Reviewing mountain bike tyres can be a very tricky task. And to validate that point, all you need to do is ask the mechanic at your local bike shop what tyres their customers swear by, then be prepared for a myriad of responses. What works for some doesn’t work for others, and that can come down to a lot of things. Trail condition is the obvious one, but there are more variables that muddy the waters; rim width, 26″ or 29″, tubed or tubeless, pressures, suspension setup and riding style are all factors that can affect how well or how poorly your treads hookup. We’ve heard riders praise tyres that we’ve absolutely despised, and there are tyres that we’d bet our grandmums life on to keep you upright, that others find to be a deathtrap. With that in mind, it takes a lot of time and patience to test a tyre through controlled (and uncontrolled) conditions, and a change of just 2 psi in pressure can mean the difference between a sweet setup, and a dud.
In the grand scheme of things, Rubena is still a relatively new player to the Australian market, but courtesy of the winning performances of Aussie MTB heroes Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell, it’s a name that is quickly becoming more spoken in shops around the country. Rubena hails from the Czech Republic, which is where all their top-end tyres are manufactured too. They share some similarities with German rivals Schwalbe, in that they have a terrible website and a plethora of tread, casing, rubber and compound options available that can make for a pretty intimidating process for the unfamiliar.
That aside, we’ve had a couple of Rubena tyres on review lately, including the blisteringly quick Zefyros and grippy Scylla treads that Mikkeli has been praising on his TWE long termer. Our Canberran correspondent, Shane Taylor, has also been darting around on the ‘Endurance’ casing version of the Scylla tyre, which adds a beefier construction for added sidewall protection and stability when running low pressures. Most of our experience has been positive, so the pair of Kratos tyres that showed up in the office has been met with high expectations for what is an otherwise unknown tread to us. Read on for our 1st impressions.
Rubena Kratos Tyres
– Dimensions: 29 x 2.25″
– Casing: 127 tpi
– Available models: Racing Pro or Tubeless Supra (tested)
– Available Compounds: Standard CRX or Greyline (tested)
– Claimed weight: 695 grams
– RRP: $89.95
With the Zefyros filling duties as the semi-slick speed demon, and the Scylla beefing up the tread for a more capable all-round XC option, the Kratos goes bigger again with a meatier width of 2.25″ and taller shoulder knobs to improve cornering grip in loose conditions.
Despite the extra knobbage, the Kratos still comes in under 700 grams per tyre (claimed), which puts it in the very respectable weight range given its tubeless compatibility. You may have noticed the grey stripes down the side, and that’s because we’ve got the ‘Greyline’ model on test, which uses a softer silica compound through the sides of the tyres that is softer and grippier than the centreline compound. The tradeoff is supposedly wear resistance. You can also get the Kratos tyre in the standard CRX rubber compound, which loses the grey stripes and about $10 per tyre.
Speaking of options, like most Rubena MTB tyres, the Kratos can be had in both standard (Racing Pro) and tubeless compatible (Tubeless Supra – tested) versions, though for the 45 gram weight penalty, it would seem silly to even bother with the non-tubeless model. Rubena make a bit of a song and dance about their “3-in-1” tubeless system, which essentially means that their tyres are compatible with UST tubeless rims, regular rims with a tubeless kit, or simply with tubes and any old rim. The bead uses an airtight rubber layer that extends a little way up inside the tyre, though you require sealant in order to make the tyre airtight throughout. Rubena manufacture their own tubeless sealant, and they also produce tubeless valves, rim strips and full conversion kits too.
Thus far we’ve had no issues with setting up our Kratos test tyres on Stans ZTR Crest 29er rims, and they seem to have a good balance between rolling resistance and cornering bite. It’s only the beginning however, as we’ve got a big schedule or racing and epic trail rides to put the Rubenas through their paces this coming season.
The Bicycle Peddler
Phone: +61 3 9763 1007