Best gravel bike tyres in 2020

All the best gravel tyres in one place

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Donnelly X'Plor MSO gravel tyre

If you’re looking for a list of the best gravel bike tyres then here it is. We’ve tested a wide range of gravel bike tyres over the years but these are the ones that truly impressed our test team.

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As a cycling category, gravel covers a broad range of possible ride experiences. Hard-packed dirt roads may be as smooth as pavement, rocky roads may have embedded rocks or loose gravel, and some so-called gravel rides may take cyclists onto stretches of singletrack.

There’s a lot of terrain out there and many different tyres to suit the myriad surfaces you may encounter when you leave the tarmac.

What to look for in a gravel tyre

When choosing gravel tyres, reflect on where you’ll be riding. Consider how much time you will spend on tarmac versus gravel or dirt.

Think about how smooth or rough your roads are and what “gravel” means in your neck of the woods. Smooth and fast? Rough and rutted? Rocky roads that shred fragile tyres? These are just a few of the possibilities.

There’s no single right answer and tyre choice will always contain an element of compromise because those suited to looser surfaces or mud will inevitably be slower when you take them on tarmac, while tyres at the lighter, slicker end of the spectrum will be out of their depth on tougher terrain.

Tubed or tubeless?

While tubeless isn’t essential for gravel, it’s highly recommended.

Tubeless eliminates inner tubes from the equation and lets you run low pressures without the risk of pinch flats, giving your more grip and comfort off-road.

Also, with tubeless sealant in your tyres, small punctures are taken care of automatically.

All of the tyres in this list are tubeless-ready, but some exist in non-tubeless versions too which might save you some money and/or weight if your rims aren’t suitable for tubeless conversion.

The best tyres for gravel riding in 2020, as rated by our expert testers

  • WTB Exposure: £49.99 / $59.95
  • Bontrager GR1 Team Issue: £49.99 / $64.99 / €49.99 / AU$79.99
  • Hutchinson Sector: £45 / $79.99
  • Maxxis Rambler EXO TR: £46.99 / $49.99 / AU$79.99
  • Specialized Trigger Pro: £40 / $50 / AU$60
  • WTB Resolute: £44.99 / $59.95 / AU$69.99
  • Donnelly X’Plor MSO: £65 /$72 
  • Kenda Flintridge Pro: £37.99 / $54.95
  • Terrene Elwood: $65
  • WTB Nano: £44.99 / $59.95

WTB Exposure

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
We were seriously impressed by WTB’s Exposure as a plump road tyre with gravel potential.
Andy Lloyd
  • Price: £49.99 / $59.95
  • Sizes available: 700×30mm, 36mm
  • Weight: 305g (30mm as tested)
  • Highs/lows: Easy to setup, versatile all-road and light gravel tyre, only available in skinnier sizes

Hang on, that’s not a gravel tyre, we hear you shout. You’re right, it’s not, but if your gravel riding is biased towards poor quality roads and smoother tracks, a tough classics-style road tyre is a viable option.

The Exposure is one of relatively few tyres with a 30mm option, meaning it’ll fit many road frames, even those with rim brakes, while offering more comfort and durability than a pure road tyre.

It’s not a good option for proper loose gravel or mud, but for dry-packed dirt and potholed back roads, it’s an excellent choice.

Continental Terra Speed/Trail TR review

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Tyre and rim
Continental’s Terra Speed gravel tyre offer a minimalist tread.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • Price: £60
  • Sizes available: 700x35mm, 40mm; 650bx35mm, 40mm
  • Weight: 426g (Speed, 700x40mm), 436g (Trail, 700x40mm)
  • Highs/lows: Terra Speed is fast like a road tyre but not suited to loose conditions; Terra Trail adds grips, but is heavier and slower

Combining technology from Continental’s existing road and mountain bike tyres, the tubeless-ready Terra Speed and Terra Trail gravel tyres share a 3-ply 180 TPI ProTection casing and BlackChili Compound rubber, but mostly differ by tread depth.

The Speed has very shallow tread blocks all over for hard pack and mixed surfaces. The more aggressive Trail is Conti’s grippiest gravel tyre aimed at mixed or wet conditions. Both come in 35mm or 40mm widths for 700c or 650b wheels.

We fitted the grippier Trail on the front and smoother Speed on the rear when testing. The taller tread blocks and extra shoulder grip of the Trail manage soft, wet ground far better than the Speed, which spins on anything less grippy than wet grass. The Terra Speed is almost road-tyre quick, however.

The Terra Speed works well for fast riding in firm conditions but if it’s all-round, all-terrain confidence you want, the Trail makes the most sense from these two.

Bontrager GR1 Team Issue

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
Bontrager’s Team Issue GR1 tyres come in 35mm or this 40mm width.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Price: £49.99 / $64.99 / €49.99 / AU$79.99
  • Size available: 700×35mm, 40mm (tested)
  • Weight: 410g
  • Highs/lows: Well suited to loose, dry conditions and not bad in the wet. Not meant for mud

The GR1 Team Issue is a good all-rounder with a tightly packed low-profile block tread that shines in loose, dry conditions on varied surfaces.

Built on a 120 TPI casing, the GR1 includes lightweight nylon inserts in its construction for extra sidewall puncture protection.

Hutchinson Sector

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The Hutchinson Sector was designed as an alternative for tubulars on racing cobbles.
Ben Delaney/Future Publishing
  • Price: £45 / $79.99
  • Sizes available: 700×28mm, 32mm
  • Weight: 295g claimed, 280g as tested (28mm), 315g claimed (32mm)
  • Highs/lows: Road tyre that’s tough enough to mix it up on gravel and cobbles, not suitable for serious gravel or mud

The Sector was conceived as a comfy tubular alternative and it’s a great choice for mixed surfaces where you don’t need the aggressive tread of a fully-fledged gravel tyre.

It’s built to be tough but the size and construction mean it’s lighter than dedicated gravel rubber, and faster on smooth surfaces too.

Maxxis Rambler EXO TR

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The Maxxis Rambler is lighter than many competitors.
Russell Eich / Immediate Media
  • Price: £46.99 / $49.99 / AU$79.99
  • Sizes available: 700×38mm, 40mm (tested)
  • Weight: 375g
  • Highs/lows: Lightweight, supple casing, best suited to smoother dirt and gravel, not mud

The Rambler was Maxxis’ first foray into gravel tyres and the company’s depth of tyre knowledge is readily apparent. This gravel tread is quick and considerably lighter than many of its competitors.

The Rambler’s low profile blocks are packed tightly down the centre to keep them rolling swiftly with slightly larger intermediate and shoulder knobs for cornering.

The 120 TPI EXO casing is very supple and rolls over uneven roads with ease. While the stated width is 40mm, the actual measurement on our test rims was less than the published width, which makes this a good option for riders who use a cyclocross bike or gravel bike with limited clearance.

The Rambler is best suited to smoother dirt and gravel roads. The low profile knobs perform well on hardpack and sand over hardpacked roads.

Specialized Trigger Pro

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The Specialized Trigger Pro is a racer’s gravel tyre.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
  • Price: £40 / $50 / AU$60
  • Sizes available: 700×38mm (tested)
  • Weight: 488g
  • Highs/lows: Fast rolling, very durable, but slightly undersized and flat protection adds weight

The Specialized Trigger Pro isn’t among the newest gravel tyres on the market, but it is a tried and true option for fast and rough gravel racing.

In fact, it was developed with input from ultra-endurance gravel racers Dan Hughes and Rebecca Rusch.

As one can plainly see from the tread, the Trigger Pro favours speed over traction. The raised centre strip makes these treads fast and silent on pavement.

On hardpacked dirt, the diamond-shaped knobs, which increase in size as they move toward the edges, do a commendable job of easing the rider into predictable transitions to the edge knobs.

The Specialized Trigger Pro is nearly everything a gravel race tyre should be. It’s fast with a reasonable amount of grip for the task at hand and a reassuring level of flat protection.

WTB Resolute

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The WTB Resolute tyre
The WTB Resolute is a pure gravel tyre, not a tweaked road one.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
  • Price: £44.99 / $59.95 / AU$69.99
  • Sizes available: 700×42mm (tested), 650×42mm
  • Weight: 450g
  • Highs/lows: Excellent grip off-road, great ride quality, slow on tarmac

WTB has been on a roll developing really good gravel and all-road tyres. The WTB Resolute builds on the success of the popular Horizon and Byway tyres with a more aggressive tread pattern.

The Resolute is positioned as WTB’s all-condition gravel tyre. The tread pattern features small, square knobs that are tightly spaced through the centre to minimise rolling resistance with wide-set intermediate and sturdy side knobs to provide plenty of grip on loose and rocky terrain.

The Resolute is a pure gravel tyre. It suffers from a bit of drag and hum on tarmac but performs incredibly well on gravel and dirt.

If you’re looking for a tyre that’s going to be ridden far away from tarmac on gravel and even singletrack, the Resolute is a great option.

Donnelly X’Plor MSO

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The Donnelly X’Plor MSO is a great tubeless option for those who frequently ride on mixed terrain.
Immediate Media
  • Price: £65 /$72
  • Sizes available: 700×40 (tested) or 32/36/40/50mm; 650b×42/50mm
  • Weight: 560g
  • Highs/lows: Easy to install, quick rolling and excellent puncture resistance, but heavy and stiff

The X’Plor MSOs from Donnelly make for an easy tubeless installation thanks to their stiff sidewalls but it’s their rare balance of speed, grip and puncture resistance that really impresses.

They’re designed to be used on a wide variety of terrain, so if your gravel rides consist of a true mix of on- and off-road, in the city and out in the country, then you shouldn’t be looking past these.

Unlike some, the Donnellys size up generously. In fact, on our 23mm wide internal rims the X’Plor MSO tyres plump up a little over a millimetre beyond the 40mm figure on their sidewalls.

They’re not the lightest option though, and their tough casings mean they aren’t class-leading in terms of comfort.

Kenda Flintridge Pro

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
Kenda’s Flintridge Pro is good in dry conditions.
Russell Eich / Immediate Media
  • Price: £37.99 / $54.95
  • Sizes available: , 700×35mm, 45mm, 40mm (tested). 650×45mm
  • Weight: 512g
  • Highs/lows: Durable, good volume, but relatively heavy and stiff

Kenda’s Flintridge Pro seeks to balance speed and puncture protection on any number of varying road conditions.

The tread design uses nearly every tool in the box with slender rectangles down the middle, double rows of tiny transition blocks with plenty of siping and arched knobs. This is a dry condition tyre that’s slow on pavement but performs well on sandy and rocky roads.

Kenda’s SCT (Sidewall Casing Technology) reinforces the sidewalls against cuts and abrasions but also results in a stiffer ride than some of the more supple tyres in this test.

If you need a lot of flat protection for chunky gravel roads, the Flintridge is a good option.

Terrene Elwood

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The Terrene Elwood is a tough, smooth riding gravel tyre.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
  • Price: $65
  • Sizes available: 700×35mm, 40mm (tested); 650×47mm
  • Weight: 435g
  • Highs/lows: Fast rolling, excellent ride quality, durable, but vague cornering feel on some surfaces

The Terrene Elwood’s centre knobs look like interlocking tank treads. All the edges of these blocks are angled. This design makes it easy for debris to be evacuated from between these tightly-packed blocks, reducing the risk of sharp rocks working their way through the casing and causing a flat.

This nearly continuous centre tread rolls with haste and without much hum on pavement and hard-packed dirt.

You have to be deliberate about leaning these tyres over to fully engage the large edge knobs because the small transition knobs feel vague when gradually leaning into turns. This was more noticeable on singletrack than on gravel and dirt roads.

There are plenty of gravel tyres on the market with 120 TPI casings, but few feel as smooth as these. The Elwoods glide over bumps and ruts, transmitting less road chatter and vibration while also being quite durable.

WTB Nano

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
The round profile and elevated centre tread give the Nano 40c great straight-line speed.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
  • Price: £44.99 / $59.95
  • Sizes available: 700×40mm, 29×2.1in (52mm)
  • Weight: 535g (700×40mm TCS Light as tested)
  • Highs/lows: Not the best on tarmac, but a great choice if your gravel riding takes in loose surfaces and singletrack

Gravel is a broad church and if your riding is more MTB-lite than all-road, something like the Nano may be up your street.

The Nano is basically a skinny XC tyre and it’s one that works well on looser surfaces, with a useful amount of tread and a nice round profile.

Cornering feel on tarmac is vague, but that’s the trade-off for decent off-road performance.

Also consider…

These tyres scored lower than four out of five stars, but are still worth considering if they suit your riding…

Ere Research Tenaci

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
Swiss brand Ere Research’s Tenaci tyres are intended for gravel and dirt roads.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Price: £67 / €59
  • Sizes available: 700×30mm, 700×32mm, 700×36mm (tested)
  • Weight: 415g (700×36mm)
  • Highs/lows: Good in the dry, not the lightest

Intended for gravel and dirt, the Tenaci isn’t the most affordable tyre for its weight, but it’s a good performer in the dry that offers grip on loose surfaces without being too slow on the road, thanks to a low profile file tread on the centre section of the tyre.

The Tenaci features a 120 TPI casing and gets bead-to-bead puncture protection.

Panaracer GravelKing SK

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bike tyres
Taking on some serious gravel roads? Panaracer’s Gravel King SK tyres should be on your list.
Russell Eich / Immediate Media
  • Price: £44.99 / $49.99
  • Sizes available: 700×32mm/35mm/38mm/43mm/50mm; 650×1.75in/1.9in (tested)/2.1in. 26×2.1in
  • Weight: From 320g claimed – 562g actual weight for 650×1.9in
  • Highs/lows: Comfy, supple and fast rolling, but long side knobs aren’t the best at cornering

Panaracer’s GravelKing range includes a bewildering array of variants, and the SK is a versatile all-rounder that’s aimed at dirt and rough pavement.

Its central small-block tread rolls fairly quickly and works well on dry surfaces. There are better tyres for actual mud and we’re not totally convinced by the extended shoulder knobs because they don’t make for the best cornering feel.

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