What Tyres Do You Need on Gravel Bikes?
Gravel bikes, also known as adventure bikes, are a great way to cycle off-road. They are designed to tackle different terrain so you can ride them pretty much anywhere - in the forest, on a country trail, across gravel paths or along the beach.
So, what makes a gravel bike different to other bikes? How do you choose the ultimate gravel tyre to give you the best cycling experience?
Read on to find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about gravel bikes and the perfect tyre to buy to enhance your cycling experience.
What is a Gravel Bike?
Gravel bikes are used to ride on different terrains. They are often described as a “grab it and go” bike due to their huge versatility. They can be used for long adventure rides or bike-packing trips where riders are in the saddle for many hours.
Gravel Bike Geometry
The upright riding position offers all-day comfort and large chunky tyres give grip over uneven surfaces. Gravel bikes have disc brakes to give the rider extra control on the descent.
Gravel Bike Frames
Gravel bike frames can be made of steel or carbon but titanium gravel bike frames are by far the most popular due to the durability of the metal. Titanium bikes excel at taking the impact of the ground which makes them a smooth and incredibly comfortable ride.
Why are Tyres Important?
Tyres are a crucial part of your bike and riding experience as they are the only point of contact with the ground.
Back in 1887, John Dunlop’s son experienced constant headaches while cycling his bike on uneven roads. His father developed the pneumatic tyre which proved successful, a version of which is still used today on all bikes.
As John Dunlop Jnr discovered, the correct tyre will affect the overall comfort of your ride. It also determines how much grip you have on the road surface, especially helpful in bad weather conditions. Each bike style has a slightly different tyre.
Road bikes are used on tarmac or smooth road surfaces. They are lightweight bikes engineered for speed. Road bike tyres, often known as slicks, have a smooth surface to grip tarmac. They are narrow to reduce the rolling resistance and not add weight to the overall bike
Mountain bikers travel across extreme terrain therefore the tyres on a mountain bike need to be wide with a deep tread to give traction and stability. Mountain bike tyres are larger and heavier than road bike slicks.
Gravel Bikes are used both on and off-road. They are in between road and mountain bike tyres with regard to size and weight. Before choosing a gravel tyre, you need to assess what type of terrain you will be riding to get the right balance of comfort, resistance and protection from punctures. Generally, they are wide and need an element of grip.
Types of Tyre
The majority of bicycle tyres are pneumatic tyres. These have an inner tube that provides an airtight barrier inside the tyre. The inner tube can be replaced relatively easily and swiftly if the tyre punctures.
Tubeless tyres are those without an inner tube. Air is inflated directly into the tyre and a liquid sealant is injected to stop any leaks caused by punctures. Tubeless tyres work with lower air pressure so give greater traction which is beneficial for mountain bikers.
Tubeless tyres for road bikes have been developed but the jury is out as to whether they will fully replace traditional tyres. They are less likely to puncture but if they do they are much harder and messier to change.
The tan sidewall tyres are a popular choice at the moment - a throwback to the 1970s era of cycling. Some say they make the tyre more supple but this is debatable, but they do provide a contrast to the black rubber which can look stylish.
How to Choose Tyres for a Gravel Bike
When choosing tyres for your gravel bike you must take into consideration a few aspects. The ultimate gravel tyre is the one that matches your adventures.
What terrain are you cycling? This will help you decide what grip or tyre pattern is best for you.
Consider the geometry of your bike and the tyre width it can accommodate.
On the whole, gravel bike tyres are wider than road bike tyres yet narrower than mountain bike tyres. They are chunky tyres with knobs and lugs to provide grip. A larger tyre may be heavier but will have a lower tyre pressure and give more grip and a smoother ride over uneven surfaces.
If you are cycling on unmade up roads or bumping over the rough stuff you will need a tyre between 35mm and 41mm. Chunky outer knobs will ensure grip, and a smaller tread pattern will give plenty of grip on light gravel. If you ride gravel and road you could opt for a semi-slick tread pattern. In the winter when you are more likely to slip on the gravel you can opt for tyres with more aggressive knobs.
If you are ready to explore the off-road and cycle whatever nature throws at you, choose a larger tyre size maybe 38mm -43 mm in width. You could also opt for a smaller wheel with a wider tyre - possibly a 650b wheel with a 55mm tyre? A wider tyre can take a lower pressure ensuring maximum comfort when you jump from boulder to boulder. Be sure to choose a high profile grip pattern for loose surfaces.
If riding in wet conditions you may want to consider mud tyres. These have wide gaps between the tread to stop the mud from getting stuck in your tyres and slowing you down.
Gravel Tyres Reviews
Continental Terra Speed
Reilly recommends these on their best-selling Gradient and Gradient T47 gravel adventure bikes.
“The Continental Terra Speed is an excellent choice for fast gravel riding on mixed terrain, providing it’s not too rocky or muddy” bikeradar
Panaraceer Gravel King SK
“9/10. A really good gravel tyre that works well on and off-road” road.cc
“The Schwalbe G-One Allround Evolution is a brilliant do-it-all summer tubeless tyre that rolls extremely well on the tarmac, is reliable and predictable on gravel, and performs well on the trails too” road.cc
“Highly puncture resistance but still reasonably fast-rolling, could these be the perfect training tyre?” Cycling Weekly.