I used to have a stack of tires almost waist high in my bike room. I have bought most every iteration of tire from most every manufacturer available. My interest was figuring out what I liked and what worked best consistently in the midwest riding and racing. There is no ‘do-it-all’ tire in my opinion and though some may come incredibly close to doing that, there is always a compromise. The compromises aren’t exactly bad either, what I may consider a compromise in weight, may just be a weight weenie compromise, what I may consider a compromise in rolling resistance, may be another’s delightful traction. I have tried my fair share of tires and have up until just two years ago found a tire that almost always made me smile in just about every situation and thought I found knobbie bliss until my most recent purchase of the Kenda Slant Six.

I am a Bontrager fan, and have been ever since I fell in love with the XDX tread. It is a great 29er tire that offers lower rolling resistance, great cornering, and decent handling through most conditions when used at the right pressure. In fact I had them in two sizes, 2.0″ for cushiony float, and 1.75″ for faster non-technical racing. The XDX was in my opinion an enhancement of the Kenda Small Block Eight tread pattern – wider spaced knobs, made for better traction and grip on the rooty and loose soil mix at Palos, Kettle, and beyond. I tend to gravitate more towards the compounds that Kenda offers in their tires. For both weight savings and racier grip, I did rely on the XDX almost entirely – that is until now.

[Disclaimer: The process I am describing below is not advocated by Kenda and performing the conversion will void any and all warranties with your tires, please do so at your own risk and understanding of this]

I have been converting non-UST tires to tubeless since day one. There weren’t many offerings of UST specific tires 7 years ago, so rather than waiting for a tire to be available, I’d use Stan’s No-Tubes to seal tires up and run them tubeless. I haven’t looked back since. It is very effective method of riding tubeless and running lower pressures without fear of pinch flats. Every tire had it’s limitations due to the softer beads and compounds interacting without internal support of a tube – so not every tire converted absolutely well. The few that did became staples in everyone’s rigs and those that come to mind were Kenda’s, Schwalbe’s, and Maxxis’ line of tires. This is by no means an exclusive list and everyone’s mileage and opinion varies because it is highly dependent on the type of riding people subject the tires to and in what conditions they ride them in. For Kenda’s, I have found the magic solution to work best was Effetto Mariposa’s Caffe Latex. What I appreciate the most out of this solution is it’s ability to seal more effectively with less concern of ammonia eating away at the inside of the rubber casing of tires that haven’t been certified for UST use. All tires are porous, and to make a tire non-porous, material is added to the inside lining of the sidewall to offer protection and durability to the sidewall casing. The Caffe Latex I have run in previous Kenda tires has run incredibly well and have two sets of complete tires that are still in use after hundreds of miles through all four seasons for two years running, they are still in great shape internally.
I received the Kenda Slant Six five weeks ago and promptly put them on my bike. I immediately ogled the tread pattern and knew right then I was going to love how they were going to feel. They are advertised as the love child between the Small Block Eight and the Nevegal, however, when viewing the treads closely compared to the actual tires mentioned, it is more of an interpretation of both – in fact, I think the better definition would be a melding of the Small Block Eight, the Karma, and the Nevegal. Low middle ramped knobs with a pronounced rectangular and angled knob on the sides that maintain the rounded shape that the Small Block Eight and Karma are known for but with the biting knob the Nevegal has on the side.

I have since put over 20 hours of ride time on the set of Slant Six’s and have indeed put them through all conditions – wet rooty conditions, mud, loose rock, gravel, loamy grass, steep pitched dirt climbs with roots, and loose gravely and technical descents. The tire has become my new all time favorite, replacing the XDX as the champion of my collection and heading to the race start line for endurance racing. The rolling resistance is instantly felt, the weight for each non-UST 29er format tire was between 590-620 grams a tire. This is not uber light like a non UST Schwalbe Racing Ralph in even a 2.4 size (they are low 500 gram tires!) – but it’s not bad compared to their Nevegal brethren at 880-915 grams a tire. The weight range is not a surprise, every tire, especially MTB tires, have a variance in the amount of rubber composite used for each, so they will vary though not greatly. I rode the tires through some thorny sections of trail and even received a few minor scratches on the sidewall as a result, but nothing damaging or penetrating past the rubber. I can say with confidence that the rubber compound on the sidewall, in spite of not having a more built-in protection, are not delicate either. They will sustain the abuse of the midwest arena very well and provided that you don’t jab them directly into sharp rocks on the sidewalls, you should be fine. The middle knob section rolls with low resistance as expected, but at 30/32 PSI front and rear respectively, they were as grippy as I’d liked them to be on the rooty sections and the demand of fast turns and loose sections. These tires don’t designate a rear or front tire tread usage, I installed them with the chevrons pointing forward, including the rear – I don’t abide by the principle of reversed chevron for the rear typically. On several particular climbs on loamy wet grass mixed with some mud, the rear slid but caught traction quickly. In the mud, the rubber compound sheds the sticky peanut butter consistency very well and still manages to dig in whatever it has to keep moving forward. I was very surprised with how well it handled even the thickest of muddy conditions and it wasn’t entirely intentional either, I was able to maintain traction and control in thick muddy situations.

The side knobs are the magic to this tire. They are perfectly placed at the outer edge of the rounded surface where the tire meets a curve at it’s sharpest angle – the knobs are rectangular and spaced appropriately to provide a rail of knobs that continually hold onto the surface. I purposely tried to break the strides of a turn on fast corners on gravel to see where the breaking point of the front and rear would be – taking corners at 20+mph on gravel digging the front tire in hard and nary hitting the brakes. I was surprised that even at a 24mph turn without hitting brakes, the rear never once provided even so much of a fade of control. On a more sandy doubletrack with ruts, at 20+mph, I hit a section where the front did want to go in another direction and slid away from me, but it was easily controllable to get back on track and not lose my front end. On straight up curvy singletrack, the knobs really shined. I railed many corners digging the front tire deep into the dirty pockets with confidence knowing it was tracking well and accurately. I could point and shoot the front with ease and without concern to the minor obstacles or looseness of trail debris. Where the tire especially shines is in hardpack as to be expected providing a phenomenal center line grip and cornering prowess of a velcro strip.

I took a stab on at least 15 times going up a particular section that transitions from a downhill fast gravel section onto a very loose railroad rock upshot – this transition is tricky at speed and trickier when your tires lose 100% traction due to the small rocks immediately shifting under you. The rear slipped and slid out on 90% of those efforts. This is not a negative but definitely worth pointing out that they will not hold a loose rocky ascent very well if you don’t grind the climb or transition smoothly – the low knobs are a fatal flaw for any loose rocky uphill section. Once seated onto loose rock, they are manageable and still predictable. The front is very stable at speeds and responds well to body english and steering input, never did I feel a time it wanted to drift into another particular direction in a non-controllable way. This inspires confidence, thus speed.

Currently, Kenda is not offering a UST version of the 29er tire, and this is not news as they are slow to produce those offerings large scale, most likely because of the greater weight disadvantage it makes a 29er tire no doubt. However, and again with the large caveat about Kenda’s warranty, running them tubeless works out very effectively and run above the 30psi range very well without issues. If you run lower than 30 psi I would caution that you monitor how much the tire may squish against the trail and objects to see where they flex most – this is where your burp point is and for the safety of yourself and the integrity of your rim, don’t push it lower than you have to. At 165 lbs., on a dual suspension, I’m pushing 30 up front and it’s plenty of great grip and less rolling resistance. If you are looking to outfit a fully rigid, I’d opt for a larger size for greater float and cushion. The 2.0 size is what I’ve been running and it’s true to size and plenty comfortable. I’m looking forward to racing this tire at endurance MTB events this year and I’m sure it will shine in every course I can point it at in the midwest.



  1. Jeremiah White on Friday 6, 2011

    Thanks so much for such a enormously comprehensive review. Great details and all-around information about your riding style. I’m convinced, this will be my next set.

  2. Robert Ramsay on Friday 6, 2011

    El,

    This is a great review. I came across it when searching for Slant Six information. Strangely enough, I currently am riding Bontrager XDX 2.1 tires. They came on the 29er I purchased last December and I only really got to put them to the test this spring and early summer. I find they roll and grip nicely and are very light, but I’ve now had 3 quarter inch tears in them. I patched the first tear, but after the second I put a new one on and then had it tear over a rocky section on the second ride. I ran Nevegals on my fully 26er for two very full seasons and never even had a flat. I think the Bontrager’s must be too paper thin. The tread pattern on the Slant Six is a bit similar to the XDX, but I’m hoping it is made out of tougher material. Thanks to your review, I think my switching to a pair of Slant Six tires will be the right decision. Nevegals would likely be overkill on a 29er, but the Slant Six might just do the trick.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  3. Rideon on Friday 6, 2011

    Very good review I’ve been running the nevegal front and SM8 2.35″ wanting to smooth out the front without losing too much traction in front. Slant Six sounds like a real good idea.
    http://www.biketourings.com/3/post/2014/01/top-5-qualities-of-an-all-purpose-mountain-bike-tire-by-rideon.html


0