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Do gravel tyres have reason to exist?

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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 tyres have reason to exist?

Old 12-24-20, 10:45 AM
  #26  
pipeliner
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Having ridden Marathons before, I wouldnít ride those on our gravel roads if you gave them to me free. Ride like they are made of wood.
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Old 12-24-20, 11:19 AM
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On engineered gravel roads and other mild off-road jaunts, I ride 30mm tires on a road bike. As far as I know, Kenda Kwick are the knobbiest 30mm tire available, and it seems like the folding bead ones might even have been discontinued, although some are still available.




On tougher gravel courses that might only get a blade drawn over them once every 10 years or so, I've been known to just get out there on a hardtail or full rigid MTB.
Some trips are mostly on smoooth double track with a couple of rock gardens and a sandy arroyo crossing or two, and I'll break out the fatbike with plus tires on it, I save 4" tires for snow use only.

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Old 12-24-20, 02:38 PM
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I run 38mm Pathfinder Pros, great for the mix of pavement and gravel that I ride. Anything bigger/more aggressive is overkill and would slow me down, anything more road oriented wouldn't be good for the chunkier sections. With decent bike handling skills, these are perfect for what we ride/race around here and is the goto tire for pretty much everyone in the top 10 at any race I've been to.
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Old 12-24-20, 09:44 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by Igor_M View Post
I stare at models such as the Schwalbe G-One or Continental Terra and I get a rather pitiful smile on my face. Can't help it.

Now, to be clear, I am dead serious about the question. I recently purchased my first gravel bike and I will have to put some rubber on those rims. I will have two wheelsets, 700c and 650b.
When road riding -> 28/30mm road slick
When off-road -> 47/50mm XC
When mixed on 700c -> why not an XC tyre still (they should outperform in rolling resistance and grip) OR a touring one (Schwalbe Marathon Mondial or Almotion) that have great puncture protection

My struggle with fully dedicated gravel tyres is that they really don't look like they are good at anything. Is there any situation where they would be the reasonable top pick?
If your rides are that bifurcated into mutually exclusive categories of smooth pavement and rough offload terrain, then you probably bought the wrong bike. You don't need two wheel sets, you need two bikes.

For 90% of the rides I do (which land in between those two), a 38mm Barlow Pass is far preferable to either of the tires you plan to run.

As far as I am concerned, tires under 32mm may as well not even exist.

Last edited by Kapusta; 12-24-20 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 12-25-20, 12:20 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
If your rides are that bifurcated into mutually exclusive categories of smooth pavement and rough offload terrain, then you probably bought the wrong bike. You don't need two wheel sets, you need two bikes.
So being able to put 700c x 28m and doing a 450 mile road tour of S Florida and then weeks later swapping out to 650b x 47m on same bike to do 200 mile 4 day gravel adventure in the S Appalachian is bad because ,,, ?

As Kevin might say, why use two bike when one bike do trick?



Merry Christmas.
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Old 12-25-20, 07:05 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
So being able to put 700c x 28m and doing a 450 mile road tour of S Florida and then weeks later swapping out to 650b x 47m on same bike to do 200 mile 4 day gravel adventure in the S Appalachian is bad because ,,, ?



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Uh, no it is not bad. But it is also not what I said.

I think you missed the implications of the “bifurcated” and “mutually exclusive” part. It was admittedly a nuanced point. I’ll clarify it more later.

EDIT: OK, it's later...

First, lets clarify what are considered "gravel" tires: I think most would agree that they include everything from 35mm slicks (maybe even 32s) up to 45mm-ish (Maybe up to 47mm) semi-knobbys (not actual MTB XC tires)

Second, the OP is claiming that this class of tire (gravel) is never the right one for any given ride.

This would mean that his rides all fall into one of two categories:
a) On 100% pavement so smooth and fast that a 32mm slick is too slow
OR
b) On 100% terrain that a 47mm semi-knobby tire is being under-gunned.

If this is the case, would a gravel bike be the best bike for either scenario? I would say "no". In the first instance, a road that smooth and fast would best be served with a road bike with 2x gearing, and road geometry and a bit of emphasis on aero. In the second instance, If a road is really too rough for a 47mm semi knob, I would probably want an MTB (maybe a drop bar one). In any event, A bike (even a gravel bike) set optimally for or one of those is not going to be much fun on the other, even if you swap the wheels. These call for different gearing, and different geometry.

However, the reality for most people is that most rides they use a gravel bike for do NOT fall into either of the categories mentioned above. They are on moderate gravel roads or on varying surfaces. And for these situations, some sort of gravel tire is going to work best.

As Kevin might say, why use two bike when one bike do trick?
I would take that a step farther as ask "why use two wheel-sets when one will do". One wheelset is a lot easier to take on a ride with you.

Last edited by Kapusta; 12-25-20 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 12-25-20, 09:19 AM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
So being able to put 700c x 28m and doing a 450 mile road tour of S Florida and then weeks later swapping out to 650b x 47m on same bike to do 200 mile 4 day gravel adventure in the S Appalachian is bad because ,,, ?.
Of course itís not bad! But in my experience, it may also not be necessary. You could definitely do that 450 mile road tour of S Florida on the 700c x 38mm Barlow Pass tires the poster mentioned, and youíd be more comfortable & secure, and likely no slower, than on 28mm tires. You might be underbiked with those tires on the gravel in S Appalachia - depends on the gravel, and on how you ride.

For my part, I can and do use 650b x 48mm Switchback Hill tires for both such rides, with and without bikepacking bags. Now that Iíve ridden 1000s of miles on wide supple tires, I think the only place Iíd ride 700c x 28mm tires is in a fast paceline (and then Iíd also need different gearing than the 1x on my gravel bike).
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Old 12-26-20, 10:33 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Igor_M View Post
I stare at models such as the Schwalbe G-One or Continental Terra and I get a rather pitiful smile on my face. Can't help it.
Not sure what roads you have there in Berlin, but in many parts of America we have lots of dirt roads. Not offroad, but also not paved, these are just regular residential roads in many areas once you get out of the suburban areas. 28mm is painfully narrow and while I have ridden as narrow as a 23mm tire on some of these roads, it requires caution. XC tires will work but are more than needed and won't fit most gravel frames anyways. Especially not those with road like geometry, which is what I want for this riding. In between, in the 35-45mm area is about perfect. Enough tire to handle the bumps, not enough tread to slow you down. The basic goal is to have something that behaves like a road bike for these unpaved roads.
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Old 12-27-20, 07:55 AM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
The basic goal is to have something that behaves like a road bike for these unpaved roads.
That is a good observation. Sums up my approach, at least.
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Old 12-27-20, 05:29 PM
  #35  
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Multiple observations listed below in no particular order.

- This summer on the way to some dirt, I put up two personal records on some paved climbs I'd ridden many times on a 4lb lighter road bike. I did this on 38c Gravelking SK
- On the previously mentioned road bike, I rode a lot of gravel with 30mm, I liked it well enough but it seemed mean to the bike.

-Rene Herse, overrated or worth it? They are nearly double the price of their peers. I haven't tried them.
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Old 12-27-20, 06:29 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
Multiple observations listed below in no particular order.


-Rene Herse, overrated or worth it? They are nearly double the price of their peers. I haven't tried them.
I go back and forth on this. If you can afford it, give them a shot. I ride their 48mm with endurance casing for my commute. They're fine and seem flat proof, but I would not say they ride any better than WTB Horizons (sue me). The extralights on the other hand are incredible, but I was not able to run them tubeless as they simply did not hold air even with buckets of sealant .Returned them on warranty. They were so thin, I did not want to mess with them with tubes as they struck me as flat prone, but plenty of people seem to ride them with tubes without issues.

I would like to try their regular casing someday. Something tells me they'd be juuuust right.
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Old 12-27-20, 07:04 PM
  #37  
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I just ordered a set of Maxxis Ramblers in 40c, I think they're supposed to be 375g and they're a very thin and supple tire. Average durability and $48 per tire. It'll be my second set, pretty solid lightweight/supple performance for dirt roads. A little thin for miles of loose rocks.

At $48 a sidewall cut is a huge bummer. At $75+, it's pretty much tragic.



​​​​​​
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Old 12-27-20, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
-Rene Herse, overrated or worth it? They are nearly double the price of their peers. I haven't tried them.
Well I have, and in my experience, the extra money spent on RH Superlights is about the best performance bang-for-the-buck out there. A bargain, really.

RH Superlight tires are about $30-40 more per tire more than tires like WTB Byway or Panaracer Gravel Kings. That's $60-80 more per pair.

You will struggle to find many people who try something like the Bon Jon Pass Superlight who do not find them to the fastest and smoothest 35mm tire they have tried. Same with the 38mm Barlow Pass Superlight. Yeah, they are that good. The people with doubts are the ones who have not owned them.

Is that worth $60-80 extra? How much extra do people pay for a CF frame? Or a high end wheelset? Or CF handlebar?. Or high end drivetrain or brake components? Tires make as much difference than any of these things (or more in some cases)

I do not have expensive tastes in road/gravel bikes. I ride a steel Soma frame with mostly 105-ish components (though I have a pretty nice wheelset) and have little interest in anything more expensive. But I do not think twice about dropping the coin on Compass/RH tires.

Are they perfect? No. The previous models were bad at tubeless. Though the newer Barlow Pass tires I got have been fine for over a year. And they are not the most robust sidewalls, so if you spend a lot of time riding on railroad ballast, you might want something different. Me? I've been riding gravel roads with them for 6 years and never damaged a sidewall.

That's my take on it.
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Old 12-27-20, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
Rene Herse, overrated or worth it? They are nearly double the price of their peers. I haven't tried them.
RH tires are expensive, for sure. They also are lovely to use, in my experience. I started with 26Ē x 2.3Ē Rat Trap Pass tires in extra light casing, which really transform every bike Iíve put them on (mine, and now also 4 friendsí vintage rigid steel MTBs converted to gravel/all-road use). Iím not sure I can think of ďpeerĒ products for those, since options for nice 26Ē tires are limited these days. I commute, train and bikepack with mine; Iíve run them with tubes & got flats occasionally, and tubeless with no flats I can remember; and Iíve not had any problems with torn sidewalls (but I do carry needle, thread and a Tyvek boot in my bikepacking kit).

Iíve also had entirely positive experiences with the 650b x 48mm Switchback Hill, also training and bikepacking. I have those in standard casing, from a friend who switched to 650b x 42 Babyshoe Pass because they fit his bike better. In these sizes/styles, I think there are more ďpeerĒ options, but Iím new to 650b and havenít tried others so far. Anyway, our experiences with these has also been positive - they ride great, have held up well so far, and have been easy to set up tubeless.

Iíve just started using a set of 650b x 48mm Juniper Ridge tires for winter. RH claims that theyíre not slower than the smooth tires, despite the knobs, and so far my experience is consistent with that, in terms of ride feel and also ride times.

Aside from aerodynamics - maybe - I really donít feel like Iím giving anything up riding these tires anywhere I use a drop bar bike: Iím certainly more comfortable, probably more secure, and if Iím any slower - which I donít know - I think the comfort and security more than make up for that.

Last edited by scubaman; 12-27-20 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 12-28-20, 08:47 AM
  #40  
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I didn't particularly enjoy riding my gravel bike with 42mm GravelKing SK on pavement sections but it was tolerable.
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Old 12-28-20, 10:16 AM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
gravel tires seem to cover that gap from cross to mtb sizes.
I came in here to post this exact thing. What is a treaded/knobby tire that is 33-50mm in width called, if not a "gravel tire"?
Road tires have low-profile or no tread, and typically max out around 32mm in size.
29" XC MTB tires I am familiar with are all 2"+ width (50mm).
The UCI limits CX tire width to 33mm (though this limit does not apply to amateur racing) so tire manufacturers don't make cyclocross tires much wider than 35mm.

If 2"+ tires work for your gravel riding, then sure... ride XC MTB tires. Most people don't want tires this wide or heavy on their drop-bar gravel bikes and/or would just ride a hardtail MTB if the terrain required this wide of a tire.
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Old 12-28-20, 04:27 PM
  #42  
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I'm a roadie that has been riding gravel now for about a year and a half in dusty and dry Southern California. I very rarely plan out my rides and go where the trail takes me, typically involving some asphalt connections, singletrack descents, stream crossings, fast hardpack, loose climbs for 15 to 40 miles. My first set of gravel tires were semi-knobby Continental SpeedRides in 700x42c. Very light and fast on hard pack and dug in well for loose climbing and cornering, but cost me a gear or two on the road. SpeedRides have ridiculously supple sidewalls, like they collapse when you change the tube. That meant that I banged the rims in rock gardens, which we have all over the place here, and suffered pinches every 3 or 4 rides. But man, those SpeeRides were comfortable and gave me supreme confidence on technical downhill.
When it came time to get new tires, a friend gave me some WTB Nanos in 700x43c which were extremely knobby. They made it through 2 rides before going up on eBay. They were heavy, slow, and loud and had a distinct "MTB" type of feel. I haven't owned a MTB in a decade. Perhaps that contributed to my dislike of the Nanos. If you are a MTB rider, then you might really enjoy this style of tire.
After researching Rene Herse's outstanding offerings and reading about what folks like Ted King and Lael Wilcox go for, I wanted to go with Herse's semi-slick Barlow Pass tires in standard or endurance casing. Unfortunately due to expenses on bikes that month, I couldn't make it work. It turns out that Panaracer and Rene Herse work together closely, so I opted for some Panaracer GravelKing TLC SS (semi-slick) in 700x38c for half the price. Panaracer is apparently the last company making bike tires in Japan (can anybody verify this?). The construction on these tires is beautiful. I have 8 hard rides on these tires. The sidewall casing is surprisingly sturdy and I have had no pinch flats yet. The tread is reminiscent of vintage touring tires from the 80s. They are almost as fast as my road tires on pavement, faster than anything on the hardpack, yet as comfortable as the SpeedRides overall. The only negative is that I have to keep my butt planted on the seat to maintain traction on the loosest climbs and corners. If you stand when you climb, these will slip on the loose dirt.
The cycling industry (manufacturers, magazines, reviewers) aggressively promotes knobby 700c tires, which certainly provide a more dramatic and badass look. Unless you are coming to gravel from the MTB world, it is my opinion that you will be ill-served by knobbies for all-around gravel riding. Hence the OP's question as to whether a true mixed use gravel tire exists is VERY interesting. After 18 months of gravel riding, I believe that a stout touring tire with a compliant sidewall at low PSI would be just fine in everything except mud -- if it existed in a 700x38c or larger. So perhaps gravel tires just mean a larger touring tire <grin>!
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Old 12-30-20, 07:42 AM
  #43  
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Interesting thoughts on the RH tires.

I might try them one day.

Seems funny that a company who only makes a bunch of shiny neo-retro parts, is also somehow the bleeding edge of modern tires.

I've got a lot more miles before the tires on anything I own need replaced. I'll keep it in mind though.
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Old 12-30-20, 11:25 PM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by walnutz View Post
I go back and forth on this. If you can afford it, give them a shot. I ride their 48mm with endurance casing for my commute. They're fine and seem flat proof, but I would not say they ride any better than WTB Horizons (sue me). The extralights on the other hand are incredible, but I was not able to run them tubeless as they simply did not hold air even with buckets of sealant .Returned them on warranty. They were so thin, I did not want to mess with them with tubes as they struck me as flat prone, but plenty of people seem to ride them with tubes without issues.

I would like to try their regular casing someday. Something tells me they'd be juuuust right.
If you amortize the extra $25/tire over a 2,500 mile tire life it is pretty cheap for the great ride comfort and speed of RH tires. That extra comfort alone is worth every extra cent of the cost. I just avoid using RH if you have a lot of glass or sharp rocks. I have almost none of that thankfully.

I do run my RH tires with tubes BTW.
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Old 01-03-21, 11:20 AM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
I don't understand the thread title.

If I only rode my gravel bike on dirt / gravel roads exclusively then maybe what the OP is referencing as a gravel tire wouldn't serve a purpose.

But my "gravel" rides consist of riding pavement (often back/country roads) to get from one gravel/dirt road to another. Some gravel/dirt roads are nice and smooth like a groomed ski trail, others are chunky like a mogul run. So a tire that can work on all that - yes it has a reason to exist.

My preferred tire right now is the WTB Venture. It's way faster than it should be on pavement, but has nice confidence inspiring grip in gravel and dirt.

WTB Venture TCS 700c Gravel Tire at BikeTiresDirect
+1 on the Ventures. I find them perfectly fine on the road and excellent on the "gravel" where I ride, which isn't much gravel at all, but dry hardpack fireroads and rocky singletrack. I rarely want for more or less tread with them. Maybe if it was wetter/muddier here I'd feel differently. I'd say it's a "gravel" tire that truly excels at being an all-arounder. I tried slicker (ByWays--not enough traction in my dirt conditions) and have considered knobbier but I also ride pavement to get to the dirt, and Ventures are the sweet spot.
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Old 01-22-21, 07:26 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by katsup View Post
They exist because people with gravel bikes want to buy "gravel" tires.
True. A more complete reply would be that most tire buyers probably only have one set of tires that they want to use - for everything from loam to pavement. Most people do not understand tires as more experienced folks - and do not want to have to. just wanna ride with no issues.
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