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Verdict: 
A really good tubeless gravel tyre that works well on and off the road
Weight: 
497g

Japanese tyre company Panaracer has been quick to offer a range of gravel-specific tyres, becoming a significant player in the burgeoning market. Measuring 43mm wide, these GravelKing SK tyres are tubeless compatible and feature a tread pattern that excels both on and off road, with a tough carcass that can withstand some abuse.

The GravelKing comes in a variety of widths and tread patterns, but this SK (Small Knob) is probably the pick of the range for the latest generation of adventure bikes like the Kinesis Tripster AT, Mason Bokeh or Open UP. As well as the 43mm tested here (which was called 40 but actually measures 43, and is now labelled as such), the same tread pattern is offered on 26, 32 and 35mm width options if your frame doesn't offer enough clearance.

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Underneath the tread is an anti-flat casing and AX Alpha Cord, which provides the tyre with the toughness and durability it surely needs for riding in the rough and potentially a long way from home. It certainly displayed a reassuring toughness during my varied and demanding testing.

Kinesis Tripster AT - riding 1.jpg

I didn't suffer any punctures, but that is as much down to luck as anything, plus the tubeless sealant sloshing around inside the tyres. Reassuringly, the tyres are showing no signs of cuts or slices from impacts with sharp rocks after several months of testing.

The tyres are tubeless and installation was a doddle. I mounted them to a set of Reynolds ATR carbon clincher tubeless wheels and the tyres inflated first time with a regular track pump. They've retained air pressure very well and don't require constant topping up. I'd go as far as saying that tubeless is essential with an adventure bike, both for massively reducing the risk of a flat tyre and allowing you to safely run the low pressures that are needed for riding off-road.

Panaracer GravelKing SK tyre - 2.jpg

The tread pattern comprises a wide central row of small square knobs flanked by longer blocks on the shoulder. It's a close-packed tread pattern and low profile, and provides the GravelKing SK with good zip on smooth stuff. On tarmac, the tyre rolls well and there's very little noise; they're certainly much quieter than Schwalbe G-Ones.

Panaracer GravelKing SK tyre - 3.jpg

The ZSG Natural Compound helps to deliver good grip on most surfaces that I encountered during the extensive test, and wear rate has been really good, noticeably better wearing than the Hutchinson Overide tyres I recently tested.

Head into the woods and there's ample grip in the loose. On dry sandy trails and gravel fireroads, the tyre is fast in a straight line, and those longer shoulder blocks deliver good traction when you lean the bike over into corners. It's possible to get the tyres sliding if you push too hard on loose terrain, but the tyre does behave predictably when you do reach the limits and slides are as controllable as you can hope for them to be.

> Buyer's Guide: 12 of the best gravel and adventure tyres

It's not designed for mud – you'll want the new GravelKing Mud for winter conditions – but it's surprisingly adept when the trail is damp and sloppy. Conditions for the recent Grinduro meant the trails were very muddy but the tyres coped well, and were impressive when they managed to find traction on slippery climbs and muddy rutted descents. A delicate application of power and precise weight transfer is required in such tricky situations, too, along with a fair dose of skill and luck.

This ability to tackle both road and off-road terrain in all its varieties is the GravelKing SK's biggest appeal. The large volume provides ample comfort to smooth out the roughest roads and tracks, and run at about 35psi (depending on the terrain and rider weight), there's a nice floaty sensation to the tyres. That's also helped by the high-quality casing which provides a reassuringly supple feeling, offering good feedback from the surface rolling under the tyre.

Panaracer GravelKing SK tyre - 5.jpg

There's a growing choice of gravel and adventure bike tyres and plenty of options to suit different courses, surfaces and requirements. The GravelKing SK strikes a really good balance if you want a tyre that works well on mixed terrain, being fast on the smooth and grippy on the loose. Add in its toughness and tubeless compatibility, and the optional brown sidewall that looks ace, and you have a highly commendable tyre.

The 497g weight is on a par with other similar width gravel tyres, and the £40 price makes them competitive with their key rivals in this segment, the Schwalbes and Hutchinsons I've already mentioned, and Veetire's Rails too. They're available with this fetching brown sidewall, or a plain black if you prefer.

Verdict

A really good tubeless gravel tyre that works well on and off the road

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Panaracer GravelKing SK 43mm tyres

Size tested: 43mm

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?

Panaracer says: "Looking for a tire that's more aggressive than the mixte-tread GravelKing? The GravelKing Sk might just be the tire you need for the more hardcore roads. Aggressive knobs, ZSG Natural rubber compound, puncture protection breaker and AX-α special low rolling resistance casing make the Gravelking a go-anywhere tire. And tubeless compatible up to 60 PSI.

"Built to go fast, far and withstand even the harshest of terrain, the Panaracer Gravel King SK Clincher Tyre features aggressive knobs, a natural rubber compound and a puncture protection breaker that keeps you rolling fast, not rolling flat."

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

Panaracer also says:

Bring it On! The GravelKing does it all! Low profile tread patterns means this King is quick and comfortable on and off road.

Sizes Available:

700X32C

700X26C

700X35C

700X38C

700X43C

27.5X1.90"

Colours Available:

BLACK

BLACK/BLACK

BLACK/BROWN

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

It's in the same ballpark as other gravel bike tyres.

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

Excels in all sorts of terrain and conditions; really deep mud is its only limitation.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Easy tubeless installation, fast-rolling, grippy, tough and durable.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Isn't really anything to dislike.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

There's a growing choice of gravel bike tyres and Panaracer has hit out early with a good range. The GravelKing SK has all the right attributes to make it the perfect option.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

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, mountain biking

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.

9 comments

Avatar
kil0ran [1190 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've been running the 32mm version for a few months now. Agree with all said in the review although did manage to pick up a 1-inch sidewall tear on one tyre. This was from on-road use, pretty sure it was a glass bottle fragment. Not sure the sidewalls are as tough as say a Gatorskin with the Vectran breaker.

In light mud I find there's still plenty of grip - illustrated by how you can feel the tyre "stop" as you hit it. It will take plenty of increased power from the drivetrain without slipping when this happens

Originally I bought these solely for when I would be mixing gravel paths into my commute but they're now a permanent installation, primarily because the on-road performance is so good. They are absolutely silent, don't squirm on hard cornering, handle white lines/drain covers/cattle grids well, and are plenty fast enough. None of that vibration you can sometimes pick up from knobblies either. I compared my Strava times on long open road sections of my commute with 25mm Conti GP 4Seasons and the Contis are maybe a fraction faster at the cost of less comfort and versatility. As a result I did RideLondon with the Gravelkings last Sunday and at no point did I feel that the tyres were slow or holding me back. The added comfort over skinny rubber and ability to hammer across crappy road surfaces (Thames Ditton loop I'm looking at you)

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

Avatar
steady lad [31 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:

I've been running the 32mm version for a few months now. Agree with all said in the review although did manage to pick up a 1-inch sidewall tear on one tyre. This was from on-road use, pretty sure it was a glass bottle fragment. Not sure the sidewalls are as tough as say a Gatorskin with the Vectran breaker.

In light mud I find there's still plenty of grip - illustrated by how you can feel the tyre "stop" as you hit it. It will take plenty of increased power from the drivetrain without slipping when this happens

Originally I bought these solely for when I would be mixing gravel paths into my commute but they're now a permanent installation, primarily because the on-road performance is so good. They are absolutely silent, don't squirm on hard cornering, handle white lines/drain covers/cattle grids well, and are plenty fast enough. None of that vibration you can sometimes pick up from knobblies either. I compared my Strava times on long open road sections of my commute with 25mm Conti GP 4Seasons and the Contis are maybe a fraction faster at the cost of less comfort and versatility. As a result I did RideLondon with the Gravelkings last Sunday and at no point did I feel that the tyres were slow or holding me back. The added comfort over skinny rubber and ability to hammer across crappy road surfaces (Thames Ditton loop I'm looking at you)

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

 

Thats good info thanks, what bike are they on please?

cheers

 

Avatar
reippuert [108 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Have a pair and i love them, since i got them i have stopped riding my Canondal Flash MTB for my trips in the forrest.

Easyest tubeless mount ive ever tried incl very good MTB tires, seals instantly with a trackpump - i even managed to blow them up after a flicght with a decent handpump.

As far as performance goes they a as good as it gets and they are suprisingly fast on tarmac. On gravel they are unbeliveable fast and tough while they can keep they pace on vulcanic sand, mud, rocks, sharp larva, trails etc.

I even took them climbing in the canaries (had to climb from 0 to 1500 to access the trails on La Palma). As far as roling resistance they where nice, but i colud feel the 490g weight compared to the 292g 35mm Compass Extralights i used for the last few days. On long decents they where a joy to ride - though for pure arodynamic reason they topped out arround 70-75km/h compared to the Compass that has no problems exceeding 85-90km/h (then i usually begin braking).

btw - the 26mm version is a slick, and the 32 comes in both slick and SK versions. I have replaced my 35mm Compass extralifghts with a pair of 32mm GK slicks. They are not as smoth (nothing is) but they are still very fast (approx eaqual  a 27mm Vitorria Pave tubular) and smooth for half the cost  and from a tubles perspective they behave just as well as the official tubles 43mm SK version.

I dare you non compass extralights are 99% identical to GK slicks.

Best Gravel tire out there, period.

Avatar
reippuert [108 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

 

Actually on 40/43's are true tublesss ready. But the narrower and lighter versions performs just as well tubeless.

Both 40 SK and 32 slicks is dead easy to mount and seat on DT 460db rims.

And yes thread is veery fast on tarmac while still being a true hardpack/dirt tyre fro gravel. Did all my winther commute on the 40SK's this year.

Avatar
kil0ran [1190 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
steady lad wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

I've been running the 32mm version for a few months now. Agree with all said in the review although did manage to pick up a 1-inch sidewall tear on one tyre. This was from on-road use, pretty sure it was a glass bottle fragment. Not sure the sidewalls are as tough as say a Gatorskin with the Vectran breaker.

In light mud I find there's still plenty of grip - illustrated by how you can feel the tyre "stop" as you hit it. It will take plenty of increased power from the drivetrain without slipping when this happens

Originally I bought these solely for when I would be mixing gravel paths into my commute but they're now a permanent installation, primarily because the on-road performance is so good. They are absolutely silent, don't squirm on hard cornering, handle white lines/drain covers/cattle grids well, and are plenty fast enough. None of that vibration you can sometimes pick up from knobblies either. I compared my Strava times on long open road sections of my commute with 25mm Conti GP 4Seasons and the Contis are maybe a fraction faster at the cost of less comfort and versatility. As a result I did RideLondon with the Gravelkings last Sunday and at no point did I feel that the tyres were slow or holding me back. The added comfort over skinny rubber and ability to hammer across crappy road surfaces (Thames Ditton loop I'm looking at you)

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

 

Thats good info thanks, what bike are they on please?

cheers

 

 

Currently on a Merida Cyclocross 500, about to get moved across to a Fairlight Faran

 

 

Avatar
kil0ran [1190 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
reippuert wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

 

Actually on 40/43's are true tublesss ready. But the narrower and lighter versions performs just as well tubeless.

Both 40 SK and 32 slicks is dead easy to mount and seat on DT 460db rims.

And yes thread is veery fast on tarmac while still being a true hardpack/dirt tyre fro gravel. Did all my winther commute on the 40SK's this year.

I'll see if my fitting issues are rim specific as I'm going to swap them off the Merida stock rims (Alexrims Comp Disc) when I build the Faran.

I topped out at just under 40mph heading down to Putney Bridge on them in RL so plenty fast enough for me!

Avatar
Silversurfmonkey [14 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Have run these (40mm labelled versions) for around 400 miles and been very impressed. Just enough clearance on 2016 Boardman CX Team and they're mounted tubeless on stock Mavic XM319s, coming up at 43mm. Bit of a faff to mount as 319s are hideously leaky at the join, but seated eventually with gorilla tape to build up rim bed and Oko Magic Milk sealant. At 95kg I run them at 45/40psi for mixed route stuff, adding 10psi for purely on road runs. Grip is surprisingly good on everything, including wet chalk! Bit of buzz on tarmac but not too deafening. Do have to top up every few days but suspect that's the rims rather than tyres.

Avatar
kil0ran [1190 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
kil0ran wrote:
reippuert wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

The 32s were however an absolute pig to fit for the first time - very tight stiff bead, I guess because of the tubeless compatability. We're talking Schwalbe Marathon Plus levels of vocal encouragement required. Do remember that this is with tubes though - tubeless may well be easier. Once on though it was easy enough to fix a puncture and get the tyre back on so I guess they stretch with usage. Depending on the terrain you ride its worth checking the tread periodically as it can tend to pick up tiny bits of gravel between the knobs.

 

Actually on 40/43's are true tublesss ready. But the narrower and lighter versions performs just as well tubeless.

Both 40 SK and 32 slicks is dead easy to mount and seat on DT 460db rims.

And yes thread is veery fast on tarmac while still being a true hardpack/dirt tyre fro gravel. Did all my winther commute on the 40SK's this year.

I'll see if my fitting issues are rim specific as I'm going to swap them off the Merida stock rims (Alexrims Comp Disc) when I build the Faran.

I topped out at just under 40mph heading down to Putney Bridge on them in RL so plenty fast enough for me!

So the fitting issue was rim-specific, they went on my other rims really easily - easier in fact than the GP4Seasons they replaced. No vocal encouragement or tyre levers required, just thumbs and heels of hands.

 

 

Avatar
edster99 [344 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I've got some '38' wide SKs on Pacenti rims : actaully measure 40.  Only had a few hours on them - 50/50 on and off road - they seem great for both grip and speed, and shed mud pretty well.  Could be lighter of course, but that is always the case!  Looking forward to giving them some more bridle path / Ridgeway action very shortly  1