Kenda Happy Medium Clincher Tire
Review: Kenda Happy Medium Clincher TireBy Elaine Bothe | Published May 6, 2012
What's one of the toughest decisions you'll make on race day? For me, it's tire choice. I've previewed a perfectly dry, hardpack course on one day, or, even in the morning and have the skies open up by race time. Surprise! Or, even more fun, halfway through a race. Also, the opposite happens... wet and muddy for a preview and dry except in a few tricky spots by race time. Ideally we'd all have a full wardrobe of tires spanning all conditions, all mounted up on full sets of wheels, in the pit along with a highly skilled assistant just waiting for our finicky selves to show up.
What, you don't have an assistant? No big array of wheels? The next best thing is to have a fabulous all-around tire, all mounted up on the bike you're actually riding. The Kenda Happy Medium comes close. I got to test this tire in the winter, where in Portland we can actually get some pretty dry weather as well as our usual cold sloppy rain.
I like how fast and smooth the Happy Medium tire rolls on pavement wet or dry and hardpack. It's also solid and fast in gravel. The Happy Medium has good traction on dry to lightly damp grass. The Happy Medium doesn't fear wet mud with a hard surface underneath either. Fast corners and sweepers are smooth and predictable.
I love how the tire transitions to tighter corners smoothly. Traction increases as you get onto the beefy knobs at the edge of the tire but in a predicable way. Roots and uneven surfaces don't slow down the Happy Medium. No surprises, you have the right amount of grip right when you need it.
I also love the variety of sizes Kenda offers in the Happy Medium tread pattern. Want to go gravel racing or touring? Or maybe do a short track MTB race on your cyclocross bike? Mount up the beefy 700 x 40C width if you can wedge it under your fork and cruise down the road in comfort. Want a faster tire? the 32 width comes in a tubless option too. Or, in true Happy Medium form, the middle 35C size, while not UCI-approved, will cover most of your bases nicely.
I appreciate how the Kenda Happy Medium is not trying to be an aggressive deep mud tire. So it's not great in the slippery or sticky clay mud or really wet grass, but due to the aggressive side knobs the Happy Medium is much better than some other "all-around" tires. When the mud gets deep enough, the side knobs take over where the center tread can't keep up. This increases the versatility tremendously.
I love the reasonable price. The MSRP may be on the high side of average, but since this is a grippy fast rolling tire that's great in many conditions, it's almost like you really are getting two tires in one!
We Didn't Like
I didn't like how really sticky mud builds up and fills the center treads. The Happy Medium clears the mud after a while, but the tight spacing of the center tread hangs onto the slop longer than I'd like.
I don't like how I unfortunately didn't find a nice deep dusty course yet to test the Happy Medium. Everything I've ridden so far has been wet and muddy or fairly to completely dry. If this tire has even some of the great dust handling capabilities of its cousin the Kenda Small Block Eight, I'd be thrilled, but we'll have to wait and see! I'll keep you posted.
OK, so those two "didn't like" comments are being picky. On the serious side, I don't like the weight of this tire. At 390 grams, or .85 lbs (by my scale, 385 by Kenda's) this sturdiness keeps the Kenda Happy Medium off my weight-weenie list of favorite A-race tires. That doesn't mean I don't love it for a training tire or a pit wheel tire when you don't know what's going to happen. While the tested 35 size is not UCI-approved, serious racers will be looking at the 32 anyway. Unfortunately the 32 still weighs in at 380 grams according to Kenda.
The Final Say
The Kenda Happy Medium tire really is two tires in one. In many ways but not the way you think.
It's a really great handling, versatile training tire as well as maybe the ideal pit wheel tire when you're not sure what the weather is going to do. If you're a hardcore racer, mount up a pair of Happy Mediums to your heavy training wheels and ride the heck out of them. Enjoy, because this is a fun tire! Then on race day, put a different set of wheels on your bike with a lighter tire -- your best guess for the conditions that day -- and put your training wheels in the pits. If something happens and you have to pit, chances are your race is already over, but at least you can still have some fun on the day.
The Happy Medium is also a very good choice if you're on a budget or like to commute and race on your bike, because you only have one bike or one set of wheels. Again, two tires in one: commuter and race!
The versatility, great handling characteristics, smart tread design and reasonable price make the Kenda Happy Medium earn a spot in your tire wardrobe. It's a go-to tire for a lot of riding and fun, confident racing in many conditions, for everyone... except the weight weenies!
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- Happy Medium 700 x 35C Clincher
- Kenda Happy Medium Cyclocross
- 390 grams
- Folding bead, dual compound construction, with Kenda's harder "L3R Pro" compound in the center for durability and the softer "STICK-E" compound at the edges for increased traction.
700 x 35C (tested), also available in a beefy 40C width as well as two versions in the 32C width. The 32C is also available for tubeless appilcations.
We tested the standard 35C clincher tire with inner tubes, though a tubless version in the narrower 32C size is availalbe. The clincher mounted up a little more difficult than most tires, but not insanely so.
Kenda describes this tire as "two tires in one" which seems to be true. The hard compound center tread is made up of fast-rolling low-profile diamond shapes, spaced closely together. The outer knobs are designed for aggressive grip while cornering and made of a softer compound. The inner row of knobs are shaped to transition smoothly as you roll into a corner.