If confidence came in a bottle, I would buy my wife a case. I would put a hydration beverage in one cage and a bottle of confidence in the other. She’s not so much nervous as she is cautious. There have been crashes to justify this state of mind. But it’s also her general approach: enjoy the ride while minimizing risk.
I do take some of the blame for her “on the bike psyche.” After she completed her first century, I upgraded her machine from a relaxed, longer wheel based, smoother riding steed, to an aggressive, lighter, less forgiving race bike. My hope was that the upgrade would encourage her to take on more challenges–maybe even jump in the occasional group ride. That bike change had the opposite effect. The quick, twitchy, fly-weight bike produced tentative riding and yes, a couple of crashes. My bad.
We got rid of the racy ride and went back to relaxed and smooth. We also added disc brakes to the mix. The white knuckling was instantly eliminated. And while the change in machine helped restore her confidence, what really put a grin on her face was when I swapped out the stock 25mm tires for the Kenda Valkyrie Pro in 30mm. Never mind the thousands we plunked down on that carbon frame and wheels and Ultegra group, it was the tires at 69.95 a piece that really did the trick.
“How’s the new bike ride?” said the husband.
“Great, but I really like those tires you put on,” said the happy wife.
So in addition to being a great tire company, Kenda has also carved out a niche in marital-cycling relations. Or at least I think.
My wife is not the only one in this housed hold rolling on Kenda’s Valkyrie Pro. I have been sporting the 28mm version for the better part of six months. They are mounted onto a set of H Plus Son Archetype rims with an internal width of 17mm. My digital calipers confirmed the 28mm spec. The Valkyrie also comes in 23mm and 25mm.
I have become a fan of the current trend of wider tires, running lower psi and with the Valkyrie Pro I have kept inflation at 80 psi or lower. For both the Mrs. and myself, it has been 80 psi rear and 75 psi front.
My main point of reference would be the Hutchison Sector. I have put thousands of miles on that rubber, also in 28mm. But the Hutches are tubeless and the Kendas I have been riding are not (a tubeless version is also available) So any comparison would be not so much apples to oranges, rather Fuji to Golden Delicious. Just want you, the reader, to know what apple tree I have been picking from.
Kenda uses the word “reliable” which I suppose is better than saying “durable.” “Durable” sounds heavy. “Reliable” sounds Toyota. Whatever you call it, I tested it on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Randy Newman may love Century Blvd, Victory Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, and Sixth St., but by the looks of them, L.A. street services could care less. When confronted by shards of glass, cracked pavement, small stones and debris, the Valkyries did not flinch. Between the wife and me, we had one flat over 3 months.
That low-flat per mile ratio was no accident. Kenda set out to make the Valkyrie more “reliable” than the other fast tires on the market. The company did so by turning its casing away from Kevlar and turning to K-Armor. Kevlar needs more rubber to bond. K-Armor, a proprietary blend, has a tight weave to resist punctures (like Kevlar) but gets along better with the layer of rubber it is mated to. Kenda says in the end they need less rubber to hold the protection layer in place.
Less rubber gets to another goal Kenda placed on the Valkyrie Pro during development. They wanted this tire light. The 28mm testers I mounted came in at 235g each. That puts them in line with one of the most popular tires on the market, the Continental GP 4000S II. Even the 30s weigh under 300g.
Kenda’s third goal with the Valkyrie was speed. For that, they went with 120 tpi and its R3C single compound. The suppleness helps the tire conform to the road better and the compound improves grip while keeping the tire quick. Kenda is keeping most of its tire tech to itself but they do claim the Valkyrie is with one percent of the market leader for rolling resistance. On the road, the Valkyrie Pro felt as fast as all but the race tubulars I have ridden (the Valkyrie comes in tubular too). They had respectable spin up for a 28mm and once they were rolling, they held speed with minimal turns of the crank. No complaints for the Mrs. either. She kept the 30s rolling and never complained about having to push them along.
The Valkyrie also has good road feel and grip. Not open tubular good but right there with a GP 4000 or my tubeless Sectors. Some of that pleasant ride and grab is the width and lower pressure (80psi rear, 75psi front). But the R3C compound does a nice job of muting the rough spots without feeling dead. And there were no unexpected lockups during braking nor slippage during hard cornering. I kept my skin during the entire test period.
The big surprise with this road clincher was how well it did in the dirt. During a trip to Northern California, I was climbing Wildcat Canyon in the Berkeley Hills and took a detour onto the Nimitz trail. There are two options: ride the main path which is fairly smooth, black top or ride the packed dirt shoulders on either side of the path. Did someone say dirt? I flicked my Indy Fab off to the side and the Valkyrie Pros obliged by keeping their grip and spitting away the occasional stone. This is not their intended use but when met with an unimproved surface, the Valkyrie held its own.
Kenda could use a little fashion consulting. A tan sidewall option would be nice. As for those white sidewall letters, they do go yellow after just a few hundred miles. Not a great look. I know this sounds shallow, but when you are pumping yourself as one of the fastest on the block, why not look the part?
Of note is the name of Kenda’s high end race tire: Valkyrie. If you are deep into Norse mythology, you know that Valkyrie is a beautiful maiden who serves Odin by riding over battlefields to claim the dead heroes and take them to Valhalla. Or if you are into World War II history, you know Valkyrie as the plot by German officers to assassinate Hitler. The operation was turned into a movie starring Tom Cruise. Neither definition explains why Kenda stamped Valkyrie on the sidewall.
In the 50s, a high altitude bomber was being developed that could fly at three times the speed of sound. It was called the XB-70a, Valkyrie. It never saw combat but the Air Force bought two for test purposes. One was destroyed in a crash but the other remains at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It’s a four hour ride from Kenda’s offices to the museum, faster on a set of Valkyries tires.
In the end the Kenda Valkryie experience was a confidence booster for me as well. I rolled on them with confidence I could keep up when the ride got quick and confident I could avoid flat when the ride got rough.
Final thought: high speed, low flat count.