By William Kirk
Kenda introduced the Hellkat as a full-on downhill tire capable of handling the most rugged of world cup tracks. The tire is aimed at a wide variety of technical terrain; its large center blocks and aggressive cornering knobs place it at the forefront of Kenda’s assortment. I fitted the 2.4 inch Hellkat’s onto my 35 mm internal-width rims, which gave them a near perfect profile. It’s worth noting the “near” in my statement; their 2.4 width seemed to pair perfectly with a 30 mm internal diameter rim, which I checked on my trail bike. Anything wider seemed to square off the tread profile a bit more than I’d prefer. The Hellkats easily mounted up tubeless to my thoroughly dented downhill rims with a floor pump (which was an impressive feat).
My first ride on the Hellkats was on our local downhill track, which is primarily loose over hardpack terrain. On my initial runs, the Hellkats handled the trail well but became a bit nervous in corners when pushed hard. Once moisture was introduced, I felt these tires began to show their true colors. They bit into the soil deliberately, but the tall tread blocks weren’t so tall as to fold over when cornering hard. I found the spacing on the Kendas to be excellent for allowing the tire to quickly shed mud and get back down to the business of going down.
The Hellkats performed well on familiar terrain, but how did they fare away from home? I found out on a trip to Massanutten, Virginia. For those of you unfamiliar with Massanutten, it is a mixture of flow trails and raw, rocky, natural lines. The Hellkats took to most of this excellently. The deep blocks dug into the loose sandy terrain giving me the confidence to initiate turns at speeds where less-aggressive tires had me on my brakes. Some of the sun-baked, blown-out lines were littered with loose rock, which made the tire feel a bit squirmy, but I am not sure any tire would have inspired confidence in those conditions.
On our second day in Virginia, we moved to a new area with a different soil compound. Overnight thunderstorms changed hardpack into a thick clay quagmire. Early morning wet conditions began to solidify throughout the day, giving the Kendas an opportunity to showcase their mud-shedding ability.
The Hellkats were not without fault. Despite the large rim size, I felt the volume was undersized to tackle the world’s most difficult downhill tracks. When I spoke with Kenda regarding this, they assured me the issue was realized and corrected in subsequent molds. All new Kenda Hellkats will be shipping at a true to size 2.4 volume. As a long-time disciple to the Maxxis Minion DHF, how did the Hellkat compare? They are different tires for different needs. The Hellkats excel on ungroomed terrain and love when things get wet and weird or extremely loose and dry. While I’ve always felt the Minion DHF is one of the best all-conditions tires ever made, it has few limitations, one of those being very clumpy mud, which is where the Hellkat excels. If you live in an area that receives frequent rain, the Hellkat will make an excellent, all-conditions tire. Conversely, if you reside in an area where it dries up for six months at a time and becomes loose and rowdy, the Hellkat will provide you with the clawing traction you need. The only place I didn’t appreciate the Hellkat is super-buff, bike-park-style trails. The worse the trail looks, the happier you’ll be on Hellkats.