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 has 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 our most steady go-to tread choice, and now there are more options than ever. Here are a few of our favorites that offer great all-road versatility.
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 10 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.
WTB has been in the knobby tire trade for decades, and they’re known for their robust, fat-tire designs. When it comes to gravel, WTB has more options for every type of condition 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 chunky outer knobs. The Raddler is an excellent choice for loose terrain where traction takes priority, but efficiency is never far behind.
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.
ZIPP TANGENTE COURSE G40
Zipp has just jumped into the gravel tire scene with their first large tire offering. The Tangente Course G40 is a 40mm tire designed to maximize 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.
IRC has a full line of race-oriented tires, and the Boken is that—fast. Riding on gravel, pavement, dirt—wherever you choose—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 Belgian Waffle Ride?
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 lineup. The EMP gets 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 offers incredible cornering capabilities.
SCHWALBE G-ONE BITE
Schwalbe remains one of the industry’s most performance-oriented tire brands, and the G-One labeling makes it easy to narrow the gravel search down. For us, the G-One Bite might be their best balance of road speed with just enough grip off the tarmac. The low-profile round knobs offer even centerline feel, while the outer knobs are supportive enough to maintain confidence. The G-One Bite is available in a selection of 700c and 650b sizes.
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.