I have always said, if I was rich enough to have a full-time mechanic, I would have them install fresh tires on my bikes after about five rides. I am assuming that if I had a full-time mechanic, then I’d also be rich enough to buy tires in bulk. There is something about those first couple of days on fresh tires that make all riders smile. And I was looking forward to that smile after mounting up my new Teravail Kessel tires.
After my experience with the Teravail Honcho and Ehline last year I was extra excited as the relatively unknown, to me, brand surpassed my expectations of what a small tire company could deliver. The Honcho and Ehline rode a lot better than I thought they would and after seeing pictures of the Kessel, I had high hopes for it.
Would they help me make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs? Let’s find out.
THE LAB The Kessel is Teravail’s aggressive trail, all-mountain and enduro tire. The tire has tall angular lugs, an open tread pattern, ramped center lugs and dual-compound rubber. The Kessel is available in both popular wheel sizes, comes in two different casings; durable and ultra-durable and you can get it with tan (gum wall) or black sidewalls. I am a fan of how gum wall tires look, but unfortunately, they are only available in the durable casing and I wanted to test the ultra-durable.
It is obvious that Teravail has found inspiration for the Kessel in the ultra-popular Maxxis Minion. Looking at them side to side, there are a number of similarities between the two tires. Teravail is not the first company to find inspiration from the Minion and I can not fault them for it. My guess would be that more bikes have been ridden with a version of the Minion than another other tire. Most tire companies have released their versions of the Minion, some have been successes and some failures. Which category would the Kessel fall into?
THE DIRT During the course of my test I mounted the Kessels on a set of Industry Nine 1/1 wheels and a set of Hope Tech Enduro wheels with minimal effort. I was able to seat the tires onto both sets of rims with the use of floor pump. The lack of enough sealant and a bit of a dodgy tubeless rim strip lead to a significant leak in my rear tire. Social distancing helped me make the decision to install a tube instead of making a trip to buy sealant. Last year I was unable to mount the Teravail Ehline with a tube in it and I was pleasantly surprised when the Kessel went on just as easy with a tube.
I have ridden the Kessel down steep rock faces, up and down technical root sections, down countless sections of fast singletrack and up more technical slow climbs than I would like to admit.
In both the wet and dry conditions, the Kessel has loads of traction and is predictable. I am not going to lie, the first steep wet rock face I rolled into with the Kessels on my bike there was more than a usual amount of pucker. There is something about rolling into a sketchy situation with a new tire that elicits an unusual amount of fear.
I was starting to trust the Kessel and then had a couple of close calls on some wet roots. I decided it was time to find out when the tire would lose traction. I did a couple of laps on my go to test trail and started entering one of my favorite corners faster and lower than I normally do. I was intentionally trying to break traction. There were a couple of times where I ended up with a face full of dirt but more times than not the Kessel was able to hold my ridiculous lines. After a dozen or so attempts I had a good idea of when the Kessel was going to break traction. For anyone who has ridden with me, they know that I like to cut into a corner, break traction and let my bike slide through the corner. With the Kessel on the rear I wasn’t getting as much drift as I like. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your style and terrain.
To solve the problem of my rear wheel not breaking traction soon enough I mounted the Teravail Ehline back onto my rear wheel. I have always been a fan of a fast rolling rear tire and a meaty front one. With the Ehline on the rear I noticed a significant difference in braking distance and rolling resistance. With the Kessel on the front I was able to hold the lines I wanted to with the Ehline rolling faster on the rear, breaking traction changed and braking earlier became necessary compared to the Kessel’s impressive braking performance. It was a fun tire combination to experiment with but not as confidence inspiring as running the Kessel front and back for my conditions.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Kessel is a solid tire, it climbs well, it descends well and it is predictable. The Ultra Durable casing is more than most people will need for their all mountain bikes and would make for a good bike park tire. Now having spent time on the Ultra Durable casing, I would like to ride the Durable casing and see how it compares.
The Teravail Kessel might even have more grip than the Minion, but they don’t seem to roll as fast. In a side by side comparison the knobs on the Kessel look to be a little bit taller than the knobs on the Minion. The knobs also look to be more aggressive on the Kessel. This would account for the slower rolling speed and for the increased grip under braking. On back to back tests my times with the bike’s stock Minions were consistently faster; but not a big enough difference to matter to a weekend warrior. Especially if staying upright is more important than beating Strava. I also noticed on steep technical trails that traction under braking was marginally better with the Kessel and I was able to hold my lines a little bit better. My tests were far from scientific and were more based on feeling and Strava than science. But does science really matter when Strava is involved?
My only complaint is that I would like to see more tire width options for the 27.5” market. It would be nice to run a 2.5” on the front and a slightly narrower Kessel on the rear. Maybe a 2.3” or even a 2.25”.
For their first aggressive tire, Teravail has done an amazingly good job. The Kessel is a good choice for an aggressive all mountain tire or a lighter bike park tire. The Kessel is an example of a tire for riders looking for a Minion alternative or for someone who wants to try something different, but not so different that it is a huge departure from what they are used to.
Price: Starting at $85; Weight: Starting at 1,015g each; Website:teravail.com
So Much Traction Predictable Confidence Inspiring Casing Options Braking Performance
Only One Width in 27.5” Slow Roller
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