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.
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.
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.
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.