Friday, January 31, 2014

The $20 Tire Review

Kenda Telonix DTC 26x2.20

Tires have three jobs: provide traction on steep uphills, stick to the ground in corners, and keep control during braking.  Bonus points go to tires that last well and don't cost too much money.  The true measure of a quality tire is how little you think about it.  When a tire is capable of precise control without distracting from the ride, it is doing its job right.  In the right conditions, Kenda's Telonix DTC 2.2 tire does exactly that.  It is a grabby little tire that fits the bill for an aggressive tire and is available at a very attractive price.  Is it the right tire for you? Keep reading past the break to learn more.

Telonix 2.2's can be bought for about $20 plus shipping on various internet bike suppliers.  Even for a tire with a relatively low MRSP of $64, that's a huge discount.  So why are they so cheap?  Besides some of the stock being OEM and a few years old, the tread on these tires is unusual in ways that might scare away some riders.  For starters, the center knobs are very tall.  Some might see a disadvantage in rolling resistance.  The tread is also very closely spaced.  In contrast to a true mud tire like the Wetscream, which also has tall knobs, the Telonix has much less space between spikes.  Tires with closely spaced knobs are thought to pick up gratuitous amounts of mud.  The Telonix differs from many recent tire designs that capitalize on a high volume casing.  Big tires with round profiles and low knobs are great for hardpack trails, but fail to offer the type of traction needed for a wet Pacific Northwest winter.  The Telonix offers large amounts of traction without the price tag and short lifespan of a soft tire.  

I ordered my Telonix tire in early December, along with a Minion DHF 2.5 EXO.  I threw the DHF on the front wheel and the Telonix in the back.  There is not a large difference in width between the two tires at a glance, but the Telonix's tread is noticeably more compact.  Both tires have a square profile due to large cornering knobs, but have very different patterns in the center of the tread.  The DHF has long, ramped block and channels through the blocks in every other row.  The Telonix has some characteristics similar to Maxxis' DHR II, with wide paddle-like tread.  Vertical sipes split the big knobs into three sections.  A ramp on the leading edge and a sharp backside makes it easy to tell in which direction these tires are meant to be run. In between the paddles are spikes reminiscent of mud tires.  The sidewalls aren't as stiff as Maxxis EXO tires, but they are much more supportive than on Kenda's Nevegal XC tires.  I run the Telonix at my normal 35 psi for a rear tire.

Climbing with the Telonix is a blast.  It bites into loose dirt with a fury, supporting out-of-saddle efforts in adverse conditions.  Losing traction with this tire is a surprising event because it makes you realize how slick the surface you're climbing up really is. When the tire does slip, it quickly catches again with minimal squirming.  That said, the hard rubber is noticeably less sticky on rocks and roots than a soft tire would be.  These tires come to life while climbing on fresh dirt.  The amount of power that can be transferred from the pedals to the trail is inspiring. When transitioning from seated to standing, the tire holds steady through the dead moment between pedal strokes and allows you to charge up the next punchy climb.  

One criticism of tightly spaced tread is that they hold onto mud.  Going from traction king to heavy mud surfboard sucks, and although this concern depends on the local consistency of mud, it is a legitimate reason to have loosely spaced knobs.  The Telonix was guilty of getting clogged with mud, but not any more so than the DHF in the front.  On a section of super-saturated trail, the Telonix did a great job of flinging mud away from itself and maintaining traction.  The spikes and tall side knobs did a great job of cutting through the muck and making me feel like I was roosting through ruts on a moto.  Although the tire was sliding through the mud, it still supported pedaling efforts and kept the bike on track in the corners.  

Braking was another area in which the Telonix excels.  While creeping into a rock roll or just trying not to die on a steep trail, the tire feels fully engaged.  Significantly, it easily picks up traction again after getting locked up.  This version's 'normal' rubber hardness in the center tread should help the tire retain its braking grip long after a sticky tire would be worn smooth.

The Telonix's tall side knobs corner well, complimenting the performance of the DHF up front.  Having solid, prominent cornering knobs inspires the confidence to lean the bike over on sketchy turns.  In addition to cornering well, this tire is good at climbing out of ruts.  It tracks well on off-camber sections.  The 'H' shape is a little gimmicky, but it actually provides a very solid side knob.

Descending with the Telonix isn't as carefree as with a sticky tire, but it does a good job of cutting through loose dirt and finding traction underneath.  There are always limits to traction, but the Telonix quietly does its job well and allows you to find your own limits.  

In contrast to tires with a wide contact patch, the Telonix is a scrappy little tire.  Its narrow, grabby tread cuts through muck instead of floating on top.  The greatest aspect of this tire, at least for wet riding, is that it does its job well without being distracting.  After a month of riding, the center tread still looks sharp and the side knobs exhibit minimal wear.  The Telonix brings a ton of performance at a great price, while still available for $20.  This narrow, tread-heavy tire might not be right for you if you ride on trails that look like small roads, or if you weigh your bike before every ride, but it is great for hammering up fireroads and going fast on steep descents.

Disclamer:  This review is not intended to provide factual information about weight, actual size, or durometer readings.  The terms "tubeless," "enduro, " "weight weenie," and "extreme" are not included, and should not be referred to in regards to this article.  In no way, shape, or form should the information provided herein be used on internet forums, with or without intent to distribute.  The following content is provided for the sole purpose of writing a review that isn't 90% advertising copy and 10% jargon-filled fluff.  Olydirt is not responsible for any actions taken by readers, including: thinking, talking, getting in fights with diehard Maxxis fans, online shopping, impulse buying, failing to shop at their local bike shop, marital arguments, bodily injury (personal or otherwise), and biking.

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