Kenda HellKat Pro EMC review
Words & Photos by Nic Hall
The ebike offerings continue to improve each year, which makes sense since it’s the fastest, and often-times, the only growing segment for a number of brands. As the niche evolves and products get better, it’s quite exciting to see how things progress and get more refined. The latest crop of eMTB-specific products keep riders riding farther, faster and longer. With the heavier bike weights, increased torque, and massive increases in mileage, components have had to make some major jumps in very little time. You may have seen our thoughts on the newer Kenda mountain bike tires and applauded their work to restore the brand’s image. We have been impressed with their new offerings like the Hellkat and Nevegal 2 and were excited to see how the Hellkat tread pattern would perform with their new EMC (E-Mountain Casing).
Kenda’s E-Mountain Casing or EMC is specifically designed to address the demands of modern-day eMTBs and how aggressively they can be ridden. All of Kenda’s EMC tires also carry the ECE R75 certification up to 45km/h. Torque demands on ebike tires are very different than traditional mountain bike tires, so sidewall construction is an important factor when selecting replacement rubber for your eMTB.
To make the best ebike tire they could, Kenda reinforced both the sidewall and tread area. Sheets of woven fabric across the sidewall not only reduce the chance of pinch flats but also help increase the stability and longevity of the tire. Kenda also uses an additional layer of puncture protection under the tread on all their ebike tires.
We tested the Hellkat Pro which offers an aggressive, yet fast rolling all conditions tread pattern. Designed with great input by Kenda World Cup Downhill racers Mick and Tracey Hannah, the Hellkat tread pattern is very capable and well-rounded in a variety of terrain. The side lugs are slightly siped to provide increased corner traction and the center lugs are ramped to decrease rolling resistance. They also shed mud quite well. Weight for our tires is 1,008g (each) for the 29×2.4 with just a bit of sealant in it, which is within the published specs from Kenda.
We ran the HellKat Pro EMC on our Specialized Turbo Levo for the past couple months of varied conditions in the high desert of Central Oregon. We rode everything from wet, loamy rut tracks to frozen, high speed desert singletrack littered with baby heads.
Mounting the tires up was easy and we had no issues getting the rubber to seat or seal. We brought them up to the standard 28psi we usually run for initial testing and got to pedaling. The Hellkat Pro EMC handles very similarly to the Hellkat Pro standard with predictable cornering, acceptable rolling speed, and good all-around performance. But the tire really started to come alive when we started dropping pressure. I found the sweet spot to be around 21psi front and 22psi rear. Traction levels increased significantly without sidewall collapse or any washy feeling. Several times I felt rocks hit the rim but did not flat once during the test period.
The sidewall stiffness wasn’t overly brutish like some tires which have a tendency to deflect riders off line. On the other hand, they weren’t squirmy or soft either. Climbing on the tires was equally impressive, even in Turbo mode. We could feel the sidewall structure working to keep the tire from mushing out and deforming or spinning in the wet, tacky soil. Durability was also impressive as we put a lot of miles in some very rocky desert terrain. We stayed on the pedals up hills, weaving through centuries-old lava rocks. Despite dragging the sidewalls of the tires against the sandpaper-like rock, we remained flat free and never so much as shed a knob or developed any sign of expedited wear.
In terms of soil conditions, we’d say the tires worked best in hard pack to soft conditions. If the trails have loose-over hard they’re still pretty good but, not the best and if the soil gets super deep and soft, they lack the longer knobs required for deep penetration. However, the nearly 50lbs of heft most ebikes pack really make those issues less-than-significant since traction is almost always found when cornering ebikes.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Kenda has really started to win us back over with offerings like the Hellkat Pro EMC. It is a dual-compound tire with a reasonable price tag that offers both durability and high levels of predictable traction. Not to mention their new logos matched our test bike perfectly.
Kenda’s ebike specific tires aren’t just a marketing exercise, they genuinely have some thought behind them and are designed to meet the demands of higher weight bikes, increased torque, and lots more miles. We probably wouldn’t suggest riding these tires on an enduro or DH bike, as they’ve got specific casings designed for those applications, but for general eMTB riding, Kenda’s Hellkat EMC are a very solid option.
Nothing Yet, Keep Shredding
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