News Review

First Ride Review: Kenda Hellkat Pro and Helldiver Pro

The all new Kenda Hellkat Pro and Helldiver Pro: light, bulletproof, with loads of grip and great in all conditions. Why is all this true and how do the tires perform on the trail? We’ll tell you in this review.

The Kenda Hellkat Pro and Helldiver Pro form part of the new Kenda downhill and gravity line-up. Both tires look almost identical except for the knobs and bead. Both tires are formed by two layers. The lower layer is a new, harder compound called SRC (Standard-Rubber-Compound), which provides a stable base for the softer RSR-Compound, which we have already seen on the Helldiver.

The Kenda Helldiver Pro is a fast rolling semi-slick tire with aggressive side knobs.
The Hellcat Pro is a beefy front tire that has an abundance of grip.

Between the two layers there is so much Kevlar that the tyres should actually be bulletproof: both the reinforced sidewalls and the puncture-protection in the mid-section are made of Kevlar. This makes the tires extremely puncture and impact-resistant, without making them excessively heavy. In addition, the apex layer has been stretched to 20mm, allowing lower air pressures while reducing the chances of burps and pinch flats. All of this will protect the tire from sharp rocks and heavy impacts, enhance riding feedback and allow for more grip while still maintaining a reasonable weight. Both the Hellkat Pro and the Helldiver Pro are optimized for a tubeless setup.

Kenda Hellkat Pro in detail

The Kenda Hellkat Pro will only be available in 27,5” size with 2,4” width. With its aggressive profile the Hellkat reaches its full potential on wet and soft surfaces. The tread-pattern allows for optimal balance between brake-control, cornering traction and grip. With a weight of 1,172 g, this optimised gravity-tire is a comparatively light option.

Kenda Helldiver Pro in detail

Same as the Hellkat, the Kenda Helldiver Pro Semi-Slick will only be available as a 27,5″, 2,4″ wide option. Because of its low-profiled mid-section, the tire is mainly intended for dry trails. Its low- profiled middle section reduces rolling resistance while the huge shoulder-knobs ensure maximum grip in corners. Thanks to its all-round soft compound, the tire offers a pleasant natural bounce. With a weight of 995 g the semi-slick is rather light compared to other tires in its category.

Test: Kenda Hellkat Pro and Helldiver Pro

These new Kenda models are heavy-duty DH tires. It’s clear that a front tire is exposed to completely different forces in comparison to a rear tire. That’s why we fitted our test bike with the extremely grippy Kenda Hellkat Pro on the front and the fast rolling Kenda Helldiver Pro at the back. On our way to the trail we already noticed the soft compound and the weight, while not even the semi-slick profile of the fast rolling Helldiver could hide the heavy rolling-resistance of the Hellkat Pro. We recommend you take it easy on the transfers!

But it’s also true that some of the things that make a bike feel horrible on tarmac, make it great on the trail. And that explains why the Hellkat Pro grips like a tiger on a gazelle’s neck from the first moment. That means, get loose and go for it! The grip feels endless. No corner is too tight, no loam too soft. Whilst the Hellkat Pro literally ploughs through the ground, the Helldiver follows diligently keeping the rear wheel safely on track, especially on dry ground. Even when braking, the Hellkat responds incredibly well. The Hellkat brakes reliably in every condition reconfirming its great tracking qualities. The grip is insane! And the Helldiver at the back is surprisingly good too.

With superb control in dry conditions, the huge shoulder-knobs make it a true cornering-experience, maintaining great amounts of grip also in off-camber sections. Braking control is somehow reduced by the low-profiled mid-section thread. But what’s the score in wet conditions? Experienced riders will be doing just fine, the main reason being the sublime rubber-compound and an evenly spread thread-pattern, which allows for controlled drifting. For those riders who tend to use their rear-brake more, the Helldiver Pro can become a challenge on silt and mud: in this case you just need to breathe deeply and shift your trust and balance towards the shoulder-knobs.

Conclusions for the Kenda Hellkat Pro and Helldiver Pro

Both new Kenda-Gravity tires are created to ride on the limit. Downhill races, bike-park weekends, or relaxed enduro-tours. Both tires shine with huge amounts of grip and enhanced puncture resistance. Especially with the combination of Hellkat Pro at the front and the Helldiver Pro at the back, both tires managed to impress in our test. Nevertheless, caution is advised, as the Helldiver requires a good level of riding skills in wet conditions. For those who find the wire-Hellkat too heavy, a lighter folding-version will soon be available.

For more info head to bicycle.kendatire.com

Words & Photos: Valentin Rühl