The Kenda Small Block Eight is a great hardpack cross-country race tyre. But the Small Block Eight is not limited to hardpack – it’s more than capable of tagging along on any adventure you choose. Just make sure you’re ready for the ride.
The tread uses Kenda’s Dual Tread Compound, and has a hard compound in the centre and Sticky-E on the side. The tyre’s low-profile tread has a subtle ramp to the centre knobs, giving the tyre a low rolling-resistance, which is so important in a race tread.
The side-blocks are situated close to the centre of the tread. This gives the Small Block Eight a small footprint and makes it a fast-roller. It also means traction is reduced and it takes longer for the tread to bite in when the bike is leant over heavily through corners. To be fair, though, few cross country racers on 29ers are looking to lay their bikes over on a regular basis, so the low rolling-resistance of the Small Block Eight definitely outweighs that negative.
The casing on the Small Block Eight is made of Kevlar, which adds a little weight but provides that extra strength for a tubeless-specific tyre.
But be careful when setting the Small Block Eight up tubeless. This tyre seals much better on a tubeless-specific wheel than on a simpler, converted type. We had the Small Block Eight blow off a DT Swiss wheel we’d converted to tubeless with Stan’s – twice. (The second time, it was at 40psi!)
So if you haven’t run tubeless on your rims before, or you know they are on the narrow side, there is the risk that you’ll end up having to run these thoroughbred racers with tubes.
The DT Swiss wheel does have a narrower rim – once we matched the Small Block Eights with a wider, tubeless-specific rim, the tyres sealed up just fine with a track pump. We didn’t even need sealant to initially bead the tyre. Though the Small Block Eight is not a true UST tyre, Kenda markets it with Sealant Compatible Tyre (SCT) technology, and it is designed to be run with tubeless systems.
The Kenda Small Block Eight definitely meets the brief of a 29″ cross-country tyre – it’s a fast-rolling tyre offering confident central-tread traction, making it perfect for hardpack. The Small Block Eight won’t tick all the boxes for everyone, however. But then, it is a purpose-specific tyre. It’s not supposed to.