Trek Cross, Kenda Kommandos

Kenda Kommandos – first glance

A lot has been going on. I must apologize for any inconveniences on moving over the new site and slowness in responding to orders. But in the long run this work will be worth it for Adventure Monkey! OK, enough of that.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, registration for the DK200 is happening THIS SATURDAY! It is expected to fill up quick. If you want in on one epic bicycle race through the Flint Hills of Kansas be ready on Saturday morning. Here’s the link. You can sign up for Pablove Grub when you register too. If you are feeling moved to join the Pablove-Adventure Monkey Team after you register, please do. It’s a great cause. And since the DK200 is coming up I am doing what most people do before the DK200…

…thinking over tire choice.

My latest attempt at finding the perfect tires for the DK200 is the Kenda Kommando. Here’s why:

  • I want more tread on my rear tire (been using a city “slick”)
  • I want light tires
  • I want tires with puncture protection
  • I want fast rolling tires
  • I am on a budget

The Kommandos had everything I was looking for, or so it seemed.

When I opened the package they came in, I was a little underwhelmed on the tread size. It just looked bigger in all the pictures I had seen. The tread is pretty minimal, but it is there. They will be fast rolling for sure, but will I have some grab for the rocky hills? We would soon see.

I mounted them on without much issue. I am running them with tubes. I put then on in the “hardpack” direction for speed. After I mounted them. I stepped back to take a look. They looked rather skinny on the bike.

Trek XO with Kenda Kommandos

But until now, I have run a MTBK tire on the front which gives me more cushion for the 200 miles of gravel. With two 35’s on the bike it looks almost roadie to me, but I’m just not used to it yet. I have been running a 1.9 Kenda Karma on the front. It looks big and has a lot of float which gives me a very cushioned, comfortable and controlled ride on the rigid cross bike. I wanted to try two thinner tires for speed.

One thing is for sure. If we have muddy conditions I have a lot more clearance with the Kommandos on the bike. But can my wrists, arms, shoulders and neck handle loosing that cushion from a fat front tire? That’s what I wanted to find out.

Kenda Kommando clearance

Kommando tread and clearance

Riding on the pavement to get to the gravel proved that these were some fast rolling tires. It was as close to riding slicks as any tire with tread that I’ve ridden on. The baby tread tread kept quiet on the road.

Once I got to some gravel, I could definitely tell the difference, which was no big surprise. With the skinnier tire on the front the gravel made its presence known to me for sure. There are other opinions out there, but I want the tires to be fast and I do not want to flat so I put 60lbs of pressure in the tires. It makes for a fast ride for sure. My bike felt more agile than it has in awhile. Overall here’s my first impressions after taking them out on 100 miles (two rides) of gravel, some tame some very rough and chunky stuff:

  • They feel fast.
  • They have been tough so far  – no flats or tears from the rough rock.
  • The small tread is adequate, but not great, definitely good enough for gravel. I was surprised a couple of times as I climbed a steep hill and didn’t spin out as I usually do.
  • These won’t help in the corners, but on a 200 mile race it’s not like I am taking the corners at breakneck speeds, but they feel squirrely in loose gravel compared to having a fat MTBK tire on the front (duh). I will have to slow down to take the corners and any big downhills with big, chunky gravel compared to a fatter tire.
  • I have to pay more attention and pick my lines better than having the fat MTBK tire on the front (duh again).
  • The ride is pretty rough on a smaller tire aired up to 60lbs (I know, I stating the obvious here).

But what did I really think, right?

I liked having fast, light and durable tires on the bike for sure. I was definitely faster with these tires. Overall I liked them, but we will see how they do after 1000 miles in the Flint Hills. If they hold up I think they are great gravel grinding tires, especially for the price. I got these for $32 a tire. But that’s for my gravel racing bike. For a comfortable ride, I would not use these, but for a fast durable tire, these seem good so far. But like I said, it will take some more miles to be sure. I am still debating on using this on the front AND rear for the DK200. Comfort is a valuable commodity to have on 200 miles of gravel. Durabilty is second and speed a close third for me anyway. The speed and durability are there. I need to take some long rides to see how I hold up without the float of a MTBK tire.

Here’s a few shots from the first ride.

Horse and bike

Horses usually freak out at the sight of a bicycle, but this one was interested in me so I slowly went to see him. He was rather nervous of the bike and camera, but let me pet him and he even tasted the bike. His buddies would have nothing to do with me. This was a cool experience. I have another pic of him on the Adventure Monkey Facebook page too.

Horses and bikes


Trek Cross, Kenda Kommandos

 Lots of clearance and plenty of speed with the Kommandos

Gravel grinding bike

 Decisions in the Flint Hills

Lone tree in the Flint Hills

 Lone tree

Low maintenance gravel bike ride

 A few muddy spots on the dirt goodness

Low Maintenace Sign

 Low Maintenance on the way home

The wind shifted on me, so I was pedaling into the wind most of the 50 miles I rode. It was a hard ride, but I needed that. I have been having a few health problems on the bike too. Overall tiredness and an ammonia smell in my nose after hard rides. I have read that means I am burning proteins for energy. I am thinking I need to get that all checked out. This happens when it seems like I have enough carbs to eat too, but maybe I need to reevaluate my on the bike nutrition. I’m a work in progress.

Feed Your Monkey!


A couple recommended tires:


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Eric BenjaminKenda Kommandos – first glance

Comments 10

  1. Kevin Collings

    I tried a “skinny” at decent pressure on the front on my last ride too – Maxxis Raze, 35mm, tubeless @ 55 psi. Def should’ve run a lower pressure since the fresh chunky gravel almost rattled some fillings loose.
    I also ran a Schwalbe marathon extreme (mondial now), 40mm, tubeless @ 52 psi on the rear – not as slow rolling as I remember it being, and never gave me trouble in the rough stuff.
    I think on the front I’m going to run a fatter tire – I found a stash of Bontrager XDX 1.75’s that should give me just enough cushion on the front. I’m sticking with the Schwalbe on back though. No screwing around w delicate tires this year.

  2. Ryan Fonkert

    I fun 35c tires at 60-65psi on my bike for gravel grinding, and I love the setup. It’s a nice, fast roll, has plenty of traction, and I haven’t had any comfort problems. Of course, my long gravel rides have been 100 miles, not 200…

  3. Ben Bolin

    Thanks for the photos and write up. I’ll be curious how they do at the 500 mile mark and beyond. You can usually get by on just about any new tire for a couple hundred miles without flat issues.

    I’ve had good luck running the Marathon Extreme 35c at 50-52 psi with tubes. Just enough comfort and they still roll well. You really should try running them in the mid fifty range and see what you think. It’s amazing what a few psi can do to the ride quality. How beefy is the sidewall? Trying to figure out where they cut the weight. It looks like it is in the tread since it isn’t as dense as their stock photos appear. That is where the Marathon packs in the grams. A dense tread pattern.

  4. Jim Smith

    Good review! I’m really digging the Kenda Small Block 8’s in 38 ran around 55 psi front and back with tubes. No issues in about 500 miles, but that was mostly rail-trail and light single track. I’m not sure how they would handle the chuncky stuff.

  5. Eric Benjamin

    Ben – Yeah, I think ANY tire will be OK for a few hundred miles or so. The sidewalls on this felt pretty thick. It seems like a good tire. I’ll try running them at 50 psi for a little more cush. I am going to have to do a few dirty centuries on these to see if I can handle a skinny on the front.

    Chris – that’s good news. The Flint Hills gravel is very harsh on any tire.

    Kevin those XDX’s are great tires too.

  6. Chris Locke

    I have tested the Kommandos for over a year. My favorite tire for gravel. Over 1500 miles with out an issue. I run them tubeless with great success ~ 40 psi on most gravel rides.

  7. Eric Benjamin

    I recently changes some Kenda small block 8’s for a friend. He was getting flats. They seem fast rolling but not very durable for Flint Hills type of gravel.

  8. Jim Smith

    Thanks for the input. I also have a pair of Specialized Borough XC’s in 45c that I’m considering. I’ve heard a few folks have ran them with success.

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