Hutchinson have been making bicycle tires in their Chalette-Sur-Loing, France, factory for a long time now, since 1890 to be exact. Last year, we saw the introduction
of their new Griffus enduro tires, part of their "Racing Lab" program and now they're releasing their Kraken, an XC / trail tire designed with versatility in mind.
The Kraken is designed to be a complementary tire to Hutchinson's Skeleton tire, with the Kraken being used in the front, although it can be used as a rear tire as well. The tire is available in a 29" x 2.3" size with two different casing options, a lightweight 127 TPI and a more versatile 66 TPI. The sidewalls utilize Hutchinson's Hardskin reinforcement and the tires sell for $79.99 USD.
Hutchinson Kraken Details
• Intended use: XC/Trail
• Best for dry, mixed, rocky, or wet conditions
• Wheel size: 29"
• Width: 2.3"
• Hardskin casing reinforcement
• Tubeless ready
• Made in France
• Weight: 127 TPI - 700g (claimed); 66 TPI - 781g (actual)
• MSRP: $79.99 USD
So, what's a Kraken? A quick Wikipedia search returns that it's a "legendary cephalopod-like sea monster of gigantic size in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse sagas, the Kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorizes nearby sailors." For our purposes, it's an XC tire but, it sounds aggressive to me. Design & Construction
Hutchinson's goal in developing the Kraken was to create a fast and reassuring tire with tall knobs to give more confidence in rough terrain. The tire has a larger volume to give more traction and allow riding with lower pressures. While the tread has been inspired by the Skeleton with its chevron shape, its overall design has been modified to improve traction, braking, and versatility. The knobs are higher and with more volume and the chevron has been opened up when comparing to the Skeleton.
The side knobs of the tire are based on Hutchinson's Cobra but taller, to aid in cornering. They draw from the Griffus 2.5 and are linked in pairs, with buttresses running down the sidewall of the tire to strengthen the structure of the tire when being pushed hard into turns. The smaller intermediate knobs are distributed slightly further apart than the ones on the center of the tread. Referencing the sea monster from folklore, Hutchinson claim the knobs are made to work like suction cups on tentacles with the height, positioning, and shape reflecting that. The placement of the knobs is also claimed to improve puncture protection.
There are three rubber compounds used in the tire tread. The base is a harder 65 ShA, the side knobs are 50 ShA, and the center is 60 ShA.Ride Impressions
With 22psi in the front and 23 in the back tire I found that I had ample traction in a variety of conditions, ranging from dry and dusty to rainy, with lots of optimal dirt in-between.
The tires roll well and are predictable. Cornering traction is excellent (for an XC tire) with the taller knobs providing plenty of support. For a trail bike, I would consider the air pressures I was running to be on the low side but, for an XC bike, they are bit higher than I would typically run. The casing is soft and supple enough to allow the higher pressures without losing traction or control on the trail.
The profile of the tire is round, but the side knobs do square it off. Transitioning from the center to the side is smooth and I never felt a dead spot in traction. It makes them predictable and they don't take a lot of thought or too much input to seek out traction in varying conditions on varying terrain. If we were going to compare it to a comparable tire, it's a slightly more aggressive take on the Maxxis Ardent Race with taller side knobs.
I haven't had nearly enough time on the tires yet to comment on their long-term durability, but the one nag I do have is that the tires were more challenging to set up than many other tires I've mounted recently. I ended up having to fire up the air compressor to get a large blast of air in for both the front and rear. The fit is loose enough that even a higher volume floor pump didn't stand a chance.
For a versatile XC tire, it seems that Hutchinson created a solid option with the Kraken. The tire seems as if it would be equally appropriate for an all-day epic in the woods as it would for an XC race where traction is critical and it's a good tire for Hutchinson to have in their line.