When you're searching for the best gravel tyres, there are a lot of decisions to make. For instance; knobby or slick? 700c or 650b? Skinwall or not skinwall? 50mm or 2in? It's not easy...
With the variety of terrain you're likely to roll on during any given gravel ride, choosing the best gravel tyres is about as simple as neatly folding a fitted sheet. A single gravel outing may see pavement, hard-packed dirt, loose gravel and even loamy singletrack. With that, you'll need to find the right balance between grip, rolling resistance and puncture protection.
You can go to all the trouble of hunting down the best gravel bikes, upgrade the stock hoops with a pair of great gravel wheels and potentially spend thousands on your setup, but the enjoyment of a ride can be completely undone with the wrong choice of tyres, so it's imperative you get it right. It's also worth noting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and you may need to chop and change depending on the weather and your upcoming riding plans.
To make things more complicated, there are stacks of tyres ranging from fat road bike tyres all the way to what essentially amounts to mountain bike tyres, the sheer number of choices can be intimidating.
Read on for our guide to buying the best gravel tyres available today, or if you're unsure what to look for, you can jump to our guide on how to buy the right gravel tyre.
Best gravel tyres you can buy today
Challenge Gravel Grinder
Best gravel tyre for a super supple ride feel
Width: 33-42mm | Diameter: 700c | Casing: Pro, Pro Handmade TLR, Race, Race Vulcanized TLR
The Challenge Gravel Grinder is one of the most supple gravel tyres you can buy, and it's pretty light too at 365g in the 700x38mm size. They are some of the fastest gravel tyres we've come across and the flexible casing dampens vibration.
With the brand's chicane file tread up the middle and small triangular shoulder knobbies, it's a fast-rolling option that excels on hard-packed dry surfaces. The transition from the centre strip to the shoulder tread is pronounced, and you can feel when the bigger knobs engage.
With the minimal tread don't expect this specific Challenge tyre to act like a pig in mud when the rain begins to fall. The tyre is available in both Pro Handmade and Race Vulcanised versions as well as tubeless and non-tubeless versions. Be warned, we have found some variance in how easy or difficult it is to get these tyres on the rim, some slip right on and others have ended the life of a few tyre levers.
Donnelly X’Plor MSO
Best gravel tyre for puncture resistance
Width: 40mm | Diameter: 700c | Casing: MSO tubeless
A few years ago, Clement rebranded itself as Donnelly, but the relabelled X'Plor MSO tyres still prove to be fast rolling and puncture-resistant with oodles of traction all in one tyre.
The key to achieving this unicorn characteristic is in the tread pattern. With a tightly packed centre strip, the tread opens up as it moves into the transition and shoulder blocks. The transition knobs are siped and provide a bit of additional confidence over loose surfaces, while the round shoulder tread manages to poke through sand over hardpack. At the same time, the larger blocks on the edge have enough support to hold their shape as the bike leans over.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch in the bike industry, and the trade-off of the above is the X'Plor MSOs are a bit heavy (532g, 700 x 40mm), and the sidewall is about a supple as a tile floor.
Best gravel tyre for grip
Width: 38mm | Diameter: 700c | Casing: 120 TPI
Maxxis makes arguably the most popular off-road tyre on the market (the Minion) and although the Rambler was its first attempt at a gravel tyre it has nailed the brief.
The centre tread is tightly packed and ramped to minimise drag, while the shoulder blocks are more substantial to hook up on loose surfaces. In spite of the proximity of the knobbies, they dig their claws in surprisingly well and the round profile makes cornering traction predictable.
Maxxis has also impressed with a durable sidewall that doesn't succumb to slashes and slices, but remains supple enough to take the bite out of square edges.
Best gravel tyre for do-everything surface versatility
Width: 42mm | Diameter: 700c, 650b | Casing: TCS Light
Serving as WTB's do-everything gravel tyre, the Resolutes see a more substantial tread pattern than the popular Horizon and Byway rubber.
With small, square tread blocks throughout, the centre of the tyre is crowded to limit rolling resistance with the intermediate and shoulder knobs spaced further apart for surefooted cornering on loose surfaces. With this aggressive pattern the Resolute is a pure gravel tyre, don't expect to be rolling turns on a road ride — the tread hums like a mountain bike tyre.
But after the blacktop is well behind you, the Resolute is confident on everything from sand over hardpack, gravel, to rooty and rocky singletrack. The tread pattern is also conducive to clearing mud and sand, but the casing presents a bit wider than marked so be wary if your frame suffers from tyre clearance constraints.
Specialized Trigger Pro
Best gravel tyre for fast rolling terrain that isn't stymied by sharp rocks
Width: 38mm | Diameter: 700c | Casing: Endurant 2Bliss
Developed with input from Dirty Kanza 200 winners Dan Hughes and Rebecca Rusch, the Trigger Pro is a tyre designed for speed. Built on the foundation of the brand's Trigger cyclo-cross tyre, the Pro version sees Specialized's Endurant casing with an extra layer of puncture protection thrown in under the tread.
The tread itself sees a raised centre strip, surrounded by diamond-shaped knobs that grow in size as you work your way out to the edge of the tyre. All this makes for a quiet tyre and a square profile that hooks up in the corners. However, it does have its limits as the surface gets softer or the gravel gets deep.
The casing is only 60 TPI, so it's not the most supple option out there, but we have found it to be one of the most puncture resistant.
Kenda Flintridge Pro
Best gravel tyre for a party mix of tread that is comfortable in most conditions
Width: 35-45mm | Diameter: 700c, 650b | Casing: VTC
Named after the jagged rocks found in the hills around the Dirty Kanza, the Kenda Flintridge features a party mix of different tread patterns. Down the centre are long rectangular blocks designed to spin right along on pavement, the transition blocks are siped and grippy while outer knobs provide predictability in loose rocks and mud — furthered by the round tyre profile.
They offer a low 30-50 PSI range, but the stiff sidewall prevents a floaty ride quality, and they perform better at the lower end of the tyre-pressure spectrum. That said, the Flintridge isn't deterred by the rocks it's named after and while the GTC sidewall may ride a bit stiff, it sure is robust.
Best gravel tyre for riding smooth gravel at lightspeed
Width: 32-48mm | Diameter: 700c, 650b | Casing: Anti-Flat Casing
Not every gravel ride involves deep gravel or singletrack ripping and, for a lot of riders, a spin on their gravel bike likely means pounding a lot of pavement. If this is you, we think the best tyre you can buy is the Panaracer Gravel King.
With a textured tread pattern, the ZSG natural compound rides like any high-end road tyre. With a floaty quality on the road, the textured tread offers ok grip in sand and loose dirt — but be realistic, they aren't going to hook up when you put them on the trails. When things get a bit spicy, or the road gets muddy, the treaded SK version will be a better fit.
Even though these may look like your high-end, hand-made, skin wall open tubular, they can take a beating and still keep the air on the inside. And every once in a while they come in crazy limited edition colourways like orange, ivory and blue.
- Cyclo-cross vs gravel bikes: understanding the differences
Best gravel tyre for fast rolling and great braking
Width: 31-47mm | Diameter: 700c, 650b | Casing: TNT
Vittoria has been adding graphene into its tyres for some time now. While some of the claims made about durability, grip and rolling resistance seem like marketing mumbo jumbo, in our experience the G2.0 tyres seem to ride like lightweight, supple rubber but don't shred when you pit them against sharp rocks.
The Terreno Dry has a unique centre tread, using ramped hexagons instead of traditional file tread. Vittoria calls them scales and the spacing pattern is conducive to flinging mud, while framing offers a bit of braking bite without adding too much rolling resistance.
Moving towards the shoulders, the tread blocks grow until they reach the well-supported knobbies on the edge. With a relatively square profile, the Terreno Dry tyres hook up well in the corners across a range of conditions.
Schwalbe G-One All Round
Best gravel tyre for hardpack trails
Width: 35-71mm | Diameter: 700c, 650b | Casing: Microskin TL Easy, SnakeSkin TL Easy V-Guard, Race Guard TLE
The G-Ones are notoriously fast and supple, and are the kind of tyres that can transform and improve the ride quality of any gravel bike. They are lightweight and the small, round, siped knobs don't add much in the way of rolling resistance, making them best suited to hard pack dirt roads.
They are also some of the easiest tubeless tyres to set up and we've yet to break a lever trying to get one over the bead.
The trouble with the G-Ones is they are so lightweight that they are prone to flats. We think they are one of the best tyres you can buy if your gravel routes have interspersed pavement sectors with tracks that are more soil than gravel. If not, consider one of the other tyres in this roundup.
Best gravel tyre for confident cornering
Width: 40mm | Diameter: 700c | Casing: 120 TPI
Vee Tire uses a dual-compound rubber throughout the Rail, with the centre tread using a harder rubber to limit rolling resistance, while the shoulders are a much softer compound to help them hook up when you lean the bike over. Down the centre are siped arrow-shaped knobbies which get progressively taller out to the ramped blocks on the edge.
The Rail is available in Vee’s Synthesis Sidewall casing, which is both lighter and more puncture resistant than the standard version, and the Rail is super supple out on the road.
Starting at £40 / $35 / AU$80, the Rails cost a few bucks less than their competition but don't sacrifice any performance.
How to buy the right gravel tyre
Where are you riding?
Your primary consideration when shopping for new gravel rubber needs to be the surfaces you are riding on and how much time you will be spending there. Do your gravel roads nearly resemble tarmac? Then you don't want a draggy, aggressively treaded tyre slowing you down. Are your routes covered in sharp rocks? Then best to avoid something with a paper-thin sidewall that cuts like hot butter.
Best gravel tyre width and tread
Frame clearance is an all-important factor in choosing tyre size. It's all good and well getting a 50mm tyre for your off-road adventures, but if the rubber doesn't fit, your wheels won't turn and the adventure will be disappointingly short-lived.
Your tyre width again comes down to your route and what kind of terrain you'll be riding. If the majority of the ride is on the tarmac with a few gravel sectors, aim for something between 28-32mm. If we are talking 50/50 gravel-to-tarmac, between 32-36mm seems to work pretty well for us. Anything that is majority gravel, 36mm and up will be the ticket.
Tread is also affected by the road surface, as well as your skill and confidence on the bike. A good general rule is the rougher the road surface, the bigger tread required. Hardpack roads don't require much tread, while loose gravel or mud need bigger knobs. Don't just throw on the gnarliest tyre available, though, tailor your choice to your riding surface to get the most out of your ride.
Borrowing a trick from our mountain bike friends over at Bike Perfect, consider mounting a more aggressive tyre on the front for additional grip, while retaining a bit of speed out-back.
Should I use inner tubes?
Very simply, no. All gravel tyres should be tubeless. If not, spend your money on something else.
Once you've chosen your new gravel tyres, you'll want to fill them with sealant. Choose wisely with help from Bike Perfect's roundup of the best tyre sealant, and make punctures a thing of the past.
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