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Verdict: 
Really good UK winter tyres for poor riding conditions; capable of going off-road too
Weight: 
248g
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Fast-rolling and capable of tackling bad road conditions and even venturing away from the tarmac, Panaracer's new Gravel King tyres are a really good option for the winter with rugged durability and great traction.

The Gravel Kings are brand new in Panaracer's range this year and as the name indicates, they're aimed at the growing (or has it already grown?) gravel riding and race scene that is big over in the US. However what Panaracer have created here are very versatile tyres that are ideal for the demands of UK cycling, whether you're after reliable winter training tyres, or rubber for touring or daily commuting.

Riding the Gravel Kings reminded me of the excellent Vittoria Open Pave tyres, and both have a similar file tread pattern. This is to provide more traction when heading off-road, and on trails where a slick tyre might otherwise slip and struggle, the Gravel Kings powered through.

We had a really dry summer and autumn which provided perfect conditions for exploring the many bridleways and byways that lace through the Cotswolds, and if you enjoy a bit of off-road cycling and the sense of discovery that comes from just following a path with no idea where it might lead, the Gravel Kings are the perfect tyre choice.

See a bridleway, not sure where it goes but what the hell, just point the bike along it and barrel through the woods and see where it takes you. You can sometimes get away with doing that on a regular road tyre, but the file tread pattern, bigger volume and toughness of the Gravel Kings add vital peace of mind when such adventures take over.

The Gravel Kings are available in three sizes, 23, 26 and 28mm widths. It's the two larger sizes that are undoubtedly going to interest most people, especially if you've got the clearance for the bigger tyres. The latest endurance bikes such as Cannondale's Synapse and Trek Domane have room for tyres like these. The 26mm version, which I tested, is a good balance of width and weight that will appeal to many people, but if you're planning longer off-road excursions or fancy tough touring tyres, the 28mm will be of more interest.

On the subject of tyre width, it's worth pointing out that you won't necessarily get the tyre width that it says on the sidewall: I mounted the 26mm Gravel Kings to a pair of Mavic Aksium wheels, a narrow rim by modern standards, and the tyres actually measured 24mm across at their widest point. Rim width is as, if not more, important than the tyre width. Something to be aware of.

Gravel Kings are constructed from the same ZSG Natural Compound that Panaracer uses in their other road tyres, along with an Anti-Flat 126tpi casing to ward off punctures. In regular road riding mode the tyres felt reasonably responsive and perfectly competent at a range of cruising speeds, but lack the fizz of road race tyres. Where they excel is in providing confidence in poor conditions, whether the roads are soaked with rain or covered with a slick layer of fallen leaves. This makes them really good British winter tyres.

For straying away from the road on gravel tracks, singletrack, bridleways or dirt tracks, the Gravel Kings cope impressively well, providing plenty of useful traction. They're not the most supple tyres out there (Vittoria's Pave tyres best them in this department) but they are durable. The Anti-Flat casing works well, and there are few signs of the abuse I've given them when heading off the beaten path. There are no cuts or slices out of the rubber, and the wear rate is similarly impressive.

Conclusion

Don't let the gravel tag put you off, these are excellent tyres for British winter cycling with poor road surfaces caked in mud, water and grit. And of course, if you do want to venture off the beaten path or even have any eye on some gravel riding or racing, they are more than capable. Don't discount them as gravel-only tyres because they're so much more than that.

Verdict

Really good UK winter tyres for poor riding conditions; capable of going off-road too

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Panaracer Gravelking 700 x 26 C Folding Black tyre

Size tested: 26mm

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Cyclists are looking to expand their cycling horizons. That includes roads that may not be suited for normal road tires. Our Gravel King tire solves that problem. Three widths to suit any rider's tastes. Natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker and a special low rolling resistance casing make the Gravel King a go-anywhere tire.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Anti-Flat Casing

ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural Compound

AX-A - Advanced Extra Alpha Cord

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Perfect as a winter tyre if that's what you're after, but perfectly adept at straying off the smooth road into the woods.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Durable and rugged.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Not the most responsive or supple feeling tyre.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

Want a reliable and durable tyre for winter cycling? Look no further. Also ideal if you've got your eyes on some gravel riding or racing.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

15 comments

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gmehje1 [29 posts] 4 years ago
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£20 quid (less a penny) at Cycle Surgery if you are interested:

http://www.cyclesurgery.com/pws/UniqueProductKey.ice?ProductID=CPAN0056K...

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tangledfeet [17 posts] 4 years ago
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Bah... seems they have only one in stock and you can't order any more than just that one - thanks anyway, gmehje1!

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mike the bike [1128 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

Blimey Mr Arthur, you are a hard man. Here's a tyre advertised as suitable for winter roads and successfully ridden by you over tracks and various types of degraded surface, and you give it a measly 7 out of ten for weight. At 248g I would say it was within 20% of being a racing tyre, what more could you want?

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David Arthur @d... [906 posts] 4 years ago
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mike the bike wrote:

Blimey Mr Arthur, you are a hard man. Here's a tyre advertised as suitable for winter roads and successfully ridden by you over tracks and various types of degraded surface, and you give it a measly 7 out of ten for weight. At 248g I would say it was within 20% of being a racing tyre, what more could you want?

You do make a fair point mike the bike, it's a small weight penalty for the ruggedness and durability they offer

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bendertherobot [1531 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm certainly not put off by the gravel tag. My question is why is it there? I'd want a bit more volume and/or tread for gravel racing. In fact, I'd stick to my Uncle John tyres (Kenda small block 8 copies).

But these look to be a great alternative to GP4 seasons etc.

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David Arthur @d... [906 posts] 4 years ago
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bendertherobot wrote:

I'm certainly not put off by the gravel tag. My question is why is it there? I'd want a bit more volume and/or tread for gravel racing. In fact, I'd stick to my Uncle John tyres (Kenda small block 8 copies).

But these look to be a great alternative to GP4 seasons etc.

Depends what sort of gravel you're riding on... They do this tyre in a 28mm also, and there is apparently a 32mm in the wings which has an actual tread pattern, a bit like the Kenda Small Block 8 actually, that would be more suitable for properly venturing off the beaten track. All depends on how much off-roading you plan to do and the sort of terrain that involves

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bendertherobot [1531 posts] 4 years ago
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David Arthur wrote:
bendertherobot wrote:

I'm certainly not put off by the gravel tag. My question is why is it there? I'd want a bit more volume and/or tread for gravel racing. In fact, I'd stick to my Uncle John tyres (Kenda small block 8 copies).

But these look to be a great alternative to GP4 seasons etc.

Depends what sort of gravel you're riding on... They do this tyre in a 28mm also, and there is apparently a 32mm in the wings which has an actual tread pattern, a bit like the Kenda Small Block 8 actually, that would be more suitable for properly venturing off the beaten track. All depends on how much off-roading you plan to do and the sort of terrain that involves

To me, that works. So, 28c and above feels like a gravel racing width. 23c? Not so much. I wonder if it's now a trendy tag rather than a meaningful statement? Not a big issue. Indeed if they all stand up to gravel surfaces then maybe it's a better description for a UK tyre than "4 seasons" and the like.

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David Arthur @d... [906 posts] 4 years ago
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Thing is, there is a big gravel riding and racing scene in the US, where they have loads of gravel roads for riding, and some tyres are going to work better in some areas than other, depending on how smooth or small the gravel is. I've done a tiny amount of gravel riding in the US and I was on 28mm Continental tyres, and they worked just fine for the most part

There isn't really a gravel scene to speak off in the UK (yet?). We just don't have those sorts of roads, though there are forest fire roads in Wales and Scotland, tracks over Salisbury plain, the South Downs Way even on a dry day, and other places, so the opportunity is there for those that want it. That's why I talked about how suitable they are as a road tyre, you could happily use these on the road and never go near any gravel. Or dirt.

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bendertherobot [1531 posts] 4 years ago
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I guess, mea culpa, that I'm operating in UK mode. As you say, gravel surfaces in other countries are better than "off road" (or arguably even on road) here. So you may not necessarily want volume. Though, again, I'd certainly be more interested in the 32c version given intended application (not best bike). It's good to see the tyre market opening up.

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chip42 [3 posts] 4 years ago
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I've got both 28 and 23 width. The 28's are a nice round profile whilst the 23 is more triangular. Both mounted on Stan's Alpha 400 wide(18mm internal) rims. I prefer the 28's myself.
Andy

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samvegg [24 posts] 4 years ago
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IF their gonna make a gravel tire, they should make it a gravel RACING tire. make it, big, light and supple. not just a downsized touring tire .

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fredpo [7 posts] 4 years ago
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Looks good. Been using Panaracer Pasela 32c on my All-road/Gravel bike but been looking for a black replacement in 28mm. These might be the ones. I love the ride of Panaracer tyres. Never flatted with them either.

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msholit [3 posts] 3 years ago
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the 28mm gravelking really shines when on gravel and shallow bumps, its like it has a suspension effect, and in comparison to a vittoria zaffiro wire bead, its much faster.

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msholit [3 posts] 3 years ago
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is there much difference in rolling resistance between the 23 and 28?

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BBB [492 posts] 1 year ago
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Puncture after puncture from small objects (27.5x1.50 run at no more than 40PSI) even when run tubeless. Used 95% on the road and cycle paths.

Replaced with Schwalbe G-ones tubeless - no punctures.