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Kenda's Cholla Pro is a supple tubeless-ready mud-conquering tyre for skinnier-framed bikes at a fairly sensible price. If you like it mucky and flat-free, it's a great option – particularly if you have limited clearance.
The Cholla Pro has a striking squared-off tread profile, with no chance of getting tyre orientation wrong; arrows point forwards folks. Based on "the hooks and barbs of the cholla cactus", says Kenda, this is somewhat ironically not a tyre for the desert – at just under 33mm fitted to a 19mm rim, you're more likely to dig into soft sand than float over it.
Unlike the Flintridge Pro tyre reviewed recently, Kenda has erred on the side of smaller, with the Cholla measuring 32.3mm on a 19mm Mavic Open Pro rim that saw the 35mm Flintridge measuring 36mm.
This ties in with the UCI's 2010 cyclo-cross tyre size regulation of 33mm, a contentious limitation meant to level the playing field for less-cash-rich racers but unintentionally penalising heavier riders by not allowing them to run fatter rubber and benefit from the inherent suspension performance for a given pressure. Also somewhat ironically with tyres like the Cholla Pro now tubeless, being able to run supple, grippy low pressures without risk of flatting is now well within the reach of anyone able to pay £38 RRP (or less online). This is a much cheaper and lower-faff option than gluing up expensive tubular tyres that are then very hard to swap unless you own multiple wheelsets.
The fact that Kenda has kept the Cholla Pro at a svelte 33mm while making it supple with a 120TPI casing and tubeless to boot is a boon for those of us with older bikes who would be hard-pressed to fit anything fatter. Modern performance can be yours, yea 80s steel 'crosser pilot.
Of course not everyone is concerned about being nabbed by a calliper-wielding UCI anorak on the startline at Little Whingeing's parish fundraiser CX blast. What the Cholla Pro gives the everyday rider is awesome grip when it gets mucky, and traction over slippery obstacles. Kenda also does a softer-compound version of the Cholla Pro ('CX-DTC'), for racers in freezing conditions or on extreme courses.
Fitting the Cholla Pros was a no-faff affair, the tyre rolling onto the rim with thumbs only, and inflating first time using the rather fab Beto Air tank. My sealant du jour is Slime Pro, because it cleans up in water, can be re-used between tyres and doesn't go off/dry out.
Kenda recommends between 30 and 50psi; I settled on 38 rear, 35 front for my 85kg all-up rider-bike combo, allowing for reasonably rocky, rooty trails here in the Perthshire Highlands.
On tarmac the Cholla Pro rolls okay – not as well as the more dry-gravel-road-orientated Flintridge Pro, but these are different beasts. It's once properly off-road that the Cholla Pro comes into its own. Pointing it at grassy off-camber verges, muddy slopes, eroded steep gullies or mossy central strips, I was hard-pressed to find the limits of traction in any direction. There is oodles of grip on offer over wet, rooty, rocky trails, at the limit of forward motion – no doubt helped by the supple 120TPI carcass. With a less-squared-off, uniform height tread profile across the tyre there's no noticeable transition when cornering as the side knobs begin to bite, which gives more confidence.
Given the choice and no need to stay on the happy side of UCI regulations I would always say go for fatter tyres at lower pressures, on or off-road, and critically for loaded touring. But if you are constricted by startline rules or the physical limitations of your frame, the Cholla Pro is a sensibly priced high-performance choice for blasting about in the seriously mucky stuff.
An excellent, cost-effective choice for fast, flat-free off-roading, particularly if frame clearance is an issue
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kenda Cholla Pro
Size tested: 700 x 33
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's for people with narrower frames or who need to stay inside race rules.
Kenda says: "Drawing on the natural design of the hooked barbs of the cholla cactus, we designed a tread pattern with hooks and barbs that will dig into the ground for maximum traction. Need a tire for when conditions get slick and slippery? The Cholla has got your back.
Two different options of dual-density compounds let you choose the right tire for the slippiest conditions.
The Cholla's unique tread design generates plenty of grip.
Tubeless ready – Saves weight and provides a better rolling performance. Riding tubeless also means riding flat free."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
DUAL TREAD COMPOUND (DTC)
The original dual tread rubber compound for Kenda. A hard long lasting and fast rolling rubber (60sA) comprises the center of the tread area, while a softer-tackier should rubber (50sA) completes this binary compound for the versatility of speed and grip off road. Found typically on cross country, all-mountain and cyclocross tires.
The super soft CX-DTC version of the Cholla is ideal for cyclocross races where the ground has deep mud and when the temperatures are close to freezing.
Still looks like new, a month in.
Overall, for a tubeless, supple race-performance-oriented tyre it's cracking value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Can't fault it off-road; bit slow on the hard stuff.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The grip. Grippy as a grippy thing with a good grip.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The relative-to-the-modern-market narrow width – but it's that wide for a reason.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Cholla Pro is an excellent tyre at a middling price; if it were under £35 it'd get another half-star.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.