Experienced rider at Wiggle, Geoff McComb, took Hutchinson Kraken RLab MTB tyre out for a spin to get a measure of these beasts.
Tyres are unsung heroes of cycling; they can transform your riding experience dramatically for a relatively small investment when compared to upgrading wheels or components.
Mountain bike tyres, in particular, have a lot of variables to deal with, and a single ride can involve a range of testing conditions.
Having a well thought out tread, a good sidewall, and a clever rubber compound means you can almost forget what your wheels are doing and instead concentrate further down the trail.
I tested a pair of Hutchinson Kraken RLab tyres in 29” x 2.3” with tan sidewalls for four months and here is what I found.
This is the first pair of tan wall tyres I’ve put on any MTB and, I have to say, they look great. The graphics on the sidewall are bold and professional and make the tyre look quality.
The tyres were mounted onto Mavic Crossmax Carbon wheels, which are tubeless ready and fitted to a 100mm XC hardtail. Fitting the tyres was straight forward, with tyre levers only required for the final push. They inflated first time using sealant and a tubeless blaster pump, and they held pressure immediately. I set them to 24psi up front and 26psi on the rear - the pressures I normally run.
My riding would be classed as XC/Trail - exactly what the Kraken is designed for. I rode them on both trail centre and natural trails throughout the test.
Comfort and support
As soon as the tyres touched the trail they felt good and after three corners I was fully comfortable.
The sidewalls are strong but supple, allowing the tyre to mould itself into the surface. Only once did I “ping” the rear wheel through rocks and that day I was running 15psi in the back, just to see how low I could go.
As you lean into a corner, the tread supports you as you move from the centre of the tyre to the outer edge. There is no “falling” feeling as you lean, which I’ve experienced with other tyres.
Around 2.3” is as wide as I’d want run for the sort of riding I do. The increased volume of the Kraken compared to the tyres I normally run was evident on the trail, so my shoulders were big fans of the Krakens before long.
They cushioned out the roughest parts, meaning I used less energy to keep the bike on the trail and felt I could ride for longer.
Perfect mix of grip and speed
As XC tracks and trails have become more technical, the fine balance between grip and rolling resistance has become increasingly important. Too grippy and the tyres will drag when the trail is flat or on climbs. Likewise, if the compound is too hard you lose grip over rocks, roots, and in the wet. The compound on the Kraken is the perfect mix; fast rolling and hard wearing. Yet, there is more than enough grip on off-camber sections, rocks, roots, and in the rain.
Varied conditions – best on slightly damp trails
I rode in a variety of conditions, from bone dry to wet trails. For me, the Krakens performed at their best when the trail was slightly damp and the tread could dig in. If I knew there were a few weeks of dry weather coming, I’d follow Hutchinson’s advice and swap to a Skeleton while leaving a Kraken on the front for extra bite during turns.
Puncture resistant, comfortable, grippy, and fast
After four months of riding, I’ve had no punctures and the tyres have only needed topped up with air three times. The compound has that magical mix of grip and speed, perfect for an XC tyre. The sidewalls provide plenty of support, even at lower pressures. Being on the wider side for an XC tyre, they are comfortable during a long day in the saddle.