Not long ago, options were few and far between when it came to re-skinning your 1970s or ’80s-era motorcycle. With time, more tire manufacturers have begun to provide options to those with older bikes, and it makes sense—there are a great many classics still on the road. Kenda is the latest manufacturer to produce a purpose-built tire in a variety of sizes for vintage use.
The K676 RetroActive tire is a V-rated (149 mph) bias-belted tire with an all-weather tread pattern and new rubber compound designed to blend sportiness with durability and mileage. Motorcycle tires from decades past were tall and narrow, and the Retroactive’s crowned radius is designed to offer a slightly larger footprint in corners. A good assortment of sizes can be viewed at the Kenda website, and they continue to develop new applications, apparently not worried about pigeonholing themselves with the RetroActive moniker. Case in point—Kawasaki Ninja 250 and 500 applications will be available in early 2015.
We mounted a set of RetroActives on a 1974 Kawasaki H2B, replacing the mismatched and dated set that was on there. The 100/90-19 front was a direct match for the original size (3.25 x 19). Out back, we were forced to go slightly wider than the original 4.00 x 18 with Kenda’s 120/90-18, but on the H2 there is room for a little extra width. There are plenty of websites with tire conversion charts and detailed measurements to help you decide if there is an application for your bike.
Mounting was straightforward. We didn’t balance them, as the stock steel wheels and hub assemblies are unfathomably heavy. This tire change reminded us just how far the OEMs have come in reducing unsprung weight. While we didn’t push hard, the RetroActives performed admirably and naturally, and are light-years better than what originally came on the H2 (and other bikes of this era). Despite the slightly wider rear tire, it was hard to discern a noticeable difference in handling. Grip was predictable, sidewall stiffness is appropriate for these kinds of motorcycles and while it’s too early to comment on wear characteristics, many who purchase tires for their vintage mount may be more worried about “aging out” vs. wearing out. Speaking of which, it’s a good practice to check the date of manufacture on your current tires’ sidewalls. If they’re over five years old, it’s time to think about replacements.
Kenda doesn’t publish MSRPs, so you’ll need to check your local dealer or online retailer for prices. But rest assured, the Kendas are more than competitive pricewise. The RetroActives feature modern tire technology, are a good value compared to similar offerings in the category and performed well on our classic Kawasaki.
For more information, see your dealer or visit kendausa.com
(This Gearlab review was published in the February 2015 issue of Rider magazine.)