I’ve been testing the beefed-up downcountry version of Hutchinson’s Kraken tire for a few months now and it’s a great option. If you want a mountain bike tire that's lighter-than-average with a quick and quiet tread but the sticky compound and toughness of trail/enduro rubber, the Kraken is a great option.
Design and build
The tread pattern of the downcountry Kraken looks very similar to the XC version but the center line and cross-bar tread have been beefed up slightly. The outer tread has also been opened up for faster filth clearance and to put more load into each lug.
The tread is built from Hutchinson’s triple-compound Race Ripost XC with a 65ShA core, 60ShA center topper, and slow rebound 50ShA shoulder topper mix that’s much softer and stickier than a race tire. This sits on Hutchinson’s 66tpi carcass with enduro-proven Hardskin full tire reinforcement wrap.
The flagship Racing Lab tires I tested are handmade in France and available in the bronze wall version here or in full black. Both weigh 860g and Hutchinson says there’s no difference in performance. Unlike its Wyrm sibling, the Kraken comes in a 650B/27.5in option too which is great news for smaller wheel speed fans who only have a few options to choose from.
The reinforced carcass is obvious in the way the tires hold shape rather than flop and fold when handling. The slippery molding release compound means they can need extra patience to get them onto the rim. Once in place, they pop up really easily though, with no sealant leak through the sidewalls and excellent bead security even at mid-teen psi pressures.
The ability to shrug off slams, dampen chatter, and settle a bike through sketchy terrain has always been a great attribute of Hutchinson’s multi-race/series-winning Griffus enduro tire. Despite being significantly lighter, the Kraken and its downcountry partner the Wyrm have the same vibration-quietening, rebound-calming, rock-shrugging vibe. The sticky compound also boosts adhesion in all conditions so the Kraken grips much better than you might expect on solid terrain. The shallow tread means it can’t bite deep into softer/looser surfaces though, so you’ll need to add your own traction control if it gets sloppy or loamy. That's particularly true in turns as, while the rounded carcass rolls in easily, there’s not much shoulder lug to lean on. The softer compound, wiped knobs smear rather than spike, so it’s definitely a drifter rather than a driver on the front or rear.
The damped carcass and soft compound mean it’s slower than it might look, but the low, busy tread is quiet and still a gear giver compared to a chunkier trail tire. The fact you don’t have to back off for fear of a pinch flat if things get sharp or seismic is a significant boost to real-world speed on rowdier trails.
Impressive toughness boosts value long term, although the small soft compound knobs are likely to start getting torn up and lose edges if you drift and skid them a lot through summer.
It might look like one of the fast but slightly sketchy dry-condition XC race tires that have been coming out of France and Italy since the early 90s, but the 66tpi Kraken is actually something quite different.
It’s still faster and quieter than most knobbly tires, but it really wins where soft compound, solid surface adhesion, and the confidence to charge straight through rocks and rim-slapping roots mean you can keep the brakes off and the power down. It’s a great rear partner to the new Hutchinson Wyrm so don’t be surprised if you see that pairing in the background of a lot of shots on my long-termer bikes going forward.
Tech specs: Hutchinson Kraken Racing Lab 66 tire
- Price: $65 / £57.95 / €64.99
- Sizes: 27.5 and 29 x 2.4in
- Options: Bronze or black wall
- Weight: 860g (Bronze 29 x 2.4in)