How to Choose the Perfect Tires for Your Gravel bike?

This post will describe how to choose the perfect tires for your gravel bike and help you choose the perfect tires for your needs.

The choice of tires for your bike is an important decision. Especially if you ride on tracks and paths, in the case of Gravel, the right tire choice can make all the difference. It affects comfort, performance, and balance on rough terrain.

Characteristics of a Gravel tire

Generally, the most balanced gravel tire is 700mm in diameter (the most common size for road wheels) and has a width or ball of 32-55mm, with 40mm being the most often used. It must have a rolling profile tread with small, compact bumps. It allows for good grip without losing the feeling that the bike is moving forward with agility with each pedal stroke—a good combination for trails and tracks, but without giving up asphalt.

The small and numerous knobs, the tubeless, and the 700C diameter define the most used Gravel tire.

On the other hand, most Gravel riders, like mountain bike racers, opt for tubeless tires. This system prevents punctures and allows you to ride with low pressures, as the risk of bursting or blowout is minimized. It allows for better grip and more extraordinary lightness.

Tire dimensions, the key to choice

The ideal width of gravel tires is the subject of much debate. And also on their diameter. Due to their bikes and courses’ versatile and multi-functional nature, there is a wide range of sizes.

A gravel tire’s standard size would be 700x40mm to establish an intermediate or reference point. As we already mentioned, it has the same diameter as a road bike, reinforcing its rolling qualities. On the other hand, the 40 mm offer a good base or ground contact without excessive ballast.

How to Choose the Perfect Tires for Your Gravel bike?

From here, you can increase or vary the dimensions depending on the routes you plan to do, your riding style, or the wheel pitch the bike allows. New gravel bikes, especially the top models, already have a complete wheel arch of 55mm.

The most commonly used widths

Measured in mm, for road tires, ranging from 32 to 55 mm (1.25 – 2.1″). Let’s review these measures:

32 – 40 mm is the range in which the most classic Gravel tires evolve for more rolling routes (track, smooth paths, Gravel, etc.). The width increases by about 0.5 to 1 cm compared to a cyclo-cross tire (32 to 34 mm) or a wide road tire (28 to 30 mm).

40 – 50 mm is recommended for hilly roads with some technical elements: descents, potholes, and stones. Beyond 40 mm, performance on asphalt is more compromised, as well as the weight (more than 500 grams per tire).

In the Gravel+ category, on very technical roads, the most used tire diameter is 650B.

50 – 55 mm is a size that can be equivalent to a narrow MTB tire (2 – 2.10″). It is suitable for Gravel routes with very technical sections, descents, and some trailers also called Gravel+. It is strongly recommended the tires be tubeless to contain the increase in weight and achieve maximum low-pressure performance.

Is the diameter 700C or 650B?

Gravel has adopted the standard diameter of the road (700C) and the intermediate diameter (650B), which reigned supreme on mountain biking 10 years ago. Both have their strengths.

700C: In inches, this equals 28″. It is a size more focused on flat and hilly courses, more stable at high speeds, and associated with tire widths between 32 and 45 mm, approximately.

The 650B diameter is equivalent to a 27.5-inch wheel. A size that took advantage of the growth of Gravel to make a comeback.

The diameter

650B: Equivalent to 27.5″ wheels and were introduced to Gravel as more rugged and radical bikes were created, with elements inherited from mountain biking, such as suspension. The wheel diameter is recommended for technical courses with curves, narrow paths, and obstacles. A 650B wheel is more responsive, faster to react, and agile. But it is also less stable at high speed and requires more refined handling.

Choice of tire studs

The shape and number of studs are also important when choosing your Gravel tires. You must select between semi-slick or marked tires and more aggressive knobby tires.

Semi-slick or knobby tires are associated with widths between 32 and 40mm and are recommended for routes with more tar than Gravel or dirt. Also, consider this tread if you like to ride fast and avoid technical sections.

Studded tires are the most specific for Gravel, ideal for widths 32 to 45 mm. A mixed profile with small and numerous studs over the entire tread to ride comfortably and with just enough grip to pass corners correctly or overcome technical sections. There are variants with larger and more widely spaced lugs or diagonally arranged lugs for rain or mud.

There are also tires with high lugs. They are often found on 650B models between 45 and 55 mm wide. These are the type of studs used by the most radical gravel runners, who barely touch the asphalt and dare to ride over rough terrain or obstacles.

Other aspects to consider

Other aspects to consider are TPI, compounds, and reinforcements.

Besides the tread size and profile, don’t forget to compare the TPI/EPI value, which refers to the density of the carcass. It determines aspects such as the tire’s weight or resistance, and, for Gravel, it varies between 60 and 120 TPI. Remember that the lower the TPI, the heavier the tire, but the more comfortable it is on rough terrain and the more resistant it is to punctures.

As for tread compounds, the most popular are those with a tread profile and a reduced hardness of 60a, with a large amount of rubber. If you want to participate in competitions, choose this compound for better grip or resistance. There are also models with specific reinforcements on the casing and the side walls. These are plates with anti-abrasive fabrics that are more opaque than the classic nylon threads. These provide a more potent, stable, and puncture-resistant structure. Examples are Maxxis EXO Protection and Schwalbe SnakeSkin.

What pressure should I inflate them to?

Generally, the recommended pressure range for a Gravel tire is between 1.5 and 4.5 bar (22 – 65 psi), a divide between MTB (1 – 3 bar) and road (5 – 9 bars).

The pressure range is between 1.5 (technical paths) and 4.5 bars (rolling tracks and asphalt).

Within this range, you will have to adapt your pressure to the type of tire, dimensions, weight, terrain condition, etc. It is the same as with any other kind of cycling. Go for a lower pressure than usual if you use tubeless widths more significant than 40 mm (1.5 – 3 bars, generally 1 or 2 bars more than on an MTB) and go up to 4 bars if the terrain is very rolling that you ride on thinner models.

The 5 most popular gravel tires

Finally, there is nothing better than seeing all of the above in the form of specific Gravel tire patterns. In this case, we’ve chosen five of the most popular and requested models, each in a particular terrain.

Hutchinson Override

Very common on gravel bikes focused on driving and simply accumulating miles. It has a central tread with small studs, almost like a road tire with studs. On the sides, they are replaced by more prominent and more separated diamond-shaped studs to increase the turns.

Hutchinson Overide
Image: Hutchinson Override tyres.

In the tubeless or inner tube version, the ice model has a double compound and a light TPI of 127. Available in 650B, 47mm wide, and 700C in 35, 38, and 45mm.

  • Comfort: good.
  • Adhesion: good.
  • Puncture resistance: very good.
  • Weight: good.

Schwalbe G-One Bite

Schwalbe’s G-One features heavily in all of its seven variants. And it keeps bringing new versions to market: the latest, the very light G-One RS. We present to you the most balanced option, the Bite, with good performance on all types of tracks. The tread pattern is small, hilly, and well-distributed on the central band, combined with more on the sides and smooth spaces to evacuate the mud better.

Image: Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres.

This model is tubeless ready and has the Addix Speedgrip compound (blue, a mix of grip and good rolling) and a three-layer casing with Snake Skin to protect against punctures. Available in 700C or 650B option and widths from 40 to 54 mm.

  • Comfort: good.
  • Adhesion: very good.
  • Puncture resistance: good.
  • Weight: good.

Vittoria Terreno Dry

Another Gravel tire option specifically designed for dry terrain. This model is efficient for the forest tracks of Spain, both in summer and in dry winters. The Terreno Dry has small hexagon-shaped lugs on the centre tread, facilitating a smooth and agile ride. At the same time, it offers good braking and cornering traction thanks to more prominent bumps arranged diagonally on the sidewall.

Vittoria Terreno Dry
Image: Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres.

It is offered in a wide range of sizes (from 31 to 47 mm) in 650B / 700C and tubeless or tube options.

  • Comfort: excellent.
  • Adhesion: good.
  • Puncture resistance: good.
  • Weight: very good.

WTB Sendero

An exciting option for the most daring Gravel cyclists. WTB features an aggressive tread design with an almost mountain bike profile. In addition, its characteristic Skinwall gives the bike a more eye-catching aesthetic touch.

WTB Sendero
Image: WTB Sendero tires

It is a dual compound, has options for a tubeless and inner tube, and is only available in 650Bx47mm.

  • Comfort: standard.
  • Adhesion: excellent.
  • Puncture resistance: good.
  • Weight: standard.

Maxxis Rambler

Maxxis Rambler
Image: Tires Maxxis Rambler Tires

We end with Maxxis’ most popular gravel tire, the Rambler. A versatile model, both for rolling tracks and for technical sections. Its lugs are a little larger than road tires, such as the Terreno Dry Schwalbe G-One, but it retains a specific size and close alignment to ride comfortably. The studs are more prominent on the sidewalls and in keeping with the more technical tires.

There are options with EXO extra protection, tubeless or tubeless, and sizes 650B and 700C, with widths ranging from 38mm to 50mm. It also has two versions depending on the TPI: 60 or 120.

  • Comfort: good.
  • Adhesion: very good.
  • Puncture resistance: very good.
  • Weight: good.

Marcelline is a writer and covers several categories thanks to her multidisciplinary expertise.

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