Background: Explaining the reduction of hydrolysis rate during lignocellulose hydrolysis is a challenge for the understanding and modelling of the process. This article reports the changes of cellulose and lignin surface areas, porosity and the residual cellulase activity during the hydrolysis of autohydrolysed wheat straw and delignified wheat straw. The potential rate-constraining mechanisms are assessed with a simplified kinetic model and compared to the observed effects, residual cellulase activity and product inhibition. Results: The reaction rate depended exclusively on the degree of hydrolysis, while enzyme denaturation or time-dependent changes in substrate hydrolysability were absent. Cellulose surface area decreased linearly with hydrolysis, in correlation with total cellulose content. Lignin surface area was initially decreased by the dissolution of phenolics and then remained unchanged. The dissolved phenolics did not contribute to product inhibition. The porosity of delignified straw was decreased during hydrolysis, but no difference in porosity was detected during the hydrolysis of autohydrolysed straw. Conclusions: Although a hydrolysis-dependent increase of non-productive binding capacity of lignin was not apparent, the dependence of hydrolysis maxima on the enzyme dosage was best explained by partial irreversible product inhibition. Cellulose surface area correlated with the total cellulose content, which is thus an appropriate approximation of the substrate concentration for kinetic modelling. Kinetic models of cellulose hydrolysis should be simplified enough to include reversible and irreversible product inhibition and reduction of hydrolysability, as well as their possible non-linear relations to hydrolysis degree, without overparameterization of particular factors.