The Panaracer GravelKing AC (All Conditions) tyre lives up to its name – performing well on rough tracks and the roads to get you to them. They're fairly light and supple, and once on the trails mud-clearance is great. They're pretty good value too.
The tyre is available in two widths, 33mm for cyclo-cross racers needing to keep in line with the UCI rulebook, and 35mm for people like me who ride CX and gravel bikes for fun in an effort to try to be more like Van der Poel. As with most of Panaracer's tyres, they're available with either black or brown sidewalls.
First impressions of the GravelKings was... these look familiar. The AC appears to have an extremely similar tread profile, if not identical, to the older GravelKing Mud tyres. They not only look the same, they also weigh the same, are available in the same widths and colours, are both tubeless ready and feature the same rubber compounds...
That's not an entirely bad thing. I've heard only positive comments about the Muds: grippy, they last ages and are pretty lightweight. So, if you've used GravelKing Muds, the ACs are like that. If you haven't, then read on...
Although these tyres may seem harder than some to fit to rims, this does mean that if you plan to run them tubeless then they hold air well and require less faff to set up.
Initially I ran the tyres with tubes, but after I got my one and only puncture – a pinch flat from bouncing down concrete steps at low pressures – I took the opportunity to set them up tubeless. Tubeless-ready tyres are inherently tighter on a rim than their non-tubeless counterparts and the Panaracers are no different. On my WTB rims I had to resort to using a tyre lever in an effort to save my soft thumbs.
Once on, this tightness meant I could easily pump up and seat the tyres in their tubeless configuration with just a few rapid blows from a track pump. Other tubeless tyres have caused me all sorts of grief, requiring washing up liquid and air compressors just to get them to seal.
Fitted to the rims (23mm internally), the tyres have a more rounded profile than is often seen on today's off-road tyres, and when run at anything but the lowest pressures this means you can roll along on the centre of the tyre, minimising drag.
I also ran the tyres as low as 20psi in their tubeless guise for increased grip while riding on soft sand, with no burping or issues once again thanks to the tight bead. On my rims, the 35mm tyres measured exactly 35mm, but expect this to increase if you use wider rims.
As with most off-road/gravel riding, mine involved a fair portion of road riding to make it to some tracks and trails. On the road the Panaracers were a big fat OK, and because of their rounded profile they held speed with impressive ease on firm gravel tracks and fire roads. In this respect they were exactly as I expected – not as fast as a semi-slick on tarmac but a brilliant compromise if you're heading somewhere slippy via roads or gravel paths.
If you're planning on sticking to the grippier stuff and hardpack surfaces then Panaracer's other tyres such as the GravelKing SK will be better suited. However, when some mud, roots or greasy stones get involved then the GravelKing AC really comes into its own. Its grip level far exceeds what you might expect. This off-road grip is not only down to the rubber compound but also the tread pattern: the raised blocks in the centre, although not huge, have superb mud-shedding ability.
This is a big positive, as any tyre once 'saturated' with mud will slide. This is an issue I've found with other heavy mud tyres both in cyclo-cross and mountain biking scenarios. Along the AC's edges a further row of raised blocks offer good bite when cornering, especially at low pressures.
Over the month of testing I've been impressed with the Panaracer's puncture protection, too. I've ridden on thorny tracks and commuted on glass-strewn cycle paths, and only one shard of glass has managed to overcome the tyres, which is impressive considering their low weight and suppleness. The shard was also small enough to pull out and for the sealant to sort, so happy days!
Although 45 quid a pop isn't to be sneezed at, the GravelKing AC stacks up well against rivals on price: Schwalbe's X-One Bite Microskin tyre is both more expensive at £67 (up £7 since Liam tested it in 2017), and heavier.
The Teravail Rutland that off.road.cc tested is also more spendy at £60 and won't roll as fast on the road. Interestingly, the GravelKing AC's closest competition may come from the Compass Steilacoom TC tyres at £56 apiece. These also happen to come out of the Panaracer factory but are limited to just a 38mm offering, which is slightly more weighty.
The GravelKing AC performed admirably on the weather-battered tracks and the long road sections to get me to them. I'm as guilty as the next person for not choosing mud tyres because I'm worried they'll be too slow on the road, but certainly for my riding – soggy, slippy bridleways and fields intersected with road and gravel paths – they're a brilliant all-round option, and certainly in this country at least warrant the All Conditions name.
Really good in all conditions – supple, grippy and a great compromise for riding tracks and trails and the roads in between
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Panaracer GravelKing AC tyre
Size tested: 700 x 35
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: 'Built on the same concept as the Gravelking and Gravelking SK models, the AC version incorporates the same technology on top of a specially designed tread tailored to work best in all conditions.'
After a month with the tyres I've been impressed with their all-round ability; they're a great option if your gravel rides involve any mud or slippiness.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
35mm - 360g weight
ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural Compound
This compound has the same low rolling resistance as the premium compound. Its enhanced wear resistance makes it perfect for a long lasting training tire with an excellent ride.
AX-α (Advanced Extra Alpha Cord)
AX technology uses extremely narrow cord which is weaved at a super high density into the casing for lightness and flexibility. This increased density improves resistance to cuts and abrasions.
Anti-puncture reinforcement throughout the tire strengthens resistance to cuts and pinch flats.
Tubeless Compatible (TLC)
Well-made supple tyre while still being light weight.
After only a month it's hard to tell but there are no signs of wear and no large cuts, which bodes well.
At 360g per tyre they're quite light compared to most knobbly tyres. Thankfully, this hasn't been to the detriment of sidewall durability or tyre compound.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They worked well: extra grip in mud and slippy conditions without sacrificing too much speed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great all-rounder, especially at this time of year in the UK.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
These didn't have the brown sidewalls... but Panaracer does offer them.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Schwalbe's X-One Bite Microskin tyre is more expensive at £67, and heavier.
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 overall score
Grippy and supple compound makes for a great ride on gravel and hard surfaces, while excellent mud-shedding ability means they grip well in the slippy stuff.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,