10 gravel tyres that are perfect for any trail
Not sure about what rubber to pick when heading off-road? Here's all you need to know.
The tyre you choose for your bike is critical, particularly when it comes to your gravel bike. The choice ranges anywhere from slick designs intended for tarmac and well-maintained dirt roads, to chunky treaded tyres that will help you plough through the gloopiest mud and sand. Most, though, aim to provide the best all-round performance on a wide range of terrain.
A gravel tyre is essentially a crossover between those found on road bikes and mountain bikes – it has a larger volume compared to those that are made solely for tarmac, while the lugs of the tread are generally shallow enough to not impact rolling resistance.
Ultimately, which one you choose depends on the type of terrain you intend to ride, as well as the amount of on- and off-road. Many are versatile and ideal for road riding and commuting, and thanks to the increasing popularity of the discipline, there is now a huge amount of choice when it comes to choosing the right one.
What to be aware of when buying a gravel tyre
Wheel size: There are two popular wheel sizes in the gravel world. The standard is 700c – the same as a road bike – and nearly all gravel bikes are primarily designed with this in mind.
A growing number of bikes though are also compatible with a smaller 650b wheel size. The benefit of using a 650b wheel is that you can fit wider tyres to the rim than on a 700c wheel, without maxing out the frame and fork’s tyre clearance.
There are pros and cons for both sizes – the bigger wheel is faster but it limits the tyre size, while smaller wheels are more nimble and the bigger tyres increase comfort and traction.
Tyre width: Gravel tyres are much wider than road and cyclocross tyres. How wide you go will be dictated by the available clearance in your frame and fork, and the requirements of your riding. The latest drop-bar off-road bikes generally provide space for up to 45mm wide tyres on a 700c wheel and 60mm on a 650b wheel. It’s worth checking with your frame manufacturer before trying to fit the widest tyres you can buy.
Pressures: Using bigger tyres mean you can run much lower pressures, which is great for comfort and traction, and you won’t lose much in the way of rolling resistance, either. As a general guide, the rougher the terrain, the lower the pressure. Finding the right pressure is a matter of trial and error – start off by following the suggested tyre manufacturer recommendations and adjust to your personal preference.
Tubeless: Riding over rough gravel incurs a greater risk of puncturing, and tubeless tyres are a great precaution against a flat tyre. Most tyres are offered with a tubeless version and many bikes are now sold with tubeless-ready wheels, so ditching the inner tubes has never been easier. Going tubeless also lets you run lower pressures without the risk of pinching an inner tube.
The best gravel tyres you can buy in 2020
1. Schwalbe G-One Allround
Price: From £33.99
The G-One from Schwable has long been a favourite with riders because it has the ability to be fast on the road and capable on gravel and dirt. There are different versions, Speed, Allround and Bite, depending on the terrain and how much grip you want; a wide range of widths, from 30 to 70mm; and price points to suit all budgets. The G-One Allround is a versatile tyre that impresses in a variety of situations, and if you want a fit-and-forget tyre, it’s a good pick. If you need more grip in mud and loose conditions, the taller blocks of the G-One Bite deliver it in spades.
2. Continental Terra
With a similarity to the G-One, the Continental Terra Speed and Trail are two tyres designed for everything from fast-rolling on hard surfaces to maximising grip on gravel tracks. The tightly spaced hexagonal-shaped blocks are intended to provide low rolling resistance and, as such, are a good choice for speedy riders, while the 'Black Chili' rubber compound is borrowed from Continental’s mountain bike tyres for reassuring grip in all conditions. The tyres come in 35 and 40mm widths in both 650b or 700c.
3. Panaracer GravelKing SK
A tyre with gravel in its name needs to deliver, and this model from Japanese brand Panaracer certainly does – it was one of the first really good gravel-specific tyres available and continues to be a favourite.
It comes in a range of versions, from a slick tyre version for all-road use, to the SK (Small Knob) chosen here, and a new EXT version for serious mud and loose conditions. The SK comes in tubeless, tubed and a new Plus version, with beefed up puncture protection. It's available in 650b and 700c, and widths from 32mm to 53mm.
4. Teravail Rutland
If you want to ride very loose and muddy trails, the aggressive and widely spaced tread pattern of the Teravail Rutland stands out. It comes in 650b and 700c sizes, up to 47mm wide, and can be used tubeless or with tubes.
If you’re riding challenging terrain with a predisposition to slippery, mud-covered tracks, the Rutland will provide reassuring levels of traction. It’s not the fastest on the road or hardpack trails, but it’s not as slow as you might expect, given the chunkiness of the tread pattern.
5. Pirelli Cinturato Gravel
A new name to the gravel market, Pirelli’s Cinturato Gravel comes in two versions – H for hard-packed and dry paths and M for mixed-terrain and loose conditions. They both feature the company’s own tread compound, based on its mountain bike line, with a chunky pattern designed to provide straight-line speed and cornering grip.
The main difference between the two is that the M has a beefier and more widely spaced tread design for when the going gets slippery. Available in 650b and 700c, and 35, 40 and 50mm widths, the tyres feature reinforced casing construction with bead-to-bead puncture protection.
6. Goodyear Connector
Another car brand that has got back into cycling is Goodyear, and the Connector is a fast-rolling tyre for hardpack, gravel and forest trails where you want grip and speed in equal measure. It’s a tubeless-ready tyre with full casing puncture protection, and comes in just one size – 700x40mm.
The tightly packed small knobs mean it rolls very fast and is definitely a tyre for people that treasure speed. Wider spaced shoulder knobs also keep you upright in the corners, ensuring it’s a good choice for faster gravel roads.
7. WTB Riddler
WTB offers an extensive range of gravel tyres but the Riddler is a very popular choice because it is both fast and grippy, coping well in a wide range of trail conditions. It’s not that slow on the road, either. Born from a mountain bike tyre, it has a closely packed centre section for speed and big shoulder blocks for cornering grip. It comes in two widths – 37mm for fast gravel racing and 45mm for bikepacking where comfort is a high priority.
If that wasn’t enough, WTB has recently added the Raddler to its range, which is essentially a beefed up Riddler and intended for loose and muddy conditions where more grip is needed.
8. Donnelly EMP
Price: From £40
Donnelly Cycling produces a wide range of gravel tyres to suit all terrains and conditions, and the EMP, which gets its name from the airport code for Emporia, Kansas (home to the biggest gravel race in the world, the Dirty Kanza), is the brand's most aggressive gravel tyre.
The open tread pattern and soft rubber compounds provide tons of traction with tall side knobs hooking up in the corners. It comes in just 700x38mm size and is tubeless-ready but can be used with tubes.
9. Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss
The Pathfinder Pro is a versatile tyre that can be used on the road or on dry forest trails and gravel tracks. If you value outright speed, the slick centre section minimises rolling resistance and, when you come to a corner, the diamond-shaped tread pattern with bigger side knobs will hook up in the loose. It’s available in 38 and 42mm widths for 700c wheels and 650Bx47.
The Gripton compound, borrowed from its road line, delivers reassuring grip and leaves you with a durable tyre with a decent wear rate. The inclusion of 2Bliss provides easy tubeless installation but you can use them with inner tubes if your wheels aren't tubeless-ready.
10. Challenge Gravel Grinder
The Italian tyre brand Challenge offers the appropriately named Gravel Grinder. It resembles a mountain bike semi-slick tyre and is defined by a wide dimpled centre section optimised for low rolling resistance, and bigger side knobs to provide grip when you lean over into the corners. One for dry and hardpack trails, it’s one of the few models to be offered in a tubular version, as well as a clincher tubeless, with 33mm to 42mm width options on 700c wheels.