Your guide to the best gravel bike tyres
Whether you occasionally ride gravel or you’re a gravel aficionado, choosing the best gravel tyre is key to enjoying your ride. Our guide is here to help you decide.
Gravel riding is a challenging way of testing your skill and endurance over rough terrain. Since its rise in popularity over the last decade, the frames, components and gravel bike accessories have improved.
One of the most influential components on a bike are the wheels and tyres. They're your contact with the ground. Gravel cycling is so varied, too. From smooth tarmac and lightly compacted trails to loose gravel chutes and rocky terrain, gravel cycling has a bit of everything.
The right gravel tyre is the holy grail (pardon the pun) of a good time on a gravel bike. Choosing the right set of tyres for the riding you regularly do is crucial. But how do you know where to start when it comes to the best gravel tyres for your bike?
If you're wondering which gravel bike is best for you, check out our gravel bike buyer's guide.
Before you decide which gravel tyres are best for your kind of riding, take a closer look at your bike's wheels. Some gravel bikes run 700c wheels while others use 650b. In some cases, smaller wheels mean more room for rubber.
What's so special about gravel tyres?
Gravel bike tyres combine all that's good about the light treads on road tyres and extra grip for off-road adventuring.
Wide tyres are an important consideration when riding off-road. You'll be able to tackle gnarlier tracks at lower pressures compared to skinnier road tyres.
Gravel tyres are typically 38mm - 55 mm wide with a variety of tread patterns. Gravel tyres can include low profile slick tyres more akin to road tyres all the way to aggressive treads that a ready for the muddiest trails you can find.
Most gravel tyres are tubeless ready. You'll need sealant and valves to convert your wheels to a tubeless setup. Tubeless is common in mountain biking where lower pressures would usually pinch an inner tube.
Are gravel tyres good for road?
Slick or file tread tyres have a smooth tread pattern which means they roll faster on roads than knobbly tyres.
If your gravel rides have large stretches of paved road, a slicker tyre will mean a faster ride. But, you will have to compromise on the rough terrain and you may find you lack grip.
Can I put gravel tyres on my road bike?
You can put gravel tyres on your road bike if your road bike has clearance for gravel tyres and your wheel rim width is suitable for wider tyres. Check the tread pattern for something that's fast rolling.
Some road bikes like the Canyon Endurace have clearance for up to 35 mm tyres. This means you can fit narrow gravel tyres and take your bike on more gravel roads.
Check the maximum tyre width of your Canyon road bike before you buy new tyres.
Can I put road tyres on my gravel bike?
As road tyres are narrower than gravel bike tyres, road bike tyres are generally compatible with gravel wheels. Clearance won't be your issue here. Instead, you'll need to check your wheels' rim width to make sure a skinnier tyre will fit properly.
Can I use mountain bike tyres on my gravel bike?
It's not uncommon to see mountain bike tyres on drop handlebar gravel bikes. If your fork and rear stays have the clearance, there's no reason why you can't fit mountain bike tyres. Simply check your rim width to make sure they're compatible.
Mountain bike tyres are great over really rough terrain and a wide tyre (such as 2.1 inches) can improve grip on technical terrain.
Is a 30 mm tyre enough for gravel?
In most cases a 30 mm tyre is considered a road tyre rather than a gravel tyre. Over recent years, we've seen wider tyres become more popular on road bikes. It's common to have 25 mm and 28 mm tyres on road bikes including a combination of the two as seen on the Aeroad.
These wider road tyres are excellent for commuter bikes but if you're going to ride gravel regularly, you'll need something wider for increased grip and comfort on rocky terrain.
What tyres do I need for a gravel bike?
Not all gravel tyres were created equally, so we've categorised the trail conditions and suitable tyres for you.
The key features to look out for are:
- Tubeless ready
- Puncture protection
- Tyre size (700c or 650b)
If you enjoy riding a mixture of road and light gravel, a slick or file tread pattern tyre is perfect. Your focus for light gravel and tarmac is speed, so look for a fast rolling tyre.
- Terravail Rampart
- Vittoria Terreno
Gravel races come in all shapes and sizes. The terrain can be unpredictable, so a fast tyre that's reliable (fewer trail side repairs) is key here.
Look for a tyre with a slick centre tread and knobs on the edge to provide grip in corners and through mud.
- Schwalbe G One R (as specced on the Canyon Grail)
- Panaracer Gravelking
- Vittoria Terreno Dry
If heading out over mixed terrain on the weekend with your friends is more your jam, a versatile gravel tyre will serve you well. A tubeless gravel tyre with plenty of grip and puncture resistance is best here.
- Schwalbe G One Bite and Ultrabite (as specced on the Canyon Grizl)
- Maxxis Rambler
- WTB Resolute
A brief note on tyre pressures
Gravel bike tyres require lower tyre pressure due to their increased width. A softer tyre is also a grippier tyre.
We recommend a lower pressure on the front tyre compared to the rear. This will give you more control and traction as you ride, particularly when cornering or braking.
The optimum tyre pressure depends on your rim width, body weight and preference. Most gravel tyre pressures range between 20 and 50 PSI (1.3 - 3.5 bar).
When you're looking for a new set of gravel bike tyres, make sure you check the rolling resistance, puncture protection and tread pattern carefully. Consider the terrain you'll ride the most and get the best tyre for the conditions.
Check your frame and fork clearance as well as rim width before committing to a specific tyre width.
Tubeless set ups are amazing, but they're hardly conducive to changing tyres regularly. Grab yourself a tubeless repair kit in the event of a disastrous puncture.
Once you’ve set your tyres up, it’s time to explore.
Choose the best gravel bike for your needs. Figure out the pros and cons of all the models right here in our buyer’s guide.
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