Kenda Saber Pro review

XC tire is true race day weapon — as long as track is dry

2018 Tire Buyer's Guide 2018 XC Tires 29er Cross Country Tires
Kenda Saber Pro Review

Despite its minimalist design, the Kenda Saber Pro tire has better traction than you would expect.

What is it

With its minimalist tread profile and 120 tpi casing, the Kenda Saber Pro is a dedicated XC race tire that is designed for fast, dry singletrack. Indeed, Kenda says the Saber Pro was developed with its stable of World Cup-caliber athletes. Like all Saber Pro models, this tire is tubeless ready and come in two different casings, TR for race, and the more endurance oriented KSCT. Mtbr opted for the later since this was not just a race day test.

Check out Mtbr’s guide to choosing the right mountain bike tire.

The Kenda Saber Pro tire compound is R3C, Kenda´s fastest rubber that’s used exclusively for high-end models. This compound is claimed to offer significantly lower rolling resistance and increased wet weather traction. The Kenda Saber Pro also has a high volume to better absorb trail obstacles. The low uniform tread profile reduces rolling resistance, while slightly larger edge knobs are hooked to improve cornering traction. The Kenda Saber Pro is available in 29er and 27.5 in a variety of widths, including 2.6.

Kenda Saber Pro Review

Our test steed for this tire test was this 2017 Scott Spark 900 29er with 120mm of suspension front and rear. You can read the Mtbr review of this bike here.

On the Mtbr Park Tools DS-1 Electronic Scale the Kenda Saber Pro weighed 624 grams (13g over claimed weight). When mounted on a Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels, which have a 23mm internal rim width, actual tire width measured by the Park Tools DC-1 Digital Caliper was 2.24 (versus the advertised 2.2). Mtbr tested the Saber Pro on a variety of trail types, including hardpack, loose over hard, and rocky alpine terrain. Keep reading to find out how it performed.

  • Lightest tire in this shootout
  • Very fast roller
  • Width is wider than claimed
  • Better traction than you would expect
  • Easy to spot direction arrow
  • Easy mounting and tubeless set-up
  • Second widest tire in this shootout
  • Reasonably durable
  • High-volume casing enhances bump absorption
  • Weight slightly higher than claimed
  • Narrow window of use compared to other tires in this shootout
  • Not ideal in the wet
  • Requires rider to keep weight evenly distributed
  • Rear tire often breaks loose on steep, loose climbs
Kenda Saber Pro Review

The Kenda Saber Pro’s high-volume casing enhances bump absorption.

Mtbr’s Take

Unlike the other tires in this test, the Kenda Saber Pro is a truly specialized weapon. No, I wouldn’t recommend it for most types of general riding. But if your aim is to race your XC whip as fast as possible — and trail conditions are right — you won’t find a faster tire among this shootout.

The center knobs are the lowest profile in this group, (appropriately) resembling a rocket ship in shape and layout. Edge knobs are slightly more pronounced, but even with a little extra height the main objective remains speed and not traction. That’s not to say the Kenda Saber Pro is a glorified semi-slick. On dry, hardpack terrain there’s enough tread to keep bike and rider upright so long as weight is evenly distributed front to back.

Check out all the tires in this cross-country tire shootout.

Kenda Saber Pro Review

The Kanda Saber Pro has a narrower window of use compared to other tires in test.

But slide too far forward on the saddle and it’s easy to break the rear tire loose, especially during steep, high torque ascents. The Kenda Saber Pro should also stay in the garage on rainy days. There’s simply not enough grip to maintain reasonable control on muddy trails, let alone wet rocks or greasy roots.

As for durability, Kenda’s more robust (but slightly heavier) KSCT casing proved a solid match for Colorado’s rocky high desert trails. The tire’s sidewalls have a few scuffs here and there, but we suffered nary a flat and all knobs are present and accounted for. The SCT (or sidewall casing technology) is actually a second play of fabric that improves air and sealant retention when set-up tubeless, while also adding a second line of defense against cuts and abrasions.

Kenda Saber Pro Review

On the Mtbr Park Tools DS-1 Electronic Scale the Saber Pro weighed 624 grams (13g over claimed weight).

Meanwhile, the R3C rubber compound is softer than the R2C, which is aimed to help with grip, especially in wet weather. It’s a nice idea, but you can only overcome so much when you’re working with such a low-profile tread design. But again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into.

The reality is that most mountain biking (especially cross-country racing) happens on dry, fast trails. And in those conditions, the Kenda Saber Pro is a true performance enhancer as long it’s being guided by a skilled pilot who’s adept at keeping their weight evenly balanced and not pushing too hard into squirrely corners.

Kenda Saber Pro Review

When mounted on a Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels, which have a 23mm internal rim width, actual tire width measured by the Park Tools DC-1 Digital Caliper was 2.24 (versus the advertised 2.2).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $70

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About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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