Reviewed: Kenda Nevegal Tire

By Matthew Montross

Tires are something that I obsess over – weight, rolling resistance, casing, size, pressure, and trail conditions all contribute to defining what makes the ideal tire on a given day. Sheldon Brown said that tires affect ride quality more than frame material, and I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with him.

In this post I’m going to be reviewing the Kenda Nevegal. Now, to be fair, Kenda is a sponsor of mine, and their tires have been a great asset. They have many models in a variety of sizes and although you can get the popular Karma, Nevegal and Small Block 8 models from most distributors, it can be hard to find the exact width and casing configuration you’re looking for.

The Kenda Nevegal comes in many size offerings, and the 26 x 1.95 is my favorite. The web is littered with Nevegal reviews, but everything I could find was for the wider 26″ models or the 29 x 2.2″. So, here are my thoughts on the 1.95 version.

First of all, these are awesome tires, and the 26 x 1.95 is the narrowest and correspondingly lightest option. I consider them the “Diet Nevegals” as they offer most of the ride with 35% less weight…or something like that.

I first rode the 2.1 version and liked their predictable handling and deceptively smooth roll for such a wide and knobby tire. Still, at over 600 grams they were a little too heavy for regular XC use and I could feel that on faster pedaling sections I was working a little harder than I needed to. The 2.1 is worth a look when things get slimy in really thin, slick mud and maintaining your line and keeping momentum is more important that fast rolling.

With that positive experience I figured a slightly narrower and lighter version would make a great option; it has been nothing short of amazing. I rode most of my early season on a set of these and only on a couple of occasions in very dry or very wet conditions did I wish I made a different choice. While I won’t say that this tire is excellent at everything it is very predictable in all conditions.

This tire is best suited to intermediate terrain – if it’s super dry hardpack then the Small Block 8 is a better option, and if it’s very slick or muddy then a Karma or Blue Groove would be preferrable, but in pretty much everything else the Nevegal is the king. For sandy and loamy trails with rocks and slick roots it doesn’t get any better than this tire.

The ramped and semi-soft Stick-E rubber treadblocks are good at balancing rolling with traction and make what would otherwise be a blocky tire roll well. The profile of this tire is pretty square, meaning that the contact patch is pretty wide and more of the outer lugs are in contact with the ground when rolling straight. Because more of these lugs are on the ground it really helps that they’re ramped.

This wide lugged contact patch is part of what defines these tires and where most of their stability comes from. When the conditions change quickly there’s a reassuring amount of rubber on the ground that produces inspiring amounts of traction.

The downside of that stability is, of course, slower rolling. On twisty courses I’ve been able to stay with riders on smoother tires because I can carry more speed through the corners, but if the terrain involves long climbs or extended grass sections you’ll end up working harder than necessary with the Nevegal.

As I mentioned above these are great tires and a very good addition to any racer or rider’s tire quiver. They’re my do-it-all tire and what I run when I’m heading out to ride unfamiliar terrain or in variable conditions. The stability and predictability make them capable in literally every condition, but best suited to those in the middle. Hardcore racers will want to run something smoother on true hardpack or in deep mud, but for technical terrain or unknown course conditions this tire is unbeatable.

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