Gravel riding is one cycling discipline where it seems like everybody has an idea of what is the best, what you need to have, and why other options won’t work. Who can blame them?
With all the new tires coming out for this rapidly-exploding discipline, a lot of people are going to find something they like among a sea of options and justify it to everybody else.
Gravel rides can be tough, grueling rides, so finding something that works for you is important. However, when there are this many options, finding what works for you can prove to be almost as challenging as the ride itself!
What To Look For in a Gravel Tire
When you are looking for a gravel tire, a couple of things need to be taken into consideration. One thing to think about before your purchase is the width of the tire, and how big of a tire your bike can fit.
Gravel tires come in a variety of widths, some are hardly wider than your average 25C road bike tire, while others look to be more fitted towards mountain bikers.
Another thing you need to take into consideration is what kind of terrain you plan on riding on. If you are going to be doing most of your riding on hard-pack gravel, then you are not going to need as aggressive tread compared to if you are riding on loose limestone trails or dirt where you might encounter washouts or loam in the turns.
Finally, you also should think about whether or not you plan on riding these tires tubeless, or if you plan on using them with tubes.
Not all bicycle wheels are tubeless-compatible, so make sure you know for sure whether or not you can ride tubeless tires on your current wheelset.
Top Gravel Tires on the Market
Now that we have discussed a few things to keep in mind during your search, let’s talk about some of the top choices that are out there.
This list is in no particular order due to the fact that everybody’s needs are going to be different, and so a tire that works great for one rider might work terribly for the next.
Panaracer Gravelking Folding tire
The first tire we are going to look at is the Panaracer Gravelking Folding tire.
This tire is going to be suited best to the rider who is looking to take their road bike on some gravel trails, perhaps maybe you don’t have a full-fledged gravel bike yet, or maybe you’re just testing the waters to determine if you like it before you invest in a more dedicated rig.
It is available in 26C, 28C, and 32C widths, which should fit the majority of more modern road bikes, especially given the trend to go to wider tires that we have seen in the last few years.
The tread on this tire is not particularly aggressive, which doesn’t make it a great choice for hardcore trails, but given the target market, it will work just fine on your nice packed-gravel trails that are common throughout much of America.
This tire will definitely allow you to get off the paved road and explore a little and satisfy your desire to see what this whole gravel-riding thing is all about.
The next tire we are going to take a look at is the WTB Riddler.
This tire by WTB is marketed towards cyclocross racers, which makes it a great choice if you already have a ‘cross bike, or if you are trying to double-dip and have some fun on your cyclocross bike after the season is over.
It comes in 37C and 45C widths, so it is a bit wider tire which means you can run lower pressures and experience a smoother ride.
This is especially nice if your gravel-grinding machine is a steel frame. The main tread on this tire is not particularly aggressive, but towards the edges, it gets a little gnarlier, so you can really lean into those turns and feel confident.
This would also be a great tire if you plan on doing some gravel races, as it has a large volume as we mentioned, and also rolls fast due to its lighter-weight construction.
These tires are tubeless compatible if you are looking to go tubeless, which males the WTB Riddler a solid choice for a lot of riders.
WTB Resolute TCS
The third tire we are going to talk about is the WTB Resolute TCS.
This tire features more aggressive tread than any of the other tires we have mentioned so far. This makes it well suited not just to gravel riding, but to other off-road trails as well.
It would be the perfect tire for somebody with an adventure bike who doesn’t want to be limited in their trail choice due to their tires.
It is tubeless compatible and comes in a 42C width. Like the WTB tire we mentioned previously, this tire is pretty wide, and so you’ll be able to get away with running it at lower tire pressures, especially if you are running it tubeless.
The WTB Resolute tire would be an excellent choice for somebody who rides in looser conditions, or wet conditions and doesn’t want to sacrifice stability, while also prioritizing comfort in the saddle.
They also have a sweet tan sidewall which will really make your bike “pop” with its old-school cool look.
Challenge Gravel Grinder Race Tire
If the last two tires we mentioned look a little aggressive for the riding you plan on doing, then perhaps you should consider the Challenge Gravel Grinder Race tire.
This tire comes in at 38C, and features a healthy amount of cornering tread, while a lower-profile center tread helps keep this tire from feeling to slow during your ride.
It not only works great on the gravel; this tire would be great for cyclocross riding as well.
It is one of the lighter tires in our article, so that means there is going to be less rolling resistance but may leave you slightly more susceptible to flats.
With modern-day technology in rubber compounds and tire design, extra flats due to the lighter weight tire should really not be of much concern to most riders, but we thought we would mention that anyways in case that would be a deal-breaker for you.
People have successfully run these tires tubeless as well, but the manufacturer does not list this tire is tubeless-ready.
If you are a rider who just has one bike, rides it in the city and on the trails, then this tire should be one of your strong contenders because it’s low profile center tread will not make it a bore to ride down the pavement.
Panaracer Gravelking SK+ Aramid
The last tire we are going to take a look at today is the Panaracer Gravelking SK+ Aramid tire.
This tire is well suited to somebody who plans on doing some gravel grinder races or finds themselves riding some hardpack dirt trails as well.
The tread on this tire stays the same profile throughout, and while knobby, it is not going to get packed with mud if the ride turns into a wet one. Panaracer lists it as a “gravel touring tire” because it is really fit for a lot of different conditions.
With widths from 32C to 50C, almost everybody should be able to find a size that will fit their bike and offer the comfort that they are looking for.
Some people do not like the aggressive side tread and low-profile center tread that some of the previous tires we have listed feature, because of how they feel under-speed when they are pushing a turn.
If you are one of those people, then you will really enjoy this tire because the tread stays the same profile from the center to the sides, which means it is going to feel a little more control when you are really leaning into a turn.
This tire would not be my first choice in consistently wet conditions though due to the fact that the little knobs on the tire tread would probably not provide as much traction as saying the WTB Resolute that we mentioned before.
For average, everyday riding in mostly somewhat-dry conditions however, this tire would really be a great choice for the vast majority of riders out there.
To wrap it up
Well, after breaking down what to consider when purchasing tires for your gravel bike, we hope that this list helped you navigate through all the choices you have and put a few tires on your list to look further into.
There really is something for everybody out there, so it is important to really think about what kind of riding you will be doing the most, not the type of riding you wish you were doing the most.
Keeping that in mind, along with with any size limitations from your bike and the decision of whether or not to roll tubeless will help you make your decision.
Even the best tire is not going to make you ride your bike more, so some might say the best tire for you is the one on your bike right now. What matters most is just getting out, riding, and having some fun!
Jake V is an avid cyclist from Wisconsin. Over the last 12 years, he has explored the worlds of road biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, and urban riding. He currently has too many bikes (if that is even possible), but his favorite would be his Colnago EPS or Cinelli Tutto, depending on what kind of riding is in store for him that day. When he is not riding bikes, he likes to go sailing, skiing, and enjoy a few craft beers.