April 01, 2021
The odometer just ticked over on 1,000 miles on some tires I've been using for the past few months, Kenda's Flintridge Pro gravel model. I thought I'd pass on some thoughts about them and share who should, and who shouldn't, give this model a try.
I've been riding the Flintridge on a variety of surfaces over the Winter season - pavement, grass, hardpack dirt, and a surface that is very common in my area, decomposed granite. "DG" visually looks like a high school running track and is often used to build community footpaths and bridle trails.
The big selling point of these tires is a nearly-solid center strip design that rolls fast on pavement and dirt roads, with just enough edge knobs to give you cornering control without too much rolling resistance.
One of my bikes, a recent model aluminum Focus Mares with a carbon fork, is able to accept the 40mm wide version of the Flintridge without rubbing. The 40mm should fit most modern "gravel" bikes as well as more recent cyclocross bikes that have been designed with larger tires in mind.
If you have an older cyclocross bike with more limited frame and fork clearance, you can also get the Flintridge in a 35mm version for broader compatibility. It's the same tread shape and design on a narrower casing, more likely to fit in older frames and forks. You lose a little bit of air volume, but gain clearance... check your bike specs to be sure.
The Kenda Flintridge tubeless setup was pretty similar to my recent experiences with other makes/models of cyclocross and gravel tires. I had trouble getting the bead seated on DT Swiss tubeless-compatible rims using only a floor pump. A quick blast of compressed air and they popped right into place. That's similar to Maxxis, Challenge, and Donnelly tires I've tried on the same wheelset.
Once the beads were seated, I added sealant and found the tires retained air well. From that point forward the pressure can be maintained with a traditional floor pump or compressor, if desired, for convenience.
Make sure you're grabbing the "GCT" or "SCT" (sidewall casing technology) labeled version if you intend to run without tubes. These have a reinforced tire sidewall designed to be run tubeless, and are specifically approved for use with liquid sealants. My tubeless setups lately have used Caffelatex tire sealant, but Stan's, Squirt, Hutchinson, Schwalbe and other brand sealants should work just as well. In the dry, desert SoCal air, I get about 60 days of life before the sealant dries up, at which point I refresh them by adding sealant; either breaking the bead or by injecting more through the presta valve core.
I've been running these tires in the mid-30 PSI range, which works well for my 160 pound weight. This is a good compromise for the mixed surface rides I've been doing - roll out of the neighborhood on pavement, hit a decomposed granite community trail to get out of town, and then riding on hardpack dirt roads.
The high-end versions of the Flintridge use a nice, supple 120 TPI casing to help the tire conform to the terrain.
Kenda says: "this design was invented for, and inspired by, the sharp jagged rocks in the hills of Kansas." We don't really have those in my desert-climate riding area, but nonetheless, the Flintridge Pro worked great for my local riding conditions - a mix of pavement, bridle trails, gravel, and dirt roads, and I strongly recommend it for those conditions. Locally, it would be a great choice for events like the Redlands Strada Rossa ride.
It's been a dry Winter here, but I did get to test the Flintridge on a couple wet days. It doesn't perform as well in the wet compared with the dry results. I was able to get the rear tire to slip on slick surfaces (think damp cobblestones). The same center ridge design that rolls so fast on pavement works against the tire in wet conditions - I would have preferred a "chevron" shape on the rear for more grip on wet terrain.
Because the Flintridge uses many small, closely-spaced knobs, it isn't a good choice for mud. Mud quickly fills those gaps and doesn't readily escape. Choose a model with wider-spaced knobs designed to clear mud if you ride in those conditions regularly.
Riders who want a high-volume, comfortable tire to explore gravel and dirt roads in dry conditions will find the Flintridge an excellent match. It's a great choice for a wider tire to use on your cyclocross bike for off-season training rides, giving some additional comfort. Riders in wet areas, though, will be better served by a tire with a different tread shape that better handles water and mud.
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