.

Oftentimes, the only reward to riding roots is getting past them.

As a climbing tire I found the Kraken to be decent, but not overly impressive. It seems to suffer most in damp conditions, at least through the slimy, moss-covered roots and rocks I encountered during my testing. The tentacle-like suction cups were no match and the short knobs just couldn’t find purchase in the steepest sections.

In cornering, and on dry trails, the Krakens really shine which makes me think a lot of trail riders will appreciate this tire. As the tire transitions from the center the tread feels like it’s sliding until — BOOM — the side knobs catch grip and stop the slide.

As far as puncture protection goes, I didn’t experience any flats in my limited testing so far. No burps, torn sidewalls, or pinch flats either despite pushing the tire fairly hard into turns and rolling over janky trails spiked with rocks, thorns, and (literal) bits of trash.

Conclusion

The Kraken seems well suited to its intended audience of XC marathon racers and everyday trail riders. I’d also add that it’s a good choice for riding to the ride, provided you’re comfortable adjusting tire pressure up and down to take advantage of both its fast rolling and high-volume damping abilities.

Thanks to Hutchinson for providing the Kraken tires for testing and review.

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