Gravel riding can take you onto stretches of a wide range of ride terrain. On a single gravel ride, you can experience riding on pavement, loose surfaces, hard-packed dirt, rocky roads, gloppy mud, and loamy singletrack.
Although most gravel bike tire manufacturers aim to provide tires suitable for all types of gravel riding terrain, there are a few that specialize in certain sections. For instance, some brands may simply focus on churning out chunky tires for rides on mud and sand while others may produce slicker designs for well-maintained dirt and tarmac roads.
Now, it is important for you to find the right set of gravel tires as your road cycling experience is completely reliant on the appropriate choice of tires.
Also, as I briefly touched upon before, pay in mind that not all gravel bike tires are created equally. While some may work well in certain weather conditions, others may excel in other areas.
You may need to chop and change the tires as per the riding trails and weather conditions.
For a gravel tire to excel in all types of surfaces, it must have puncture protection, proper grip, and outstanding rolling resistance. In essence, gravel tires are the perfect hybrid of mountain bike tyres and road bike tires.
Lucky for you, you needn’t go through the trouble of hunting down some of the best tires for gravel bikes as I have you covered in that department. Here are 9 of the best gravel tyres for rides on gravel, off road, and dirt roads.
- At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Gravel Bike Tires
- Top 9 Best Gravel Bike Tires 2020 – Our Reviews:
- What to Consider When Buying the Best Gravel Tyres?
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Gravel Bike Tires
If you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight into our top picks (these are the gravel bike tires that most people buy).
- WTB Resolute TCS Top Pick
- Challenge Gravel Grinder Runner-up
- Maxxis Rambler EXO TR Gravel and Adventure Tire Runner-up
Top 9 Best Gravel Bike Tires 2020 – Our Reviews:
1. WTB Resolute TCS
WTB´s foray into the gravel bike tire market has been nothing short of a resounding success. Its flagship product, the WTB Resolute TCS tyre, has made waves everywhere on account of its phenomenal grip off-roads.
If you liked the WTB Riddler, you’ll like the Resolute too. Widely marketed as an all-condition gravel tyre, the WTB Resolute bike tire has truly lived up to its billing.
To ensure the rolling resistance is kept to a minimum, the makers have incorporated a small tread pattern with tightly-spaced square knobs onto the tires. The integration of durable side knobs and wide-set intermediate further adds grip to the tires, allowing them to ride out rocky and loose gravel terrain with ease.
It also helps that the WTB tires have puncture protection and nylon insert with flattened fibers to keep them lightweight and well-shielded from harmful elements.
However, I must admit that the WTB Resolute tires don’t perform up to par on the tarmac; you will experience hum and drag on such road types. As long as you stay away from tarmac and singletrack on these tires, you are good to go.
- Phenomenal off-road grip
- Provides excellent riding experience as it has good rolling speed
- Extensive protection from punctures
- Tubeless WTB tires
- Not a good performer on the tarmac
- Limited sidewall color options
2. Challenge Gravel Grinder
Looking for a nimble lightweight gravel tire that provides an excellent grip in the wet? Well, look no further than the Challenge Gravel Grinder.
Weighing a mere 365 grams and with its versatile casing keeping vibrations at bay, expect to travel at phenomenal speeds with these bike tires.
What truly gets the gravel bike tyres up to speed, especially on hard-packed dry surfaces, are the tiny triangular shoulder knobs and the brilliant design of the tire’s chicane file pattern up the middle. Plus, since the development from the center strip to the shoulder tread is notable and well-defined, you can expect to feel the full participation of larger knobs when you lean over into the corners.
However, don’t expect a stellar performance out of the Challenge Gravel Grinder gravel bike tyres during muddy conditions. Its minimal tread can’t handle the stress of riding under such challenging circumstances.
Available for purchase in a wide range of tyre width options extending from 33 mm to 42 mm on 700c wheels, the airtight Challenge Gravel Grinder is a smart choice for rides on gravel.
- Fast-rolling tyre
- Soft casing
- Excellent traction in the wet
- Has the tire dimensions to fit 650b wheel size
- The center knobs and diamond tread wear off too easily for my liking
3. Maxxis Rambler EXO TR Gravel and Adventure Tire
Give it to Maxxis to come up with the best gravel tires in the business. The Maxxis Rambler EXO TR, too, upholds the prestige of the company with its excellent showing.
Boasting a tightly-packed center tread to minimize drag and ensure the tyre rolls swiftly, the Maxxis Rambler EXO TR Gravel and Adventure is a safe choice for smooth dirt and gravel trails.
I must speak glowingly about the shoulder blocks on the gravel tyres.
Considerably more substantial than blocks on other tires, they do well to hook up on loose trails. Also, despite the knobbies being held too close, they’re more than capable of digging their claws in where and when necessary.
Additionally, plaudits must also be given to the round profile of the tyre that helps make cornering reliable, predictable, and safe.
Let’s also not forget the durable sidewall protection on the gravel tyres that hold up well against slices and slashes. Though supple, the Maxxis Rambler EXO is more than enough to take the sting out of square edges.
If you are keen on cross country riding, get yourself a set of Maxxis EXO TR gravel tires.
- Best gravel road tyre for those who ride on smooth gravel and dirt trails frequently
- Supple casing
- Excellent traction
- Tightly packed center tread
- Not the best option for mud
4. Donnelly X´Plor MSO
The makers of the Donnelly X´Plor MSO must be given their due credit for incorporating stiff sidewalls in the tubeless X´Plor tires, thus making them very easy to install. However, what sets the Donnelly X’Plor MSO tire apart from the rest is its speed performance, strong traction, and puncture-resistant features.
Designed to excel in a wide range of surfaces, these tyres will work like a charm both in the city and away from it. With these bad boys around, no longer will you need to change tires should you plan to ride off-road.
Since the center strip is packed rather tightly, the tread opens up as it journeys into a transition and heads towards the shoulder blocks. This gives you the confidence to move through loose surfaces with phenomenal ease. The presence of a round shoulder tread on the tire, which pokes through sand, is also a welcome addition.
On the downside, the X´Plor MSO gravel tires are a bit too heavy for my liking. Additionally, they have tough casings too; so, don’t expect the most comfortable of rides on these tyres.
- Fast-rolling road bike tires
- Quick and easy installation process for the competitive cyclist
- Offers good puncture resistance
- Isn’t the best performer in mud
- A bit too stiff and heavy for my liking
5. Panaracer Gravel King SK TLC
If you want to speed through smooth gravel terrain, you should equip your bike with the Panaracer Gravel King SK TLC tires.
What makes the Panaracer GravelKing SK TLC bike tire so special you ask?
Well, to ensure optimum performance from the tire on dry surfaces, the makers have incorporated center small-block tread on the tyres. They roll out quickly and smoothly, providing fast rolling action.
The textured tread on the sidewalls also works exceptionally well at offering extra grip. With the transition tread positioned centrally, you can bet your bottom dollar that these tires will excel on pavement and off-road trails. And, although these tires may not look like much, they can more than take a beating without losing air.
However, I feel discouraged looking at the extended shoulder knobs on the tyres as they don’t offer the best experience when you lean over into the corners. Also, if you intend to ride through pure mud, the Panaracer GravelKing Small Knob TLC bike tyres may not be your best option.
- Supple and comfortable enough for gravel rides
- Fast-rolling action
- Tubeless-ready bicycle tires
- Can be used as both road bike and mountain bike tyre
- Restricted to tame trails
- The extended shoulder knobs don’t perform up to standards at cornering
- Not suitable for the competitive cyclist
6. Vittoria Terreno Dry
Vittoria has been in the tire industry for a decent period now. With their tires, you can expect proper function and the Vittoria Terreno Dry is no different.
Buoyed by the infusion of graphene in the rubber tires, the Vittoria Dry gravel tyre offers exceptional rolling resistance, grip, and sturdiness. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these supple, lightweight rubber tires will shred into pieces when matched against sharp rocks.
There’s nothing common about the Vittoria Terreno Dry gravel tyres.
Ramped hexagon tread patterns make up the unique center tread instead of your customary file tread. The spacing pattern and scales on the thread are prevalent on the tires to offer additional grip on frozen and hard-baked surfaces.
When you inspect the tire carefully, you will witness the shoulder tread blocks growing until they meet the well-supported knobbies. This design scheme has been incorporated to offer predictable and controlled slides.
However, be careful not to push these tires over the edge during off-chamber situations.
Also, unlike tires with a round profile, the Vittoria tires lean more towards a square profile to offer a better cornering experience.
- Fast-rolling action especially on hard surfaces
- The rubber compound is durable beyond belief
- Can also be used on road bikes and mountain bikes
- Tends to get slippery when wet
- Heavier than its contemporaries
7. Schwalbe G-One AllRound
The Schwalbe G-One All Round tires are renowned for being lightweight, supple, and fast.
However, its light weight also means that it is susceptible to damage on flats. Unless you work these tires on interspersed pavement sectors that are predominantly soil rather than gravel, you would struggle with them.
On the upside, the Schwalbe G-One All Round tubeless tires are extremely easy to set up; getting them over the bead is as easy as a walk in the park.
It also helps that the round and small siped knobs hardly play a factor in effecting the rolling resistance of the tires. Instead, the low-profile knobs effectively provide traction to the tires on non-technical dry terrains and gravel trails.
They also facilitate a faster rolling action on pavement.
If I have to pinpoint the one area the Schwalbe G-One tubeless tires work best in, I would mention hardpack trails.
- Fast and smooth rolling action
- Best suited for gravel riders who travel on hardpack trails regularly
- Easy and convenient installation process for the competitive cyclist
- Suffers from fragile casing
8. Specialized Trigger Pro
Search far and wide—you won’t get a tire as speedy as the Specialized Trigger Pro. Most suitable for use on fast rolling terrain that isn’t accustomed to sharp rocks, the Specialized Trigger Pro has everything you’d want in a well-functioning gravel bike tire.
One look at the tread and you’ll identify that the makers have favored speed over traction on this bike tire.
However, that doesn’t mean that the grip on the Specialized gravel tyre is wishy-washy. It is more than capable of providing a decent amount of grip when you require it the most.
The Specialized gravel tyre also benefits tremendously from the incorporation of Specialized’s “Endurant” casing, which adds further puncture protection.
What gets the tire to hook up in the corners and perform silently in pavements you ask? The tires can function that way because of the raised center strip and the diamond-shaped knobs that keep growing until the edge.
Unfortunately, the performance of the bike tires decreases substantially when the gravel gets deeper and the surface gets softer.
- Fast-rolling action
- Excels in the durability department
- Smooth road riding gravel tire
- A bit undersized for the competitive cyclist
- The extra layer of protection on the tire adds weight to it
9. Continental Terra Speed
Specifically manufactured for use on loose and dry conditions, the Continental Terra Speed works well in almost all types of terrain including tarmac and gravel. Despite having a tough exterior and durable build, it is quite supple.
Like the Vittoria Terreno Dry tires, the Continental gravel tires also boast hexagonal-shaped tread blocks. Added to the mix is horizontal siping to facilitate easy control and steering on loose trails.
As its name suggests, the Continental gravel tyre has much faster rolling than some of the other tires mentioned on the list, making it a safe choice for cyclists looking to improve their performances on less aggressive trails.
What contributes to the durability of the bike tire is the brand’s trademarked “Revolution Tubeless Ready Casing” and 3-layer “ProTection” tech features.
Although the traction on the tire cannot be compared to a genuine road tire, it is still enough to get you cutting corners with a decent level of confidence.
Similar to the Terra Trail, the Continental Terra Speed bike tires work best on hardpacked gravel routes and dry mud terrain.
- Provides fantastic grip on hardpacked gravel surfaces and dry mud terrain
- Low rolling resistance
- Easy installation process on gravel bikes
- Tubeless-ready for the competitive cyclist
- Unique tread design
- Can operate smoothly even on low tire pressure
- Not too good on soft mud
- Narrow tire width in 650B x tyre size
What to Consider When Buying the Best Gravel Tyres?
The first thing you need to do before splurging on a gravel bike tire is to make sure you identify your riding style, the riding conditions you are likely to ride on, and the terrain you want to tackle.
If the gravel roads you want to tackle have tarmac, you need to know that it’s best for you to avoid an aggressive tread compound tire. Such tires would slow you down tremendously and could become a team issue; they are better reserved for routes laden with sharp rocks.
To be on the safe side, consider this rule—the rougher the surface of the road, the bigger the tread you’ll require on your tires. Also, pay attention to the tire dimensions to match the tire to the correct rim size and ensure it fits your wheel size too.
If you’re looking for more grip on your tires, look for a tyre with as much tread as possible.
However, too much of it results in more rolling resistance. So, you have to bear in mind the track conditions you’re likely to tackle when choosing the tread pattern of the tires.
For light gravel roads, opt for a fat slick, semi-slick, or low profile file tread. For singletrack, consider a knobby tyre.
For those likely to ride in the wet, deeper and wider out knobs on the tread will serve you better.
Here’s a tip for you that should help you find the find balance of grip and speed in your tires—make sure your front tire is more aggressive than the rear one. The front aggressive tires will provide more grip while your less aggressive rear tyre helps you retain speed.
We have reached the end of this piece and I hope you are by now somewhat of an expert at picking the best gravel bike tire for you.
I understand that it may be tough for you to get the hang of things in the beginning. However, as you look more into tires, whether it’s road bike tires or mountain bike tires, you’ll be able to comprehend the importance of tyre selection and realize how a wrong kind of tire can ruin your cycling experience.
I’ve presented you with a list of options that are suitable for all types of gravel and cross country riding. However, as I briefly mentioned before, there isn’t one tyre that stands head and shoulders above the rest simply because of the fact that some may work well in certain conditions while others may excel in other areas.