First Impressions: Kenda Happy Medium Tires

When shopping for a plus-sized cross tire, your choices are usually limited to widely-spaced knobbies or minimalist semi-slicks. For those who ride hardpack, or loose-over-hard trails, that means you’re forced to choose between speed or cornering traction. Kenda’s Happy Medium, with its combination tread, offers riders speed and control in a single tire.

Kenda Happy Medium side

The Happy Medium utilizes a modified diamond design for the majority of its tread.  The elements are spaced far enough apart to provide good traction, but their low height helps reduce speed-robbing flex. On-road, the ride is smooth and quiet, even at the lower pressures typically used for dirt and gravel.

Kenda Happy Medium tread

My GPS confirmed that the Kendas are fast, easy rolling tires. Where they really shine, though, is with their predictable cornering. Although the side knobs are widely spaced, their placement and height are optimized for a smoother transition from center to edge. When you lean the bike over, there’s no “dead spot” between the center section and side knobs. Cornering is very predictable, and if you do happen to push them too hard, their drift is relatively easy to control.

The Happy Medium is available in 700×32, 35, and 40 sizes. My 700×40 tires measured 38mm at the casing, and 40.5mm at the knobs (mounted on a 23mm rim, fully inflated). Weight was a respectable 448g, which was within Kenda’s advertised range (435g +/- 22g). The tires feature folding beads, and Kenda’s dual-durometer DTC tread compound. Recommended pressure is between 50 and 85psi, but I ran them as low as 40psi with no problems.

For additional information, visit Kenda’s website.

27 thoughts on “First Impressions: Kenda Happy Medium Tires

  1. Taylor

    Mind if I ask how much weight those tires were handling at 40psi?

    I rode WTB Mutano Raptors for a season or so on my cross bike for trails and some racing, and the deep tread was just too much for any mud and most smooth surfaces. This tire looks much better. I’ll have to pick some of these for my Soma Double Cross for some trail riding next summer.

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I weigh 200 pounds, and the bike is around 25. None of the trails that I ride are overly rocky or rooty, so pinch flats aren’t a big concern.

  2. Todd Shank

    Do ou still feel the same way about the happy medium’s?
    I am building up a Mtn Cycle Stumptown and want an all around tire for road and gravel, fire roads.

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I really like the Happy Mediums. Super predictable (no, “oh shiiii…” feeling when you lean them over), and when they do break loose, it’s easy to recover/control. The rubber compound and casing are nice and supple, so you still get a nice ride at higher pressures. The center knobs wear quickly on pavement, but because the base is wider (and they’re short), they don’t tear off. If they made a 650B version I’d be in heaven.

    2. Afly Onthewall

      I swapped out my small block eights on a mnt bike to ride some longer fire trail several years ago and have never gone back. The Happy Mediums corner as well and roll much quieter. A great gravel road tire. Both tires, the HM and SM8’s, suck when it gets wet but I think the cornering on the HM is better in the mud.

    1. gravelbike Post author

      Because the Ritchey Speedmax were so narrow/under-sized, I never rode them. I’m extremely happy with the Kendas, though.

  3. Dave

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Happy Mediums. I’m considering these for gravel & “supercross” events, however, not sure on size. Are the tires true to size? And, at 5’5″ 125lbs, do you think 35s will suffice?
    (Currently riding ’12 Redline Conquest Team carbon – 17.5 lbs)

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I haven’t ridden the 35s, but the 40s were true to size. Really nice blend of roll-speed and grip. Super-predictable in corners, too.

  4. Alex

    I’m looking for a plus size cyclocross tyre to put on for some off road riding around south east asia where I will be cycle touring. Doing my research the only other available plus size cross tires I could find were Bontrager’s CX0 in a 38 and Continentals Cross Ride 40, have you tried any of these for a comparison. Cheers!

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I’ve not ridden either of those tires, sorry. I have ridden the 700×40 Clement’s X’Plor MSO, and reviewed it here.

  5. Pingback: Fat Tires (40-45) for Gravel, ROAD and everything in between - Page 2

  6. Patricia Ledesma

    Very nice review. I will be riding ‘Rebecca’s Private Idaho’ and wondering whether these tires would perform well. I am wary of the washboard descent mentioned in ride reports. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I’m not familiar with the Private Idaho course, but if there’s a washboard descent that’s cause for concern, you may want a tire with (A) more aggressive tread, and/or (B) a wider footprint (i.e. more volume). How much tire clearance does your frame/fork have?

      1. Patricia Ledesma

        I have a Focus Mares CX2… 33mm tires right now (on Hed Belgium Plus rims), and there is about 1cm of clearance on each side of the tires on both front and rear.

        1. gravelbike Post author

          Take a look at the 700×40 Kenda Happy Medium, 700×43 Bruce Gordon Rock n Road, and 700×45 Panaracer Fire Cross.

  7. rich

    Do you think these Kenda Happy Medium will perform on packed sand and gravel with the occasional patch of loose sand?

    1. gravelbike Post author

      Loose sand can be pretty sketchy. You might want something with a more open tread pattern for the conditions you describe (example: WTB Nano).

      1. rich

        really appreciate the suggestion – thanks. I need something that’s available in 700c. I’m currently riding a hybrid on this path…

  8. gravelk

    Thanks for the good reviews. I’m looking 35-38c gravel tires (because my frame can’t take 40c) and Happy Medium seems to be a good choice. Can you tell us a bit about their puncture resistance?

    1. gravelbike Post author

      The Happy Mediums are quite puncture resistant for such a light, supple tire.

      1. gravelk

        Thank you. I am having hard time deciding MSO 32mm or Happy Medium… Any advice would be appreciated!

        1. gravelbike Post author

          If you’re riding a lot of pavement, the tighter-spaced knobs on the MSO would be smoother and faster.

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