From a cyclist’s perspective, gravel biking is often open to interpretation. For purists, it means riding gravel, and only gravel. At the other end of the spectrum are those riders who consider gravel biking to be riding anything other than perfect asphalt. Most of us, however, tend to fall somewhere in the middle–happily riding a mix of paved and unpaved roads. To address the needs of riders seeking adventure on- and off-road, Panaracer has introduced the Gravelking tire.
At first glance, the Gravelking appears similar to dozens of other training or endurance tires. Don’t let looks fool you, though. Panaracer didn’t simply rebadge one of their existing designs. Each component–from the tread compound to the casing–was chosen to blend performance, comfort, and durability. The ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural Compound utilizes a higher natural rubber content for low rolling resistance and improved wear resistance, while a new, more supple breaker belt complements the 126tpi casing.
All that technology sounds good, but how do the tires actually ride? In short, wonderfully. On pavement, there’s that faint, but tell-tale whoosh that’s associated with high-quality tires. Cornering is predictable, wet or dry. Hit the dirt, and the ride is lively, but not nervous (even if you forget to let out a few psi). Lower the pressure, and you’re rewarded with a ride that rivals tubeless setups.
Make no mistake, the Gravelking is not intended to be substitute for a typical ‘cross or knobby tire. The file tread doesn’t offer the same level of traction, and the 28mm width can’t deliver the flotation or rim protection found on higher-volume tires. That’s not to say that the Panaracer needs to be babied, however. After several hundred miles, the tread shows very little wear. In addition, the tires have sustained several deep tread cuts without puncturing.
If you want a fast, comfortable tire that can also hold up to off-road use, the Gravelking is a good choice. The added protection greatly reduces the risk of casing damage and punctures, but at the same time, doesn’t compromise ride quality.
Panaracer offers the Gravelking in 700x23mm, 26mm, and 28mm sizes. Suggested retail price is $49.99. The company will be adding a 700x32mm size, which is expected be available mid- to late-summer 2014.
Disclosure: Panaracer provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.