Under Test: Tubus Vega & Tara Racks

GRAVELBIKE.com Tubus Vega rack gravel grinder steel Specialized AWOL Comp

Here at GRAVELBIKE, we’re big fans of standalone bikepacking bags. Sometimes, though, a conventional rack-and-pannier combo is a better solution. Ortlieb offers some of the most bombproof racks around, and we chose their Vega Evo and Tara models to test the load-carrying capabilities of Specialized’s AWOL Comp bicycle.

Stay tuned…

First Impressions: Panaracer Gravelking 700×32 Tires

When Panaracer introduced their Gravelking tires in spring of 2014, the go-anywhere tires generated lots of excitement and positive reviews. Our review of the 28mm Gravelking tire quickly become one of GRAVELBIKE’s most widely read articles. Some riders, however, wanted a larger tire with more aggressive tread than the original Gravelking. In response to those requests, Panaracer will begin offering the Gravelking in a 700x32mm version ($44.95 MSRP) in late November, 2014.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Panaracer Gravelking 700x32 tire

While the 32mm Gravelking sports a completely new tread pattern, it retains the same casing, folding Aramid bead, and ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) natural rubber found on the narrower Gravelking tires. Our sample tires weighed 305g and 310g; under Panaracer’s claimed weight of 320g. At maximum pressure (95 psi), the tires measured 32mm-33mm, depending on the rims’ width.

Installing the Gravelking tires was completely uneventful. The tires mounted true and hop-free, with no need for cajoling or aids such as soap-and water. Unlike the narrower Gravelkings, which have a noticeably round cross-section, the 32mm version has a slightly flatter profile. Fitting the 32mm Gravelkings on wider rims (23-26mm outer dimension) produced a distinctly u-shaped casing. We didn’t test the new tires’ ability to be run without tubes, but the beads seated easily on tubeless-compatible rims using only a Blackburn floor pump.

On paved roads, the 32mm Gravelkings rode smoother, faster, and quieter than anticipated. The tightly spaced tread, combined with Panaracer’s supple 126tpi casing yielded a ride that outperformed many tires with less aggressive tread patterns. During hard cornering, we didn’t notice any loss of traction or slippage when transitioning from center to side knobs. Although Panaracer lists a maximum pressure of 95psi for the new Gravelkings, we never ran them above 80 psi on pavement. It’s too soon to comment on long-term durability, but tread wear has been minimal after several weeks of commuting duty.

When it comes to dirt and gravel, the 32mm Gravelking handles like a much wider tire. While it obviously can’t offer the flotation or rim protection afforded by higher-volume tires, it certainly feels wider. Hardpack dirt, and loose-over-hard, is where the new Panaracer tire really shines. Drop the pressure to 50-60 psi, and you can comfortably–and confidently–cruise dirt roads and non-technical trails. In very deep gravel, or soft, loamy soil, the tire’s performance begins to suffer, though. For those conditions, you’re better off choosing a tire with taller, more widely spaced knobs.

Panaracer’s 32mm Gravelking does a great job bridging the gap between traditional road and ‘cross tires. The increased traction doesn’t come with a substantial speed penalty, and the tire transitions easily–and predictably–between paved and unpaved terrain.

Disclosure: Panaracer provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.