With the release of the new S-Works Pathfinder, Specialized has improved the race credentials of an already impressive tyre. Claiming to have the ‘winningest tyre in gravel’ in the Pathfinder Pro is a bold claim, both linguistically and from a results standpoint, given the diversity of what riders count as ‘gravel’, but the Pro version features heavily at the pointy end of the more well known gravel races such as Unbound Gravel, picking up 1st and 2nd place in the men’s race under Ian Boswell and Laurens ten Dam respectively. It also featured on the bikes with, in my opinion, the coolest paint of any pro gravel bike; the retro-looking ‘Rock Combo’ inspired Specialized Diverge.
The Pathfinder Pro already features in our list of the best gravel tyres, so what changes has the Big S made to the platform with the S-Works version?
As with the best gravel bikes, and to be honest nearly every other aspect of the performance cycling world, the new S-Works Pathfinder is said to be lighter and faster.
The ‘Pro’ version was already race-facing, but the S-Works Pathfinder is much more of a race-focussed option. Unlike the ‘Pro’ version which is available in 650b and multiple widths, the S-Works Pathfinder is available only in 700c x 42mm.
Weight is an ever-present arms race in the cycling industry, and these tyres are no different. At 105g lighter than the equivalent ‘Pro’ tyre they’ve certainly shaved some rotational weight.
In pursuit of speed, the tread compound is now a dual compound affair, with a harder centre for reduced rolling resistance in a straight line, with more tacky shoulders to keep you rubber side down when leaning hard over.
The casing is the final key point of difference. Dubbed ‘Grid Race’, actual details regarding thread count are thin on the ground. Going by trends it is likely to be more supple than the Endurant casing offered in the ‘Pro’ line, further reducing the rolling resistance. Supple race casings often come with a concurrent increase in fragility, so it’s heartening to see Specialized have opted to keep the BlackBelt puncture resistant strip across the whole tread. They also claim the sidewalls are plenty resistant to sharp flint, a further nod that they have the flint roads of Emporia in their sights.
Aside from the altered rubber compound, the tyre tread pattern is unchanged. The slick centre hints at fast-rolling capability on tarmac and hard-packed surfaces, with progressive side knobs to handle things when the going gets loose. However, while the pattern remains the same, the tread does appear slightly shallower in depth, which will no doubt play into the lighter weight and faster rolling nature of the tyre's identity.
Given their racing pedigree, it’s safe to assume these are going to be a fast tyre, but perhaps one best suited to the US ideal of ‘gravel’ (wide open, dry fire roads in the mountains of California) and maybe less so for the bridleway soup of British wintertime.
The price per tyre is set at £50.00, $60.00, €60.00 or AU$95.00 depending on where in the world you’re looking to buy them.
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Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage making his own frames and components as a part time framebuilder, restoring old mountain bikes, or walking his collie in the Lake District.
Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Stooge Mk4, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross