The Best Tires for Gravel Cycling

Tires are the most important component on your gravel bike. Whether you want the fastest race tire, big knobs for gnarly terrain, or something that'll work on the road, these are the best gravel tires for the job.

The Best Tires for Gravel Cycling

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Gravel

Want to ride faster, corner better, and feel more confident on your gravel bike? Then upgrade those tires! Tires affect how your gravel bike performs more than any other component. They have a major effect on weight, rolling resistance, traction, and comfort. Choosing the right tire for your riding style and terrain will transform your bike into a gravel grinding weapon. 

There are a lot of different gravel tires out there, which can make it hard to decide what tire you need. To break it down, I’ve picked out the best slick, semi-slick, all-rounder, and aggressive gravel tires on the market. These are the tire models that we love running here at TPC, and many have experienced major success in pro racing and events like Unbound Gravel. If you want to maximize your performance, you can’t go wrong with any of the gravel tires listed here. 

Contents:

[button]SHOP ALL TIRES[/button]

[newsletter]

Best slick gravel tires

Slick gravel tires are ideal for riders who will spend the majority of their time on pavement but still want to smoother dirt and gravel roads. Because there are no raised knobs, rolling resistance is minimized. Many “slick” gravel tires will actually use a low-profile file or diamond tread pattern to provide a bit of extra traction on loose surfaces.

Challenge Strada Bianca Pro

Challenge Strada Bianca Pro[product-block handle="challenge-strada-bianca-pro-handmade-700c-260-tpi-tubeless-black-tan"/]

700c Sizes: 30mm, 33mm, 36mm, 40mm
TPI: 260
Weight: 460g (40mm)

Challenge tires are handmade in Italy and feature super-supple high-TPI casings that roll exceptionally fast. The Strada Bianca Pro is a race tire designed for rough pavement, cobblestones, and light gravel.  

Panaracer GravelKing Slick

Panaracer GravelKing Slick[product-block handle="panaracer-gravelking-tire-700-x-38c-tubeless-black-brown"/]

700c Sizes: 32mm, 35mm, 38mm
TPI: 126
Weight: 330g (38mm)

The GravelKing slick is the lightest and fastest rolling tire in Panaracer’s GravelKing family and it rolls fast thanks to a supple 126 TPI casing. For rougher terrain, it’s also available in a slightly heavier “Plus” version with bead-to-bead puncture protection. 

Maxxis Re-Fuse Gravel

Maxxis Re-Fuse Gravel700c Sizes: 32mm, 40mm
TPI: 60
Weight: 531g (40mm)

The Maxxis Re-fuse is super durable thanks to MaxxShield bead-to-bead puncture-protection. It is designed to survive everything from urban commutes to tough gravel and it's ideal for riders concerned about punctures from road debris.  

Best semi-slick gravel tires

Semi-slick gravel tires use a slick or file-tread center section to minimize rolling resistance and larger side-knobs for cornering traction. A semi-slick is a good compromise between a full slick and a knobbier all-rounder tire. It maximizes speed on pavement and smooth gravel but has a little extra cornering bite for loose surfaces.

Challenge Gravel Grinder Pro / Race

Challenge Gravel Grinder Race[product-block handle="challenge-gravel-grinder-pro-handmade-700x36c-260-tpi-tubeless-black-tan"/]

700c Sizes: 33mm, 36mm, 38mm, 42mm
TPI: 260 (Pro) / 120 (Race)
Weight: 425g (42mm - Race)

The Gravel Grinder is based on Challenge’s ultra-fast Chicane cyclocross tire which uses large cleat-style side lugs for great cornering grip. It comes in a "Pro" version using a handmade high-TPI casing and a more affordable "Race" version using a lower-TPI nylon casing that is slightly heavier but more durable. 

Panaracer GravelKing SS

Panaracer GravelKing SS[product-block handle="panaracer-gravelking-ss-tire-700c-tubeless-black"/]
700c Sizes: 32mm, 35mm, 38mm, 43mm

TPI: 126
Weight: 480g (43mm)

The GravelKing SS uses a very smooth center and low-profile side knobs that make it close to the GravelKing Slick in terms of speed. For rougher terrain, it’s also available in a slightly heavier “Plus” version with bead-to-bead puncture protection. 

Schwalbe G-One RS

Schwalbe G-One RS700c Sizes: 35mm, 40mm, 45mm
TPI: 67
Weight: 445g (40mm)

The G-One RS is Schwalbe’s newest and fastest gravel race tire. The center tread is multi-directional and can be mounted to either enhance climbing or braking traction and the side knobs are designed for a smooth transition during cornering. The G-One RS was used by the Unbound Gravel men’s winner in 2022. 

Specialized Pathfinder Pro

Specialized Pathfinder Pro700c Sizes: 32mm, 38mm, 42mm
TPI: 120
Weight: 540g (42mm)

The Specialized Pathfinder Pro uses a fully slick center tread that quickly transitions to a dense set of knobs. It’s a fast and puncture-resistant tire that has won Unbound Gravel multiple times. 

WTB Byway

WTB Byway

[product-block handle="wtb-byway-tire-road-tcs-tanwall-tubeless"/]

700c Sizes: 40mm, 44mm
TPI: 60 /120 (SG2)
Weight: 463g (40mm - SG2)

The WTB Byway uses a fully slick center tread that transitions to a file tread pattern with some minimal knobs. Newer versions are available with WTB’s SG2 casing which offers bead-to-bead puncture protection. 

Best all-rounder gravel tires

Knobby all-rounder gravel tires are the most popular gravel tire option. All-rounders provide traction on a wide variety of dirt and gravel surfaces with fast-rolling low-profile knobs in the center and slightly more aggressive side-knobs for cornering. These tires can handle loose and rough terrain but have a bit more rolling resistance on paved roads.

Challenge Getaway Pro

Challenge Getaway Pro[product-block handle="challenge-getaway-pro-handmade-700c-260-tpi-tubeless-black-tan"/]

700c Sizes: 36mm, 40mm
TPI: 260
Weight: 465g (40mm)

The Challenge Getaway Pro is one of the fastest-rolling knobby gravel tires thanks to its high-TPI handmade casing. The super supple casing provides great traction and comfort, which is why it was my tire of choice for Unbound Gravel.

Continental Terra Speed

Continental Terra Speed

[product-block handle="nc_continental-terra-speed-tire-700-x-42"/]

700c Sizes: 35mm, 40mm
TPI: 3/180
Weight: 465g (40mm)

The Terra Speed is ranked as one of the fastest-rolling knobby tires, rivaling the Challenge Getaway. It uses the same 3-ply 180 TPI casing and Black Chili rubber compound used on Continental’s class-leading Grand Prix 5000 road tires. 

Donnelly Sports X'Plor MSO

Donnelly Sports X'Plor MSO WC700c Sizes: 36mm, 40mm, 50mm
TPI: 60 / 240 (WC)
Weight: 532g (40mm - 60 TPI) 

The Donnelly X’Plor MSO tire is named for the airport code of Missoula, Montana, the home of the Adventure Cycling Association. With plenty of tread, it's ready to explore a wide range of terrain. For racers, a lighter, 240 TPI WC (World Cup) version is available. 

Maxxis Rambler

Maxxis Rambler

[product-block handle="maxxis-rambler-tire-27-5x1-5-exo-casing-120-tpi-tubeless-black"/]

700c Sizes: 38mm, 40mm, 45mm, 50mm
TPI: 120 / 60
Weight: 404g (40mm, 120 TPI)

The Rambler uses a closely packed center tread and alternating square and L-shaped side lugs. The design takes cues from Maxxis’ industry-leading downhill mountain bike tires and provides ample traction while leaned over. The Rambler is also a multi-time Unbound Gravel winner.  

Panaracer GravelKing SK

Panaracer GravelKing SK[product-block handle="panaracer-gravelking-sk-tire-700x38c-126tpi-tubeless-black-1"/]

700c Sizes: 32mm, 35mm, 38mm, 43mm, 50mm
TPI: 126
Weight: 490g (43mm)

The GravelKing SK is one of the most popular tires in gravel. The tightly packed center tread rolls fast on any surface while the long, rectangular side lugs feel stable when leaned over on hardpacked or paved surfaces. For rougher terrain, it’s also available in a slightly heavier “Plus” version with bead-to-bead puncture protection.

Zipp G40 XPLR

Zipp G40 XPLR

[product-block handle="zipp-g40-xplr-700x40c"/]

700c Sizes: 40mm
TPI: 127
Weight: 465g (40mm)

The G40 XPLR is Zipp's first gravel tire. It uses a chevron center-tread pattern for speed which transitions to a soccer cleat-inspired lug design. It has a bead-to-bead puncture protection that navigates the fine line between supple and stiff to create a good compromise between grip, speed, and durability. 

Best aggressive gravel tires

Aggressive gravel tires use larger, widely spaced knobs to dig into loose surfaces and maximize traction. These tires are a good option for rough gravel, mud, and singletrack or for riders who want maximum traction and confidence while descending and cornering. They provide a lot of grip, but roll much slower on pavement and smooth gravel.

Continental Terra Trail

Continental Terra Trail

[product-block handle="continental-terra-trail-protection-tire-700x40c-180-tpi-tubeless"/]

700c Sizes: 40mm
TPI: 3/180
Weight: 455g (40mm)

The Terra Trail takes the fast casing and rubber compound of the Terra Speed and amps it up with a tread pattern using larger knobs. It’s a solid choice for riders that need just a bit more traction but don’t want to sacrifice too much speed. 

Teravail Rutland

Teravail Rutland

[product-block handle="teravail-rutland-tire-700c-tubeless-light-and-supple-tan"/]

700c Sizes: 32mm, 35mm, 42mm, 47mm
TPI: 60
Weight: 500g (42mm - Light and Supple)

The Rutland is designed with the unknown in mind with MTB-style center lugs that are ramped and tightly spaced to reduce rolling resistance while still providing plenty of grip in loose conditions. It’s available in a “Light and Supple” casing and a heavier but tougher “Durable” casing. 

WTB Nano 700

WTB Nano

[product-block handle="wtb-nano-tire-700-x-40c-tcs-light-fast-rolling-tubeless"/]

700c Sizes: 40mm
TPI: 670 / 120 (SG2)
Weight: 445g (40mm - SG2)

The Nano is one of the oldest tread designs in gravel, and it’s stuck around because it works. The knobs are large, but the center knobs are arranged to create a near continuous line so it still rolls smooth on paved and hardpacked surfaces. The wider MTB version of the Nano is one of the most popular tires used for the Tour Divide bikepacking race. 

[button]SHOP ALL TIRES[/button]

Tire tread should match the terrain you ride most. If your riding consists of 80% pavement and 20% gravel, a slick or semi-slick tire will work best. If your pavement to gravel ratio is closer to 50:50, then an all-rounder is the better choice.

Take your off-road handling skills into consideration too. Skilled riders can get away with a faster-rolling slick or semi-slick tire on loose and rough terrain. But if off-road handling skills are your weakness, then sacrifice rolling speed for traction with an all-rounder or aggressive tire that will have more grip and inspire confidence.

What gravel tires are your favorite? Or what gravel tires did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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