Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Impressions

For the last few years, I have pretty much relied upon the durability and dependability of a few select Kenda Tires for my stable of bikes.  I go with the the Kaliente Pros for all of my road bikes, Karma's for the mountain bike, gravel grinding I opt for the Happy Mediums, either the Kwicker (muddy) or Small Block 8's (dry) for cyclocross,  But in recent months, Kenda has been offering a few new models of tires that have caused me to question my tire selections. I started to really think about the other options at my disposal and it dawned on me that most of my logic behind my selections came down to someone else recommending me to try it and then sheer habit to replace worn out tires with the same.

And I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was over the early spring that I really stopped and looked at the miles I was putting in and realized that I was doing my wallet a disservice by training and racing on the same tires.  While I have no complaint about how the Kaliente Pros wear, at almost $105 a set (I buy 3 at a time and find that I wear out 2 rear tires for every front tires and I am just too lazy to rotate them on a regular basis), it made sense for me to seek out and try to find more economical tire option for training on.

So when it was time to put in the team order for the summer, I decided to order a set of the Kwick Tendril Endurance tires to mount up on "Molly", my Cannondale I planned on commuting with this summer. The Kwick Tendrils Endurance are marketed as a "city" tire to be used on primarily on streets and roads with an occasional gravel path. They are essentially the same tire as the Kwick Tendrils but with an extra layer of kevlar and other synthetic materials under the tread for additional protection from road debris.  I had been patiently waiting for the right opportunity to give the Kwick Tendril Endurance tires a spin, and over  this past weekend committed to commuting to work on Monday morning.

I had left my normal bike at the office one afternoon as I had anticipated riding it home but then the the weather forecast changed and ruined those plans. When I left for the weekend, I was more concerned with getting home for the weekend than getting my stuff together for the weekend and shot out the door without a second thought about what I needed to take home.  Helmet, shoes, tool kit, and mini pump were left at the office, so Sunday morning I drove back in to work and dropped off my car, grabbed my gear, and fully committed to a Monday Morning commute.

Molly and her new shoes
Sunday night, I mounted up the new tires on a pair of Ksyrium Elite wheels that I had picked up over the winter, installed a headlight and taillight as well as outfitting Molly with frame pump clips.  I filled a water bottle with Gatorade, packed a couple of Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie gels in my jersey pocket, and went to bed.

5:30 came early the next morning (too early for that matter so it was reset for 6AM--thank goodness for summer schedules!!!! :-) ) I was finally out the door by 6:20.  Within the first mile of my ride I was forced to climb Coxcomb Hill.  As I started ascending, my initial thoughts were that the KTE's were a dog on the hills.  They felt slow, almost sluggish at times, and I actually considered turning around and going back for my regular road bike. But I thought about it as I suffered up the initial part of the hill and decided I just needed to give them a chance so I continued on (that and I knew if I turned around, I still had to climb up Entrance Dr to get home and then repeat the same 1/2 mile of Coxcomb I already had behind me). It was a miserable experience and I was shocked that a tire could make that much of a difference on a climb.  After finally topping out on Coxcomb, I was surprised out how well the tires seemed to roll along on the flats.  The higher volume tires (700x28 vs the Kalientes at 700x23) were only inflated to 100psi so the ride felt very comfortable, despite being on a less forgiving aluminum frame.  Descending on the tires left me feeling very comfortable, except for the sharper turns as I was still unsure of their gripping power. However, at no point did I feel that I was approaching the point of no return on testing the tire's cornering abilities... something that I look forward to eventually testing.   Once I crossed the Hulton Bridge, I had a relatively flat ride into a head wind but again the KTE's felt great on the bike. They felt like they were adequately supple yet hard enough that they rolled with little resistance.  I was dreading the last few miles of the commute as I knew I again had to climb and wasn't looking forward to repeating my experience of the first climb.  However, I surprised that they felt much better on last big climb up Marzolf Ext. It was like I was riding 2 different tires and I can only explain it by saying that it must have been me on the first climb.  After all, I did hit the first climb a little before 630AM, less than 30 minutes after getting out of bed and with less than a mile in my legs (and most of that was coasting down Entrance Drive).

After 18 miles on the Kenda Kwick Tendril Endurance, I am very happy with my choice. I will be interested to know if I can expect to get more than the 1750 miles I anticipate getting out of a my usual Kaliente Pro tires.  I will keep you posted.