I’ve been running Kenda’s Small Block Eight tyre on the rear and the Nevegal on the front for the last four months. The set I’ve been using has a bit of a twist: both tyres feature Kenda’s Side Wall Shield (SWS). This is a stiff strip of sparkly tape that strengthens single ply sidewalls and reduces the risk of pinch flats, while not adding the weight or bulk of a two ply tyre. I’ve given these tyres a solid thrashing on Nelson’s steep and rocky mineral belt, Wellington’s root infested hills and a bunch of other trails here and there. I’ve been very impressed with their consistent performance. On numerous occasions, while hammering gracelessly through rocks, roots and drop-offs, I’ve waited in nervous anticipation for the air to disappear from my tyres and have been pleasantly surprised when it hasn’t. That’s not to say I haven’t had any flats at all, but I’m confident that no tyre/tube combo would have survived in those particular situations. I’ve had far fewer flats than when running standard single ply tyres. The Small Block Eight has really surprised me. I mean, it’s a pretty crazy looking tyre, but those miniaturised Nevegal-shaped lugs really do hook up to give great traction. It’s a surprisingly predictable tyre––I’ve found myself trusting it in some very loose situations and being rewarded. I’ve never really understood what controlled skidding means, but this is what the Small Block Eight is all about. I love it.It’s definitely more of a summer tyre though; Wellington mud has clung to it a bit too long during wet excursions. That said, this tyre does stay upright on wet roots, and the wraparound tread gives a surprising amount of traction when cornering hard. The Nevegals are a common spec to find on complete bikes, so you’re likely to have ridden them at some stage. If you have, you’ll either love them or hate them. Personally, I love them. They’re definitely more suited to dry conditions but give really constant traction in the wet too. They track true even in hard cornering situations and go exactly where you point them. I can’t quite figure out how, but they seem to last me for aeons. The biggest gripe I have with these tyres is installation. I found it difficult to get them to seat properly in my rims with a hand pump. Using a floor pump was the only way, and I had to go to well above 65 psi to get them to pop in. It’s a problem I’ve never had with single ply Kendas before, or any other tyre for that matter. Kenda’s SWS tyres are a durable and lightweight alternative to their heavier two ply brethren. With sizes and models like these available, making your sub-13 kg six inch all-mountain bike a little lighter just got easier. CALEB SMITH
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