According to Kenda its Kommando X Pro is the mud loving big brother of its standard Kommando tyre, but 'loving' is too big a word here. Although good enough in mushy dirt, it isn't confident enough to be trusted in deep slop. However, it is a capable enough multi-conditions tyre that can handle a fair bit of mud along the way. A sturdy unforgiving carcass means it's best run in its tubeless guise.
- Pros: Tubeless easy, sturdy, mixed terrain happy
- Cons: Unsupple, sluggish, not good in thick mud for a 'mud' tyre
With the whole world seemingly moving towards gravel bikes and their fat distance-swallowing tyres, it might be easy to forget that there's still a desire for a slim tyre to cut through the mud for an hour or so on an actual cyclo-cross bike doing actual racing. The 700x33 Kommando X Pro is Kenda's answer to this need and it comes in a tubeless-ready format to suit those who might want puncture adversity, grip and ride feel without the need to stump up for some expensive new tubular wheels and tyres.
Sturdy & tough
The Kommando X Pro feels a sturdy thing out the packet. The tough sidewalls that make it tubeless happy and abrasion averse add noticeable heft, and there's a definite lack of floppiness to the tyre, allowing it to hold its circular shape without prompting. Both tyres pumped up tubeless easily (well, as seems to be the way of tubeless tyres, one popped up first time, the other needed a little coercing thanks to a packaging kink in the bead). This despite the rims not being tubeless ready and the rim tape in one wheel being some old stuff I found under the cupboard by the sink that sort of fitted... And both have stayed up with only minimal air seepage. Well done them.
I've tended to shy away from tubeless cyclo-cross tyres, having had one too many bad experiences in the past. The stones and flints around these parts seem to take great pleasure in slicing tyres, and I've stood by the side of the trail watching sealant squirt out of a large gash with no intention of plugging the hole more than enough times to consider it not worthwhile. I am perfectly happy to put up with a normal tyre and tube and the not-infrequent puncture distress that may bring.
So it was with some trepidation that I headed out on these Kendas, and disappointingly predictably I suffered a tyre slash on the second ride that was big enough to cause sealant spaff and a significant loss of air. Here we go again, brilliant. But a few spins of the wheel saw enough sealant slosh around to plug the hole and some strokes of the pump returned the tyre to pressure and it's held firm ever since then. Brilliant.
The tread pattern on the Kommando X Pro suggests they're designed towards being capable in the mud without being overly specific at the task, with significant gaps between the lugs ensuring that the tyre doesn't become clogged with tenacious mud. The tread consists of a central line of alternating big/small diamonds flanked by a well-spaced line of small diamonds, then running on the outside edges of the tyre are two lines of a parallelogram shaped nature, with the outermost knobs being siped and buttressed along one side on their outer edge to lessen deformation when leaning hard into a corner. The photo might show this more clearly than my description...
Unfortunately the height of the tread across the tyre isn't particularly deep, so it's not able to dig into the slop like a more specialist and taller lugged winter conditions tyre. The outer knobs also follow the curve of the tyre, which might make for a predictable tyre when turning on firmer surfaces but there isn't enough height in them to make it a confident tyre to handle muddy corners with confidence. The tread is simply too shallow and needs to be both taller and form a squarer profile on the outer edge for consequential grip to happen.
So while it's manageable enough in the mud, you will need to learn to go with the slide: when the Kommando X Pro decides to give way in a corner it will do so suddenly and with absolutely no warning. This can lead to some nervous and faltering moments when turning on slippy stuff.
On more hardpacked terrain, though, the design and height of the tread makes the Kommando X Pro a more manageable and less floaty tyre than a tall more mud-happy tyre tread, which can squirm about. What you lose in the mud, you gain on harder ground.
The Kommando X Pro is designed as a directional tyre: use for soft conditions when mounted one way, and hard the other. I used it entirely in the soft configuration as it's been a bit muddy out, and you have to look pretty closely to see the subtleties of directional bias in the tread design that might make a difference.
It's not a supple tyre, unfortunately. That non-floppy feeling and its ability to hold its shape out of the box was already a clue, and it never gives much feedback from the ground. Even when ridden tubeless at a pressure low enough to have them bottoming out on the rim over roots and stones, they still felt unresponsive and a little dead. I've sensed more of what's going on underneath the bike with more-supple-sidewalled tyres with inner tubes in.
If you're going to use these tyres for racing you might miss that feedback when you're heading into a rutty corner at full chat, but if you're a rider who uses their cyclo-cross bike for a bit-of-everything riding then it might matter less. In fact for the latter you can use the Kommando X Pros' sturdy construction and tubeless capabilities to your advantage because they seem to be a pretty hardy tyre and you can clatter about on them over rough terrain with little in the way of reprisals. If your cyclo-cross riding errs more towards dicking about than racing, these could be a solid contender.
That unresponsive dead character does make them feel draggy on harder surfaces, though. There's no surge of acceleration when you kick on the pedals, instead they'll just gently rumble up to speed in their own time, and on tarmac they seem particularly sluggish.
Put a tube inside the Kommando X Pro and you're going to lose any tubeless benefits and also make the tyre feel even firmer and much less responsive, so that's not to be advised, although the stout sidewalls might contribute towards fewer pinch punctures.
Despite these negative niggles it's an adaptable and rugged tyre. What the Kommando X Pro might lack in deep-mud grip and terrain feedback it more than makes up for in multi-surface usability and a bombproof ability to tackle almost everything. Tread wear is remarkably good, which could be down to Kenda's (DTC) Dual Tread Compound, with a hard, long-lasting and fast-rolling rubber down the centre of the tyre and a softer and tackier compound on the shoulders, which just adds to its sturdy ability.
If you want a more adventurous tyre to take you away from the width-restricted cyclo-cross course then the Kommando X Pro is available in a more gravel-bike-friendly 700x36 size, and I think this would make a more capable tyre: robust and with enough grip should you encounter anything muddy.
Less of a mud tyre than Kenda suggests but works okay on most surfaces and can happily deal with sludge; best run tubeless
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kenda Kommando X Pro Tyre
Size tested: 33 x 700C
Tell us what the product is for
Kenda says the Kommando X Pro is the evil, mud loving, big brother of the standard Kommando. With a spaced-out, taller knob profile, the Kommando X remains true to the original; born and bred to fear no conditions. It makes no compromises in the quest for the perfect balance between grip, weight and speed.
Hmmm, well, yes and no. The knobs of tread while spaced out in a mud-friendly fashion aren't particularly tall so they can deal with a certain amount of mud before running out of grip in the thicker deeper slop.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Kommando X Pro comes with the required acronyms to ensure it's a modern tyre: SCT casing prevents slashes and abrasions while DTC means there's harder tread compound down the centre of the tyre while the outer edge is softer rubber. There's also dual direction tread and the tyres are tubeless ready.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a mud tyre it was merely okay; there are certainly better mud-specific tyres out there. But as a tyre that could cope with all sorts of different surfaces and was manageable in the mud it's a good fit-and-forget option.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Working tubeless, sturdy, mixed terrain manners.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Unsupple and lifeless, flounders in deep mud.
Did you enjoy using the product? For a fit and forget tyre that managed mixed terrain winter riding it was pretty good.
Would you consider buying the product? They were a little too unforgiving for my tastes, especially if considering racing; the fatter versions might well be worth a look for gravelling though.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they wanted something to muck about on and were happy to trade ride feel for rugged all-round usability.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Tricky one this. I'll have to score this down as a mud tyre because the tread just isn't deep enough or tall enough on the corners, but as a general all-round tyre that can cope with a certain amount of mud I'd have to bump that mark back up. Then as a tubeless tyre that performed well with regard to seating and puncture proofness I'd give it top marks, but then have to take points off for a disappointing impassive ride feel.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I'm on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.