- Short, firm, tightly-packed, knobs provide incredible traction on dry trails. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
- Directional knobs keep the Aka rolling quickly. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
- The Aka 29x2.2" Foldable measures a true 2.2 inches across and has a wonderfully round casing. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
- This front tire, shot about half way through the review period (after about 15 hours of riding), shows only minimal signs of wear. The small knobs lose their sharp edges relatively quickly, particularly on the rear, but traction doesn't seem to suffer. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
- The sidewalls on the regular Foldable version can still take a beating. But if durability is the primary concern, the TNT or UST versions are better options. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Pros: Incredible dry-terrain grip
Cons: No good in the wet
The scoop: Our new favorite Colorado trail tire; grippy and predictable on hardpack, sand, gravel and rocks
In the domain of dusty hardpack, gravel-filled corners and stone-covered singletrack, there are a few champion tires. That short, exclusive list just gained a name.
Geax already has one model in the running, the excellent Saguaro, but the latest version of its sharp-nosed Aka tread is what has us drooling. Similar in concept to Kenda’s venerable Small Block 8, the Aka uses a tightly packed collection of small, firm knobs to dig into hardpack and gravel firmly and predictably, grabbing onto rocks like Velcro. Since it first showed up early last fall, the Aka has become our favorite Colorado trail tire.
Designed around a true 2.2-inch casing (but also available in a 2.0 version, and in various diameters and casing types), the Aka is aimed in between the cross-country and trail segments. It’s not quite as quick as a true race tire; nor is it anywhere near as light. Our set came in at 684 and 692 grams per tire. But it’s no burly Kenda Nevegal, either; the Aka’s directional tread rolls very well, and the Foldable version of the casing is quite supple.
The Foldable version we tested was easily converted to tubeless with Stan’s NoTubes. The beads popped into place so easily, in fact, that the extra sidewall thickness and related durability are the only real reasons to go with the TubeNoTube (tubeless ready) or UST Tubeless versions.
A few intelligent design features have us repeatedly picking the Aka as our first defense against eating dirt. The casing is medium-to-high volume, and the tread measures a true 2.2 inches, even fatter with a wide rim.
Small, firm knobs don’t fold over when leaned into, biting into hard surfaces and catching soft patches with a mass of surface area and sharp edges. Put the tires into a lean and the traction is incredibly controlled — the evenly spaced tread extends well down on either side, providing predictable and reassuring grip at any lean angle. The side knobs are L-shaped, based on Geax’s Gato treads, and once they grab they rarely let go.
Wear life is average. The rubber is quite hard and durable, but the knobs are so small that even a small amount of wear is visibly notable. The tread pattern is so packed full of knobs, though, that even visible wear hasn’t noticeably effected traction.
A mud tire, this is not. Though the knobs are spaced wider than something like a Small Block 8, they are still quite close together, making the Aka a poor choice on anything wet and absolutely abysmal in the mud, which clings unshakably to the tread and turns the tire into a slick in moments. The same hard rubber that creates so much grip on hard and loose-over-hard surfaces does terrible things for traction on slippery roots and wet rocks. The Aka is a tire for the Rocky Mountains and Southwest U.S., or anywhere wet conditions are extremely rare.