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Long-Term Test: Kenda Regolith Pro

When's the last time you ran a tire for a full year?

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Basics

Available in 2.2 or 2.4 widths
Two casing options
Dual-compound rubber
26, 27.5, or 29 diameter


Pros

Fast-rolling
Great in the dry, good in the wet
Hooks up when you want, but will cut loose upon request
SCT casing light but burly

Cons

Side-knobs don’t hook up well as a front tire
TR casing rolls very easily
Packs up quickly in thick mud


Versatility is an exercise in compromise, especially when it comes to tires. Let’s be honest, most of us run different rubber front to back, dry to wet and bike to bike. Specificity is usually a very positive attribute in the tire department—a tire designed for wet riding is usually very good at riding in the wet, but probably not the best on hard, dry surfaces. Likewise, a sparsely-knobbed dry tire will fly in its ideal conditions, but will put you straight on your ass in the wet. 

But what if your riding isn’t as specialized as some tires are? What if you’ve got a supremely versatile modern trail bike that you want to ride on all surfaces and conditions without swapping tires multiple times a season? Is there an all-conditions tire that can keep up with the Joneses? 

The Regolith Pro arrived in my garage just over a year ago, and I haven’t been so excited to try out a tire since Tioga’s Edge 22 came out a few years ago. One might think, and Kenda does declare, of the Regolith as a mid-duty, do-it-all trail tire. Sort of a little sibling to the infamous Nevegal, the Regolith is a bump up from an XC small block and the burlier breed of tires out there meant mostly for gravity riding.

Over a year of use later and still going strong. As a general-duty rear tire, the Regolith Pro is a new favorite.

Kenda makes the tire in three different widths and two different casing options. There’s the XC/Marathon-oriented TR (Tubeless Race) casing, followed by the burlier SCT (Sidewall Casing Technology) option. Imaginative naming aside, the two casings offer a useable range of protection/strength, especially when you can get either casing in either 2.2, 2.4 or 2.6 widths. As for wheel sizes, all options are available in 27.5 or 29, and there are even three 26-inch choices.

But onto weights, the Regolith is right in line with most light-duty trail tires out there, falling in the mid-800g range depending on width/casing choices. For reference, the Maxxis Rekon posts similar weights—the Regolith 29×2.4 SCT runs 827g and the Maxxis Rekon 29 2.4 EXO+ 840g. As for the 29×2.2 TR option tested, it’ll come in at 683g, which is also fairly in line with the Rekon 29×2.2 EXO at 670g. Of course, many pure-bred XC tires will come in much lower on the scale, but after riding the Regolith, it seems like its “XC” aims are more of BCXC.

I spent most of the test period on the 2.4 SCT option of the Regolith, in fact, it’s been aired up since it arrived in my garage. I spent a not unreasonable amount of time on the 2.2 TR option as well aboard my hardtail. However, I think the intended use case for that version is much narrower and focusing on the 2.4 SCT will be more applicable to more riders. 

The SCT casing punches well above its weight-class. You can see the stress marks from rolling, however it’s yet to really give up support when asked to dance.

Back to the topic of casings and weight, let’s talk about those metrics in the affective. The SCT casing feels fairly similar to a Maxxis EXO+ casing or even a WTB Light casing, in that it is still a fairly light-weight design (literally, look at the weight), but still provides adequate mitigation for slashes, pinch flats and casing roll. While I did feel a bit of casing roll here and there, I never burped any air and I have yet to flat either. Some of this might have to do with the softer, less rocky terrain of the PNW, but then again, it’s not as if this area lacks rough terrain.

As for the TR casing, it is very supple and accelerates quickly with its lighter weight. However, I was rarely able to get through a ride without losing air due to burping. I’ll be clear here, I think this has as much to do with my riding style and weight (230lbs) as it does with the tire casing. I have similar issues with Maxxis EXO casing and similar lightweight casings. However, the TR is geared toward the ups, not the downs, and in that regard, it performs well. I wouldn’t say the construction itself has any standout features over that of other tires, but it doesn’t have any glaring drawbacks either. That being said, I never pinch flatted or tore the 2.2 TR Regolith, even after a year of use—that’s very rare for me and lightweight casings.

The 2.2 TR left, 2.4 SCT right. For XC-oriented riding, stay left, but for everything else, make the right decision.

Back to the SCT casing, despite being completely adequate for normal “trail” riding, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as something like a Maxxis DD, WTB Heavy or Schwalbe Super Gravity casing. You can definitely feel that the Regolith is more supple in the sidewalls, which does lend a better trail feel (and around 200g less mass) than the heavier casings, but those heavier casings are more supportive overall. Even with its lighter feel, I don’t think the Regolith would shy away from use on bigger rigs under riders who subscribe to a more-scalpel, less-cleaver, approach to line choice.

Nearly 900 words in and I’ve only talked about casings and weight. While I may be droning on, I think those two aspects of the Regolith are what set it apart from other tires. Notice I didn’t say, in this category. Because the Regolith, as hinted at above, doesn’t really fall solely into a category. Its SCT casing punches above the trail category, but its weight comes in far less than the bigger, more aggressive tires out there.

Of course, weight and casings are only two slices of the tire pie—tread pattern and rubber durometer are equally as influential. Kenda uses a dual-compound rubber across the Regolith range, and for the Regolith 2.4, the mid-spaced, mid-height tread pattern outperforms most other tires I’ve run in this category.

The straight-line traction of the Regolith is quite impressive, feeling like a much more aggressive tire than it actually is. 

In a straight line, the Regolith 2.4 rolls well, perhaps in line or very slight slower than a Maxxis Forekaster 2.3. It’s not XC race quick, even in the 2.2 TR option (which is faster than the Forekaster), but for rough marathon-style rides or all-day epics, the Regolith nicely balances speed with grip. Say, blend the rolling speed of a Forekaster 2.3 with darn near the traction of a DHR II 2.3.

In this way, the Regolith is impressive in its versatility. But, like the term “versatility” usually implies, the Regolith subscribes to some give and take in its performance.

First and foremost, I would not run the Regolith as a front tire on a trail bike. In an XC application, where you’re more concerned with straight speed and expect to slide around every corner, the Regolith is adequate. It actually feels quite similar to the Forekaster, albeit with a bit better performance on straight light traction.

But on a modern trail bike where you can really push limits, the Regolith lacks the side knob depth to really bite into corners. The tire has a round profile with mid-sized blocks, which leads to a predictable, but very early, break-away point in traction. I found myself understeering left and right, not able to really square up turns I normally can. Again, it’s not unrideable, but there are other tires, like the Tioga Edge 22, that are much better front-specific options.

One year of wear left, a few rides as front tire on the right.

Now, what about as a rear tire? The Regolith is simply amazing. Many of the aspects that make the Regolith a sub-par front tire really lend the tire to duty out back. Its round profile and equally-sized knobs lend to a very predictable breakaway point, and the knobs are spaced as such that there isn’t a gap between the center and side knobs where traction falls off briefly. As mentioned above, it isn’t a tire that bites—it has a more “clawing” effect. It’ll let you square up with ease when you want, but in long turns, there’s a very manageable traction edge to feather—it isn’t an all-or-nothing traction pathos. The Regolith is a great option for riders who want a tire that will step out on request, but otherwise falls in line.

In a straight line, the Regolith offers a surprising amount of both braking and climbing traction—the knobs are tall enough to finger their way into most soil types but not too tall as to squirm over hardpack or rocks. The first ride I did on the Regolith, I consistently made climbs I fully expected not to make, bike setup otherwise unchanged. It feels like there’s an extra 5-percent “extra” traction than what’s expected from the mid-sized knobs, letting you put down just a few more watts up the hill, or pull the brake lever a little bit more before skidding. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s entirely noticeable on the trail. Couple it with a more than adequate rolling speed for the category, and you have a very hard tire to beat.

While the TR casing weeps sealant from all the casing rolls, it holds pressure well and has never gotten a flat. 

In the wet, the Regolith is still exemplary, but when wet turns to mud, things go downhill. The mid-sized blocks lack the height to bite into slimy soil, and the tread pattern doesn’t clear very well on the side knobs, where knobs are packed tighter than the rest of the tire. I make the distinction between “wet” and “mud” terrain as the Regolith performs well on wet roots, rocks and saturated but sandy soil, while only dipping in performance in actual mud. I see this being particularly applicable in flow/modern trail settings where you’re less likely to encounter deep mud patches, rather needing performance over rock armoring, wet wood or high-speed, well-drained man-made features.

Where does all this leave us with the Regolith? The Regolith is an incredibly versatile tire, in specific applications. As a front tire, I can only see XC use cases, perhaps as a burly or wet XC option. However, as a rear tire, especially under modern trail bikes, the Regolith is an excellent do-it-all option that you could run all year long, be it in the ultra-dry, shoulder season showers or deep-winter wet. It rolls quite well, nearly approaching larger XC tire speeds, yet competes with much burlier tires in the traction department. Versatility always comes with caveats, but the Regolith has a knack for mitigating them.