Kenda Equilibrium

Company: Kenda

Price: $110

Roost
  • A great blend of trials tire and knobby for a more aggressive bite and still the rubber to stop the spinning.
  • Long lasting with knobs that don't fly off at speed.
  • More open pattern works well in mud and sand.
Endo
  • If you are a spin and skid rider this tire will not work for you.
  • Not DOT approved, so dual-purpose riders are left out.
  • Some riders don't like the soft carcass feel, especially with low tire pressure.

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis
  • Photographer: Jimmy Lewis

What it is

  • A trails-type tire with slightly wider block spacing and a more robust carcass.

Kenda has morphed an enduro or off-road tire and a trials tire and come up with the Equilibrium. A trials type compound and tread pattern with a slightly opened up spacing and using a more motocross design on the sidewall or shoulder knobs gives a unique look into what Kenda hopes is the ultimate trail riding and trail racing tire. It has shaped scoops to give enhanced braking grip on the center knobs and uses a sticky rubber compound for both wet and dry performance. The tire is only available as a rear tire in 4.50-18-inch and 120/80-19-inch sizes.

"Kenda has morphed an enduro or off-road tire and a trials tire and come up with the Equilibrium."

How it works

  • The grippy rubber and open spacing combine for a "hybrid" performance for the right rider.
  • The softer knobs and carcass add to the suspension effect of the tire. Some liked this, others didn't.
  • Resists spinning better than a knob and works better than a trials tire when spinning.
  • Great durability for a tire with this soft rubber compound.

Starting with a clean sheet, Kenda set out to design the ultimate off-road tire that can do it all, from extreme enduro and endurocross to trial riding for the regular guy. With the popularity of the trails tires on dirt bikes still growing and some holes in the market between long wearing and a strict trials tire that isn’t really designed to be used on a true dirt bike, there is a need. But hitting this niche market means not only understanding the target but also nailing the performance side of it too. Riders need to have an understanding that a trials tire is not for everyone. The more a rider likes to spin and skid, the less a trials-type tire will grip and work for that rider.

The first thing about the Kenda is that it is not a really heavy tire, weighing in at 13.6 pounds. Not feathery but not heavy to a point where the weight is going to cause problems. The rubber is a very soft compound and pretty sticky. It uses slices in the individual knobbies, or siping, to help the tire have additional grip. The carcass is soft and flexible, not nearly as stiff as a regular knobby.

The Equilibrium mounts up easily due to the soft casing of the tire and beads onto the rim very positively. We ran the tire at a few different pressures depending upon the conditions and what kind of performance we were trying to achieve. For the most traction and the most difficult and technical terrain we ran as low as 6 PSI with both tubes and through a Tubliss system. Here the tire really flattens out and grip is on par with a true trials tire on the most slippery of terrain as long as it wasn't really wet. But the more muddy and loose the dirt, the better and better the Equilibrium would work due largely to the more open tread pattern especially on the side of the tire. But the downside of the low pressure was the wallow or shake the tire gave when loaded into a turn or bouncing in the bumps.

Where the tire really shines is in the 10-14 PSI range. Here the tire still flexes and forms to shape to the ground but there is still plenty of grip and give in the knobbies to stick to a level that a standard knobby just won't  as long as you are not spinning. With the higher pressure the tire does not wallow around--in turns the tracking is very good. With this pressure you also get a fair amount of bump compliance to aid in the suspension feel. The tire’s shining performance comes on dry rocks and slick dry surfaces. The rubber is soft enough to really stick and with just a little warming by spinning becomes very sticky and grippy. But as moisture comes into the equation, the wetter the slippery stuff is, the easier the Equilibrium will spin up. Here it grips much better than a standard knobby but just does not have that rubber compound that finds traction where there is none. Our experience is that to get this wet traction the rubber compound gets expensive and durability goes down rapidly. We tested mostly in dry and abrasive conditions but did have enough wet conditions on logs and rocks and rode in wet creek beds to get a good feel for them. And we did a lot of sand where this tire will really surprise you.

On the brakes the Kenda is really good in general and exceptional for a trials-type tire. The tire resists slipping around while skidding and does not skid as easy as most closed block patterns. But when it skids the tire does a really good job of staying straight and tracking. Riders who lock the rear brake a lot will not like any trails type-tires but the Kenda is better than most here. In turns where the bike is laid over the tire leans in better and then does not slide out so suddenly when you get too far. The open block, especially on the shoulder knobs and more round profile are working here.

Another area the Kenda really does well in is durability and more so in the continued performance as wear increases. We got over 1000 miles out of a tire in trail riding conditions where we were being aggressive a fair amount of the time. The front edges will go away quickly since the rubber is so soft but the grip does not fall off to match how the tire looks. Wear slows down over the life of the tire but since the rubber is so grippy there is much better grip than the shape and size of the knobs would dictate.  But the whole time you have to remember that spinning the tire excessively will kill it quickly and that type of rider will not see any of the advantages a trials type tire yields. Once it is spinning it likes to keep spinning and does not grip like a knobby will when spinning. In a controlled and purposeful slide there is decent feel, again better than a typical trials tire. Of note is that this tire does not throw or chunk knobbies at speed and the tire does not wallow around when riding on pavement like a true trials tire will when around 12 PSI. That said the Equilibrium is not DOT approved either.

With a price of about $100 the Kenda is in the middle of the spectrum for similar types of tires. But it certainly isn't in the middle when it comes to performance. In dryer conditions and on regular bikes this tire could be a real advantage for the right rider. If you can feel and take advantage of the added traction a soft and grippy tire with additional rubber touching the ground can give you then the Kenda goes a long way.

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" If you can feel and take advantage of the added traction a soft and grippy tire with additional rubber touching the ground can give you then the Kenda goes a long way."