Does the Paris Roubaix classic inspire you to conquer your own Hell of the North? Or yesterday's Strade Bianche make you want to follow Wout van Aert and brave the snow in search of your own gravel "instant classic?"
Today we're revisiting a round-up of some of our favorite tires for your own mixed terrain fun.
There are countless "white road" and "Roubaix" type classic rides here in the States, including yesterday's Boulder-Roubaix, Michigan's Barry Roubaix, the upcoming Paris-to-Ancaster, the Amish Country Roubaix, Hilly Billy Roubaix and the list goes on. Today in Italy, the amateurs get their chance to test themselves on the course and 50km of gravel. While the U.S. doesn't have many extended cobbled "secteurs," many of these rides substitute in dirt or gravel roads to break up the pavement.
You certainly don't have to pay an entry fee to experience your own Hell of the North or Strade Bianche on wheels. However, unless you'll have your custom Dugast or FMB pavé tubulars, your own follow vehicle and Mavic neutral support close behind, you will probably need some fast, supple, high volume yet durable tires that can withstand the hellish conditions and yet keep you floating over the rough stuff like an angel.
Yes, gravel bikes and tires have gotten bigger and bigger, and the line is starting to blur between high-volume gravel tires and mountain bike tires. But today we're focusing on fast-rolling tires that won't get you dropped on the pavement and that you can fit in any cyclocross bike and some road bikes, without issue. These don't need to withstands the sharp rocks of Dirty Kanza or Lost and Found.
Here's five of our favorite "American pavé" clinchers, going from biggest to smallest, that roll well on pavement, can handle some dirt, gravel and cobbles, and aren't so fragile you'll be climbing in the broom wagon. Some are even tubeless.
We hope they help transport you successfully to Siena or Roubaix, or your own gravel glory.
Five Top Pavé / Gravel / All Road Tires:
Panaracer GravelKing 28c Clincher
Ever want to simply throw bigger rubber on the road bike and go explore? Panaracer’s GravelKing, with its 23c, 26c and 28c widths, has been one of the go-to options for getting a little rowdy on the road bike. At 268g for a 28c width, the GravelKing also reigns as the lightweight champ.
While you weren’t looking, the GravelKing has expanded his empire, offering four tread and casing combinations, and no less than 23 different tread/casing/size options. There’s now an SK (small knob) version, an SK tubeless version, and even a Gravel King Mud tire based on the Panaracer Regacross.
Although the 23c and 26c options seem downright puny in today’s world of a 28c norm for road tires, the original GravelKing still remains a lightweight, supple fast-rolling option for the road bike crowd. Thankfully for those of us with bigger tire clearance, there’s now a new 32c width option. We haven’t tested this width yet, but guess that it might be a better choice for most cyclocrossers heading to rougher terrain.
The tire is by far the lightest of the bunch at 268 grams and still offers a puncture protection layer, but is not tubeless. It’s a nice, supple ride that is at home on pavement and smooth dirt and gravel roads. Need more knob or volume? Look for the SK and Mud versions.
The Panaracer GravelKing tires remain a great value compared to their competition at around $46 MSRP, and are often found for less.
Panaracer Gravel King 28 Specs:
Width: 28mm list, 27.5mm measured on 17.5mm internal width rim at 35psi
Width Options: 23c, 26c, 32c and 27×1.5″, along with SK, SK tubeless and Mud treads
Weight: 270g list, 268g actual
More info: panaracer.com