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.
Gravel riding covers a broad range of 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 gravel bike tyres to suit the varied surfaces you may encounter when you leave the tarmac. As a result, choosing the right set of tyres for your bike, and the type of riding you typically do, is key.
Elsewhere, you may find our list of the best gravel bike pedals useful.
Your gravel bike setup will also partly dictate which gravel bike tyres you can run.
Some gravel bikes use 700c wheels and others use 650b wheels, so make sure you pick a tyre that will fit on your gravel bike’s wheels. Smaller wheels will typically leave room for wider tyres if you’re limited on tyre clearance.
Regardless of wheel size, choosing a wider gravel bike tyre will allow you to run lower pressures for greater comfort and technical capability – just make sure there is enough tyre clearance to fit them. If you intend to run a tubeless setup, then make sure the tyres are tubeless-compatible.
From a low-profile file tread or slick tyre all the way through to aggressive, mud-shedding tread with shoulder knobs, the tread pattern is probably the most important element of your gravel bike tyre choice, and will be dependent on where you ride and the trail conditions.
Look for extra puncture protection if you plan on heading into more remote areas on a bikepacking trip or know you ride on surfaces that tend to wreck rubber. If you’re looking to go fast and ride in dry conditions, you can choose a light and supple tyre.
Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M
- Price: £55 / €63 / $77 / AU$107 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×35, 40, 45mm; 650b x 45, 50mm
- Weight: 500g (40mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Super-grippy compound; impressive puncture resistance; sturdy; confidence-inspiring ride at lower pressures; can be tricky to seat during setup
- Best for: Year-round reliability across all surfaces
One of the best all-round gravel bike tyres, the Pirelli Cinturato M offers plentiful grip and great puncture protection.
The aggressive tread features widely spaced, angular knobs with a smoother central line, balancing rolling resistance on smoother surfaces with grip and mud-shedding when the trails become more challenging.
A sturdy, reinforced sidewall helps the tyre maintain rigidity at lower pressures to avoid any squirmy sensations or rim damage, while giving excellent puncture resistance.
With no fewer than five widths across 700c and 650b wheel sizes, there’s a size for everyone, as well as black or tan sidewall options.
Teravail Rutland Light & Supple
- Price: £55 / €58 / $55 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×38mm, 42mm (tested), 47mm; 650b×47mm; 29×2.2in
- Weight: 445g (700×42mm claimed weight)
- Highs/lows: Great puncture protection; cuts through mud well; single width only
- Best for: Four-season and wet and muddy riding
The Teravail Rutland is for foul weather and rough terrain, and it’s one of the best gravel bike tyres for winter riding.
The tread has an asymmetric pattern with ramped knobs towards the centre, which effectively sheds mud and delivers plenty of grip.
The fairly low profile of the lugs means you don’t get the significantly draggy feeling you can get from more overtly winter tyres, and consequently the Rutland could double as an ‘all-road’ tyre.
While this ‘Light and supple’ Rutland has a lighter carcass than some winter gravel tyres, we didn’t have any punctures in testing. There is a ‘Durable’ model which weights 100g more.
There are faster-rolling tyres for drier conditions, but if you want a true fit-and-forget gravel tyre then the Rutland is hard to beat.
- Price: £49.99 / €56.49 / $59.95 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×30mm, 36mm
- Weight: 305g (30mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Easy to set up; versatile all-road and light gravel bike tyre; only available in skinnier sizes
- Best for: Rougher roads and dry hardpack
Hang on, that’s not a gravel bike 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.
Bontrager GR1 Team Issue
- Price: £49.99 / €49.99 / $64.99 / AU$79.99 as tested
- Size available: 700×35mm, 40mm (tested)
- Weight: 410g
- Highs/lows: Well suited to loose, dry conditions; not bad in the wet; not meant for mud
- Best for: Three-season use over mixed terrain
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.
Continental Terra Speed
- Price: £59.95 / €62.49 / $64.95 / AU$92.99 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×35mm, 40mm; 650b×35mm, 40mm
- Weight: 450g (650b×40mm claimed weight)
- Highs/lows: Fast and excellent for dry-ish rides; not suited to mud and no wide options
- Best for: Dry, mixed-terrain riding that isn’t too rocky
The Terra Speed sits alongside the Terra Trail in Continental’s gravel bike tyre line-up. We found it to be a reliable, fast-rolling, excellent tyre for dry conditions, thanks to its low lugs, low weight and the German company’s BlackChilli compound.
The shallow lugs unlock speed on tarmac roads, but the trade-off is less grip than some other gravel bike tyres. The Terra Speeds do hold up on damp trails, but they wouldn’t be our first choice for cutting through deep mud.
When it comes to wear and tear, the Terra Speeds have held up well, and we’ve logged over 3,500km on these tyres. However, we would suggest opting for more robust tyres if you are regularly riding over rocks and roots.
The Terra Speed is tubeless-ready and we found it fitted to rims easily.
- Price: £45 / $79.99 as tested
- 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
- Best for: Fast, dry dirt and cobbles
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 bike 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
- Price: £46.99 / $49.99 / AU$79.99 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×38mm, 40mm (tested)
- Weight: 375g
- Highs/lows: Lightweight; supple casing; best suited to smoother dirt and gravel, not mud
- Best for: Smooth, dry hardpack and gravel
The Rambler was Maxxis’ first foray into gravel bike 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.
- Price: £56 / $66 as tested
- Size: 700×40mm
- Weight: 546g (700×40mm claimed weight)
- Highs/lows: great puncture protection; cuts through mud well; single width only
- Best for: Winter riding
Sitting alongside the intermediate Maxxis Rambler and slicker Receptor, the Ravager is Maxxis’ aggressive gravel tyre, well-suited to winter riding.
The tyre has deep-profile shoulder knobs and a tightly packed tread pattern in the middle, which cuts through and clears mud well. Siping on the tread means the tyre clears moisture well, too.
Despite the no-compromise off-road grip, the Ravager still feels swift on tarmac without the squirminess you can sometimes experience with more supple tyres.
The Ravager provides an easy tubeless setup and we found it didn’t lose pressure in testing or show any signs of premature wear.
The only real downside to the Ravager is it is currently only available in one size, 700×40mm, which is an about average width for tyres these days.
Schwalbe G-One Overland
- Price: £65 / €65 / $88 as tested
- Sizes available: 700x40mm, 45mm, 50mm
- Weight: 526g (40mm tested)
- Highs/lows: Durable and hard-wearing; decent wet-weather grip; on the heavy side
- Best for: All-round gravel riding
The Schwalbe G-One Overland is more versatile than the brand’s racier gravel bike tyres, such as the G-One R and the G-One RS.
Available in three widths, the Schwalbe G-One Overland is a tough tyre that didn’t puncture in months of rigorous testing.
The tubeless-compatible G-One Overland could be easier to mount, but it retained pressure once inflated.
As for the tread, relatively tall and dispersed shoulder knobs help the G-One Overland grip well on dry and wet off-road surfaces.
For a gravel bike tyre, the G-One Overland rolls fine on tarmac, but it’s heavier than Schwalbe claims.
Schwalbe G-One R
- Price: £70 / €70 / $72 / $108 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×40mm, 45mm
- Weight: 482g (40mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Easy to fit; straight-line speed and cornering confidence; great puncture resistance; significantly pricier than other gravel bike tyres
- Best for: Fast-paced riding over smoother gravel
Schwalbe’s latest release is a gravel-racing tyre optimised for tarmac and light-gravel terrain.
The G-One R features a dense, fine tread pattern with closely spaced knobs and no defined shoulder.
The tyre gives a smooth, fast and comfortable ride, while the Super Race carcass provides great puncture protection. The carcass – unique in Schwalbe’s gravel bike tyre range – is also said to reduce rolling resistance.
This is a great all-rounder. The only downside comes with the price, which is significantly higher than most gravel bike tyre options.
Schwalbe G-One RS Gravel Tyre
- Price: £75 / €73 / $88 / AU$107 as tested
- Sizes available: 700x35mm, 40mm, 45mm
- Weight: 505g (45mm)
- Pros/Cons: Low rolling resistance; ill-suited to technical riding
- Best for: All-round performance
The Schwalbe G-One RS Gravel Tyre grips well for a race-orientated gravel tyre on firm and compact surfaces. Its semi-slick tread pattern means traction slides, however, on looser stones and certainly on mud.
The tyre stands up well to harsh treatment despite its lightweight casing.
The tubeless-ready 700c tyre comes in three widths: 35mm, 40mm and 45mm. These options boost the versatility of a tyre already capable on a mixture of terrain and surfaces.
Teravail Cannonball Light and Supple
- Price: £50 / €53 / $55 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×35mm, 38mm, 42mm (tested), 47mm; 650b × 35mm, 40mm, 47mm
- Weight: 450g (42mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Very easy to set up tubeless; great grip even in the wet; reliable puncture protection; heavier than claimed
- Best for: Three-season mixed terrain
Opt for the Teravail Cannonball tyres for a supremely easy tubeless setup and oodles of grip even when conditions take a turn for the worse.
The directional, chevron-patterned tread is the same as the brand’s chunkier 2.1/2.2in Sparwood tyre, also flanked by L-shaped shoulder knobs.
Although there are more winter- or mud-specific treads available, the Cannonballs offer impressive grip through slimy mud and puddles, in addition to cornering confidence and a great pace on smooth hardpack and tarmac sections.
Choose between this Light and Supple version, or a more durable option for added puncture protection.
Vittoria Terreno Dry TLR
- Price: £45 / €51 / $60 / AU$72 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×31mm, 33mm, 35mm, 38mm; 650b × 47mm
- Weight: 450g (700×38mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Quick on road; grippy compound in wet and dry; many width options; good value; TLR casing susceptible to damage; inflates wider than stated
- Best for: Fast riding over smooth gravel
Originally designed as a cyclocross tyre, the semi-slick Vittoria Terreno Dry has deservedly earned itself a place among the best gravel bike tyres on the market.
A low-profile central tread delivers speed when it’s needed, while aggressively shaped shoulder tread provides grip for cornering.
However, we found the lightweight TLR casing to be susceptible to damage during testing. We’d highly recommend the reinforced sidewall and tread of the TNT casing option, giving greater puncture protection for use on gravel. With that in place, you’re getting a great all-rounder.
Although billed as a dry, hardpack tyre, the Terreno Dry performs well in all but the worst of conditions (look for a more aggressive tyre if you’re encountering deep, sticky mud), serving up a surprising amount of grip even over wet roots.
- Price: £44.99 / $59.95 / AU$69.99 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×42mm (tested); 650b × 42mm
- Weight: 450g
- Highs/lows: Excellent grip off-road; great ride quality; slow on tarmac
- Best for: Rowdier, more technical off-road riding
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 bike 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.
Continental Terra Hardpack
- Price: £40 / $40 as tested
- Sizes available: 700x50mm (tested); 650b x 50mm
- Weight: 530g (50mm tested)
- Highs/lows: Fast for a wide tyre; good grip in corners; fair value; too slick for mud
- Best for: Speed and comfort on dry dirt
The Continental Terra Hardpack fits in between the brand’s racier Terra Speed and knobblier Terra Trail.
With a low centre tread, it rolls nicely on tarmac and fire roads for a wide gravel bike tyre. Slightly raised shoulder lugs provide traction when cornering.
The downside of such a tread pattern is wheel spin in wet and muddy conditions.
The Terra Hardpack’s high volume allows you to drop tyre pressure for better grip and comfort.
Puncture resistance was patchy when using inner tubes, so make use of the Terra Hardpack’s tubeless compatibility.
Donnelly X’Plor MSO
- Price: £65 / $72 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×40mm (tested), 32mm, 36mm, 40mm, 50mm; 650b × 42mm, 50mm
- Weight: 560g
- Highs/lows: Easy to install; quick rolling and excellent puncture resistance; heavy and stiff
- Best for: Mixed-terrain riding
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
- Price: £37.99 / $54.95 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×35mm, 45mm, 40mm (tested); 650b×45mm
- Weight: 512g
- Highs/lows: Durable; good volume; relatively heavy and stiff
- Best for: Riding over rocky, tyre-shredding terrain
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 and 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.
Michelin Power Gravel
- Price: £49 / €55 / £67 / AU$75 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×33mm, 35mm, 40mm (tested), 47mm
- Weight: 480g (40mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Excellent puncture protection; easy setup; fast on dry terrain; black colourway only for most sizes
- Best for: Dry hardpack, loose gravel and tarmac
The Power Gravel bike tyres from Michelin feature a shallow profile, with a repeating arrow tread pattern flanked by oblong shoulder knobs.
Reinforced from bead to bead, they provided flawless puncture protection on test, even over some challenging terrain.
For drier off-road conditions and mixing it up with tarmac sections, these balance speed with cornering grip, helping you to carry more momentum, but they find their limit in properly wet or muddy conditions.
Specialized S-Works Pathfinder 2Bliss Ready
- Price: £50 / €60 / $60 / AU$95 as tested
- Sizes available: 700c x 42mm
- Weight: 441g (42mm as tested)
- Highs/Lows: Fast-rolling; low weight; resilient; only one size available; iffy cornering
- Best for: Pacy gravel riding and racing
The Specialized S-Works Pathfinder 2Bliss Ready figures among the best semi-slick gravel racing tyres we’ve tested.
Lighter than its close rivals, the S-Works Pathfinder manages to be impressively puncture-resistant, yet supple to provide comfort.
The tread consists of a smooth central line and low shoulder knobs. It’s fast, but lacks grip in corners and isn’t suitable for wet or muddy conditions.
The S-Works Pathfinder 2Bliss Ready, Specialized’s premier gravel tyre, is only available in 700c x 42mm. More size options are available lower down the range.
- Price: $65 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×35mm, 40mm (tested); 650b × 47mm
- Weight: 435g
- Highs/lows: Fast-rolling; excellent ride quality; durable; vague cornering feel on some surfaces
- Best for: Comfort over hardpack and tarmac
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 bike 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.
- Price: £44.99 / $59.95 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×40mm; 29×2.1in (52mm)
- Weight: 535g (700×40mm TCS Light as tested)
- Highs/lows: Not the best on tarmac; a great choice if your gravel riding takes in loose surfaces and singletrack
- Best for: More techy off-road terrain
Gravel is a broad church and if your riding is more MTB-lite than all-road, something such as the Nano may be up your street.
The Nano is basically a skinny cross-country 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.
WTB Riddler SG2
- Price: £55 / €60 / $77 / AU$90 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×37mm, 45mm
- Weight: 545g (45mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Easy setup; grippy mid-level tread for summer riding on- and off-road; inflates narrower than claimed; one of the pricier options on the market
- Best for: Dry and dusty summer trails
Featuring WTB’s upgraded SG2 puncture protection from bead to bead, the popular mid-tread Riddler is a summer or dry-conditions favourite.
The tread consists of a closely packed central line of square knobs flanked by rows of mid-sized tread and larger shoulder knobs.
Tarmac, hardpack, gravel and sand; the Riddler effortlessly glides from one surface to the next, and even gives an impressive level of grip over more technical features in the dry.
Although the SG2 offers more puncture protection than WTB’s standard line of tyres, it’s not impervious to flats. We found this out the hard way, although the flint hole was soon plugged without too much drama.
These tyres scored fewer than four out of five stars, but are still worth considering if they suit your riding…
WTB Byway SG2
- Price: £55 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×34mm, 40mm, 44mm; 650b × 47mm
- Weight: 470g (40mm as tested)
- Highs/lows: Fast rolling on smoother terrain; plenty of grip in the dry; great puncture protection; measures up narrow; very little grip in wet mud
- Best for: Tarmac, hardpack and smooth gravel
For rougher roads and light gravel tracks, it’s easy to see why the WTB Byway is favoured by riders who enjoy ‘all-road’ riding.
The slick central band gives great on-road efficiency, which is bordered by file tread and finished off with more pronounced shoulder knobs.
In dry and tacky conditions, the Byway SG2 offers a good level of grip over hardpack, roots and gravel. However, on steep descents and in wet muddy conditions, grip is limited, leading to a reduced feeling of control.
This definitely isn’t a year-round tyre, but as a faster-paced option, it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored.
Ere Research Tenaci
- Price: £67 / €59 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×30mm, 32mm, 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
- Price: £44.99 / $49.99 as tested
- Sizes available: 700×32mm, 35mm, 38mm, 43mm, 50mm; 650b × 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; 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 mud, and we’re not totally convinced by the extended shoulder knobs because they don’t make for the best cornering feel.
Buyer’s guide to gravel bike tyres: how to choose the best tyres for your gravel bike
How do I choose a gravel bike tyre?
When choosing gravel bike 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. Gravel bike tyres 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.
This guide will take you through the main things to keep in mind when looking for a gravel bike tyre, from wheel size to puncture protection and width. It also answers some common gravel bike tyre questions.
Your wheel size is the first factor to consider when choosing a set of gravel bike tyres. While 700c wheels are pretty much standard for the best road bike tyres, gravel bikes often use smaller-diameter 650b wheels.
The main reason for using 650b wheels is to be able to run wider tyres on bikes that have limited frame and fork clearance, although the latest gravel bikes are increasingly addressing this with bigger clearances for 700c wheels.
If you’re considering switching from 700c to a 650b wheelset, first make sure your bike is compatible with both wheel sizes.
700c wheelsets tend to be chosen by riders who are seeking efficiency over longer rides, or ride predominantly on roads and more tame gravel tracks.
On the other hand, if tyre width and volume are important, a 650b wheelset might give you the option to size up when it comes to tyre choice.
Gravel bike tyre width
The width of your gravel bike tyres, and hence tyre volume, will make a huge difference to how your gravel bike rides. From narrow 35mm tyres all the way through to MTB-eqsue rubber measured in inches, there’s now a huge range of gravel bike tyre sizes.
Your frame and fork will likely be the key limiting factor to how wide you can go: check your tyre clearances with both 700c and smaller 650b wheels.
The official minimum clearance between tyre and frame/fork is 6mm to pass safety standard ISO-4210. Although you might be able to squeeze a slightly larger tyre in than recommended by the bike manufacturer, this isn’t always a good idea. You’ll reduce mud clearance and could also damage the bike if something gets trapped between the tyre and frame (for example, on the chainstays).
Another factor is wheel rim width. Before selecting wider gravel bike tyres, you’ll have to ensure your gravel bike wheels are wide enough to safely fit them.
Wider tyres will allow you to run lower tyre pressures, which can aid both grip and comfort. You’ll also increase the contact patch between the tyre and whatever surface you’re riding on.
A narrower tyre will be lighter and might be faster on smoother terrain and tarmac, but there are a lot of factors at play here, including tyre pressure, tyre construction and tread pattern.
Ultimately, tyre width plays an important role in how your bike rides and what it’s capable of. Consider experimenting with different widths to see what feels best for you, with your local terrain and conditions.
Gravel tyre tread pattern
The tread pattern of your tyres can have a huge impact on how your gravel bike handles over different terrain.
The tread typically extends to the shoulders of the tyre and comes into contact with the ground both in a straight line and as you lean the bike through corners.
Typically, you’ll find a smoother centre line for speed and efficiency, flanked by raised ribs, which may be ramped on directional treads, and with a more pronounced shoulder tread for cornering grip.
Tyres designed for wetter conditions feature deeper grooves and more raised, aggressive tread, along with more widely spaced tread, which helps with mud shedding.
For drier terrain, you’re likely to find a low-to-mid profile tread, or a very minimal file tread, or even slick tyres.
Choosing the right tread pattern for your terrain and conditions will avoid having an excessively draggy tyre in the dry or a terrifying lack of grip in the wet.
Don’t be afraid to mismatch treads with a grippier, more aggressive tyre up-front and a faster-rolling one on the back, as many riders do with the best mountain bike tyres.
Look out for enhanced puncture protection when considering which gravel bike tyres to choose.
Many tyre brands offer different options for race use, as well as more durable alternatives for general riding and bikepacking – for example, WTB’s SG2 range, Vittoria’s TNT casing or Teravail’s Durable tyres.
This additional puncture protection may span the tread of the tyre, or also include the sidewalls for full bead-to-bead.
This typically adds a little extra weight to the tyres (eg, 50g in the case of WTB’s SG2 protection). However, unless you’re after the lightest tyre for gravel racing, it could save you minutes at the side of the trail trying to repair a tubeless tyre.
Tubed or tubeless?
Protection from thorns, lower tyre pressures and a decreased risk of pinch punctures: the reasons for opting for a tubeless setup for off-road riding are pretty convincing.
In our experience, setting up tubeless gravel bike tyres is also easier than ever, so it’s no surprise tubeless is the preferred option for many gravel riders. That’s the case in mountain biking, too, although road tubeless is taking longer to catch on.
Almost all gravel bike tyres are tubeless-compatible, though it’s always worth double-checking before you buy, as well as making sure that your wheels are tubeless-compatible, if you’re making the switch from inner tubes.
At the budget end, some gravel bike tyres and rims are still not tubeless-compatible to reduce cost, so you don’t want to get caught out there.
What is the best tyre size for a gravel bike?
The best tyre size for gravel riding ultimately depends on how you intend to use your gravel bike.
For many riders, 40mm gravel bike tyres have become a popular choice because they balance speed, weight, comfort and traction.
However, the latest gravel bikes, and particularly those aimed at adventurous riding, are offering clearance for increasingly wide tyres.
The wider you go, the more off-road capability you’ll add into the mix, thanks to the additional grip and ability to run lower pressures, increasing comfort on rough terrain with less risk of puncturing.
Consequently, you now see gravel bike tyres going up to 50mm and even wider, though this can come at the cost of weight and speed on less demanding terrain.
Can you put road tyres on a gravel bike?
The short answer is, yes you can.
Many brands are now releasing gravel bikes also designed to be used on the road, so putting road bike tyres on your gravel bike isn’t as odd an idea as it might initially seem.
Versatility is at the heart of many gravel bikes, so if you want to turn your machine into a winter bike with wide road tyres (and perhaps mudguards too), then that could be a good option, especially as you’ll have plenty of clearance to play with.
Putting road bike tyres on a gravel bike will normally result in a faster ride, great for increasing your average speed if you ride predominantly on tarmac, but comfort and control will be compromised when it comes to light off-road excursions.
Compared to a road bike, your gravel bike will also likely have lower gears and a geometry that puts you in a slightly more upright and less aerodynamic position.
So even if you do fit road tyres to your gravel bike, you might not be able to maintain quite the same speeds as you would on a dedicated go-fast road bike.