First Impressions: Challenge Gravel Grinder Tires

Challenge’s tubular and open tubular road tires are renowned for their supple ride. The Italian company is no stranger to the off-road set, as their Alamanzo and Strada Biancha tires have proven extremely popular with gravel riders. Challenge recently expanded their gravel offerings with the introduction of the new Gravel Grinder model.

The Gravel Grinder is available in tubular ($118.99 MSRP), open tubular ($83.99 MSRP), and clincher versions. Clinchers are offered with 60TPI ($37.99 MSRP) or 120TPI casings ($47.99 MSRP). The tubular and open tubular models are constructed by hand using non-vulcanized construction, whereas the clinchers are manufactured using conventional vulcanized construction. We recently tested the 700×38 clincher Gravel Grinder with the 120TPI casing.

Challenge GG tire

Our Gravel Grinder samples weighed 382g per-tire, which is less than the advertised weight of 402g. At the 80psi maximum pressure, the tires measured 37.5mm wide (on Whiskey’s No 7 carbon rims). The Gravel Grinders could be easily mounted (and removed) without tire levers on the aforementioned Whisky rims, as well as Mavic’s Ksyrium Elite S wheels. Both sample tires mounted without any hops or wobbles.

The Gravel Grinders’ profile can best be described as neutral. The casing lacks the peaks or squared-off edges found on some competitors’ tires. In use, this translates to a tire that handles very predictably on both paved and unpaved surfaces. For mixed-terrain use, we ran the Gravel Grinders at 55-60psi front, and 65-70psi rear. For dedicated dirt and gravel riding, we found that dropping the pressure 10psi worked well. Even at the lower pressures, tire squirm/flex wasn’t a problem (we ran the tires exclusively with inner tubes).

On pavement, Challenge’s diamond-style center tread was surprisingly smooth and quiet. We didn’t notice any excessive vibration, and the tires’ speed was on par with road tires of similar size and weight. That smooth ride also carried over to dirt and gravel. On hardpack, the low-profile tread was fast and predictable. In softer soil and gravel, the tires tracked well, and offered plenty of traction. Cornering with the Gravel Grinders was especially good. There are no dead-zones between the tires’ center and side knobs, so you can lean the bike over without experiencing one of those “Oh shi…” moments.

Challenge GG side - detail

We can’t speak to long term durability just yet, but the Gravel Grinders have held up very well during our testing. Even with 150-200 miles of paved-road commuting use, tread wear has been minimal. Challenge’s Puncture Protection Strip (PPS) has proved effective at fending off both thorns and broken glass, and the 120TPI casing has withstood Colorado’s rocky trails. If you’re looking for a durable tire that won’t slow you down on gravel or pavement, Challenge’s Gravel Grinder is definitely worth checking out.

Disclosure: Challenge provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

11 thoughts on “First Impressions: Challenge Gravel Grinder Tires

    • Challenge does not recommend using the tires without tubes. The fit of the Gravel Grinder tires on our test wheels (Whisky, Mavic) was such that they could be removed without the use of tire levers. Note, however, that those are not tubeless wheelsets. A tubeless-ready wheel might offer a tighter fit, which would reduce the likelihood of burping the tire.

          • Thanks for the feedback! We aren’t going to look at tubeless until/unless the industry can agree on compatibility standards. The bead shape and diameter on these tires aren’t designed for tubeless and we don’t recommend it. We do highly recommend trying Seamless Latex Inner Tubes for a tubular-like feel with the convenience of a clincher, though. As long as they are installed well, they are much more resistant to punctures than butyl and have a better feel than tubeless. Thanks!

    • I’ve been really pleased with them. These are built with SRAM X9 hubs, and are stiff and sturdy without being too heavy. I’m hoping they wider versions.

    • The Gravel Grinders perform really well on dirt and gravel, but would be overkill for paved-road touring. For that application, I’d recommend the Panaracer Pasela or SOMA New Xpress.

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