First Impressions: Panaracer Gravelking Tires

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.

Panaracer Gravelking

The 700x28mm version measured 28.5mm wide (on a 23mm rim), and weighed 266g (claimed weight 270g).

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.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Velo-Orange Grand Cru Panaracer Gravelking Black Mountain Cycles H+SON Archetype

Fast enough for pavement, durable enough for dirt and gravel.

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.

17 thoughts on “First Impressions: Panaracer Gravelking Tires

    • I haven’t ridden that particular tire, but the Gravelking is definitely not slower than Hutchinson’s Sector 28, Schwalbe’s Durano, or the Vredestein Fortezza Duocomp.

  1. I am comparing this tire to the Clement X’plor USH for use commuting and occasional cross/dirt road. Any thoughts?

    • If you’re riding more pavement than dirt/gravel, the USH is probably a better choice due to the tightly-linked center tread elements. I would also recommend the SOMA C-Line 700×38 tire for mixed-terrain use (where you’ll see more pavement than dirt/gravel).

      • Thank you. I will be able to get the 32C model to fit once it is available. The 35C will clear the crown but just barely, and fenders, etc. will be much better with a 32C. The USH pumps up only to 85 as compared to the higher pumping Gravelking. Is that a consideration for my commute/gravel bike? (which is a 26inch old Fisher steel frame converted to 700C). Thanks for the help and great articles BTW.

          • Clearance is not too bad and will be fine with a 32mm. The 35mm Conti Cyclocross that is on there now (came with the wheel I am using) clears fine but would interfere with a fender is all. I am leaning I guess toward the 32mm X’Plor USH based on the above unless you think otherwise. The tire pressure thing is perplexing me a little and makes me interested in that Gravelking too.

      • I have had great success with the USH as a commuter and also serving quite well off road, except in mud where it is good enough, though not exceptional. So far the wear has been minimal. I just rotated the tires at 1200 miles and the tire coming off the rear is almost indistinguishable from the tire coming off the front.

        • I ended up with the USH with plenty of clearance, and have enjoyed it as a commuter, for dirt and gravel use, and for some bike touring we did in the San Juan Islands this summer. I can hardly see any wear after most of a summer’s use. Great tire. If I need to fit fenders at some point, I may get the Gravelking, but for now, the USH is working great.

  2. I’ve been riding the 28mm version of the Panaracer Gravelking for the past 2 months now and find it to be one of the cushiest 28’s I’ve ridden. I live in New England and have ridden in the Raid Lamoille in Stowe VT which had a mix of dirt/gravel roads and pavement and these tires handled everything with ease. I’m glad
    Gravelbike made the recommendation from an email I sent in.
    I’ll be racing in the Dirty 40 in VT in a few weeks and expect the report to be similar…Great handling characteristics, comfortable ride for a 28mm tire on dirt roads, no issues with punctures/flats and I’ve put about 500 miles of dirt/gravel wear on them so far.. The semi-slick nature of the tire does not lend itself to really wet conditions but the few wet conditions I’ve experienced (caught in some major downpours) I had no issues with the tires feeling squirrely under the circumstances. I obviously was careful but made it home the additional 22 miles with no slipping or sliding on either the dirt or the road sections I maneuvered.

    • And I should mention that they fit brilliantly on my 2012 Cannondale Synapse carbon. They are just slightly less tall than Gatorskins of the same size.

  3. Does anyone have experience with these on a Trek Domane? Looking to get into a little more gravel riding here in KS and these caught my eye. Thanks

    • Unless you have very narrow or very wide rims, the Gravelking tires’ actual widths are spot-on. If you measure the tires currently on your Trek, you should be able to extrapolate whether wider tires will fit.

  4. Have you noticed the tires get wider since initial mounting? I’m looking for 28s for my road bike but anything bigger than 29 would be tight.

    • We’ve found that most tires increase in size after installation. Rim width, however, generally has more of an effect on the tires’ width. At max psi, the Gravelkings’ width increased by approx 0.5mm a few days after the initial installation.

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