After years of finding tire development boring to the point of irrelevance, we’ve entered a period where tire development has cause a revolution in every corner of cycling. From road to dirt road to singletrack, tires have changed dramatically. After years of dominating the downhill scene with the Nevegal, Kenda Tires fell behind a bit, but had introduced two new tires, the Hellkat Pro and the Helldiver Pro.
The presentation was interesting more as a study in process. How tires are developed has changed. Above you see a 3D-printed tread sample in plastic. Above it is a full tire cross section in silicone. In developing the Hellkat and the Helldiver Kenda produced a number of prototypes with knobs arranged in different configurations before settling on one design.
As these are downhill tires, I’m not going to go into huge detail here; I doubt many RKP readers are planning to shred the gnar on these. But they are interesting as they show that with a 2.4-inch width, even downhill tires are continuing to grow wider for more traction. And even as they are getting wider, manufacturers are finding ways to trim weight out of these beastly tires. The Hellkat Pro weighs in at 1170g (+/- 61g) and the Helldiver Pro tips the scales at 985g (+/- 49g).
After years of making product that wasn’t always a hit among mountain bikers, possibly because so many of their designs were motocross inspired, Alpinestars has really begun to make a resurgence with its mountain bike gear. They showed a new pair of bibs that include a pouch for a hydration reservoir and pockets in the rear to carry food, if you’re not wearing a hydration pack and your jersey has no pockets.
This new vest, the Evolution, includes a back protector with CE level 2 certification. It’s cut from a lightweight mesh to keep it breathable for all-day riding so you won’t overheat. The pad is removable for washing and replaceable after a bad fall.
A padded overshort was something I wore in the 1980s as a teenage skateboarder. I didn’t really think about them again until relatively recently. And while I’m doubtful about skateboarding these days, more and more I’m riding terrain while mountain biking that has me thinking about wearing pads. I was never someone who was emboldened by safety equipment, but it did help me push past my fear to try something my peers were already doing without dying.
While I’ve already discussed Campagnolo’s entry into disc brakes with Magura’s help in another post, it was great to have a chance to sit down with Campy employees and discuss the system. The Potenza group’s design is very clean, and while it is a bit odd to see a Campagnolo logo on the side of a disc brake caliper, Campy deserves big credit for taking the first step to a small but important change. They rounded the edges of the rotors. Why it is that Campy was the first to do this I just can’t even fathom. Little else about disc brakes have slowed their adoption than what is, at best, a two-step manufacturing process. We don’t put up with sharp edges on anything else, so I can’t figure why manufacturers thought it would be acceptable here.
My one real question is how long it will take for Campy purists to decide that maybe disc brakes on road bikes are the ultimate indicator of end times.
Of the many pads I’ve tried, I have to say that G-Form’s pads have been the most form-fitting and ultimately the most comfortable. There’s a trail near me that has a section where if I make one wrong move I pinball off saplings for a good 10 feet before I can get things back under control. The possibility that I could have shoulder pads without feeling like I was wearing shoulder pads is pretty attractive. The top features pads to cover not just the shoulders, but ribs, collarbone and sternum.
Downhillers and enduro riders requested a bigger knee pad and got it. I had a chance to ride these on our ride long ride down to Midway on Wednesday and while I never really put them to use, the best thing I can say about any pad is that I was able to forget I was wearing them for long periods. Of all the pads for extremities on the market, G-Form is easily the most comfortable I’ve worn.