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Do gravel tires feel a lot slower to you than road tires?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Do gravel tires feel a lot slower to you than road tires?

Old 10-22-17, 04:23 PM
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johngwheeler
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Do gravel tires feel a lot slower to you than road tires?

I've just put on some Clement X'PLOR MSO 40mm clinchers on to my Giant TCX, for my first gravel ride. Previously the bike was in "commuter mode" with 28mm GP4000S2 tires.

But, boy, the 40mm treaded tires certainly feel a lot slower to me than the slick road tires on paved surfaces! I haven't done any timed tests, but it feels like a lot more work pushing these tires on the flat or up-hill. Sure, they have some tread, and weigh a bit more, but they feel a *much* slower. Actually, even slower than the very knobbly 33mm Schwalbe X-One cyclocross tires that came with the bike.

Is this transition from road to gravel tires normal? Is is a question of feel more than absolute speed? (I would expect maybe a 2km/h average speed drop from what I have read, but it "feels" like a lot more.

I guess I really need to do some timed tests, with both tires, but it's fairly hard to create a completely controlled experiment with identical conditions (especially without a power meter).

What has your experience been?
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Old 10-22-17, 04:32 PM
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I have some 700 x 35, 90 PSI Soma folding tires on my hybrid, they feel almost as fast as 700 x 25 road tires. But the ride is much much better.

Some people say that the flexibility of the tire casing and sidewalls has a lot to do with what determines how fast and comfortable a tire is. Maybe your current tires have stiff sidewalls and / or casing. I would try another brand if you can, though I realize that's tough to do without actually buying them.
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Old 10-22-17, 05:21 PM
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It depends on the gravel tire, but generally speaking gravel tires have a higher rolling resistance and aerodynamic penalty than race-orientated 28mm road tires. The stiffer the construction of the gravel tire and the size of the knobs along the center of the tire are the two factors to determine rolling resistance.

The fastest rolling gravel tire is the 700x35 Hutchinson Override. It's built like a larger road bike tire and it's practically a slick. If you are looking for a tire for a mixture of pavement and rails-to-trails use, these are excellent. The Panaracer-made tires from Soma and Compass are also excellent mixed pavement and gravel tires.
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Old 10-22-17, 05:40 PM
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Thanks for the replies. My reason for choosing the Clement X'Plor MSO was for the width and to have some tread. I had previously ridden short stretches off-road with 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires. Whilst these are quite fast on pavement (although noticeably harder work than the GP4Ks) they lacked grip on the tracks I tired (mixture of rocks, sand, dry mud & gravel), and I really wanted something with some extra grip to prevent sliding.

The Clements are actually a pretty supple 120TPI tire - there were incredibly easy to fit to my wheel rims.

I'm just curious about how much speed I'm really losing with these tires compared to road slicks. I know that there is tendency for the mind to play tricks with wider tires, making them feel slower than they really are.
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Old 10-22-17, 05:49 PM
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Coming from Gp4ks2s, most tires will feel like riding through mud.

(I went opposite direction. I was riding my gravel bike most rides. Then put some Gp4ks2s on my road bike, and the gravel bike feels like a drag.)

But consider Schwalbe G-ones. I haven't tried them myself, but they get rave reviews—only issue seems to be the rear tire wears quickly on pavement.

Last edited by athrowawaynic; 10-22-17 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 10-22-17, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
Thanks for the replies. My reason for choosing the Clement X'Plor MSO was for the width and to have some tread. I had previously ridden short stretches off-road with 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires. Whilst these are quite fast on pavement (although noticeably harder work than the GP4Ks) they lacked grip on the tracks I tired (mixture of rocks, sand, dry mud & gravel), and I really wanted something with some extra grip...
One solution is to use a tire like the MSO on the front and a slick tire, like the 700x38 Hutchinson Override on the rear. The rear tire creates most of the rolling resistance since it carries more weight and transmits power. The front tire needs to steer and does most of the urgent braking. Having a slick on the rear improves speed. Having a knobby tire on the front improves control on gravel.
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Old 10-22-17, 06:59 PM
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I have the same tires- mso 120tpi 40mm and yeah, they are slower feeling than my 25mm road tires. And they for sure will feel slower than your conti GP tires since those are low resistance.

But i never feel like the MSO tires are slow for what they are made to do. Compared to other 38-42mm tires i have owned and ridden, the MSO tires are downright fast feeling.

Its all just perspective.
If you cant stand how slow they are, toss those 28mm Conti GPs on your bike to ride gravel and see how that goes.
While MSO tires are slower on paved, GPs will be downright horrific on gravel(at least whats around me). Its apples and oranges as the MSO isnt made to excel on paved rides.
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Old 10-22-17, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
I'm just curious about how much speed I'm really losing with these tires compared to road slicks.
"Gravel tire" can be an extremely wide net, especially if we define it by what the users are doing. Someone whose gravel roads are constantly turning into clumpy thick mud bogs is potentially going to view aggressive knobbies as "gravel tires." Some gravel tires don't lose anything to performance-oriented road slicks, because they are performance-oriented road slicks. I know people who run beefy commuter road slicks for gravel... these are sometimes just as slow on pavement as tires marketed as "gravel tires."

I wouldn't go by feel, it's very hard to guess with any kind of precision. But differences of a couple mph wouldn't be hugely shocking between a fast road tire and a slow gravel tire.
When I first built up my gravel bike, I got a pair of Double Fighter IIs for $10 and threw them on. On pavement, I tended to end up around 10% slower compared with similar efforts on my road bikes. The bike still can't climb paved mountains as well as my road bikes due to its extreme weight, but when I have Rat Trap Pass ELs installed, in can trade blows with them on the flats.

If you need the tread and want to minimize the performance hit, consider minimizing the protection. I'd guess the folding version of the Continental Cyclocross Speed is decently fast, based on its specs. For something with some knobs for serious mud riding, maybe the Compass Steilacoom.

Last edited by HTupolev; 10-22-17 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 10-22-17, 08:06 PM
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The RollingResistance website does in-depth reviews of tyres; road / mtb / touring. Your Clements may be listed there.

You can compare two tyres for resistance, looking at the specs listed.

My gravel bike is currently set up with 27.5 x 2.1 ThundBurt liteskin tubeless.
I knew what I was getting into putting on these tyres; although for their size and low weight, they roll pretty good on the road (I ride road to get to the tracks).

Still, you do need more effort on the pedals to roll them on sealed.
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Old 10-22-17, 08:32 PM
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The reason they feel slower is that the higher volume tires transmit vibration to your body at a different frequency. You might be surprised that they may not be slower at all.

I've been riding my touring bike lately (something like 1000 miles in the last 3 months), and I'm setting new PRs on Strava nearly every day, PRs that were set with my road bike. Maybe I'm getting stronger, too, but my touring bike weighs ~30 pounds!

Don't assume it's slower just because it "feels" slower.
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Old 10-23-17, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
One solution is to use a tire like the MSO on the front and a slick tire, like the 700x38 Hutchinson Override on the rear. The rear tire creates most of the rolling resistance since it carries more weight and transmits power. The front tire needs to steer and does most of the urgent braking. Having a slick on the rear improves speed. Having a knobby tire on the front improves control on gravel.
Interesting idea! I hadn't considered this option.
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Old 10-23-17, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
I have the same tires- mso 120tpi 40mm and yeah, they are slower feeling than my 25mm road tires. And they for sure will feel slower than your conti GP tires since those are low resistance.

But i never feel like the MSO tires are slow for what they are made to do. Compared to other 38-42mm tires i have owned and ridden, the MSO tires are downright fast feeling.

Its all just perspective.
If you cant stand how slow they are, toss those 28mm Conti GPs on your bike to ride gravel and see how that goes.
While MSO tires are slower on paved, GPs will be downright horrific on gravel(at least whats around me). Its apples and oranges as the MSO isnt made to excel on paved rides.
I think you may have hit the nail on the head. I have another nice road-bike as well, and two wheel-sets for my CX/Gravel bike, so I don't really need to compromise. I'll probably just fit the X'Plors when I know that i'll be riding for a significant off-road stretch. I'll be trying these out for real next weekend on a 30km off-road ride (mostly single-track I believe), so I'll be in a better position to describe how they perform after the ride.

Last edited by johngwheeler; 10-23-17 at 12:49 AM.
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Old 10-23-17, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
What has your experience been?
Minus 5% in speed with the same effort. Nothing to talk about.
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Old 10-23-17, 02:50 PM
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I have 3 sets of wheels for my superx, 28 conti gp4season @80psi, 33mm cross(vittoria xl tubeless)@30psi, and 36mm MSOs tubeless@30psi. The road tires are significantly faster ~2mph at 20mph+ on pave, which is probably a combination of rolling resistance and aero.
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Old 10-23-17, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
I've just put on some Clement X'PLOR MSO 40mm clinchers on to my Giant TCX, for my first gravel ride. Previously the bike was in "commuter mode" with 28mm GP4000S2 tires.
Yes. I have found

WTB Nano << Clement XPLOR MSO 40mm < USH 35 mm << Strada 28 mm < 28mm GP4000S2 (which are almost 35 mm on my rims.

The Clements in general are more sluggish.

Right now I have 2 wheelsets, one with the GP4000S2 and one with the Clement USH 35 mm tires on it, for on-road, and mixed conditions, respectively.
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Old 10-24-17, 07:13 AM
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I have the stock tires on my Jamis Renegade...Clement X Plor USH, 700 x 35c. I'd say for most riding they are comparable with the Conti Hardshells 700 X 25C on my road bike. The only time I really feel slower is going into a stiff headwind.
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Old 10-24-17, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
I'm just curious about how much speed I'm really losing with these tires compared to road slicks. I know that there is tendency for the mind to play tricks with wider tires, making them feel slower than they really are.
It depends. Stiffer sidewall casing and deeper knobs and casing can all add up to make a difference.

I'm using Maxxis Rambles for gravel. Compared to 4season or 4000SII my 1/4 mile sprinting speed is down maybe 1mph.

I do like the idea of just switching out the front tire. I tend to leave the 32mm 4season on the rear in the summer and swapping out the front tire - 4000SII for fast road rides, 32mm 4season for commuting, or 40mm rambler for gravel. Naturally I'll put the rambler on the rear too if I'm going to be doing a lot of rougher gravel and need the extra volume.
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Old 10-24-17, 09:14 AM
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I use 28 mm (stretched to 32 or 33 mm) slicks on unpaved roads. So no, they don't feel slower at all.
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Old 10-24-17, 02:00 PM
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I did that and got pinch flats. Tubeless is an option, but tubeless doesn't work great at the higher PSI a tire under 32mm really likes. Works great on limestone, light gravel - none of the class 5 stuff.
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Old 10-24-17, 09:16 PM
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My experience is limited.

But so far my Compass Bon Jon's feel much faster than either my Clement LAS or MXPs on or off road. Take that for what it's worth.
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Old 10-24-17, 11:36 PM
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Oh ya, wider heavier tires are faster than narrow light tires.
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Old 10-25-17, 07:05 AM
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Not faster, but if you get a good quality tire, the speed penalty is surprisingly minimal. And the difference in comfort is huge. Plus it's great to have ability to ride gravel roads, railroad tracks, etc. if you get bored with pavement.
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Old 10-25-17, 02:46 PM
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The best info is the rolling resistance site.

Above, Barrett says the Hutchinson Override is the fastest gravel tire I don't know I have the fastest gravel tire: 60mm Schwalbe G-one. It literally has the least rolling resistance of any tire they make. It needs about 20 watts a pair at 18mph.

It really shocked me to ride them, as they were as fast (technically faster) than my 25mm race tires. I started setting Personal Records on gravel with them, and they were great on the road.

Then I have some Kenda Slant 6 tires that need 75 watts or more of power to go 18mph. That is about 30% of my power output at a comfortable cruising speed. Yeah, those feel real slow. 50watt power requirement is something you can feel.

So, it depends...
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Old 10-25-17, 04:52 PM
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a tread block moving increases rolling resistance ,, it absorbs energy, in comparison with a slick tread. so you just accept it.
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Old 10-25-17, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
a tread block moving increases rolling resistance ,, it absorbs energy, in comparison with a slick tread. so you just accept it.
Could you explain this to someone ignorant of these details?

Never mind, believe I've figured out what you mean.

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