(Reviewed by: Adam LaBarge)
Review: 2.5 ExCavator Wire Bead STICK-E : $52.99
The Kenda ExCavator is for those of you who need a fairly fast, one hundred and ten percent gripping tire, 100% of the time.
I was given the opportunity to test the 2.5 STICK-E Wire Bead DH casing version of these tires a couple of months ago and have been ripping up gravity trails ever since. First observations, this tire has tons of knobs everywhere and a fairly flat crown, which means it should have mad grip and mad roll! So, did it perform? Where did it perform best? And more importantly, do you have to be EC to take advantage of what these tires have to offer or just an average sport?
I first got to test these tires out at the Fontana Winter Series Race #1. The terrain there ranged from small- to mid-sized smoothish sandy rocks mixed with sandy loose to hard packed dirt. Low cut loose berms and long flats were in fashion for race #1. These tires performed perfectly. I didn’t wash out once while doing my best to pin it through the loose berms. The amazing grip of these ExCavators truly inspires confidence in leaning the bike over to get the best speed in and out of turns. On the flats these rolled much faster than many other knobby tires. The tread and flat peak of the tire’s crown let me put as much speed as I could muster into “the wall”, an irritatingly long flat sprint stretch before the finish line at Fontana.
After a great performance in SoCal, I came back up North to test these tires in the wet and mud of winter time Bay Area trails. I was itching to see if they would perform on rocky, slippery trails. How well would they shed mud, or grip under redwood forest? To my delight they did a great job on all fronts. On wet rocks, both slippery and not, they did a fine job keeping me tire side down. They also shed watery mud surprisingly well. I was, however not able to test them in sticky mud. I have a feeling they would pack up just as most other tires do. The closeness of the knobs seems to indicate they would. Under the redwoods of Santa Cruz they did a knockout job as well. Carving into that soft peat was never easier. As far as hooking up in really slippery mud, they don’t do such a great job, and I’ve got the cuts from the manzanitas to prove it.
I also got to ride these tires out in the gnarly sharp rocks and loose Nevada dirt of Bootleg Canyon. Here, these tires seem to be most at home. Not once while concerning did I worry about washing out, losing grip, or slipping on off-camber rock faces.
Over all these tires have performed up to my expectations. They grip and roll fairly quickly, and almost more importantly, for us who are not world cup pro racers, these tires give a confidence boost to getting the bike over and railing corners.
One down side I found for these tires is that due to all the knobs, it was very difficult to brake the back tire loose in tight berms. This was an especially difficult task on a Canfield F1 and similar bikes, where the back tire sticks to the ground like dirt to a chain. Though if you are on a bouncy simple single pivot, using ExCavators for a rear tire would be great. For now though, I am going back to something with a bit less cornering grip for a rear tire.
Another down side I found is that this tire does not track a line as well as I would have liked. On off-camber trails or curves, you are forced to pay some extra attention to exactly where your tire goes.
Lastly, another major down side is that Kenda is not making this tire in 2.5 Kevlar Bead. 1350g tires are just too heavy for most places these days.
I was lucky enough to talk with EC about his tire for about 20min while at Fontana. For those of you who have never met the legend, he is a super nice guy who really know his stuff. I was surprised at how much detail he put into in the design and possibilities for the ExCavators. EC said a couple of things about modifying the tires for more grip if you really need it. In the picture below the red arrows show were he suggested cutting out parts of the tire for more grip, though he did say these cut will make the tire roll slower.
So do you have to have EC’s skills to take advantage of these tires. Heck NO! ExCavator maybe in fact help you to improve your skills. These handle so well in in so many conditions that you can focus more on what your body is doing and less on what your tires are doing. Especially in loose, small berms. For sure an ExCavator would be my front tire of choice if Kenda made a 2.5 Kevlar version weighing in around 800 grams. Hint hint!!
I give ExCavators a 4 of 5 chilis for value, $52.99 for tires!! Ouch! 5 of 5 chilis for doing the job, doing it well, and complete traction in corners.
4 out of 5 Stars
5 out of 5 Stars
|A word from Kenda
EC built upon his vast product development experience to construct a tire that is adaptable to riders of all skill levels. Each knob has been carefully crafted by Eric to achieve a specific purpose. Cornering bite, straight line speed and predictability were among the important factors taken into account by EC when designing the Excavator. You don’t have to be blasting a berm at 30 mph in France to appreciate what this tire can do. Cross country racers, freeriders and downhillers rejoice. EC has delivered you a tire that you all can use.