Kenda Rush Pro and Karma 2 Pro First Ride




Review by Robert Johnston
Photos by Mountain Bike Connection Winter – Mirror Media/Rupert Fowler

I (Robert, European Tech Editor) had the good fortune to make the journey to Massa Marittima in Tuscany, Italy, for the Bike Connection Agency Mountain Bike Connection 2022 event in February. During this time I met with a bunch of cool and interesting European companies to learn more about their product ranges, and managed to get a small sample of trail time on board most of them to report back with my initial impressions.

Kenda has been making big pushes to increase the performance of their tires, by investing in their Ohio based Advanced Technology Center, the KATC, which employs over 40 staff. Kenda prototypes and tests their tires in the KATC, with both laboratory based and physical experiments, before taking them out onto the trail to see how their research translates to real world performance.

Kenda was presenting the two latest tires they have developed at BCA – the Rush and Karma 2 models. These were developed with Kenda riders on the Cross Country World Cup circuit, but are available in casings and sizes that allow them to cross over to the downcountry and light trail segments. We got the low down on both models from the knowledgeable Kenda staff at the event, before taking a set out for a lap.

Kenda Rush Pro First Ride

The Fast One
The Rush Pro is the fastest tire in Kenda’s mountain bike range, designed to excel on the Cross Country world cup circuit in hard pack and loose-over-hard conditions. The overall tread pattern features a high proportion of void to increase purchase on the terrain and minimize weight. The rolling resistance is optimized with the low profile center knobs, with evenly spaced transition knobs for progressive traction as you lean over to the more pronounced shoulder knobs. Dual compound rubber places faster rolling and harder wearing rubber in the center, with softer rubber on the shoulder knobs to offer improved cornering traction. The Rush is available in the TR (single ply) and SCT (single ply with 2-piece protection) casings, in 29” diameter only, and 2.2” or 2.4” widths. The 29×2.2” TR option is claimed to be the lightest XC tire on the market at just 525g, which should offer some serious speed for the most demanding racers. The Kenda Rush Pro will be available in most sizes from April, with a retail price of €59.90.

Kenda Karma 2 Pro First Ride

The Grip Specialist
The Karma 2 Pro was initially developed to be a wet condition XC race tire, but Kenda quickly realized its versatility as a downcountry and trail tire for everyday riding. Being an XC race tire, the rolling resistance is still kept to a minimum, but the traction has been optimized to give predictable handling in dry and wet trails. To give further confidence in the grip, Kenda ensured the look of the Karma 2 was suitably aggressive, with heavily siped knobs throughout that aid traction. The center knobs have large braking edges to offer good purchase for stopping on wet terrain, and V-shaped channels help to clear mud to increase traction further. The intermediate and shoulder knobs are designed to give a progressive transition, with predictable cornering and good bite into soft terrain. The Karma 2 Pro is available in 29” diameter with 2.2” and 2.4” widths, or in 27.5” x 2.4”. There are TR and SCT casing options in both diameters, and a CSK (coffee sidewall) option to add some flair to your ride. Weights range from 595g for the lightest 29×2.2” TR option, through to 776g for the burlier 29×2.4” SCT model. They retail for €59.90, and will be available in select sizes from April.

Kenda Rush Pro and Karma 2 Pro First Ride

The Wolf’s First Impressions

I had the opportunity to put a pair of the Karma 2’s through their paces on board a Trek Top Fuel at the Bike Connection Agency event in Massa Marittima. Trail conditions were mainly hardpack and loose over hard, with the occasional damp patch in the trees to keep me on my toes. A set of 30mm ID rims were fitted with the 29×2.4” Karma 2 SCT’s, which I aired up to 26psi on the front and 28psi out back.

From the first climb it was clear that the Karma 2’s are not lacking in the rolling speed department, rolling smooth and fast on the hardpack. The switchback-filled climb up the Massa Vecchia trail area, Spaghetti, is long and grueling when you’re trying to give it some “go”, so I was thankful for the lack of drag of the Karma 2’s. Though of course there are numerous contributors to this feeling of speed, such as the efficient platform and light weight of the Top Fuel, but the speed was definitely there. The climb has a number of crux moves where you’ve got to navigate awkward rocks and steps while laying down the power, and so the “stick” of the rubber on the Karma 2’s was tested numerous times. A dab-free ascent indicated they’ve managed to produce traction levels that should satisfy the majority of dry to damp cross country courses under riders more skilled than myself.

Kenda Karma 2 Pro First Ride

On the way down, the SCT casing generated impressive sidewall support for its relatively low weight, at the pressures I was running. The level of confidence they inspired to attack was impressive, contrary to the expected need to tiptoe down the rough and rugged sections of trail. It took a couple of g-outs on slightly off camber terrain to feel any undue flex across the casing, and through the micro chatter the tire was reasonably well damped too. The few corners at Massa Marittima that really let you push through the bike did begin to show the xc-focus of the Karma 2’s, with some squirm and vagueness that can only be avoided by a sturdier casing, but for the most part they were more capable and reassuring than I’d expected.

In the loose over hard it was clear that the low profile tread (compared with a more aggressive trail alternative) has limited ability to penetrate through to the good stuff, so there were a few moments of surfing that had me on edge. Through the damper dirt, things were slightly more reassuring, and though they certainly don’t quite have the “stick” that a more aggressive tread produces, they felt predictable across the range of lean angles and cleared mud well. That said, for aggressive trail riding I’d look to reserve the Karma 2’s exclusively for the dry and relatively hard pack conditions.

I’d need considerably more time on the Karma 2’s to determine their wear rate and durability as well as their performance across a wider range of conditions, but I’ve been left suitably impressed by my brief stint on their new cross country “grip specialist”, and would welcome more time on board a set fitted to a short travel trail machine in the drier months.

To learn more, visit

Kenda Rush Pro and Karma 2 Pro First Ride


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