Buyer’s Guide: Fast Gravel Tires

A look at the fast-rolling rubber options

For many years tire options for gravel bikes were just enlarged cyclocross tires, many of which were aggressive “mud” tires. As the all-road and gravel trend became more mainstream so have the variety of component options. The most noticeable has been the evolution of wheel and tire technologies, offering more variety than one can wrap their mind around. For us here in SoCal where it is rarely muddy the low profile knob has always been a goto, and now there are more options than ever. Here are a few of our favorites that offer great all-road versatility.

MAXXIS RAMBLER

Maxxis has one of the largest tire catalogs when it comes to gravel and all-road options. Most of their tires are offered in multiple sizes as well as constructions. This allows you to balance protection, weight and durability to your specific needs. For example, the Rambler is offered in ten variations, and that’s just in the 700c version.
The Rambler offers a tread that is very predictable as you transfer onto the side knobs while cornering. The low profile knobs are tightly spaced in the center to raise the case of the tire over debris and maintain a large contact patch. The sides have more space between them offering a bit more grab when things are loose.

Price: $60
www.maxxis.com

 

WTB RADDLER

WTB is known for their off-road tires that are robust. When it comes to gravel they too have more options for every type of condition than imaginable. WTB tires normally start a bit tight on wheels and this makes them a great option for easy tubeless setup. Much of this is because there is a bit more rubber all the way to the bead.
The Raddler is the radder version of the famed Riddler tread pattern. It combines the expeditious efficiency of a short-knob centerline with get-rad traction of chunky outer knobs. Raddler is an excellent choice for loose terrain where traction takes priority, but efficiency is never far behind.

Price: $60
www.wtb.com

 

KENDA ALLUVIUM PRO

The Kenda Alluvium Pro is a gravel and adventure tire that is as capable on pavement as it is on hardpack. A tread design optimized for speed, with low profile knobs to aid in reducing rolling resistance, combined with a single tread rubber compound, the Alluvium offers speed and grip. The GCT casing wraps the tire from bead to bead with a secondary casing layer acting as a shield against punctures and sidewall slashes. This tire is incredibly efficient even in the large 45mm version. Kenda also offers it in a 35mm and 40mm in the 700c version with a 45mm 650b version.

Price: $65
www.kendatire.com

 

ZIPP TANGENTE COURSE G40

Zipp has just jumped into the gravel scene with their first large tire offering. The Tangente Course G40 is a 40mm tire designed for control, which in gravel translates into higher overall speed. There is a chevron center-tread pattern for speed which transitions to an inverted soccer cleat design. XC-style knobs on the edges for the ability to dig in when you need it. The tire’s casing and bead-to-bead puncture protection strip navigates the fine line between supple and stiff so that grip and performance do not suffer while making an incredibly durable gravel tire.

Price: $65
www.zipp.com

 

IRC BOKEN

IRC has a full line of race-oriented tires and the Boken is that, fast. Riding on gravel, pavement, dirt, wherever you go it delivers. This tire has a unique center diamond pattern profile tread for smooth surfaces while side knobs provide traction and control in softer terrain. Available in two sizes 40mm and 36mm as well as a slightly modified version for 650b.  Did we mention that it’s the official tire of the BWR.

Price: $70
www.ircbike.com

 

DONNELLY X’PLOR EMP

Donnelly is known for some very fast and low-profile treads for all-road and gravel.  The EMP is currently the most aggressive gravel-specific tire in the Donnelly line-up. The EMP pulls its name from the airport code for Emporia, Kansas, the place that put gravel racing on the map. The tread pattern offers amazing traction with surprisingly low rolling resistance. As you roll this tire on its side, the combination of a more open tread pattern and aggressive side knobs offer incredible cornering capabilities.

Price: $46-$70
www.donnellycycling.com

 

SPECIALIZED PATHFINDER PRO

The Pathfinder Pro offers a solid centerline with very minimal mid tread and larger side knobs. The design offers minimal resistance when things are upright and hardpacked. The tire does well on many surfaces but the casing is not the most supple so proper tire pressure is key.

Price: $50
www.specialized.com

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