Hutchinson is a French tire company that has been a variety of rubber products since 1853. They make tires for just about every industry from aerospace to cycling. Hutchinson has a wide selection of bike tires but have recently revamped their trail and XC lines. We received the 2.3-inch wide Hutchinson Kraken cross country mountain bike tire and mounted it up on one of our current “downcounty” XC bikes and were anxious to see how it would do in the middle of a dry, high desert summer.
Hutchinson brought their XC racing athletes into the lab to build a fast rolling, lower volume tire that retained grip in varied conditions. They came up with the Kraken, it combines low profile center lugs and bars with bigger narrowly spaced side knobs. The tire comes in both a 127TPI bead and a more versatile 66tpi with “hardskin” reinforcement. Compounds are either a dual XC or single compound in their lower model with 800g claimed weight in the only available size: 2.3×29.
Loosely inspired by the Hutchinson Skeleton, the Kraken was designed around a 29 x 2.3″ size and comes in either a 66TPI (Threads Per Inch) or 127TPI construction with Hardskin bead to bead reinforcement. For our testing we received the Hardskin model in a 66TPI sidewall. At first look, we were skeptical about the levels of grip the Kraken could provide in Bend’s dry and dusty summer conditions as the center bars are very low profile and ramped to increase rolling speed and the side knobs are fairly short and tightly spaced, meaning we may not get penetration on softer moon dust trails but would gain some impressive speed on the hardpack trails.
After taking the Kraken through our standard XC test track, we were impressed with the consistency of the side knob grip and overall rolling performance. Grip on the climbs was good in everything but deep powdery dust for both seated and out of the saddle climbing. While we were not able to climb any wet roots, we did notice some slippage on dry, polished roots which leads us to believe the Kraken might get a little slick in the wet. We also noticed some slipping on large slabs of rock with a thin layer of dust, commonly found here in the dry summers of the PNW.
Downhill performance was impressive for such a lightweight and low-profile tire. We usually do not expect a tire with an XC racing heritage to perform this well. We ran the Kraken both front and rear and while the front end will start to push in turns in very loose conditions, when it does break free it does so predictably and gets back in line quickly. As a rear tire, the Kraken strikes a nice balance of braking performance and playfulness thanks to the lateral bars and cornering grip.
If you spend a significant amount of time on trail rides more than 20 miles or are looking for a way to eek out a bit more speed on the trail, you might want to jump on the new Kraken. Designed to be a well-rounded XC, trail and marathon tire, Hutchinson has built upon the foundation of their crowd favorite Skeleton tire to make something that rolls fast and rides nicely. As to be expected by niche tires like the Kraken, it has weaknesses when conditions get loose or when navigating wet roots, but it will also deliver some new PRs and higher average speeds on pedaly rides when rolling resistance and trail speed matter.