Tuesday, December 1

The Kodiak Report

I've got a lot to cover this week, so I'm gonna start by knocking out my "review" of the most controversial tire in the history of the 29'er forum on MTBR, the Kodiak by WTB/Niner. The backlash and hate spewing caused by the introduction of this tire that was three years in the making has The Great Rampage Siege of aught six seem like a friendly affair. Here's what the pundits are saying:

"I thought how could anyone think that is a good tire design."

"They look bumpy but not bitey."

"When my tires get worn enough to look like these, I replace them because they've stopped gripping."

"I must admit I didn't like the look of the tread design, the intermediate knob's look wrong..."

and some quotes from folks who actually rode it:

"...generally, it’s harder to get a wire bead tire to bead up tubeless."

"I found the Kodiak quite terrifying at virtually any pressure on our granite rock/pea gravel trails around Boulder."

"These Kodiak tires are AMAZING up here in Fort Collins, just 40 minutes north of you."

"I noticed that the Kodiak climbed well, gave a nice ride over rocks and roots, and cornered like it was on rails."

All the above quotes were taken totally out of context and should be given absolutely no regard whatsoever.

Never one to buy too much into what the "experts" have to say I wanted to give the Kodiak a try. I buy more into the marketing angle of things than what people actually say about a product. What's the 411 "The Man" wants you to know?

A 2.5'" monster, this Niner exclusive tire is the burliest rubber you can spec on your 29” bike. Made with WTB's High Grip DNA™ rubber compound, the tread is specifically designed for fast, gnarly, technical descending. The WTB Inner Peace™ sidewall reinforcement has your back when it comes to pinch flat protection, sidewall stiffness and keeping tire damage to a minimum. Finally, the wire bead means less bead stretch and better rim retention when you do push the limits of your riding. 29x2.5", 1400 grams, 50 Durometer, 27 TPI.

Yummy, a little marketing spew for breakfast. Tastes good, doesn't it?

Knowing that my boy George (not my Boy George) at is a Niner dealer (the only folks able to sell the Kodiak are Niner dealers) I hit him up to get one for my very own. He jumped through some hoops to get it to Charlotte in time for my ride in the mountains last Saturday, so Friday I knew it was my solemn duty to mount this tire up sans tubes even if "...generally, it’s harder to get a wire bead tire to bead up tubeless." I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get this stubborn bastard mounted, but was unimpressed with the challenge. Although G-Ted said "I had to use a steel lever to mount these on the Gordos" my tire went on with one plastic tire lever and a short prayer to Krom. Either my tire had a looser bead than Ted's, my Flow rim was superior to his Gordo, or I possess the strength of three Teds. Anyways, the tire popped right up snug to the bead, and I set the pressure at 12PSI for Saturday's ride.

The riding in Wilson's Creek is rather demanding. The lion's share of "free riders" with their "big hit bikes" generally stay at this end of Pisgah for a reason. The trails are steep, rocky, unsustainable, and way fun. This time of year most of the big, nasty rocks are hidden under a blanket of leaves, and high speeds and rigid forks are usually rewarded with scary moments and off the bike acrobatics. This is the kind of riding that had me wanting for something more than a Rampage 2.3. Something to take the edge off and allow me to up my speed to a somewhat less cautious level. The Kodiak is that tire.

I found myself going almost as fast as I would with my four inch travel Fox Fjork. This was not necessarily always a good thing. The tire provided an ample amount of traction and comfort, but the hidden rocks were occasionally bottoming out the tire on the rim. There was no damage done to the rim, but the sound made me wince when I heard it. As I mentioned yesterday my confidence got the better of me, and I was launching into the unknown more often than I shoulda been, and it cost me a bloody nose, but that was my fault and not the tire's. I probably woulda wrecked on any bike with any tire that time.

I tried to explain to my fellow riders how the space between my knobs didn't need another knob as I had more knobs on the ground than I knew what to do with.

I did not do a good job explaining it to them.

I also tried to test the traction limits by landing on Eric PMBAR Honcho Wever's head, but unfortunately he was much to quick in getting out of the way.

When I got home it was apparent that I had pushed the tire a bit too far with a rigid fork. With only 12 PSI I managed to sneak some pine needles past the bead, so I decided to ramp it up to 13 PSI for Sunday's ride.

On Sunday I hit one of the more technically challenging trails in Charlotte, The Backyard. I stuffed it into greasy corners, rolled some of the bouldery stuff, jumped the jumpy stuff, stunted some stunty stuff, and hucked some hucky stuff. Even at 13 PSI the tire still bottomed out on the rim, but I never lost traction once. I pushed it a little past my comfort level on some of the greasier corners, and it still didn't slide or wash out. I'll be bumping up the pressure till I get to the point where I'm not bottoming out the tire so often, but I'm still enjoying the mucho gracias traction. I'm guessing somewhere on the softer side of 15PSI is where I'll end up eventually.

So did I like the tire? Sure. It makes a great winter tire for me with tons of traction, loads of training weight, and a fair dinkum more comfort. I'll still be anxious to try the Dissent when it comes out, but this thing has got to be the burliest thing out there right now. I would imagine those folks with longer travel 29'ers will have a blast with these things as they'll spend more time riding and less time fixing pinch flats, and if you're a rigid rider looking for some cushion and fall riding security this certainly fits the bill. I'm gonna try to find some of that pea gravely loose stuff somewhere close by and see for myself if the tred design truly is "completely underwhelming" as one of the experts put it.

Thanks to Eric for the ride pictures/video and George at for the rubber.


The Evil MGE! said...

my 208 lb girth would have that tire acting as though flat at 13 psi. 13 psi really? Just call me a fatty.

As for you trying to find the pea gravely in North Carolina that compares to Colorado's. Forgettaboutit! Nothing compares out east to the ball bearing decomposing granite.

Its gonna have its haters but as a fatty who loves a fatty, I want me one!

Anonymous said...

14.625 is the sweet spot.

Nerd On A Bike said...

Tire reviews make about as much sense as Ron Jeremy reviewing condoms. They're never going to fit correctly and he'll have a different application for them on each 'ride.'

The folks on MTBR need to learn how to debate the virtues of a product without getting all butt hurt.
Case in point, this informative debate To Shim Or Not To Shim on,4/You-can-never-have-enough-shims,1

Doug Brummett said...

Did you seriously use "yummy" and "spew" in the same sentence describing the contents of your breakfast??? Ewe gross.

I'm with fatty, 13psi is laughable for my budweiser clyde stature. Even if it is a 2.5in 1400g tire, that still won't fly.

ExtrmTao said...

I hate people who can't "mount" things properly. . . That said I have my fatty on order. Its about time us 29erisers get a real tire.

dougyfresh said...

Great minds think alike. I put my WTB ExiWolfs (29x2.3) on the other week. Been running them between 15 and 20psi. Coupled with the 90mm of pure leftiness its been a fun ride.

You better get a hall pass for Dec 29, 30 or 31. Pisgah is calling!

Word verification: guoilag
Is that like gulag from mad max?

evasive said...

As one of the 'pundits' above I'm glad you gave me the out of pointing out the lack of context...

I've been impressed with it. It certainly beats the crap out of anything currently available to the unconnected. Maybe I'll like the Dissent more, but I'm pleased with the Kodiak so far.

And I'm 225 before gear, running mine in the mid-teens. Felt a couple bottom-outs at 12-13 psi.

Enel said...

I need to drop the pressure on the Dissent. My wussitude about pinch flats from prior tires has me keeping it in the low 20s...too much as i don't remember banging the rim yet.

Thanks for the reminder.