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29 of the best gravel bike tyres for 2021 — get the right go-anywhere rubber

Choose the perfect gravel bike tyres with our expert reviews

The best gravel bike tyres combine off-road grip and cushioning with a tread light enough it's not too slow on Tarmac. Exactly which are the best gravel bike tyres for you will depend on your riding surfaces, weather and ambition, as well as the capacity of your bike; not all will accommodate the latest 45mm and 50mm rubber. This guide brings together a variety of the best gravel bike tyres in 30mm to 55mm widths, designed for tackling mixed terrain with a focus on off-road capability.

  • Gravel bike tyres have been getting fatter, with 38mm and 40mm tyres replacing the previous 'standards' of 33mm and 35mm

  • There are even 50mm and 55mm gravel bike tyres, though few bikes will take them and still have room for mud

  • Tread designs of gravel bike tyres vary between an inverted-tread semi-slick like the Ritchey WCS Alpine JB Stronghold to the almost mountain bike knobbliness of the Maxxis Rambler

  • For maximum versatility, consider having two sets of wheels, one shod with lighter-tread tyres, the other with knobblies; switching wheels is lots easier than changing tyres

  • If you really want to go fat, see if your bike can take 650B wheels; the smaller rim size leaves room for the fattest gravel bike tyres

Contents: the best gravel bike tyres for 2021

Six of a Kind: the very best gravel bike tyres

Best overall gravel bike tyre: WTB Resolute TCS Light SG2 — £37.99

WTB_Resolute_1

The WTB Resolute is one of the more open-treaded gravel tyres available, making it ideal for our British conditions. With the SG2 puncture-resistant layer, it's one of the best all-weather, all-conditions tyres you can get.

Tester Matt writes: "I tested these at a mix of pressures, with the official recommendations being 25-50psi – surprisingly low, and pleasing to see for a tyre of this type. It isn't the fastest of tyres on the road, but then that isn't what it is designed for. Although not silent it is reasonably quiet, perhaps helped by the closely-packed centre tread. Head off the surfaced roads and the tyre really starts to deliver, with traction for climbing and braking impressing on virtually all tracks.

“In really slippery mud it works better than any other gravel tyre I have tested, and its climbing grip helped me conquer gradients on slippery tracks that look impossible.”

Read our review of the WTB Resolute TCS Light SG2
Find a WTB dealer

Best for trail riding: Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge Endurance — £95.00

2020 Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge tyre mounted.jpg

The Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge tyre, in this Endurance casing, redefines how to go fast and far off-road without compromising grip or feel. With a noise-cancelling knob design that works extremely well and a shoulderless cornering feel, it's like riding a slick on tarmac – it's that good. You're paying absolutely top whack for it, though, and it may not fit your frame.

Tester Mke writes: "The Fleecer Ridge is a strong, light, grippy and comfortable tyre that rolls fast on or off-road. It's offered in four casings and the Endurance version here is – for me in the Scottish Highlands – the Goldilocks version. It offers a higher thread count (and a puncture-protection strip) than the Extralight for better protection, but keeps the super-supple feel.

“The Fleecer Ridge impresses over some very chunky gravel. Test sectors that require significant braking on 38mm Steilacooms were blasted in the smallest cog with hands off the levers, such was the confidence inspired. Safe to say the tyre's capability far exceeds my own middle-aged willingness to discover the edge of my personal competence envelope. The ability to change lines mid-corner whilst transitioning between gravel, silt, mossy grass and mud can lead to a sense of control possibly at odds with the laws of physics.”

Read our review of the Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge Endurance

Best for speedsters: Maxxis Receptor — £49.99

2021 Maxxis Receptor fitted

The Maxxis Receptor is a light, minimally-treaded gravel tyre that delivers an incredibly fast ride. It has a supple design and some puncture resistance, a combination that helps make it brilliant on hardpack and roads. It could be a great race tyre if you know the conditions will suit.

Tester Matt writes: "Maxxis says the Receptor is purely for roads, hard packed dirt trails and light gravel, so I did what I could to avoid mud – and you should too. They're as out of their depth as they look. "Road sections really highlight how fast this tyre is. It gives an incredibly smooth and quiet ride and an average speed that's almost the same as a pure road bike. The 120tpi carcass is thin and supple, and really delivers lots of feel and feedback – especially at low pressures.

"Off-road on firm trails the speed remains excellent, with a communicative, supple ride on both small and large bumps. On the climbs and under acceleration the low weight noticeable, and the Receptor feels quick to get back up to speed."

Read our review of the Maxxis Receptor
Find a Maxxis dealer

Best for mixed Tarmac & dirt roads: Vittoria Terreno Dry G2.0 — £44.99

2021 Vittoria Terreno Dry 700x40 tread

If your riding involves both dirt roads and Tarmac, then the Vittoria Terreno Dry is the way to go according to our riders (look out for a full review in the next few days). Where the Terreno Zero, below, has an almost slick centre section, for the Dry Vittoria uses a 'fishscale' tread. Those closely-packed hexagonal scales actually sit at varying heights, which gives tyre a little bite and grip. The tread might not be deep, but traction – both for braking and accelerating – is very impressive. The tyre deals with firm and loose surfaces well, and even if they get wet or a little muddy they still work.

For a fast-rolling tyre that can cope with more than just pure dust, the Vittoria Terreno Dry ticks lots of boxes. A wider version would be welcome – but it is, despite the 'dry' part of the name, a superb all-round gravel tyre.

Find a Vittoria dealer

Best for reliability: Zipp Tangente Course G40 — £54.40

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Tester Stu Kerton has found the Zipp Tangente Course G40 to be a deeply reliable companion in long-term testing. In our discussions about which tyres deserved to be in the selection of the best gravel bike tyres Stu said: "One tyre I keep going back to is the Zipp G40. Like most gravel tyres it's no use in lots of mud, but everywhere else I can't fault it. They've proved to be very durable too.

"My new test route is a 30 mile loop with constantly changing surfaces, bit of tarmac, chalk, mud, grass, gravel (both wide hardpacked tracks & narrow technical stuff) and even some singletrack thrown in for good measure. The Zipps just work on it all."

Read our review of the Zipp Tangente Course G40
Find a Zipp dealer

Best for mud: Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite — £39.99

2020 Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite 700x38 TLE tyre.jpg

The Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite is the most aggressive in Schwalbe's gravel line, and features larger knobbles not only the other G-Ones but most other gravel tyres as well. This results in excellent grip when things get sloppy but increased rolling resistance, meaning they're best for those who venture way off the beaten path.

Tester Jamie writes: "The large shoulder tread makes muddy corners easier, and the added rear traction really comes in handy. The Ultrabite is perfect if you take your gravel bike to slippy fields or even muddy singletrack.

"The ADDIX Speedgrip compound is borrowed from Schwalbe's mountain bike tyres, and gives excellent grip and good durability. I've covered about 600km on mixed terrain – including rocks, tarmac and of course gravel – with no sign of wear or punctures.

"The Ultrabite is a very capable offroad tyre that can turn a bog-standard gravel bike into a cyclocross or cross-country bike rival. These tyres are best suited for riders who spend most of their time on the slippy stuff and want the maximum grip possible."

Read our review of the Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite
Find a Schwalbe dealer

23 more great gravel bike tyres

Goodyear Connector Ultimate — £40.00

2021 Goodyear Connector Ultimate installed.jpg

Goodyear's Connector Ultimate gravel tyre comes in this big 50mm width, for both 650B and 700C wheels. The 700C version offers versatile grip, great volume and the promise of a floaty ride. It's great on and off road, and may fit more frames than expected.

The Connector Ultimate is built around Goodyear's Tubeless Complete carcass, rather than its heavier and cheaper Premium one. This combines the tubeless bead with an airtight layer, reinforces it with anti-cut sidewall layers, and tops it off with R:Shield puncture protection beneath the central tread.

Tester Rob Wilmot writes: “On every dry surface I found, these tyres excelled – even pushing as hard as I could, there were no nasty surprises. My test period was largely dry, but from the few sloppy, wet areas I did find, the Connectors found grip and cleared mud quickly from their tread.”

Read our review of the Goodyear Connector Ultimate gravel tyre

Vittoria Terreno Zero TLR G2.0 38mm — £44.99

2021 Vittoria Terreno Zero Tubeless Gravel Tyre Tread 2.jpg

The Vittoria Terreno Zero TLR G2.0 is a slick gravel tyre that's designed for road and smooth off-road duties but is capable of much more. On the surface, the Terreno Zero is a large volume road or slick gravel tyre that is best suited to tarmac and finely graded off-road paths. But don't let appearances fool you, as it's more capable than that if you're willing to give it a go.

Tester Jo Burt writes: “On the road they're not the fastest tread-free gravel tyres around; not that they're necessarily slow, but they rumble along rather than skip lively compared with other slick gravel tyres, the thickness of the rubber of the centre tread the possible culprit here.

“The plus side to this is that they're incredibly robust, so happily take crappy tarmac and potholes in their stride, romp over packed gravel paths and perform far better than you might expect on other rougher surfaces. I've been running them all winter over all kinds of terrain, from smooth blacktop, across gravel of all grades, along rocky off-road to really-shouldn't-be-here thick mud, and they're deceptively capable over all of these surfaces and are also showing very little signs of wear.”

Read our review of the Vittoria Terreno Zero TLR G2.0 38mm tyre
Find a Vittoria dealer

Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC — £49.99

2021 Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus Fitted 1.JPG

The Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC is a tyre designed for both road use and hardpack gravel trails, maintaining the high levels of grip and speed found on other models in the range. Easy to set up tubeless and with tough puncture protection, they make perfect sense for a whole host of applications.

Tester Stu writes: “On the road the SS+ is impressively fast for such a large tyre. At 460g it's no lightweight, but that's never really noticeable as the SS+ never feels stodgy. It's quite supple considering the reasonably low 120TPI casing, and gives a good degree of feedback, keeping you engaged with what's going on with the surface beneath you. This level of suppleness is even more impressive considering that the SS+ has a layer of Panaracer's ProTite protective guard from bead to bead and a nylon belt for puncture protection.

“Cornering grip on the road is good, providing plenty of confidence even at speed, and although it isn't up there with a full slick, I wasn't really conscious of the tread compressing when banking the bike over hard. All of this translates over to the gravel too. Grip levels are good, and when cornering hard on descents you get a little bit of extra bite from the tread on the shoulders.”

Read our review of the Panaracer GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC
Find a Panaracer dealer

Maxxis Rambler — £33.99 - £49.99

Maxxis Rambler

The Rambler is Maxxis’ first gravel-specific tyre and it comes in 45 and 50mm width options as well as a skinnier 38mm version (£45.38) with a tightly packed tread design, including ramped centre knobs for improved rolling speed when on the smooth. The side knobs have been spaced out more to improve cornering traction in the loose.

The 50mm version pushes the limit of what will fit in most gravel bikes, but if you can accommodate them they're brilliant.

Off-road and on rougher tracks they're really fast, with the extra volume giving them the ability to just roll over rocks and rough sections – it's most noticeable downhill, where the difference compared with narrower tyres really is huge.

While the volume might be the biggest benefit, the tread on the Rambler is key to its performance and control. The design has several different areas and overall the design is quite busy, but it seems to work. The central tread with near-continuous central section is part of the reason why it's so smooth and why road performance is decent.

Read our review of the 50mm Maxxis Rambler

Michelin Power Gravel tyre 33mm — £35.99 | 40mm — £32.00

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The Power Gravel is Michelin's answer to the ever-expanding gravel/adventure market, and it has a lot going for it. Durability is good, as is the grip, it offers plenty of puncture protection, and the price is very competitive too.

The Power Gravel follows a similar theme to many other gravel tyres on the market, as in it is covered in small nobbles for grip on loose surfaces without sacrificing overall speed. It's a format that works, especially when the tracks are dry and dusty.

Thankfully for me, the majority of my local gravel routes are properly laid tracks for moving military traffic around. They don't change much even in the winter, apart from the odd puddle here and there, so I could get away with using the Michelins all year round.

If you ride on bridleways or tracks in your local woods in winter, you'll find that the tread isn't deep enough for grip on wet mud. For these kind of excursions you'll need something with much deeper knobbly bits.

Read our review of the Michelin Power Gravel
Find a Michelin dealer

Continental Terra Speed — £46

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The Terra Speed is Continental's new gravel tyre designed for dry and loose conditions and it certainly works, making the transition between tarmac and gravel barely noticeable. It's grippy, robust and surprisingly supple for such a tough tyre.

The Terra Speed bears close resemblance to the Schwalbe G-One and the performance is on a par too; the Terra Speed might just take the overall honours by a whisker.

The Terra Speed has similar sized knobbly bits as the G-One Bite (if you want deeper there is the Terra Trail option), and it behaves in exactly the same way.

Read our review of the Continental Terra Speed

Teravail Rutland — £50 - £55

teravail rutland tyre9

When dust turns to mud you need a grippy tyre, and the Teravail Rutland delivers exceptional traction in slippery or loose conditions – without hindering pace on hard tracks and roads. Tubeless installation is easy, it comes in a wide range of sizes (including 650b), and you even get a choice of two casings. It'll cost you, though.

These tyres proved a godsend once once the dusty gravel tracks and bridleways in my corner of the Cotswolds turned to mush. They give impressive grip in a wide range of situations, with good braking stability and hooligan lean angles possible before the laws of physics kick in.

It’s a tyre you can really push hard on slippery trails, with the confidence it’s going to grip. You can give it the beans through the corners as well, as those angular shoulder blocks do an excellent job of hooking up some lairy lean angles.

I have to link my local tracks and trails with lots of road – mostly quiet country lanes – and thankfully the Rutlands exhibit a good rolling speed with little significant drag. There’s not much buzzing noise either.

Read our review of the Teravail Rutland

Rene Herse Juniper Ridge — £80/£95

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The Rene Herse 650x48 Juniper Ridge tyres have a knobbly tread that has been designed to roll well on the road too. We were sceptical, but to be honest they are pretty good, giving a boost to your average speed on those tarmac sections between the tracks and trails.

The Juniper Ridge is one of the new all-road tyres from Rene Herse, the tyre company formerly known as Compass. It might look like a knobbly mountain bike tyre but it's been designed to work just as well on the road as it does off the beaten track. It has the same tread as the 700x38 Steilacoom, but in a 650x48mm size.

The tread has been designed to place as much rubber on the road as possible and the result is a surprisingly grippy and fast-rolling tyre. There is a little bit of road noise once you get up to speed, but thanks to the soft compound and supple casing, they really do feel like road tyres.

Read our review of the Rene Herse Juniper Ridge

Kenda Alluvium Pro — £36.89

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The Kenda Alluvium Pro hits the mark as being both a fast and grippy tyre for gravel adventures and highly capable on the road. Though they struggle a little in the mud, they hold their own on dusty dry tracks and rough, rocky trails. With easy tubeless setup and a price to match the competition, these would be a great choice if you plan some adventure miles this summer.

Read our review of the Kenda Alluvium Pro

Goodyear County Ultimate Tubeless — €51.99

Goodyear County Ultimate.jpg

The Goodyear County Ultimate gravel tyre, which uses a specially developed Silica4 compound, offers a decent performance across road and light off-road, with good puncture resistance but perhaps a bit less suppleness than the best tyres of this type.

The County is one of two treads developed for use across a range of terrain, together with the more aggressively treaded Connector. The County is best suited for rides that combine tarmac and some light off-road terrain, while the Connector is a little more off-road focused. Both are available in a couple of versions – the Ultimate and the Premium, for a tenner less.

Read our review of the Goodyear County Ultimate Tubeless

WTB ByWay 650B x 47mm — £38

wtb byway tyre

For exploring the road less travelled WTB’s Byway is a decent choice providing fast rolling speed on road and hardpack gravel. Only wet grass and mud reveal its limits.

The 650B wheel size — a bit smaller than the standard road bike 700C — has become very popular on adventure bikes and it’s easy to see why. The smaller wheel enables a bigger volume tyre without messing around much with the frame design, providing hugely improved cushioning on badly surfaced roads, gravel tracks and dirt paths.

WTB hit the market early with its original Horizon providing stacks of comfort and off-road capability. There’s only so far you can push a slick tyre on dirt and gravel, so WTB took the Horizon and added a meaty shoulder tread pattern to provide a bit more cornering traction when you’re drifting through the bends.

Read our review of the WTB ByWay 650B x 47mm tyre
Find a WTB dealer

Panaracer GravelKing TLC — £40

Panaracer Gravel King -1.jpg

The Panaracer GravelKing tyres are excellent all-winter rubber for your road bike; Big Dave Atkinson declared them his new favourite all-purpose winter tyre. They're pretty light, they're easy to set up tubeless and they roll really well. Also, they come in a range of natty colours. Well, two. Plus black.

The 32mm version isn't really a gravel tyre for the UK, but you can get them in 35mm and 38mm widths too, as well as 650B versions up to 48mm wide, so for dirt riding in non-soggy conditions, they're a light, quick option.

Read our review of the Panaracer GravelKing
Find a Panaracer dealer

Schwalbe X-One Allround — £24.95 - £41.99

Schwalbe X-One Allround knobs.JPG

Designed to offer off-road grip in mixed conditions and speed on the road, the Schwalbe X-One Allround is pretty much the perfect tubeless tyre for the privateer cyclo-cross rider. These provide decent grip in slick mud, but roll really well when the course is dry.

Read our review of the Schwalbe X-One Allround
Find a Schwalbe dealer

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready — £45

Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready tyres3.JPG

The Pathfinder Pro is a fast-rolling tyre that is good for tackling rough roads and dry hardpack gravel trails. With its smooth centre section surrounded by tightly packed diamond-shaped blocks, it's obviously a good choice for lots of road riding. When riding in a straight upright position, that smooth centre line is all that contacts the road, and as a result provides low rolling resistance, allowing you to zip along the road at a decent pace. It really feels little slower than a slick tyre of similar width.

Feel adventurous and want to get off the road and onto some gravel and dirt, and the remainder of the tyre provides good grip. The diamond-shaped tread combined with bigger and spaced out shoulder blocks gives you the capability to let fire into loose gravel or dirty corners, knowing the compound and blocks will find grip. You won't be tackling any muddy bogs, it's not quite that capable, but for gravelly surfaced tracks, canal towpaths and dry bridleways, it offers more grip than a slick tyre.

Read our review of the Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready
Find a Specialized dealer

Ritchey WCS Alpine JB Stronghold Tubeless Ready 35mm — £38.99

ritchey_wcs_alpine_jb_120tpi_tlr_stronghold_tyre.jpg

Ritchey has gone inverse with the tread on its Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyres to create a tyre that grips on light gravel and rough sections of broken country lane while also offering a smooth ride if you want to get a shift on on the tarmac. A very impressive all-round tyre choice indeed.

You'll need room in your frame for 35mm tyres to fit the tubeless version of the Alpine JB WCS Stronghold, as the 30mm version is only available with a conventional casing.

Read our review of the Ritchey WCS Alpine JB Stronghold tyre
Find a Ritchey dealer

Rene Herse Steilacoom TC — £80/£95

compass_steilacoom_tyre.jpg

The Rene Herse Steilacoom TC tyre is a fabulously grippy, fast-rolling tyre off-road that displays frankly ridiculous speed on the hard stuff too, from the tyre maker previously known as Compass. The performance comes at a price you'll forget the moment you hit the first transition from tarmac to gravel.

Read our review of the Rene Herse Steilacoom TC

Schwalbe G-One Bite MicroSkin TL-Easy 40mm — £39.99 | Other sizes £44.44 - £47.44

Schwalbe G-One Bite MicroSkin tyres.jpg

The G-One Bite is a more off-road orientated version of the acclaimed G-One All-round, with bigger knobbles and a more pronounced shoulder making them more suited to gravel and hardpacked trails. They still roll smoothly on Tarmac but when you get to the gravel or hardpacked trails the fun really begins. We've ridden them on 40mph descents and tough climbs and the G-One Bites never put a foot wrong, no matter what type or size of gravel we were riding over.

Read our review of the Schwalbe G-One Bite MicroSkin TL-Easy
Find a Schwalbe dealer

Kenda Cholla Pro — £27.49

Kenda Cholla Pro Tubeless Ready Tyre.jpg

Kenda's Cholla Pro is a supple tubeless-ready mud-conquering tyre for skinnier-framed bikes at a fairly sensible price. If you like it mucky and flat-free, it's a great option – particularly if you have limited clearance.

The Cholla Pro has a striking squared-off tread profile, with no chance of getting tyre orientation wrong; arrows point forwards folks. Based on "the hooks and barbs of the cholla cactus", says Kenda, this is somewhat ironically not a tyre for the desert – at just under 33mm fitted to a 19mm rim, you're more likely to dig into soft sand than float over it.

Read our review of the Kenda Cholla Pro
Find a Kenda dealer

Schwalbe G-One All-Round 40mm — £39.99 | 35mm — £34.99

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German tyre company Schwalbe hit a home run when it introduced the G-One. The close-packed circular knobbly tread, round profile and sticky tread compound give them prodigious levels of grip on all sorts of surfaces, and we've never had any problems mounting the tubeless version.

Read our Schwalbe G-One Review

Donnelly X’Plor MSO — €32.50 - €49.50

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Donnelly (the new name for the tyres formerly known as Clement) has designed the X’Plor MSO for mixed conditions with a smooth rolling centre section and bigger shoulder knobs, but it looks more aggressive overall than the Challenge Gravel Grinder. It comes in 32, 36, 40 and 50mm widths and regular clincher and tubeless varieties.

Read our review of the Donnelly/Clement X’Plor MSO

Panaracer GravelKing SK — £32.99

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Panaracer has been quick to offer a wide range of suitable gravel tyres, and it keeps on adding new options. It offers tyres with a smooth file tread pattern up to more aggressive tread pattern such as the 'Small Knob' tread here pictured above, and a wide range of widths from 23 to 43 and 700c and 650b options.

Read our Panaracer Gravelking 32mm review

Surly Knard — £58.00

Surly Knard 700 x 41.jpg

Surly’s Knard has a closely spaced tread pattern for providing speed over varied terrain, and there’s enough grip for loose and slippery trail conditions. The tread pattern comprises aggressive square blocks with only the edge knobs being rectangular to allow for lean and grip in the corners. Surly offers the Knard in a variety of wheel sizes, including 650b, 26 and 29in, and a 700x41mm. The cheaper price gets you a 33 threads-per-inch casing; the spendier version is 127tpi.

Read our Surly Knard review

Vee Tire Rail — £39.99

Vee Rail Tyre -1.jpg

Vee Tire is a relatively young tyre company but its Rail gravel tyre has been gaining quite a few fans in the UK. It’s a 40mm wide tyre that the company has said is designed for speed, and it features a low profile tread design with forward pointing arrows and larger shoulder knobs. A dual compound tread construction and tubeless compatibility complete the details.

Read our review of the Vee Tire Rail

Everything you need to know to choose the right gravel bike tyres

Mason Bokeh - riding 3.jpg

“What tyres should I get for $location?” is such a common question in off-road cycling that some forums have effectively banned it lest they be completely taken over by constant talk of tread patterns, compounds, threads-per-inch, casings and the numerous different interpretations of what constitutes a tubeless tyre.

Let’s try and unpick the issues for the kind of uses covered by gravel bikes and adventure bikes.

Tyre designers try and balance tyre often-conflicting attributes. For example, making a tyre resistant to punctures usually means making the tread thicker and adding a layer under it that can’t be easily penetrated. Those changes increase a tyre’s rolling resistance, so very puncture-resistant tyres tend to be slow, and very fast tyres tend to be susceptible to punctures.

2021 Vittoria Terreno Dry 700x40 tread

Similarly, increasing grip on loose and muddy surfaces means a tyre with a deeper, knobbier tread pattern, but because the blocks of a knobby tread squirm as they move across a hard surface, that increases rolling resistance on roads.

Tread compound — the composition of the actual rubber round the outside of the tyre — also affects all the tyre’s properties. Some tread compounds are grippier than others, some are more durable and some are more flexible and therefore make a tyre faster. Cooking up tread compounds is proper modern-day alchemy. Different tyre makers have different favoured ingredients that allegedly have certain effects, but determining what’s marketing wibble and what’s real is tricky.

It’s not as simple as ‘a more durable compound will be less grippy’ or ‘a softer compound will be grippier’ either. The carbon black used in some tyre treads improves both wet adhesion and durability, while many years ago Specialized made tyres with a very soft grey rubber called Ummagumma, which turned out to be scarily slippery in the wet.

Specialized Sequoia Expert - Sawtooth 700x42 Tyre Sidewall.jpg

The tyre casing also makes a difference to how fast a tyre is and its durability. Tyres with very light casings, usually expressed as a thread fabric with a high number of threads per inch are more flexible and roll faster, but with simply less material they’re often more fragile. The higher stiffness of a lower thread-count carcass can also improve traction by better supporting the tread knobs to dig in to soft or loose surfaces.

Finally, there’s tyre size and width. The fatter a tyre, the lower the pressure you can run, which improves traction and comfort. A wider tyre also rolls better, but running it at lower pressure often uses up that benefit. How wider you can go is limited by your frame, but gravel bike frames will increasingly accommodate 700C tyres 45mm wide and bigger. Many frames are also designed to take 650B wheels shod with very fat tyres, at which point many people would say you’ve built a rigid mountain bike with drop handlebars, but who cares what it’s called as long as you have a blast riding it?

2021 Fuji Jari Carbon 1.3 - tyre tread.jpg

For gravel bike tyres, then, what matters most in choosing tyres is the conditions and surfaces you’ll be riding, and your priorities when it comes to aspects such as durability and speed. Let’s home in on a few use cases by way of demonstration.

Read more: The best gravel & adventure bikes

Mostly Tarmac: If your gravel bike rarely sees actual gravel, but you like the ability of wide tyres to point and laugh at the decayed surfaces of the tiniest country lanes, then you want moderate width (32-40mm) and a light tread pattern. You can also probably get away with a light casing because your tyres won’t have to contend as much with dirt-road flints and other sharps. If you nevertheless venture down dirt roads and trails now and then, go for something with a slightly knobbier tread.

Mostly dirt: You want knobs, you do, and lots of ’em. That also means the fattest tyre your frame will handle, unless your trails are very muddy in which case a narrower tyre will leave room for crud to pass through.

2020 GravelKing Semi Slick Plus TLC tread.jpg

50/50: Of course nobody ever manages to ride an exactly balanced mix, but if you want a true go-everywhere tyre then it needs some centre-knobs, but not so many that it’ll be too slow on Tarmac. If you’re in a hurry, go for a relatively shallow tread and light, flexible casing; if not, go beefier in those areas.

Racing: The fastest gravel bike tyres have very light centre-treads and light casings for the lowest possible rolling resistance.

Epic rides: If you like to leave at dawn and return at sunset, with maybe a few days of overnight camping in between, then you probably prize reliability above all else. Look for tyres with relatively-thick casings and tread that will resist cuts so you get to spend your time riding and not fettling.

Mason Bokeh - fork clearance.jpg

Read more: Is 650b the future for road bikes? road.cc investigates

Cafe wisdom: road.cc readers weigh in on gravel bike tyres

Our readers are always a valuable source of experience and opinion. Here's the pick of their comments from the previous version of this article.

Rapha Nadal disagrees with us on one of our choices, saying: "The Rene Steilacoom review does not really match reality. They clog quickly in the mud, have very little grip when it gets a bit damp, and after only 6 months the sidewalls have started to go."

IanEdward has this recommendation: "After another very mixed conditions weekend ride I'm a committed Vittoria Terreno Dry fan, specifically the 40mm version.

"Fast, floaty (latex tubes, 40psi, 85kg rider) no punctures yet, and even in the mud where they will obviously get overwhelmed, it's fun rather than terrifying.

"Thanks to Strava's handy 'surface-o-meter' on the new route-planner, I can safely say the Terreno is ideal for rides which are 50% tarmac, 29% gravel and 21% unspecifiedsmiley

Yorky-M likes his WTBs: "ALL HAIL WTB Byways. Came stock on my Kona. Run them tubeless and never an issue. Did a 2000km spin on them in early summer and just perfect. Will replace with the same."

andyspaceman: "I ran the Maxxis Ramblers for a while. Quick and supple with reasonable grip off road, but I found them a little fragile. I've switched to the Maxxis Ravagers now which felt slower to start with, but have quicked up a little after a few rides to knock the corners off some of the tread blocks, and feel a lot more robust. Added grip in the corners too.

"One pointer with the Maxxis tyres is that the slightly cheaper 60tpi casings are rated as having a better balance of suppleness and strength by some folks I've spoken with, and from my experience on both gravel and MTB tyres I don't disagree."

GrumpyBear had a suggestion for low-cost tyres: "Try Schwalbe Land Cruisers 40mm. Only £12 each."

Argos74 also had an eye on the bank balance: "Continental Double Fighters. Had the 26-inch version on my mountain bike for years, leapt at the 700Cs with no regrets. Tyre width says 1 3/8 x 1 5/8, I make it to be about 37mm in real money. Not tubeless, but tough, quick and grippy (unless serious mud is involved). And less than £40 for a pair."

Zermattjohn was unimpresssed with the durability of Schwalbe G-Ones: "The G-Ones are fantastic tubeless tyres - supple, grippy, perfect for crappy UK lanes/towpaths. But there's a price to pay, they're pretty fragile and I've picked up a few big slices in them. The sealant does it's job, but some slices are big enough that beyond about 50psi the sealant just blows out.

"They're also pretty poor on durability. My rear lasted about 8 months of commuting/towpath riding - the photo shows how the central tread has gone and the tyre is very thin there now, and seeing as during the summer I was mostly on a different bike that probably equates to about 4 months of riding. Pretty poor for a fairly pricy product. I've put a Hutchinson Overide on the rear now and it seems better suited to my riding. If you're 100% off-road the G-One is the winner, but with some tarmac you'll be swapping it pretty soon."

Schwalbe G-One wear

 

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He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

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He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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