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.

First Impressions: Genuine Innovations Tubeless Ready Kit

The term tubeless ready is sometimes open to interpretation. For some wheel-and-tire combo’s, converting to tubeless is as simple as installing the proper valves, adding some sealant, and then airing up the tires. Most of the time, however, the process is a bit more involved. In addition to the aforementioned valves and sealant, tubeless-ready wheels usually require special tape or rim strips (and sometimes, both) to make the rim air tight and provide the proper tire/rim interface. Gathering up the necessary bits and pieces can often be time consuming and expensive, but Genuine Innovations eliminates the hassle with their new Tubeless Ready Kit.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder slime ghetto tubeless co2 inflator

To help insure that your tubeless conversion goes smoothly, the Tubeless Ready Kit includes the following items:

  • Slime Pro tubeless sealant (8oz, enough for 4 tires)
  • Gorilla Tape (1 roll, enough for 4 rims)
  • Genuine Innovations Microflate CO²  inflator
  • 20g CO² cartridges (2x)
  • Removable-core Presta valve stems (2x)
  • Presta valve adapter & core removal tool
  • Tire levers (2x)

Having used most of the Tubeless Ready Kit’s items in previous conversions, I was already familiar with their use and performance. The Slime Pro sealant has proven effective in Colorado’s semi-arid climate without requiring frequent refilling or topping off. Gorilla Tape’s 26mm-wide tape is compatible with most popular rims, and the tape’s increased thickness makes seating loose-fitting tires easier. And should you not be able to seat your tires with a floor pump, the 20g CO² cartridges offer enough air volume for all but the fattest tires.

At $60 (MSRP), the Genuine Innovations kit is on par with competitors’ bundles. Other kits, however, typically don’t include tire levers or CO² inflators and cartridges in their conversion kits, which makes the Genuine Innovations kit an outstanding bargain for the home mechanic.

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

First Impressions: K-Edge Computer Mount

Whether you ride for utility or recreation (or both), handlebar real estate can be a precious commodity. Lights, bells, handlebar bags, and computers all vie for the space on either side of your bike’s stem. Often times, there simply isn’t enough room for all of one’s favorite accessories. If you use one of Garmin’s popular Edge computers, however, K-Edge offers several mounts that free up valuable handlebar space.

Like K-Edge’s other computer mounts, the Idaho-based company’s Stem Mount is CNC-machined from billet aluminum, comes in three anodized colors (black, grey, or red), and features an injection-molded interface. Available in fixed- and adjustable-angle versions, GRAVELBIKE tested the adjustable model over a two-month period with Garmin’s Edge 500 GPS cycle computer.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder K-Edge Garmin GPS Thomson Elite X4 Acros Strava MapMyRide RideWithGPS

The K-Edge mount takes the place of a 5mm spacer above the stem.

The Stem Mount installs between the bike’s stem and top cap. On our test rigs, the K-Edge mounts replaced one of the 5mm spacers that normally take up the extra steerer tube length under the top cap. The mount’s angle adjusts with a 3mm allen key, and there was enough range to clear +10° and +17° stems of various lengths.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder K-Edge Garmin GPS Thomson Elite X4 Acros Strava MapMyRide RideWithGPS

Garmin’s Edge 500 computer installed on the K-Edge mount.

In use, the Stem Mounts quickly earned set-and-forget status. Swapping the Edge 500 head unit between the K-Edge mounts took no additional effort compared to the stock Garmin mounts, and the Stem Mounts’ injection-molded inserts offered increased peace of mind with an audible (and tactile) confirmation that the computer was locked-and-loaded.

What does the $39.99 ($29.99 for the fixed-angle model) K-Edge Stem Mount offer over Garmin’s stock mount? Improved security, for one. The one-size-fits-most attachment method used by Garmin is OK for handlebars, but it doesn’t compare to the added security of K-Edge’s stem/steerer-mounted method. K-Edge’s injection-molded interface also proved to be more secure in the event of a crash or unintended dismount (no more launched computers!).

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