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Archive for June, 2010

June 30th, 2010 - Kenda 761 dual sport tires review

Pros: Stiff sidewall, sticky, quiet, predictable, superb traction, inexpensive

Cons: Deep sand is not its cup of tea, hard to mount

Everyone who’s ever been to a motorcycle dealer has probably heard the salesman saying, “This bike gets such good gas mileage that it will pay for itself in a year.” but what they never mention is that the cost of the motorcycle tires will make you wish for a V8 Cadillac!

I ride a lot. I mean more than usual, and I’m not always on the tarmac. To make tire shopping a harder task than it already is, I ride two-up on a bike that weighs about a 1000lbs, and it’s not even a Goldwing. A little search on suitable tires for my kind of riding reveals that I either have to be a millionaire or give up riding altogether. There are not too many tires out there which can handle the giant load, be sticky enough for the twisties, do well on dirt, have a decent wet traction and don’t cost a fortune.

It all changed two months ago when I bought a set of Kenda tires for a $100 bill. Kenda Rubber Industrial Co., headquartered in Yuanlin, Taiwan, is a major tire manufacturer. Although it’s been around since 1962, with the exception of bicyclists and Moto-Crossers, it’s virtually unknown to the American market.

The tires in review here are the Kenda 761’s which are from their dual sport line of tires which cost about $50 each.  They have nylon ply construction, are tubed type and H rated for speeds up to 130mph. The test has been conducted over 5 states, 3000 miles, and all weather conditions including snow.

First impression:

When I received the tires, my first concern was how soft the compound was. I could literally stick my fingernail deep into the tire with not too much trouble and that only meant one thing: they would wear out fast! They had a very stiff sidewall and the lugs were huge. Overall they looked pretty good.

Mounting:

I mount all my own tires so I know when a tire is throwing a tantrum and hesitating to go on. These Kenda’s were probably the hardest tires I have ever put on. They simply refused to stretch regardless of what I did to them. They put up a good fight, but I finally prevailed. The stiff sidewalls are to blame, but they were a tell tale sign of good stable tires. Balancing was a breeze as they didn’t need much assistance in that department.

Long term test:

The first ride was a 250 miles long stretch from Monterey to Bakersfield, California. The Kenda’s were loud at first and wandered a lot for the first 100 miles. As they broke in, they got quieter, more stable and stickier to the point that I actually started to enjoy the ride. In the following two months, they were tested in variety of conditions, from the deep sands of Arizona to mud and snow in Montana. The tread life proved to be very good, with 3000 miles of mixed roads, the rear still retains half of the original tread depth despite the load, and the front still looks brand new. Cornering is a joy on these tires; they stick and won’t let go. The wet traction is superb and rain makes little to no difference in the performance of these tires. There are not too many riders who ride in snow (I don’t do it for pleasure, just when I have no choice) so snow rating is an oxymoron for motorcycle tires, but to my surprise, they did a great job of that too. On gravel, shallow mud and dirt, these tires are right at home; they stay clean and grab the surface well while aired down a few PSI. Deep sand is its only enemy. They dig in instead of floating regardless of the tire pressure.

Conclusion:

Kenda 761 is a great tire not because it’s inexpensive but because it’s a well made tire.  It holds its own against other more mainstream brands and in my experience better than most of its class. The tread life is above average, the traction is excellent, the noise level is low and at $50, it’s a fantastic all around dual sport tire for heavy or light tourers. I give it an overall 8.1 points out 10.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for Kenda nor are they my sponsors. I’m just a happy customer.

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First I would like to thank Frank Perreault of the GS Resources for his great support and generous donation.

As we stated earlier, we are still on the fundraising tour in the U.S. and also putting into place details for the charity rides. It helps to have a home base to work on the details and also looking to avoid tornados and flooding due south and east, we decide to keep riding north to my hometown of Helena, MT.

We continued on into Wyoming. The winds were with us again, a seemingly ever-present part of our trip by now. But each time they seemed to blow more viciously. When we would stop for breaks, it was difficult to walk in the wind. Sometimes Cynthia takes pictures as we whiz by some pretty scene on the bike, but the rabid winds hamper those photo-opt moments greatly, so mostly she just hangs on tight to my back. We have a very limited (close to non-existent) budget for hotel stays and try to camp, couchsurf, or get sponsored stays when we can. But with nightfall upon us, feeling exhausted and windblown, Cynthia put us up in a hotel with a free breakfast. After a good night’s rest and a hot breakfast in our bellies we headed for Teton and Yellowstone National Park.

The road through the park is kind of a shortcut but living in Montana has taught me a thing or two in the past; never trust the weatherman, and be ready for snow even in July! I was hesitant to take that route, but since Cynthia has never been to that part of the country and was really looking forward to it, I went for it anyway. After all it was sunny, and I didn’t want to chicken out prematurely.

The weather started out to be promising, but then all bet’s were off and we had the most intense, crazy riding day I’ve ever experienced: driving rain, sleet, snow, hail, poor visibility, freezing our assess off, you name it. The irony is that I was hoping to find “good” weather by heading north, and on this day, we happened to be riding in the coldest spot in the U.S.  Unfortunately, due to the weather, all we could manage was a brief drive-by tour of Yellowstone, but Cynthia was elated nonetheless at each new mountain peak and animal we encountered. We actually were the only crazy motorcyclists on the road until we reached Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

At times we rode on with maybe 25 feet of visibility in a complete whiteout. My face was frozen, thanks to my open face helmet. Snow kept plastering my goggles and every time I cleaned them with my wet gloves, it made it worse. I had to take off my goggles to actually see where I was going, and our speed dropped down to 20 mph. Every time we stopped Cynthia was more amazed at the scenery, and I was more apprehensive of the situation. As a matter of fact, it was so cold that I had icicles hanging from my knees, and my cheeks were almost frostbitten despite of my ski mask.

It was pitch black and pouring icy cold rain by the time we made it out of Yellowstone. At a gas station in West Yellowstone, we were told that it would take at least another 2 hours to reach our next couchsurfing destination in Bozeman by way of Hyalite Canyon, and that it would surely be snowing. We sought shelter and Wi-Fi at a McDonalds but couldn’t get a connection. We finally started calling hotels from my GPS and were soon finding out that almost every place in town was sold out! Several places even ran out of food, including McDonalds! We lucked out in getting a last available room at one joint which turned out to be reminiscent of a hotel that would be used in a thriller or horror movie, but at least it was a place to warm up.

The next day we suited up and started off in the rain anxious to get to Helena, MT. As the miles rolled by the sky cleared up, and we drank in the spacious skies of the state that is aptly named the Big Sky Country.  I never imagined that I would be coming full-circle in such a short time since staring my trip, but life has a way of bringing the unexpected, and sometimes it works out better than any plan you could make! Stay tuned!

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